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Sun June 20 2021

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Rail, energy and water figure in government’s legislative programme

9 May 13 The coalition government has set out its programme of legislation for the next session of parliament with bills proposed that will impact on transport and utilities.

Legislation is being introduced for HS2
Legislation is being introduced for HS2

The High Speed Two Hybrid Bill and the HS2 Paving Bill will give the government the powers it requires to construct and finance the planned new rail link between London and Birmingham.

The Water Bill aims to widen customer choice and improve resilience to floods and droughts. Business customers will be able to switch their water and sewerage suppliers. It will be made easier for developers to connect new developments to the water supply and sewerage system.

The Energy Bill aims to encourage £110bn of private investment into the electricity sector by revising government contracts with energy generating companies. There will also be incentive measures introduced for homes and businesses to use less energy.

Industry reaction

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) director general Nick Baveystock:

“HS2 presents an opportunity to bring about a real step change in rail capacity and help regenerate and boost the economies of our city-regions. It is important however that these benefits are realised across the UK as a whole at the very earliest opportunity.

“A supplementary Paving Bill, granting spending powers to fast-track work on both phases, should prove a catalyst in achieving this – but this remains an ambitious project and the political and financial commitment to its delivery must continue.

“The inclusion of the long awaited Water Bill is welcome news, but we remain disappointed at the narrowness of its focus and ultimately we are still left without a clear strategy to ensure effective water demand management and security of supply.

“ICE and those scrutinising the draft bill have continually raised concerns around the impacts on the future of collaborative working and investment caused by increased competition within the water sector. These uncertainties must be acknowledged and resolved if the sector is to remain resilient to further water security issues.

“Completion of the Energy Bill has been delayed for too long. The challenges around sustainability, security and affordability of energy supply are well recognised and it is vital that further delays are avoided and a more stable policy environment is established promptly.

“The final Bill should ideally contain a clear decarbonisation target. This will provide clarity on long term strategic direction, building confidence within industry and among investors, and demonstrating that Government is serious about creating a low-carbon economy.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner:

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“Once again, we have seen a welcome focus on infrastructure from the government. However, it is easier to talk about infrastructure than to build it. We need to see words in Westminster translated into projects on the ground, if the sector is to spark growth in the economy.

“CECA looks forward to working with government to ensure the passage of these bills begin to address Britain’s infrastructure deficit, and return the economy to robust growth without delay.”

CBI director-general John Cridland:

“Business does not need a raft of new bills at this stage of a Parliament. You cannot legislate your way to economic growth – laws are only ever one piece of the jigsaw.

“With only two years to go until the next election, business needs delivery on the ground not time-consuming new bills that will have little or no impact before 2015.

“Ministers must focus on driving up exports; getting finance to firms; cutting costs and red tape; and boosting the construction industry, through housing.

“The Energy Bill’s journey has dragged on long enough - it is crucial for investors that it’s put on the statute books as soon as possible.

“There is a lot of concern about the lights going out in the next few years – without this investment there is a danger they will go off and not come back on.

“The UK needs £110bn of private sector investment over the next decade to create long-term secure, low-carbon and affordable electricity supplies – generating growth and underpinning tens of thousands of jobs.

“Extending HS2 north of Birmingham is a big prize. It will boost the long-term economic potential of some of our biggest cities, driving growth and creating jobs across the country. Ministers must now work hard to secure real consensus on the route to avoid the project being hit by years of delays.

“HS2 cannot be built in isolation. We need sustained, additional capital investment in existing road and rail networks now to meet increased demand.”

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