Osborne Announces National Infrastructure Commission

New Independent Body Welcomed By Leading Planning Lawyer

05.10.2015

David Shirt, Press Officer | 0161 838 3094

Lord Adonis is to resign his party whip in the House of Lords and sit as a crossbencher instead after being recruited by George Osborne today to head the newly created National Infrastructure Commission.

The appointment of Adonis to the new commission shows the chancellor is so confident politically that he is not averse to stealing ideas from Labour. Ed Miliband pledged to establish an almost identical commission in the Labour manifesto for this year’s general election. This was modelled on the Armitt commission established by Ed Balls in 2012 and which published its initial report in 2013, to examine how to speed up infrastructure projects. One can imagine that Adonis must have been frustrated with the Labour leadership being slow to follow on these ideas and must have watched with envy how Osborne drew on the thinking of the former deputy prime minister, Michael Heseltine, which provided the template for the chancellor’s “northern powerhouse”.

The National Infrastructure Commission will be a new statutory body that will advise the government on new infrastructure projects. The new commission, which will be modelled on the independent fiscal watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility, will advise the government on which infrastructure projects should be prioritised. These will cover roads and rail, including the east-west HS3 rail line, the new north-south Crossrail 2 line linking Surrey and Hertfordshire, and energy projects such as the new generation of nuclear power stations. The idea is to take the politics out of major infrastructure decisions and create a "national consensus”.

Allowing local protests to derail major infrastructure projects would be a "disaster" for Britain, George Osborne said as he unveiled a new independent commission to help push through vital schemes. He believes it will shake the UK out of an "inertia" which has seen it fail to produce the roads, railways, airports, power stations and homes it needs. He also said the Government will increase infrastructure spending by up to £5bn over the course of the Parliament, with cash from the sale of land, buildings and other state assets recycled to fund new projects. "This is all about Britain taking the bold decisions to make sure we've got the railways and the roads and the runways that are going to power our economy going forward," he told BBC Breakfast today. “We have made a start now and there is a lot of road building and railway building going ahead, but I want to continue that ... and you can't get agreement on these things if you just try to do it as a Conservative Party or a Labour Party. So I am trying to create a cross-party consensus and I've got an independent chair now in Andrew Adonis ... and that will help us as a nation to come to these national decisions."

Martha Grekos, Partner and London Head of Planning and Infrastructure Consenting at Irwin Mitchell, said:

Osborne’s announcement is perfectly timed with the release today of a new report  - a joint study by national law firm Irwin Mitchell LLP and leading think-tank, the Centre for Economic & Business Research (Cebr) – called “The UK Powerhouse - supporting economic strength and bridging the prosperity gap”.  This UK Powerhouse report is an extensive business study which analyses the causes of the economic disparities that exist within the UK and examines whether the Government’s current wealth-spreading agenda will work. Incorporating a quarterly Powerhouse Tracker – a unique city-by-city forecast of the economic strength – the study predicts that by 2025, the gap between London and the rest of the UK will get even wider. In fact, over the next decade, London’s economy is set to grow by 27%, whilst growth within the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ will be almost half of that. The results of the latest Tracker can be viewed by clicking on the interactive map.