Government makes infrastructure adviser 'permanent' but not statutory

The government has committed to establishing its new infrastructure advisory body 'on a permanent footing', but it will not have a statutory underpinning.

National infrastructure: NIC will prioritise projects
National infrastructure: NIC will prioritise projects

The final Queen's Speech of the Cameron government made it clear that the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was due to be enshrined in statute. But uncertainty grew over whether the measure would be implemented after it was dropped from the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.

A statement issued by the Treasury today said that the NIC "is to be put on a permanent footing to help build a bigger, better and greater Britain". However, it made no mention of the body being put on a statutory basis.

A written ministerial statement by Treasury minister Lord Young of Cookham said that the government "consulted earlier this year on establishing the Commission using primary legislation. The government considers that the Commission can achieve the same objectives without legislation."

The Treasury statement said that the NIC would come into full operation in January 2017 and "is to become an executive agency which will help plan, prioritise and ensure efficient investment.

"It will be given its own budget, freedom and autonomy, which is set out in a charter detailing the government’s clear commitment to its independence."

The charter says that the government "is fully committed to a National Infrastructure Commission which will make independent recommendations and provide the best possible advice on national infrastructure priorities".

The Treasury statement said that Sir John Armitt has agreed to be interim deputy chair of the NIC with immediate effect. He joins Lord Adonis who is interim chair of the body.

It said that an open competition will now be held to find the commission’s first permanent chair and new additional commissioners.

The Treasury has also launched a call for ideas to inform the commission’s next in-depth study, following previous reports on Crossrail 2, transforming Northern connectivity and smart power.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said: "Today I have set out how we are putting the National Infrastructure Commission at the very heart of our plans to ensure Britain’s infrastructure is fit for the future.

"It will independently define our long-term infrastructure needs and help prioritise, plan and ensure value for money as this investment creates a modern Britain - fit to take on the world."

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