MCA backs new National Infrastructure Commission (NIC)

The MCA has today backed the new National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), chaired by Lord Adonis. But the trade body for management consulting firms also warns that further changes will be needed if the Commission is to deliver the long-term infrastructure the UK needs.

The UK has some of the finest infrastructure capabilities in the world – architects, engineers, project managers, advisory experts – but under-resourced and creaking networks,” says the Association in its response to the Government’s recent consultation on the powers and governance of the new Commission.

The MCA’s 2013 report, Building Blocks: how Britain can get infrastructure right, recommended the creation of a new body to lead on infrastructure issues in the UK. Indeed, the NIC as envisaged by ministers is closer to the MCA’s recommended model than it is to others, such as that suggested in the Labour Party’s Armitt Review. By creating the NIC, the Government is attempting to inject much-needed purpose and long-termism into UK infrastructure, which has suffered from chronic underinvestment and the volatility of the political cycle.

But the MCA also makes a number of recommendations about the range of inputs the NIC should seek in developing its plans. It recommends that the NIC carries out a full audit of existing assets, and of infrastructure skills. And the Association proposes that the Commission should present its plan to Parliament, leaving government, via the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the responsibility of proposing its adoption or amendment.

The MCA says: “Given the weight of expertise brought to bear in developing the Plan, the reassurance to investors provided by the Plan’s comparative stability, the Chancellor would have to demonstrate that his case for deviation was as compelling as the NIC’s proposal.”

Alan Leaman, Chief Executive of the MCA, said, “The creation of National Infrastructure Commission is a very considerable step in the right direction and is extremely welcome. The UK has some of the finest architects, engineers and infrastructure advisory capabilities in the world. However, our transport and other networks are inadequate and underperforming. We look forward to the Commission engaging with MCA members, who are active at all points in the infrastructure value chain, on how Britain can get infrastructure right.”

Paul Connolly, MCA Think Tank Director, said, “Britain needs better infrastructure to enhance our growth prospects. Investors need to know initiatives attract cross-party support, will survive changes of administration, and are run by real experts focused on delivery. The public needs to understand how major infrastructure projects (especially disruptive ones) will really enhance their lives. Our suggested changes to the operation and governance of the NIC will promote a purposive and stable portfolio of value-creating projects, attracting finance and enhancing growth.”