Written by Andy Hughes
Last week the Welsh Government published the response of the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates AM, to the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee report on the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales.
In his response to the report the Cabinet Secretary emphasised that the Welsh Government remained committed to ensuring that the people of Wales are united and connected in order to develop a stronger, fairer economy.
The development of a National Infrastructure Commission, which formed part of the ‘Moving Wales Forward’ Compact between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru, will seek to provide a better informed, longer-term strategy of infrastructure investment whilst enshrining the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act.
By providing independent expert advice on strategic infrastructure needs and priorities and by hopefully acting as a stimulant for major infrastructure projects across the country the potential value of a National Infrastructure Commission for Wales is obvious. Therefore, it has been highly promising to see the focus which has been placed on establishing this body by the Welsh Government and the Cabinet Secretary, Plaid Cymru, and the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
How will it be taken forward?
Establishing an Infrastructure Commission for Wales has been of such interest to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee that it chose to make this the subject of one of its first inquiries of the Fifth Assembly. Having taken evidence from a number of bodies, the Committee made several recommendations to the Welsh Government for how the development of this body should be taken forward.
Among others, the Committee has made a number of recommendations, including, significantly:
- The remit of a Welsh Infrastructure Commission be extended to include the supply of land for strategically significant housing developments and related supporting infrastructure which, importantly, would distinguish the Welsh Commission from its UK counterpart, whose remit does not include housing.
- That the Commission include a dedicated team which focuses on ensuring that private funding is leveraged in to infrastructure development in Wales and that the base for the new Commission be located outside
Whilst the Welsh Government accepted each of the aforementioned recommendations, either fully or in principle, it did however reject one of the Committee’s ten recommendations, namely the recommendation that a National Infrastructure Commission for Wales “be established as a non-statutory body, but with the clear presumption that legislation will follow to move the Commission to become a statutory, independent body.” In his written response to the Committee, the Cabinet Secretary indicated that the Welsh Government did not consider that the role or remit of the Commission would be enhanced by placing it on a statutory footing.
It is therefore apparent that there is a degree of consensus in the Assembly as to how an Infrastructure Commission for Wales is progressed. In order to ensure that this body delivered in a timely manner and is given the necessary support and separation from the government in order to provide the independent and expert advice which will help deliver major infrastructure across Wales in a way which has not been seen before.
With the Committee’s report due to be debated by the National Assembly this week it is imperative that this cross party consensus is continued and that politicians across Cardiff Bay utilise this opportunity in order to deliver a National Infrastructure Commission for Wales which contributed to the economic, social and environmental improvement of the entire country.
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