The government has dropped plans to put the National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory footing.
What was going to have been a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill has now been published as simply the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.
Having already decided that the priorities of the National Infrastructure Commission are no longer the same as the priorities of the government, the entire role and purpose of the NIC are now likely to be placed under review.
The Queen’s Speech to Parliament in May, just four months ago, stated that ministers would introduce a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. The government at that time intended that the bill would establish the National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory basis, imposing a duty on the government to issue a remit letter to the commission once in every Parliament. [See previous report here.]
The legislation would also reform the planning system and pave the way for privatisation of the Land Registry.
However, the bill has now been published and it contains no mention of the National Infrastructure Commission. Land Registry privatisation also appears to have been jettisoned. Check for yourself, at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/neighbourhoodplanning.html
What is left is a bill to make compulsory purchase easier and give more status to neighbourhood plans
The National Infrastructure Commission was established by the then chancellor George Osborne in 2015 – with enthusiastic backing from many parts of the construction industry – to provide the Treasury with advice on national priorities, independent of party politics. His plan was always to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to enshrine its role.
Supporters of the idea thought that somehow a needs analysis conducted with input from outside of the civil service would make difficult decisions of airports, railways and power stations easier. The early evidence suggests they are wrong, however.
Under new prime minister Theresa May and chancellor Philip Hammond, the NIC has been undermined by suspension of government support for construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which the NIC had down as a top priority.