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Tue November 30 2021

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Chancellor widens remit of National Infrastructure Commission

27 Oct The National Infrastructure Commission has been directed to include affordability and carbon emissions in its assessments of UK infrastructure need.

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak revealed the expanded remit of the National Infrastructure Commission in his autumn budget
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak revealed the expanded remit of the National Infrastructure Commission in his autumn budget

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has written to Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), updating the commission’s objectives.

The commission’s recommendations must now be consistent with gross public investment in economic infrastructure of between 1.1% and 1.3% of GDP in each year between 2025 and 2055.

The commissions must also now take into account the government’s commitment to reaching net zero by 2050 and reducing  biodiversity loss.

“It is important to recognise that much infrastructure is funded by consumers and billpayers,” the chancellor says in his letter. “It is therefore vital that the commission continue to recognise where the costs of these projects ultimately lie, and balance them against the expected benefits of their recommendations (such as boosting productivity or employment).”

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The chancellor writes: “The NIC must be able to demonstrate that its recommendations for economic infrastructure are consistent with, and set out how they can be accommodated within, gross public investment in economic infrastructure of between 1.1% and 1.3% of GDP [gross domestic product] in each year between 2025 and 2055.

“This remit applies to both the NIA [National Infrastructure Assessment] and future specific studies. The NIC should clearly prioritise their recommendations and explain which they consider are most critical in addressing the country’s long-term infrastructure needs. This should include outlining which of their recommendations at the upper bound of the remit would be prioritised at the lower bound.”

On the sustainability issue, he writes: “The NIC’s objectives to (i) support sustainable economic growth across all regions of the UK, (ii) improve competitiveness, and (iii) improve quality of life, remain unchanged. Reflecting the government’s climate ambitions, I am now adding a fourth objective to the NIC’s remit: (iv) to support climate resilience and the transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The NIC is already required to consider the potential interactions between its infrastructure recommendations and housing supply. I also now require the NIC to consider potential interactions between its infrastructure recommendations, the government’s legal target to halt biodiversity loss by 2030 and implementing biodiversity net gain.”

In his 2021 autumn budget the chancellor also revealed that the government is commissioning a new study from the NIC, to report by November 2022 on the effective management of surface water flooding in England. “This will assess the current approaches to managing surface water and consider the role of a range of interventions including both traditional built infrastructure and nature-based solutions,” he said.

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