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Sir John Armitt names infrastructure panel

The chairman of Gatwick Airport has been named alongside senior figures from infrastructure finance, investment and engineering on Sir John Armitt’s independent panel.

Sir David Rowlands will join Lord Adonis, chairman of Barclays Infrastructure Funds Chris Elliott and chairman of Engineering UK Dr Paul Golby, along with global deputy chairman of KPMG Alan Buckle and Heathrow Airport non-executive director Rachel Lomax.

The panel was created by Lord Adonis and announced by shadow chancellor Ed Balls in September. It is intended to achieve political consensus on how to plan and deliver future infrastructure projects.

Sir John Armitt told CN in October that the commission would examine whether it was possible to “create a structure where we are able to take a 25-year look ahead” on the UK’s infrastructure needs.

He said that in principle the commission would cover main infrastructure sectors including transport, water and energy, but that related issues such as housing capacity would inevitably form part of the discussion around associated civil infrastructure.

Sir John Armitt’s strong views on infrastructure

In previous interviews with CN, Sir John has criticised the length of time being taken to make crucial decisions on major infrastructure such as HS2 and any runway extension at Heathrow.

In July he told CN there was a “lack of maturity” in the debate on infrastructure in the UK.

In August he added: “You have to have political leaders to have the guts to say yes and ‘we are not going to debate it for five years because it is not in the national interest’.”

But speaking to CN in October, he said the government’s decision to establish an independent commission on aviation capacity headed by former CBI chief Sir Howard Davies could be a good idea, as it would de-politicise the debate ahead of the next general election in 2015.

He said: “It seems sensible. It’s an essential review. I know from talking to Ed Balls that he thought it would be a good idea and is pleased that the Conservative party is putting [a commission] in place.

“I have been critical on the length of time given to the airport review but on the other hand if it goes till [after] the next election, but gives you more of a chance to reach an agreed position by taking it out of the debate of the next election, then that might be a good thing.”

Sir John is now inviting evidence from infrastructure experts on the previous failings of infrastructure projects, what lessons can be learned from overseas schemes and how to achieve cross-party consensus on a future infrastructure strategy.

The commission received a lukewarm response from construction minister Michael Fallon. He told CN at the Conservative party conference in October that he was withholding judgement on whether Sir John’s commission would be “a political gimmick or whether it’s useful”.

In response, Sir John told CN he would make sure people on the panel would not be seen as “being tied to Labour”, but conceded he was being “realistic” about what the report could achieve.

Despite the mixed success of previous reviews, Sir John said that political parties today had become acutely aware of the importance of infrastructure.

Sir John Armitt’s advisory panel on infrastructure

  • Andrew Adonis Transport secretary from 2009-10 where he worked on High Speed Rail. Currently advising on Labour’s review of industrial policy and chairing an independent commission on the economy of the North-east of England.
  • Alan Buckle Global deputy chairman of KPMG, specialising in high-growth sectors, including infrastructure and emerging markets. He has worked on several overseas markets and currently chairs KPMG’s oversight board for China.
  • Chris Elliott Chairman of Barclays Infrastructure Funds Management. Seconded to the Private Finance Panel in 1994-95 and has sat on the Credit Committee of the NHS Foundation Trust Financing Facility and London First’s Transport Group. Has over 30 years’ experience of financing major projects and has given evidence to parliamentary committees on the use of private finance across a range of infrastructure sectors.
  • Dr Paul Golby Chairman of Engineering UK and a non-executive director of National Grid, previously chief executive of E.ON UK. Also co-chairman of the Energy Research Partnership and a fellow of both the Institute of Engineering and Technology and the Energy Institute.
  • Rachel Lomax Holds non-executive director posts at Heathrow Airports Holdings and HSBC Holdings. Formerly deputy governor of the Bank of England and a member of the Monetary Policy Committee from 2003-08, permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, and permanent secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Welsh Office. Deputy chief economic adviser in the early 1990s.
  • Sir David Rowlands Chairman of Gatwick Airport, Angel Trains Group and Semperian PPP Investment Partners Holdings Group. Former permanent secretary to the Department for Transport and chair of HS2 Ltd. Former director-general for aviation, rail and maritime and helped to create Network Rail following the administration of Railtrack in 2001.

The call for evidence

Sir John has issued a “call for evidence” from a wide range of individuals and organisations with experience of promoting, planning and delivering infrastructure in the UK. The key areas in which evidence is being sought are:

Diagnosis of current issues and difficulties – what are the failings of previous and existing decision making/planning mechanisms and what have been the consequences of these failings?

Lessons that can be learned from elsewhere – what can be learned from institutional structures established overseas to promote long-term infrastructure planning? What lessons can be learned from the success of the London Olympics and Paralympics?

The remit of an independent Infrastructure Commission – what would be an appropriate planning horizon, what sectors should be covered and how would a commission interact with existing bodies such as Network Rail and the regulators?

How would cross-party consensus best be achieved – where should the members of the commission be drawn from, how would a government accept proposals for implementation and how might the course of strategy be reviewed following the outcome of an election?


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