Leading figures from the industry across Europe mixed with MPs and Lords in surprisingly mild weather on the Terrace Marquee at the Houses of Parliament. A packed audience heard speeches from high level speakers, including Nick Raynsford MP, the Construction Minister, Mark Prisk MP, ACE Vice Chair Graham Nicholson and ACE Chief Executive Nelson Ogunshakin OBE.
During his speech, Mr Prisk said he hoped ACE and the wider industry felt it could approach him with their expertise. He also warned that tough times could not be reversed in a few months. But, while everyone understood that capital spending would be down on previous highs, he hoped that support would be maintained as best it could.
Mr Prisk went onto say that the Comprehensive Spending Review aimed to boost skills for the construction sector, and that investment in green infrastructure was still being pushed forward. He was pleased to highlight the publication of a National Infrastructure Plan that should help to unlock £200 billion of public and private infrastructure investment. These investments, he said, were crucial to the UK. He also promised continued support for Crossrail and for High Speed 2.
Meanwhile, he expressed his gratitude to industry and to ACE for helping to drive down waste. He noted that the government needed to become a better client and that that would require help from industry.
Recognising that he was with party political friends and foes, when he turned to sustainability he pointed out that there was no party political issue there. The Minister emphasised the opportunity to exploit the UK’s expertise on sustainability. In China, he said that there was immense interest in the work being done by UK engineering, which he suggested represented an opportunity to improve balance sheets in future.
Finally, the Minister accepted that moving to zero-carbon development would prove very challenging. But he wanted the UK to work to get that right now and promote success abroad.
Supporting these positive words from the Minister, the event host, Nick Raynsford MP (a member of the All Party Parliamentary Infrastructure Group), told guests that the UK should be very pleased with what engineers do to support growth.
ACE vice chair Graham Nicholson noted that politics had changed a lot following the general election. He said few had expected a coalition government the last time ACE’s guests stood on this terrace. But he welcomed that the focus on skills and engineering had not weakened.
The last couple of years had been tough, he accepted. Banks had not proven willing lenders recently and he didn’t expect a return to easy lending. But he stressed that there were some remarkable successes right now.
Mr Nicholson called for celebration of the success of those working on the Olympic Park, and the successful upgrade of London Overground. He also welcomed support for Crossrail, and pointed to the ongoing regeneration of urban areas.
Finishing the speeches, ACE Chief Executive Nelson Ogunshakin OBE commented on the key role that engineering played in developing the UK’s prosperity. However, this would be dependent on the continued ability to find funds for projects for the industry to stay healthy and deliver the needed infrastructure.
The Parliamentary Reception, now into its third year, also saw some thank-you words from the event’s financial sponsor MWH. MWH’s Andrew Cowell, then presented a donation of £500 to the engineering disaster relief charity, RedR.
The Parliamentary Reception saw a donation made by the evening’s sponsors MWH to engineering charity RedR, marking their thirtieth anniversary.
MWH UK director of operations Andrew Cowell made the presentation. He told guests that it was positive to see so many people recognise the contribution engineers make to society.
RedR trustee Ian Smout collected the cheque and thanked engineering firms for supporting his charity to train thousands of people in disaster areas to provide the aid work that is helping to save lives in Haiti and Pakistan.
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