Conservatives 2015: Adonis to chair new infrastructure body

A new body to advise the government on infrastructure projects will be chaired by Tony Blair's former policy chief Lord Adonis, chancellor George Osborne has announced.

Lord Andrew Adonis
Lord Andrew Adonis

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Osborne said that Adonis will chair the statutory body, which will advise the government on which infrastructure projects should be prioritised.

Adonis will resign the Labour whip in the Lords and sit as a cross-bench peer, Osborne said.

Osborne told the conference this morning: "I am delighted to tell you that the former Labour cabinet minister and transport secretary Andrew Adonis has agreed to be the commission's first chair.

"He'll now sit as a cross-bench peer and help us create Britain's plan for the future.

"Where would Britain be if we had never built railways or runways, power stations or new homes? Where will we be in the future if we stop building them now?

"I'm not prepared to turn to my children - or indeed anyone else's child - and say, 'I'm sorry, we didn't build for you'. We have to shake Britain out of its inertia on the projects that matter most."

Osborne’s speech suggested that the commission would draw on the recommendations of Sir John Armitt's Labour-commissioned review of infrastructure planning in the UK, which published its report in September 2013.

"There’s an idea, put forward by many people, including some Labour politicians, and its time has come," he said.

Osborne added that the commission would be "set up in law" and "free from party arguments".

Its remit will be to work out "calmly and dispassionately what the country needs to build for its future" and to hold "any government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver".

The chancellor suggested that the commission’s work could include "working with northern councils on how we are going to make a reality of High Speed 3, the new link we want across the Northern Powerhouse" and examining "how we are going to make sure Britain has the energy supplies it needs".

In his speech, the chancellor also promised to "get many more homes built for families to buy". "We’re sweeping away planning rules on brownfield sites," he said.

Osborne also told the conference that the government will allow councils to keep business rates instead of them "being sent up to Whitehall".

"All £26 billion of business rates will be kept by councils instead of being sent up to Whitehall," he said. "Right now, we collect much more in business rates than we give back in the main grant. So we will phase out this local government grant altogether."

The chancellor added that big cities with elected mayors, such as London, Manchester and Sheffield, "will be able to add a premium to the rates to pay for new infrastructure and build their cities’ future", provided they have the support of the local business community.

The Armitt review proposed a National Infrastructure Commission which would independently assess the UK's infrastructure needs, with government departments responsible for producing new Sector Infrastructure Plans on energy, transport, water and hazardous waste.

The new SIPs, proposed by Armitt's review, would go further than existing National Policy Statements, by explaining the different funding sources that could be used to deliver any proposed investment, detailed timescales for project procurement and delivery, and preferred vehicles for delivering infrastructure investment.


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