Wednesday, 18 April 2018
National Infrastructure Bill 2018: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as the National Infrastructure Commission to advise government on all sectors of economic infrastructure and to provide for related matters.
This Bill will establish a new national infrastructure commission that will be tasked with planning ahead over a 25 year period, which is far beyond the current very limited cycle of capital plans. We propose that the commission would draw from the expertise of a reformed Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the National Transport Authority, NTA, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, and all of our local authorities, as well as the Departments of Housing, Planning and Local Government and Education and Skills. The commission will set out a new framework for the development of infrastructure in Ireland over the coming years and decades. Some of the priorities we propose for the commission include infrastructural investment amounting to 4% of our GDP; decarbonising Ireland; developing a strong transport network that balances the economic needs of the country and the development of our regions; making Ireland an IT nation with proper telecommunications connectivity in all parts of our island; and attaining a secure and balanced energy mix.
The commission's reports will be laid before the Oireachtas and subject to scrutiny. Government Departments will be required to draw up plans based on the commission's recommendations, as endorsed by the Oireachtas. The commission will be an independent body, organised on a similar basis to the Fiscal Advisory Council and will advise the Government on all sectors of economic infrastructure, defined as follows: energy, transport, water and waste water, drainage, sewerage, waste, flood risk management and digital communications. The commission will also consider all of the interactions between infrastructure recommendations and housing supply.
In carrying out its role, the commission will produce a national infrastructure plan once every five years, setting out its assessment of long-term infrastructure needs over an ongoing 25 year period, with recommendations to the Government and the Oireachtas. It will also produce specific studies on pressing infrastructure issues and challenges which will set by the Government and the Oireachtas, taking into the account the views of the infrastructure commission and stakeholders. The commission will produce an annual monitoring report that will take stock of Government progress in areas where it has made commitments relating to infrastructure and relating to recommendations of the national infrastructure commission.
This is a new way of doing capital planning. It will take politics and politicisation out of capital planning and is based on a very successful model that currently operates in New Zealand. I look forward to the discussions at pre-legislative and committee stages with a view to improving the Bill over the coming weeks and months.