The NIC will be given its own budget and autonomy to provide advice on infrastructure priorities.
Mr Hammond has invited the public to submit suggestions for what areas of infrastructure the commission might study.
Sir John Armitt has agreed to be interim deputy chair and Lord Adonis remains interim chair for the time being but a new chair is being sought, along with more commissioners.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said the National Infrastructure Commission would “independently define our long-term infrastructure needs and help prioritise, plan and ensure value for money”.
Lord Adonis said that giving the NIC agency status was “a big step towards providing the commission with the independence it needs to do the work”. The original plan, under former chancellor George Osborne, had been to bring in legislation to enshrine is statutory independence. This appears to have been abandoned by Mr Hammond.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association thinks this is not good enough. Head of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “If the NIC is to be truly independent of government and have the powers it needs to do its work, it must have a basis in law.”
Arcadis infrastructure client development director Chris Pike said that failing to give statutory powers to the National Infrastructure Commission was “akin to going into battle with a wooden spoon”.
In 2016, the NIC has already advised government on transport in the North of England and London, and energy flexibility. It is currently working on studies on 5G connectivity and the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge economic corridor.
The chancellor has decided that he would like to throw open the opportunity to contribute ideas for issues which could form the subject of future NIC studies. This call for ideas is open to everyone until 2nd November 2016. You can send him your ideas here:
The Treasury has also produced the following definition of the National Infrastructure Commission, its scope of work and relationship to the government, which retains responsibility for infrastructure decisions.
Remit and purpose
The NIC is a permanent body which will provide the government with impartial, expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges. The objectives of the NIC are to: (i) support sustainable economic growth across all regions of the UK, (ii) improve competitiveness and (iii) improve quality of life. It will do this by:
• assessing national infrastructure needs, carrying out in-depth studies into the UK’s most pressing infrastructure challenges, and making recommendations to the government
• monitoring the government’s progress in delivering infrastructure projects and programmes recommended by the NIC
The government will provide the NIC with clear guidance by issuing a public remit letter. This will include a binding fiscal remit to ensure that the NIC’s recommendations would be affordable.
Compact between the government and the NIC
The government commits to supporting the work of the NIC by:
• issuing a formal response to all the recommendations contained in the NIC’s reports, stating clearly whether the government accepts or rejects the recommendations. The government will respond as soon as practicable, which should mean within 6 months in the vast majority of cases, and never longer than a year
• giving reasons where it disagrees with the NIC’s recommendations, and where appropriate presenting an alternative proposal for meeting the identified need
• laying the NIC’s reports and government’s response before Parliament as soon after their publication as practicable
• sharing relevant information with the NIC and responding to reasonable requests for new analysis to support the NIC’s work in a timely manner, including information not in the public domain.