One of George Osborne’s big announcements in his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference was the news he was setting up a National Infrastructure Commission to speed up major road, rail, air, housing and energy projects.
But when the idea was proposed by Labour earlier this year, two Tory ministers dismissed it as “neither necessary nor something that the Government will entertain”.
“The last thing we need is another quango,” Lord Sasson, a Treasury minister, said when he was asked about it in January.
And asked by Labour MP Diana Johnson in March why the Government was “blocking Labour’s plans for an independent infrastructure commission, life sciences minister George Freeman was equally dismissive:
“What we need is not more bureaucracy and commissions, but continued progress on infrastructure investment.”
Mr Osborne persuaded the former Labour Cabinet minister Lord Adonis to head up the commission – a political coup that signals Mr Osborne’s intention to reach out across the political spectrum in his bid to occupy the centre ground of British politics.
Lord Adonis served as Transport Secretary under Gordon Brown and was the architect of the HS2 rail link. He has surrendered the Labour whip in the House of Lords to take charge of the commission.
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