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05.10.15

Lord Adonis to spearhead Osborne’s new independent National Infrastructure Commission

Chancellor George Osborne is set to create a ‘National Infrastructure Commission’, spearheaded by Labour’s Lord Adonis, to advise Whitehall on how to speed up British infrastructure spanning road, rail, housing and energy projects in the long term.

Adonis, former Labour transport secretary and non-executive member of the HS2 Ltd Board, will take charge of the commission to “shake Britain out of its inertia on the projects that matter most”. He will resign the Labour whip in the Lords, though will remain a party member.

Osborne is expected to announce the new body today (5 October) during the Conservative conference in Manchester, where he will clarify that the commission will “calmly and dispassionately decide what the country needs to build for its future and hold any government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver”.

He will tell the conference: “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 round to my children and say: I’m sorry we didn’t build for you.”

The independent commission, modelled on the Office for Budget Responsibility, will initially draw up a blueprint for British infrastructure, with plans for improving large-scale investment in road and rail connections between northern cities – including the proposed HS3 scheme.

He will also look into how London’s rail capacity can be boosted to cope with its growing population through a Crossrail 2 north-south link.

Adonis, credited by many with being the original driving force behind HS2, said: “Without big improvements to its transport and energy systems, Britain will grind to a half. I am pleased to accept the chancellor’s invitation to establish the National Infrastructure Commission as an independent body able to advise government and parliament on priorities.

“Major infrastructure projects like Crossrail and building major new power stations span governments and parliaments. I hope it will be possible to forge a wide measure of agreement, across society and politics, on key infrastructure requirements for the next 20 to 30 years, and the assessment which have underpinned them.”

Adonis will be paid to advise ministers on how to boost the national energy capacity to mitigate excessive demand – as well as report back to Osborne regularly on gaps in the UK’s infrastructure.

The commission’s responsibility of drafting a plan to “transform the connectivity of the northern cities and advise on the next large-scale investment in London’s transport” will be met with a fresh £5bn increase in infrastructure spending until 2020. This cash will be derived from sold lands, buildings and other state assets.

Osborne is also expected to announce plans for “sweeping away rules” that prevent brownfield sites from being sold to developers for housebuilding schemes.

Adonis is also the former director of the Institute for Government (IfG), a body that has recently found that productivity and growth in the UK are being put at risk by a series of “persistent” policy issues that the current model of governance and existing institutions are unable to solve. The core issues are a lack of inadequate investment in infrastructure, such as railways or airport expansion, aligned to a lack of capacity to meet future energy demand and provide affordable housing.

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