Chancellor George Osborne has unveiled a new Commission that will invest in British infrastructure including its rail and electricity networks.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), which is to be chaired by former Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis, will develop long-term infrastructure plans by assessing Britain’s needs early in each parliament. The body will then set out what the government is expected to do over the following five years.
The government said it will bring forward sales of its assets including land and buildings to raise £5bn that can be used by the NIC to fund new infrastructure projects.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, the Chancellor said: “The Commission will calmly and dispassionately assess the future infrastructure needs of the country and it will hold any government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver.
“I am delighted that the former Cabinet Minister and Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis has agreed to be the Commission’s first Chair and help us create Britain’s plan for the future.”
Lord Adonis warned that without continued improvements to Britain’s transport and energy systems, the country would ‘grind to a halt’.
“Major infrastructure projects like Crossrail and major new power stations span governments and parliaments,” he said.
“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 assessments which have underpinned them.”
Osborne denied that the recruitment of Lord Adonis to lead the NIC was a political move designed to undermine Labour and its new leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The NIC will start work immediately as an interim body before being formally launched into statute at a later date. The Commission will initially focus on:
- a plan to boost the connectivity of the Northern cities, including high speed rail (HS3)
- priorities for future large-scale investment in London’s public transport infrastructure
- ensuring investment in energy infrastructure can efficiently meet future demand.
The announcement follows a pledge by Labour to renationalise Britain’s railway system should it take power following the 2020 General Election.
Speaking to Conservative activists at the party conference, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that Labour's plan shows the party is ‘stuck in the past’ and ‘taking orders from the unions’.
“The men who run the trade unions want it,” he said. “These days when they say jump, Labour will ask - 'how high?’ While we get on with a plan that works for people."