Pitt to resist interference

Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) chairman Sir Michael Pitt has vowed to stand firm against any political influence on the new body's decisions.

Speaking ahead of the commission's formal launch yesterday, Pitt pledged to maintain the IPC's independence. Only important issues involving national security will be treated as confidential, he insisted. "I can see no reason why the secretary of state should get details of a decision before anyone else," he added.

"We will be completely open and transparent. I would make it public if I felt I was being leant on by a minister or a civil servant," he told a press briefing. "Commissioners cannot be sacked because they make an unpopular decision."

The IPC expects to handle around 50 applications for major schemes in its first 12 months, the bulk of them motorway and trunk road upgrades, power stations and upgrades to the national grid. Pitt revealed that it will expand and reduce staffing levels in line with demand.

"There are no limits to the number of applications and the IPC has to be elastic, both in its secretariat and in the number of commissioners. We will recruit either permanent or temporary staff if the workload grows and lay people off if it shrinks," he said.

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