Chancellor Jeremy Hunt reaffirmed commitments to capital spending and accelerating delivery in a reception at One Great George Street.
Last week was a remarkable week in Westminster.
The visit and address to both Houses by President Zelenskyy of Ukraine was incredibly powerful. It will stay in the memories of everyone present.
It made me think that while the problems we face are significant, they are nothing compared to his and his country’s.
The talk at Westminster is all about policy delivery and accelerating the speed of it.
We all know that the war in Ukraine has escalated some of our problems into genuine crises, to which the policy response has been increased urgency.
There are new policy problems, of course: increasing arms production, as well as the humanitarian help we want to provide for our friends.
President Zelenskyy’s address put everything into even sharper focus.
Hearing about the government’s plans for the year ahead
We also had our first All-Party Parliamentary Group for Infrastructure (APPGI) event of the year; and a cracking first event it was.
It was at the ICE's HQ, One Great George Street, and we welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.
The event had been billed as the chance to hear from Jeremy about the government’s plans for infrastructure for the year ahead.
The billing clearly proved an attractive message. Over 130 people accepted the invite, so we had a busy event on our hands.
Thank you to everyone who came. It’s always good to meet in person once again and the atmosphere was very cheerful.
The chancellor’s speech had two principal points.
The first was that he had protected and would continue to protect the capital budget across government, which he reminded us was £600bn over five years.
It was the second point that got the audience talking. He wants projects delivered faster.
Tapping into industry expertise
So, it’s the same basic challenge that I mentioned earlier. Policy delivery and its acceleration.
What got people talking was his request, almost a challenge. There was such expertise in the room, he said; can that be brought together to help improve project delivery?
The chancellor wants ideas, feedback, and to tap into the industry’s expertise.
I think the answer is yes, of course!
It chimes with the policy paper the APPGI published last year on delivery of the Integrated Rail Plan. It builds upon themes the APPGI has been talking about. The question is how to do it, not whether we can.
Emails from attendees have already started arriving with follow-up ideas. I know more will arrive. I have had meeting invites from both parliamentary colleagues and industry leaders. These will happen.
But I suspect a more structured approach will be necessary to maximise this opportunity.
How the APPGI can help
This is an opportunity that should work for the government and for the industry. I’m going to think about how we can help.
I suspect that a further policy paper, building upon last year’s, is the way forward.
We know that last year’s reached the right people at the right time. It seems that the time is right to go further and this will be discussed with our group secretariat in the next few days.
One comment I received from an ICE member attending was that she was surprised of how open the chancellor was to comments and ideas.
We can say very clearly that we had a good event and 2023 is off to a strong start.
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