My Lords, since the start of the UK lockdown, the construction industry has been united in supporting the Government with advice and guidance assembled in a Green Paper for consultation. The paper identifies three phases: restart, after three months; reset, in the next year; and reinvent in 12 months- plus. Various construction industry sectors have been identified, including housing, social infrastructure and economic infrastructure, together with the bodies to take the work forward.
The UK Infrastructure Client Group, which includes all the major economic infrastructure clients, will lead the infrastructure strand of the reinvent programme. This work will be delivered by a secretariat provided by the Institution of Civil Engineers, in which I declare an interest as a fellow of that august body.
The Green Paper is the first stage and provides the vehicle on which to gather evidence. Realistically, the lockdown has had a major impact on the UK’s economy, with the potential for that impact to endure for many years, but it will also throw up opportunities to rationalise by making efficiencies and to implement measures that would have been brought in many years ago through a Keynesian need for economic stimulus to reboot the economy.
There will be a real temptation to turn the infrastructural lever in an unsophisticated way, but the overriding issue will be how we produce a plan that allows us to do both. In that regard, the Green Paper calls for evidence in several areas, including what other factors will determine attitudes to public life as we transition to a new normal. What other system changes driven by lessons from the lockdown can we expect to be important in the new normal? Are our assumptions of the new priorities for infrastructure correct and what other changes to infrastructure provision will be needed when based on those assumptions? Can we anticipate the Government’s response to these questions by