Comment & Analysis

General election blog: Response

Dr Laura Kent, Public Affairs and Policy Advisor

General election blog: Response
General election blog: Response

In the wake of the Labour Party's decisive victory in the recent general election, many organisations are examining what this shift in political leadership might mean for the future of engineering in the UK.

Dr Laura Kent, Public Affairs and Policy Advisor delves into the Labour Manifesto to highlight their key engineering priorities and potential impact on the profession.

A clean energy superpower

Labour's priority of transforming Britain into a "clean energy superpower" is a cornerstone of their manifesto, aiming to reduce energy bills, bolster energy security, and achieve Net Zero emissions. Central to this strategy is establishing Great British Energy, a new publicly-owned clean power company with an £8.3 billion investment over the next Parliament. This initiative is part of the broader Green Prosperity Plan, which, in collaboration with the National Wealth Fund and the private sector, will drive investment in future industries and create 650,000 jobs by 2030. 

Key allocations include: 

  • £1.8 billion for upgrading ports and building supply chains.
  • £1.5 billion for new gigafactories.
  • £2.5 billion to rejuvenate the steel industry.
  • £1 billion for accelerating carbon capture deployment.
  • £150 million for green hydrogen manufacturing.
  • Introduction of the carbon border adjustment mechanism.

Achieving Net Zero is humanity’s greatest engineering challenge and the UK must set ambitious policies and strategies to combat and adapt to climate change at an unprecedented scale. Industry has long requested certainty concerning decisive actions, and success in achieving Net Zero will require a joined-up approach across central government, devolved administrations, local councils, and mayoralties to coordinate effectively to meet decarbonisation targets and ensure adequate adaptation. These investments represent significant opportunities for engineers, in renewable energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure development. The emphasis on clean energy and advanced manufacturing technologies will likely spur demand for expertise in these areas, fostering innovation and job growth. In this regard, including engineering evidence to drive investment decisions will be vital.  

Industrial strategy

Another priority is Labour's commitment to implement a new industrial strategy, emphasising a partnership approach with industry. The creation of an Industrial Strategy Council and a ten-year infrastructure strategy are key components to align industrial and regional development priorities. This strategy seeks to build robust domestic supply chains to meet Net Zero goals and ensure Britain remains a leader in exporting future technologies. 

Highlights include: 

  • Establishing the National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority to oversee major projects.
  • Improving rail connectivity across the north of England.
  • Supporting the domestic supply chain development that is essential for Net Zero achievements.

The proposed industrial strategy signifies a structured, long-term approach to infrastructure and industrial development that has been long asked for. Commitment to a long-term Industrial Strategy was a headline message in the National Engineering Policy Centre’s ‘Policy priorities for the next UK parliament’ as a tool for growing the economy, drawing on the country’s strength in engineering, innovation, research and manufacturing. This should build on existing strengths and come with a boost in support for late-stage R&D and demonstration, where engineers are vital. Considering this priority, engineers can expect increased involvement in large-scale projects, from transportation to manufacturing. 

Long-term strategy for transport

Labour's pledge to develop a comprehensive long-term transport strategy includes significant rail and road infrastructure changes. The establishment of Great British Railways (GBR) will see the nationalisation of rail services, focusing on service quality, investment, and the expansion of rail freight usage. Additionally, Labour aims to restore the 2030 phase-out date for new internal combustion engine vehicles, alongside enhancing the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. 

Key points include: 

  • Transitioning private rail contracts to GBR within the first government term.
  • Collaborating with publicly owned rail operators in Scotland and Wales.
  • Developing a ten-year infrastructure strategy focusing on northern England's rail connectivity.
  • Prioritising planning permissions for gigafactories and committing to extensive road repairs.

At the Institution, we have called for accelerating the deployment of charging infrastructure at the national level to give the public increased confidence in purchasing electric vehicles. The Institution has also long called for the prioritisation of the electrification of the rail network through a rolling national programme, deploying an innovative and sustained approach. This can create skills and careers and develop supply chains, thereby reducing costs. 

A long-term strategy should include support for a modal shift in transport and encourage less carbon-intensive modes. For engineers, these initiatives offer a wealth of opportunities in transportation infrastructure projects, from railway system upgrades to EV infrastructure development. 

Education and skills

Labour plans to overhaul the post-16 education system to address skills shortages and create a workforce aligned with their industrial strategy. Key measures include a guarantee of access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds, establishing Skills England, and transforming further education colleges into specialist Technical Excellence Colleges, which will work collaboratively with businesses, trade unions, and local government to provide young people with better job opportunities and the highly trained workforce that local economies need. 

Specific initiatives include: 

  • Devolving adult skills funding to Combined Authorities.
  • Transforming further education institutions into Technical Excellence Colleges.
  • Creating a flexible Growth and Skills Levy to ensure relevant and valuable qualifications.
  • Securing ten-year budgets for R&D institutions and supporting university spinouts.

These ambitious educational reforms will help to cultivate and develop a highly skilled engineering workforce ready to meet the demands of a modernised and technology-driven economy. Engineers will benefit from enhanced training programmes, greater collaboration with industry, and more robust support for research and development. With the proposed curriculum review, there is an opportunity for the government to feature engineering more specifically. 

The appointment of Sir Patrick Vallance as Minister for Science within the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in their first couple of days indicates they are keen to make big changes and get things done on science and engineering. We should expect ambitious plans to be laid out to deliver on the government's missions.   

The Labour Party's electoral victory and their manifesto outline a transformative vision for engineering in the UK. However, it is disappointing that engineering is only referenced once in the document. Engineers play a crucial role in translating research into practical applications, driving commercialisation, and fostering innovation.  At the Institution, we acknowledge that more should be done to recognise and emphasise their role. Engineering expertise should be embedded across government to help inform policy-making and the Institution stands ready to offer clear, impartial and expert evidence and advice. 

From clean energy initiatives and industrial strategy to transport infrastructure and education reforms, engineers will play a crucial role in shaping the country's future. 

The King’s Speech is scheduled for Wednesday 17 July.  

Read our other election blogs: 

Image credit luxstorm from pixabay


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