The future of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission is shrouded in doubt after it was yesterday omitted from a bill designed to establish the body on a statutory basis.
As outlined in the Queen’s Speech in May, David Cameron’s former government planned to entrench the NIC into law through what was named the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. It was expected to advise the government on infrastructure planning up to 2050.
However, the bill now brought before Parliament, the name of which was shortened to Neighbourhood Planning Bill, lacks any mention of the NIC or infrastructure planning, leaving the body founded only 11 months ago in doubt over its role.
A source at the Treasury told Infrastructure Investor that Theresa May’s government still considers the NIC “very important” and remains committed to it, though she would neither confirm nor deny that the government still plans to establish it on a statutory basis.
As an explanation for the NIC omission, the source added that the Neighbourhood Planning Bill is focused on “essential planning measures”.
Robbie Owen, head of infrastructure planning and government affairs at Pinsent Masons, said the exclusion of the NIC was a “surprise” and called for greater certainty around the body.
“This sudden change of course will not help a jittery infrastructure sector post-Brexit, already wondering what the new government means for infrastructure investment,” he said. “So it’s essential that the government rapidly explains why the commission has been dropped from the bill, reassures us that the government is still committed to a commission and confirms that infrastructure investment, informed by the commission, is a top priority.”
Sir John Armitt, a commissioner at the NIC, told Infrastructure Investor recently that the government needs to show “it is open for business” by sending some sign of stability to the industry.