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One voice needed as general election nears

How many times in the past few years have we heard why it is important to put aside political differences for the greater good when it comes to developing infrastructure?

This week the second reading of the High Speed 2 bill was comprehensively cleared by 452 votes to 41 and a bid by Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan to have the project scrapped was rejected.

The vote was perhaps most notable for demonstrating Labour’s backing for the scheme after months of speculation that its support was cooling.

This finally offered reassurance that cross-party support genuinely exists for the biggest infrastructure project on the horizon for the construction industry.

Emotive issue

But Conservative MP Sir John Randall likened his decision to cast a vote opposing HS2 as being on a par with his vote against the Iraq War in 2003.

This shows the emotive language that infrastructure investment can inspire. It’s not simply a question of whether schemes will boost the economy, provide jobs, or even help UK firms to export their skills around the world.

Research by the CBI has shown that the public often don’t recognise or simply refuse to countenance infrastructure upgrades in their own backyards.

“Is the NIP the joined-up, coherent strategy that will allow contractors to recruit, upskill and form long-term plans?”

It was strange, then, that the prime minister was conspicuous by his absence when it came to the HS2 vote, held close to midnight on Monday.

If ever a scheme was crying out for leadership it is this one. Divisive and controversial, HS2 needs consistent, emphatic support from senior politicians if it is to proceed.

Armitt option?

Is Sir John Armitt therefore right to say we need an independent infrastructure commission to take on the leadership of our infrastructure priorities over the coming decades?

Not so, according to David Cameron, who this week tells Construction News that the current National Infrastructure Plan negates the need for such a commission.

But is the NIP the joined-up, coherent strategy that will allow contractors to recruit, upskill and form long-term plans for an industry on a stable path to growth?

We have a housing crisis. Our infrastructure lags far behind other developed nations.

Why do we not have one dedicated leader overseeing infrastructure, both social and economic, within the halls of Westminster, rather than a disparate series of voices from multiple government departments and with different political ideologies?

As we look ahead to the 2015 general election, which is now only a year away, Construction News asks: is now the time for our industry to finally have its own seat at the cabinet table?

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