National Infrastructure Commission
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Adonis and business leaders urge Government to press ahead rapidly with key infrastructure plans

Lord Andrew Adonis and three of Britain’s leading business organisations yesterday pressed for urgent progress on key transport, energy, digital and water infrastructure decisions in the Government’s in-tray.

In a post-election statement yesterday, the chairman of the independent National Infrastructure Commission called on the Government to ensure that Brexit and a hung parliament do not delay or defer infrastructure projects which are critical to the UK’s competitiveness and productivity.

Lord Adonis said:

“Britain’s historic weakness has been to underinvest in infrastructure, and to adopt a stop:go approach even where decisions are taken in principle. Nothing symbolises this more than the long-running saga of Heathrow airport. A third runway was agreed in principle 14 years ago but there has still not been a firm decision to proceed.

“There’s no point saying Britain is open to the world if you can’t get to and from the rest of the world because Heathrow is full.”

Lord Adonis published a list of the “top 12” immediate priorities on which Ministers must make rapid progress in the next year. These include HS2, new electricity generating capacity, digital and broadband roll-out, Crossrail 2, HS3 (the “Crossrail for the North”), and the new Thames crossing to relieve the M25 Dartford crossing.

His statement has the backing of the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.

In his speech at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Lord Adonis said:

“Brexit and the hung parliament must not lead to dither and delay on the key infrastructure challenges facing the country. We need to press on with decisions on Heathrow, HS2 to the North of England, new electricity generating capacity, and radical improvements to digital communications, to underpin jobs and economic growth.

“Rapid progress in the next year on these top 12 major projects and priorities is an acid test of the Government’s commitment to the ‘jobs first Brexit’ which the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, argued for last week.

“All of these have been agreed in principle, but require decisive action to get them moving in the new Parliament. They ought to be at the top of ministers’ in-trays, and they ought not to linger there a day more than necessary.”

Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce Dr Adam Marshall said:

“Infrastructure projects, both large and small, give real confidence to business communities across the UK. They ‘crowd in’ additional business investment, generate skilled jobs, and support stronger two-way trade with customers and suppliers all across the world. The best possible Brexit deal won’t be worth the paper it is written on if we don’t have the right infrastructure to support business growth here at home.

“Successive governments have said a lot on infrastructure, but delivered comparatively little. At a time of transition and change, our physical and digital connectivity, and our energy security, are more important than ever before. Businesses want politicians of all colours focusing their energies on delivering transformative infrastructure projects – and business in turn will deliver investment, jobs and prosperity.”

Deputy Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry Josh Hardie said:

“Right now, we have a truly golden opportunity to transform the backbone of the United Kingdom – our infrastructure – making it the envy of the world and of our international competitors.

“But this once in a generation moment to fix a corner stone of our economy can only be a success if words are turned into action, if pens are put down and diggers are started up. From Heathrow to HS2, we can build our way to a new era of growth, productivity and shared prosperity, so it’s absolutely vital the Government doesn’t put the brakes on.

“Pushing ahead with improving our infrastructure is a tremendous opportunity to bridge north and south, to strengthen the arteries that connect communities, to build the homes people so badly need, and improve their often arduous journeys to work. If we get this right, we are on the verge of a new dawn for British infrastructure.”

National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses Mike Cherry said:

“It is vital that the government doesn’t get distracted from delivering on infrastructure projects both large and small. Day to day, small businesses rely particularly on a well-maintained local road network. For flagship projects, procurement should be opened up to small businesses. Taxpayers will want to know their money is backing the UK’s hardworking entrepreneurs. Improving broadband, delivering the Northern Powerhouse and investment in flood defences are all non-negotiable in this Parliament.”

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