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05 January 2018

783: NIC chair resigns

Today’s entry reports on the resignation of Lord Adonis from the National Infrastructure Commission.

On 29 December Lord (Andrew) Adonis tendered his resignation as Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to the Prime Minister, Theresa May MP (even though technically the Chancellor, Philip Hammond MP, appointed him). The full resignation letter can be found on the BBC website.

His main ‘fundamental difference’ with the government is over Brexit, but he also claims that the Virgin Stagecoach East Coast Main Line rail franchise is being allowed to end early, costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds, something the government denies. Perhaps the final straw was the effective withdrawal of an invitation to the DfT’s annual reception (see the end of this Guardian article).

He is the second commissioner of the NIC to leave, the first being Lord Heseltine, who was sacked in March 2017 after voting against the government on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. He supported an amendment requiring a Parliamentary vote on the final deal, recently the subject of a defeat in the Commons, albeit as part of a different Bill.

So far, then, membership of both the House of Lords and the National Infrastructure Commission have proven incompatible.

The resignation prompted me to check the NIC’s charter, which can be found here. It says ‘The NIC will operate independently, at arm’s length from government…’, but it seems that there are limits to that independence (or the length of the arm).

The current deputy chair, Sir John Armitt, is likely to take on the role of chair in the interim, if not permanently, and the NIC’s work will continue as planned.

Happy new year to all our readers! 2018 predictions and the results of the Christmas champagne competition will be announced in the next blog entry (unless some other hold-the-front-page news occurs).

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