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NCE Live News updates: Thursday 5 September: Engineers challenge politicians to accept calls for independent infrastructure commission

Former London 2012 boss Sir John Armitt has called for an independent commission to plan long-term infrastructure projects that they cannot be derailed by political infighting in his Labour-commissioned review of infrastructure planning.

3pm: Network Rail’s new boss announced

Away from the Armitt report, Network Rail has announced that Mark Carne, formerly executive vice president for the Middle East and North Africa for Royal Dutch Shell, is to be its next chief executive. More here


12.40pm: Contractors joined the ICE in challenging politicians to accept Armitt’s proposal for an independent commission for infrastructure

CECA logo

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association has endorsed Sir John Armitt’s proposal to establish an independent commission for infrastructure.

CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “CECA has campaigned for many years for greater consistency in infrastructure policy. We believe that strategic decision-making on infrastructure projects cannot be hostage to the electoral cycle if it is to be effective in the longer term.

“As Sir John Armitt argues, successful infrastructure planning requires a decision-making horizon of at least 25-30 years. Creating an independent body on a statutory basis would enable infrastructure planning to formulate policy on a cross-party basis in the national interest.

“We challenge all political parties to work together to put in place proposals that will achieve the objectives outlined in today’s report.”


11.40am: Independent infrastructure commission idea “sensible”, says London Chamber of Commerce.

Commenting on Sir John Armitt’s infrastructure review, Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said:

“Sir John Armitt’s suggestion of an independent infrastructure commission is a sensible one which we support.  We’ve spent too long dithering on major infrastructure projects like a third runway at Heathrow and a clear lack of direction is putting the competitiveness of London, and the rest of the UK, at risk. 

“If the UK is to become the most competitive business environment in the world, that is able to attract the best businesses and entrepreneurs from around the world, then infrastructure investment is going to be vital. Too often the story of infrastructure investment in this country is one of prevarication and delay, hamstrung by short-term political concerns and this needs to stop.”

10.20am: Armitt review published

The Armitt review has now been published. As trailled earlier, the key recommendation is for a properly independent body, along the lines of the Office of Budget Responsibility or the Committee on Climate Change, that would take the electoral cycle out of big infrastructure decisions. Here it is:

Armitt review: Key recommendation

Armitt logo

“Our central recommendation is a new National Infrastructure Commission with statutory independence. Each decade, this body would undertake an evidence-based assessment of the UK’s infrastructure needs over a 25-30 year horizon. It would focus predominantly on “nationally significant” infrastructure as defined by the 2008 Planning Act and consult fully with all relevant stakeholders. Once the National Infrastructure Commission has completed its assessment of needs, its work would be passed to Government to obtain Parliament’s approval. It would then be the responsibility of Government Departments to produce plans for each infrastructure sector including details of specific projects and the funding and delivery arrangements for these schemes.

“To prevent any potentially damaging drift in policy, once the Commission has completed its assessment of needs, it would continue to play a key challenge and monitoring role. New statute would require Government to work up the Sector Plans within 12 months of the Commission’s initial report. The Commission would then provide an independent assessment as to whether the policies contained within the Sector Plans were fit for purpose and addressed the needs it had identified prior to these Plans being submitted to Parliament for approval. Finally, it would report each year on how effectively the Sector Plans were being implemented.”

Read the review in full here: :

10am: The ICE said Sir John Armitt’s proposals should be adaopted by all main political parties.

“The clash between the need for long term strategic infrastructure planning and the nature of short term political cycles has for too long been a hindrance to delivering the infrastructure we need, when it is needed and at price we can afford, said ICE director general Nick Baveystock. “An independent commission tasked with identifying the best options for meeting the priorities approved by parliament, at arm’s length from government, is a concept ICE has championed and could help to ensure projects stand above political fault lines. 

“We therefore support Sir John’s proposals and hope they are adopted by the main parties.”

9am: Sir John Armitt will call for the establishment of a new National Infrastructure Commission charged with evaluating the UK’s needs 25 to 30 years out when publishes his Labour-commissioned review of Britain’s infrastructure planning today.

Armitt, who chaired the Olympic Delivery Authority for the 2012 Games, was asked by shadow chancellor Ed Balls to review how Britain could improve its record of project planning and delivery.

It is understood that Armitt’s key recommendation is for a properly independent body, along the lines of the Office of Budget Responsibility or the Committee on Climate Change, that would take the electoral cycle out of big infrastructure decisions.

The new commission would assess Britain’s needs every 10 years, with the government obliged to put the key recommendations to a parliamentary vote within six months.

Once projects were approved, government departments would have a year to draw up comprehensive plans on how schemes would be delivered. That would include sources of funding, timeframes and the vehicles to be used to build the project.


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