Hammond 'recommits' to government infrastructure adviser

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said he will 'recommit' to government advisory body the National Infrastructure Commission and pledged 'targeted public investment in high value infrastructure' to boost the economy.

Chancellor Philip Hammond
Chancellor Philip Hammond

Hammond told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today: "I recommit to putting the commission at the very heart of our plans to renew and expand Britain’s infrastructure."

Set up last year, the commission is intended to prioritise long-term infrastructure needs and help contractors and investors plan beyond the political cycles of Westminster.

The Queen’s Speech earlier this year promised that a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill – as it was to be called – would establish the commission in statute.

But last month the Neighbourhood Planning Bill was published with no mention of the promised section. Infrastructure experts expressed concern that the move would weaken the commission. 

Hammond said today: "Ensuring we have world class infrastructure is vital to maintaining our competitiveness but it is a very long-term agenda.

"One that can be, and often has been, knocked off course by short-term political considerations. That’s why we announced the National Infrastructure Commission."

Hammond told the party conference that the UK’s stock of public infrastructure "languishes near the bottom of the developed-countries’ league table after decades of under-investment".

"We need to close that gap with careful, targeted public investment in high value infrastructure," he said.

The chancellor also pledged his support for moves to devolve powers to the English regions, alongside the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine regional growth projects.

Elsewhere, Hammond pledged "some additional certainty to British businesses and other organisations bidding to receive EU funding while we’re still a member".

He said that the Treasury would "offer a guarantee to bidders whose projects meet UK priorities and value for money criteria that if they secure multi-year EU funding before we exit, we will guarantee those payments after Britain has left the EU".

A National Infrastructure Commission spokesperson said: "The best way to develop the world class infrastructure this country needs to compete is through the long-term strategic planning the National Infrastructure Commission provides.

"The chancellor is absolutely right to recommit his government to an independent NIC and place the work of the Commission at the heart of his plans."

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