Policy Summary: How committed is the government to a National Infrastructure Commission?

Policy: Charter for the National Infrastructure Commission.

Infrastructure: commission to advise government on national priorities
Infrastructure: commission to advise government on national priorities

Issued by: HM Treasury and National Infrastructure Commission

Issue date: 12 October 2016

Background: In October 2015, chancellor George Osborne announced the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) as an independent body to consider the UK's long-term economic infrastructure needs and set out proposals for how they should begin to be met. Last month, expected plans to enshrine the NIC in statute failed to appear in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. Last week, the Treasury announced that the NIC would become an executive agency and published a charter outlining its remit.

Key points: The charter says 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". It goes on to say that the NIC "will operate independently, at arm's length from government, as an executive agency of HM Treasury".

Describing its remit, the charter says the NIC is "a permanent body which will provide the government with impartial, expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges". Its objectives, it adds, are to support sustainable economic growth across all UK regions and to improve competitiveness and quality of life.

The commission will do this, firstly, by assessing national infrastructure needs, carrying out in-depth studies into the UK's most pressing infrastructure challenges, and making recommendations to the government. Secondly, it will monitor the government's progress in delivering the infrastructure projects and programmes it recommends.

Though the NIC will have to abide by "the remit and the terms of reference for specific studies set by the government", the charter says that in all other respects it will have "complete discretion to determine independently its work programme, methodologies and recommendations, as well as the content of its reports and public statements". The charter promises that the government will support the NIC's work by issuing a formal response to all the recommendations in its reports, mostly within six months and "never longer than a year".

Government will also explain why it disagrees with a recommendation and "where appropriate present an alternative proposal for meeting the identified need". The government will lay NIC reports and government responses before Parliament "as soon after their publication as practicable".

In return, the NIC will be required to deliver a national infrastructure assessment once every Parliament, "setting out its assessment of long-term infrastructure needs with recommendations to the government". It will also carry out "specific studies on pressing infrastructure challenges" and prepare a monitoring report, looking at the government's progress in taking forward its recommendations. Details on the NIC's new status will be set out in a "mutually agreed framework document", the charter says

The charter was accompanied by a written ministerial statement from Treasury minister Lord Young of Cookham. It said that the government believes the commission can achieve its original objectives without the need for legislation and will come into force as an executive agency in January 2017.

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