HS2 Construction Skills Centre: Establishment

High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 8th March 2016.

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(1) An HS2 construction skills centre shall be established in Euston.

(2) The role of the construction skills centre shall include, but not be limited to—

(a) the provision of advice and information on finding work in the construction industry local to Euston,

(b) the provision of training and apprenticeships relevant to the HS2 project for people who are out of work or carrying out unskilled work.

(3) The construction skills centre shall be operational for no less than 10 years following its opening.—

This new clause requires the establishment of an HS2 construction skills centre in Euston to provide advice and information about finding work in construction in the Euston area, and the provision of training and apprenticeships relating to the HS2 scheme.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause calls for an HS2 construction skills centre to be established in Euston. The construction of phase 1 of HS2 presents many opportunities for businesses and will create a significant number of employment opportunities. It is forecast that HS2 will create more than 24,000 new construction jobs. A significant number of those new jobs will be around the Euston development, and it is only right and proper that as many of the opportunities as possible be opened up to the population of Camden. On that issue, we presumably agree.

One of HS2’s notable impacts will be to provide exciting new job opportunities for people who might otherwise never have had such life chances. The new clause is designed to embed that objective in the scheme and in the community in Camden. To make the most of the opportunities that the scheme presents, it is important to ensure that the right workforce are available and in possession of the right skills to ensure that those opportunities are realised. We should be doing everything we can so that communities that are directly affected by the construction have every opportunity to benefit from it in terms of jobs and economic engagement generally.

Specifically in relation to Camden, we welcome the Secretary of State’s recognition of the role that King’s Cross construction skills centre has played in the London Borough of Camden. That skills centre has been a considerable success. Starting with HS1 and the channel tunnel rail link, and then evolving for King’s Cross Central, the skills centre has registered more than 6,000 people and delivered more than 2,200 training places, 1,100 construction-related qualifications and 2,340 jobs in total. We are pleased that the Secretary of State recognises the potential to build on that model to deliver on HS2’s objectives in relation to skills and employment, as well as the potential to integrate with other infrastructure projects such as the proposed Crossrail 2 in future.

Again, in accordance with assurances given to Camden Council, the Secretary of State will require the promoter actively to engage with the London Borough of Camden regarding the development of a Euston construction skills centre, and the Secretary of State will require the nominated undertaker to make a contribution up to a maximum of £4.1 million towards the cost of the construction, property costs, fitting out and ongoing running costs of the skills centre. That is to include the provision of advice and information on finding work in the construction industry local to Euston, and the provision of training and apprenticeships relevant to the HS2 project for people who are out of work or currently carrying out unskilled work; and the offering of appropriate training to local, disadvantaged and under-represented groups in order to promote fair and equal access to the employment opportunities generated by HS2, working closely with Camden Council, which will be responsible for setting up the skills centre.

Establishing the skills centre will be of great benefit to the project. It will provide the skilled workforce needed, and those who live in or near Camden will be able to take advantage of the new employment opportunities. The new clause would put in the Bill the important assurances already given to Camden Council to ensure that this opportunity is capitalised on. Like the other Ronseal new clauses, it simply ensures that the given assurance does what it says on the tin. I commend the new clause to the Committee.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:15 pm, 8th March 2016

This is just a quick intervention to support the new clause. The Minister may already have been to Newcastle College’s rail academy, which is actually in Gateshead. Like all good things, it is south of the River Tyne rather than north, and well north of parmos. The £5 million facility was opened specifically to develop skills to give young people up to a level 3 diploma in rail engineering. The academy develops rail engineering apprenticeships and gives young people access to higher education so they can go on to be fully-fledged degree-level engineers.

The whole idea is that we develop a skilled jobbing workforce right across the industry. The academy has six teaching rooms, a mechanical workshop, an electronics hub, and a signals and telecommunications workshop. It cost £5 million, and has indoor and outside facilities so people can work in real-life situations. Compare that with the development of Newcastle railway station, which cost £22 million—£5 million is a very small amount of money for a very positive thing.

Our part of the world has a long history in railways. Indeed, the Bowes railway, which dates back to 1826, is within five miles of the academy. It was developed by George Stephenson and is the only operating standard gauge, cable-operated railway anywhere in the world. We have a long history of engineering in the north-east, as hon. Members have mentioned, and we are a role model for what could happen in and around Euston.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I think we are probably all on the same page in recognising the importance of skills in delivering the project and, indeed, in delivering many other projects that have been rolled forward. The work at Newcastle central station was mentioned. We are also investing substantially in the A1, not only in North Yorkshire by improving the capacity there, but on the western relief road, where long-overdue work is taking place. We have demonstrated that we are investing not just between Birmingham and London with high-speed rail, but around the country with our rail and road infrastructure.

Skills are vital to ensuring that our long-term economic plan—this is the first time I have mentioned it—can be delivered. Indeed, I am delighted that the HS2 college will be established in Birmingham with a satellite college in Doncaster, which is, of course, the birthplace of the famous Flying Scotsman and Mallard. Doncaster’s great railway heritage will be built on by the skills college, which I hope to visit very soon. Incidentally, I would like to visit the college in Gateshead if the hon. Member for Blaydon would send me a note. I would be delighted to visit as my son is in Newcastle at the moment so it would be a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

The design, planning and construction of HS2 will create a significant number of employment opportunities. It is expected to create 24,600 new construction jobs, many of which will be in the Camden area. Suitably skilled individuals will stand to benefit from the employment opportunities that HS2 generated. The promoter recognises the role that the Kings Cross skills centre has played in the London Borough of Camden and sees the potential to build on that model to deliver HS2’s skills and employment objectives.

To that end, an assurance has been agreed with the London Borough of Camden, requiring the promoter

“to actively engage with the London Borough of Camden regarding the development of a Euston construction skills centre…The objectives…should include, but not be limited to: the provision of advice and information on finding work in the construction industry local to Euston, and the provision of training and apprenticeships relevant to the HS2 project for people who are out of work or carrying out unskilled work.”

The assurance also states:

“On the 9th year following the opening of the construction skills centre (or earlier by agreement) the Secretary of State will consider further funding for the ongoing provision of this facility. In consideration of further funding the Secretary of State will review…Whether the objectives of the skills centre have been met…Whether performance targets have been met… Recommendations from the Euston Station Strategic Redevelopment Board (or equivalent)…Additional funding sources including other developers operating in the Euston Area”.

Commitments given by the promoter during the passage of the Bill are included in the register of undertakings and assurances, which is held by the Department for Transport and finalised at Royal Assent. All commitments included on the register will be binding on the nominated undertaker and the Secretary of State as the project is taken forward. Sufficient mechanisms are therefore in place to deliver the intent of the new clause. Throughout the Bill, we have sought not to legislate where there are existing processes, except where it is necessary for the expeditious delivery of phase 1 of HS2. I hope that that clarification will reassure Opposition Members, and that the new clause can therefore be withdrawn.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

My preference would of course have been for the commitments to be specifically stated on the face of the Bill, notwithstanding the assurances of which I am very much aware. In the circumstances, having heard what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 36