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Viewpoint: Our take on new No.10

ICE director general Tom Foulkes says the coalition must deliver on its promises

The prospect of drawn out hung parliament negotiations and a coalition Government lacking consensus on the issues that matter to us most, clearly caused some jitters across the industry.

And who can blame us. The actions and decisions that are central to our industry and the economy should be made by a Government with a strong focus and a clear direction.

I was relieved therefore, to see such swift resolution to the negotiations, followed by agreement from the coalition on many of the key issues affecting the future infrastructure landscape.

The consensus on the need for a Green Investment Bank (GIB), received a mixed response here at ICE. It is no secret that we have been pushing for a National Infrastructure Investment Bank, so we were naturally very encouraged to see agreement on the need for a funding mechanism to attract private capital towards infrastructure.

“Revamping our transport networks, building a fleet of new power stations and achieving a secure, clean energy supply will be crucial in achieving change.”

However we were disheartened not to see a little more detail on just how this bank will work. Revolutionising our infrastructure networks to drive economic recovery and the low carbon agenda will require vast investment, so we need to be confident that such a bank is robust enough.

It must also be a permanent institution with a long term strategic remit that helps create a stable environment for private investors.

We feel the UK Investment Bank (UKIB) proposal set out in the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto is perhaps more clearly aligned to the scale of the challenge - so hopefully the principles by which a GIB will operate, mirror those of the UKIB.

I should stress however, that a new funding mechanism will not be as effective without a fair and predictable planning regime to ensure infrastructure projects proceed without undue delay.

ICE was very concerned therefore, to see no mention at all of planning in the agreement, not least an alternative consent system to replace the IPC which both parties planned to abolished in their manifestos.

I fear lack of clarity around the planning system will be a major disincentive for private investors and delay delivery of nationally significant projects.

Achieving a low carbon society will be a huge challenge for us all but it is clear to me that both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats recognise the important role infrastructure will play in the transition.

Revamping our transport networks, building a fleet of new power stations and achieving a secure, clean energy supply will be crucial in achieving change.

“ICE looks forward to working with the coalition helping to establish the best way of maintaining long term investment in our vital infrastructure.”

At ICE we also believe nuclear power as a proven low carbon energy supply must be part of the future energy mix, so we are pleased that under the agreement, Liberal Democrat MPs will not vote against measures that will allow new nuclear construction to proceed.

However, given the scale of the investment required in nuclear new build, it is very important that this line is maintained to prevent industry confidence being eroded and further delays arising. We will be keeping a close eye on how this arrangement progresses.

ICE has had good working relations with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in opposition and we now look forward to working with them in Government - in particular, helping to establish the best way of maintaining long term investment in our vital infrastructure.

● Tom Foulkes is ICE Director General

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