Government promised new bill for next stage of HS2, more housing and to negotiate the best Brexit deal possible

Palace of Westminster

The construction industry has welcomed the government’s pledge to bring forward a new bill for the next phase of HS2 in the Queens Speech, but has expressed concern at the absence of detail about other major projects.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) director of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “We welcome the announcement of a bill to deliver the next phase of HS2, but this is just one of many schemes that the UK must press ahead with to shore up the economy.

“In particular, we would like to hear more detail about the government’s plans for Crossrail 2, which was conspicuous in its absence from the Conservative manifesto.

“This is just one of a range of schemes that we must now prioritise and bring forward to market to deliver post-Brexit growth.”

Darren Reed, WSP UK head of rail, said: “The backing of the next phase of HS2 to provide much needed capacity for the UK rail network, alongside the Chancellor’s plans to expand financial support for infrastructure projects, is the reassurance the industry has been waiting for.

“As we enter Brexit talks, we need more than ever to invest in game-changing infrastructure and develop economic corridors that better connect cities and drive economic growth across the UK.”

The government also pledged to continue to push forward with its plans to build more new homes and promote fairness and transparency in the housing market, but Mark Robinson, chief executive at Scape Group, has pointed out a lack of detailed planning in how this will happen.

“It is disappointing that nothing more has been said today on the housing market than what was revealed in February’s long-awaited White Paper,” he said.

“Yes, more homes need to be built and, yes, the increasing lack of affordable housing needs to be tackled, but a clear strategy has to be put in place first if we are to make any real progress.”

Meanwhile in a speech dominated by Brexit, which began formal negotiations this week, little was mentioned about the government’s stance on immigration.

Liz Jenkins, partner at law firm Clyde & Co commented that “there was a brief mention of an immigration bill, which doesn’t give much away about Theresa May’s current thinking on the issue and her stance towards it, with Brexit negotiations in mind.

“However, you would expect and certainly hope that her position has softened somewhat given the election results. In recent days both the Chancellor and Damian Green have come out with the message that jobs and the economy will come first when it comes to Brexit, which perhaps suggests that cutting immigration is no longer a top priority.

“We all know that the skills shortage for the construction industry is a critical issue that needs addressing. We must continue to make noise about this, so that the government is aware of just how severe a situation this could become post-Brexit.”