George Osborne launches National Infrastructure Commission, under Andrew Adonis, so UK can “think big again”
George Osborne has launched his national infrastructure commission. He said infrastructure investment would be at the heart of November’s spending review and the new independent body would think “dispassionately and independently” about Britain’s infrastructure needs. Andrew Adonis will chair the commission, which will oversee £100 billion of infrastructure spending by 2020. Osborne says the failure of successive governments to invest in infrastructure has meant that the British people have longer commutes, higher energy bills and can’t afford to be home-owners. Osborne himself has overseen a 5.4% fall in infrastructure investment since he took office in 2010. He wants this government to be thinking “long term” and he wants new railway lines, new broadband installed (and perhaps a new runway). Other members of the commission include Michael Heseltine, Prof Tim Besley, Sir John Armitt, and Bridget Rosewell, The commission will have the initial priorities of examining connections between the big northern cities, London’s transport system and energy infrastructure. It will produce a report at the beginning of each parliament with recommendations for spending on infrastructure projects, though politicians will have the final say. In the spending review, Osborne will probably announce a suite of asset sales which the Treasury expects to raise billions of pounds to be ploughed back into projects.
Terms of reference of the Commission
On airports this says: “The Commission should not through this study consider questions relating to airport capacity. The Davies Commission has already examined this issue in detail.”
The 4 point plan (details at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-announces-major-plan-to-get-britain-building ) states:
5 year National Infrastructure Strategy
The NIC will provide an assessment of the UK’s infrastructure needs every 5 years, looking 30 years ahead and examining the evidence across all key sectors of economic infrastructure – including energy, roads, rail transport, ports and airports, water supply, waste, flood defences, digital and broadband. As part of this work it will consider how investment in these sectors can support housing development.
In doing so it will help to create a better understanding of the UK’s long-term needs for significant new infrastructure to foster sustainable economic growth across the UK. This will help promote forward planning and timely investment decisions, and provide greater certainty for investors.
The Commission’s remit will be to consider future infrastructure of national significance. It will not re-examine existing government infrastructure commitments, and it will not re-open regulatory price controls. Neither will it look at Heathrow and airports in the South East or re-examine the work of the Airports Commission.
The NIC will seek to promote knowledge of and debate on international best practice in the planning, financing and delivery of major infrastructure.
More on the Government’s website at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/infrastructure-at-heart-of-spending-review-as-chancellor-launches-national-infrastructure-commission
Nothing states the government will itself pay for all the £100 billion needed.
George Osborne launches national infrastructure commission
Chancellor blames long commutes, high energy bills and homeownership problem on failure of government to invest
Former Labour transport secretary Andrew Adonis will chair the commission, which will oversee £100bn of infrastructure spending by 2020.
The failure of successive governments to invest in infrastructure has meant that the British people have longer commutes, higher energy bills and can’t afford to be homeowners, George Osborne has said.
Launching his national infrastructure commission, the chancellor promised that infrastructure investment would be at the heart of November’s spending review and that the new independent body would think “dispassionately and independently” about Britain’s infrastructure needs.
“We haven’t done enough of that in our country in the past,” the chancellor said. “And as a result British people have to spend longer than they should getting to work; they pay more than they should in energy bills; they can’t buy the homes they want, all because of the failure of successive governments – and the societies that elected those governments – to think long term.
“That has started to change. New railway lines are being laid, new roads are being built, new broadband is being installed. Britain has rediscovered its ambition and we are thinking big again.”
It was announced during the Conservative party’s autumn conference that the former Labour transport secretary Andrew Adonis would resign his party’s whip to chair the commission, a move that was interpreted as a bid for the centre ground on the part of the chancellor.
Speaking at the National Railway Museum in York on Friday, Osborne said the commission would also include the former Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine and Prof Tim Besley, a former member of the Bank of England’s rate-setting monetary policy committee.
The commission, which will oversee a promised £100bn of infrastructure spending by 2020, will have the initial priorities of examining connections between the big northern cities, London’s transport system and energy infrastructure. It will produce a report at the beginning of each parliament with recommendations for spending on infrastructure projects, though politicians will have the final say.
Osborne, who has overseen a 5.4% fall in infrastructure investment since he took office in 2010, will use the spending review to announce a suite of asset sales which the Treasury expects to raise billions of pounds to be ploughed back into projects.
“The task for the national infrastructure commission will be to think dispassionately and independently about Britain’s long-term infrastructure needs in areas like transport, energy, communication, flood defence and the like,” said Osborne.
“It will collect the evidence, listen to the arguments and will report on what we need to do to build for our future. That will create the kernel around which the national consensus will be created that will guide our democratic decisions and then they will hold us to account for those decisions, hold our feet to the fire.”
Speaking to the BBC’s World at One, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said he supported the establishment of a commission but it would be ineffective unless the government committed the necessary funds to infrastructure projects.
“I do [support the idea of a commission] because it was a Labour idea in the first instance,” McDonnell said, describing the appointment of Andrew Adonis as “a good choice”.
“But the reality is … you can set up these commissions but, unless you commit to the financing of the projects themselves, they’ll simply produce reports that gain dust on ministers’ shelves.
“That’s the problem. Under George Osborne, infrastructure spending has declined every year and his current Charter for Budget Responsibility is to decline even further. And we are just not matching our European competitors, which means in the long run we will not be able to compete in a global market.”
Osborne tries to allay fears of infrastructure spending cuts
Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent (FT)
George Osborne is to pledge today that infrastructure will be “at the heart” of November’s spending review in an attempt to allay fears of cuts to capital spending.
The chancellor is to pledge £100bn of infrastructure spending by 2020, insisting that his £15bn roads investment strategy will receive the “full funding” it has been promised.
The Treasury is hoping that it can raise billions of pounds from asset sales to be ploughed back into infrastructure projects.
But insiders are talking about “prioritising” infrastructure rather than ringfencing it — which could be a crucial linguistic distinction.
Instead, Mr Osborne will say that the government would spend “a greater proportion of our national income on capital investment” than the last Labour government did.
In the last spending round, in 2010, the chancellor agreed a 28% fall in real terms in gross capital spending despite a promise to “ruthlessly prioritise” areas of public spending that were most likely to support economic growth.
In late 2011 he shifted tack amid signs that the British economy was failing to pull out of recession, announcing that he would shift spending from day-to-day items to capital projects.
Against that backdrop, his decisions involving capital expenditure in November’s spending review will be closely examined by industry.
…… infrastructure commission, which is designed to take some of the politics out of decisions on schemes of national importance.
Lord Adonis writes in today’s Financial Times: “The commission can give ministers with the evidence they need, and hold them to account if they duck or delay.”
Today, Mr Osborne will announce the members of the quango alongside Lord Heseltine.
Other “commissioners” include Sir John Armitt, former chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority; Tim Besley, former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee; and Bridget Rosewell, former chief economist at the Greater London Authority. Also on the commission are Demis Hassabis, an artificial intelligence researcher; Sadie Morgan, design panel chair of HS2; and Sir Paul Ruddock, chair of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The commission will produce a report every five years setting out recommendations for priority infrastructure schemes — although ministers will still have the final say over what gets built.
Lord Adonis’s three priorities are improving connections between northern cities, in particular the “HS3” high speed rail line from Manchester to Leeds; London transport including the proposed Crossrail 2 rail line linking the capital from south-west to north-east; and energy storage systems.
Mr Osborne will say that infrastructure is not an “obscure concept”.
“It’s about people’s lives, economic security and the sort of country we want to live in,” he will say. “That’s why I am determined to shake Britain out of its inertia on infrastructure and end the situation where we trail our rivals when it comes to building everything from the housing to the power stations that our children will need.”
Since Mr Osborne became chancellor in 2010 with a promise to start various infrastructure projects to drag the economy out of recession, infrastructure investment has fallen by 5.4 %.
The Treasury already has a “national infrastructure plan”, which is updated every year and features hundreds of projects at different stages.
The chancellor’s new commission will not have a remit over where the government should build a new runway in the south-east of England — arguably the most pressing infrastructure decision facing the government. Word on this is expected in December.
Full FT article at
Airport expansion in the Home Counties is likely to be legislated for, at least in part, under the new English Votes for English Laws (Evel) provision because major planning issues south of the border are decided by Westminster.
While the SNP has complained Evel will bar its MPs from voting on a key legislative committee stage, it could – given the splits within Tory and Labour ranks on the issue – result in a final UKwide vote, where Scottish MPs determine whether Heathrow or Gatwick is expanded.
from Herald Scotland
An AirportWatch member comments:
The NIC is unquestionably a way for the government to seek to sidestep democracy. Osborne hasn’t been idle since the AC report publication. A lot of thought has gone into this quango creation, and the specific Adonis appointment. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34449926
Osborne’s “we are the builders” speech at the Tory party conference was, in my view, the indirect reference to the 3rd runway. He will want implementation, not dithering, so my concern is LHR being their first flagship project.
The fact that this National Infrastructure Commission is getting so much coverage now, with many references to the Howard Davies Commission and its recommendation for a 3rd runway at Heathrow and a ‘congested south-east’ is making me think that this is Cameron’s back-door route out of his promise: the basic tenet of the Commission is that it ‘takes the politics out of planning’ – meaning potentially that no politician can be tarred with the brush of breaking a promise, since the decisions will essentially be out of their hands.
Very very subversive…..