The National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) is a non-statutory, advisory panel.
Remit and purpose
The NICW's remit is to assess the economic and environmental infrastructure needs of Wales over 5 – 30 years, including:
- water and sewerage,
- drainage solutions,
- digital communications,
- flood and coastal erosion management.
The NICW’s remit extends to devolved, cross-border and non-devolved infrastructure and will evolve in line with the devolution settlement. The NICW will carry out studies into Wales’ most pressing infrastructure challenges and make recommendations to the Welsh Government. The advice provided by the NICW will be impartial, strategic and forward looking in nature.
In relation to social infrastructure, the NICW will consider the provision of strategic infrastructure necessary to support housing delivery, new methods of housing construction and new models of financing and delivering homes. It will also consider interactions with other social infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals. However, the NICW is not expected to consider and advise on health and education infrastructure needs in detail.
The NICW needs to be able to take into account current and upcoming infrastructure projects when identifying future needs. However, its remit does not include reviewing programmes and work that have already been decided or are near decision.
The NICW may consider cross-cutting delivery issues, such as governance, costs, financing and programme/project management, if it considers them a barrier to delivering infrastructure needs. The NICW will not override statutory processes but may advise and recommend improvements to such processes should significant barriers to delivery be found.
The NICW must conduct itself in line with the principles and goals of the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. This includes the:
- Welsh Government’s Well-Being Objectives,
- Five Ways of Working,
- Sustainable Development Principle.
The NICW must take account of Welsh Ministers’ duties under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016; including the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR) and the section 6 Biodiversity and Resilience of Ecosystems Duty.
NICW must also consider the obligations of Welsh Minister’s in respect of other legislative obligations when providing advice.
The NICW will consist of 10-12 Commissioners including the Chair. Commissioners will normally be appointed by Welsh Ministers for a period of 3 years.
The members of the NICW will:
- provide expert, impartial advice to the Welsh Government on infrastructure,
- bring specific skills or experience from particular sectors to the NICW,
- engage stakeholders including government, industry, interest groups and the public to promote the NICW and gather a wide range of views on future infrastructure,
- support the Chair in representing the NICW in public, including in the media and at public events, particularly on issues where commissioners have individual expertise.
In addition to his responsibilities as a commissioner, the specific responsibilities of the Chair are:
- strategic leadership for the NICW; setting priorities and ensuring the independence of its recommendations,
- overseeing delivery of NICW’s work, including monitoring delivery by the Welsh Government,
- directing commissioners’ input, harnessing their skills, experience and expertise,
- providing expert, impartial advice to the Welsh Government on infrastructure, including advice on prioritisation and value for money on public and private investments,
- building consensus around the NICW’s recommendations,
- engaging stakeholders, including government, industry, academia, interest groups and the public,
- building a working relationship with the National Infrastructure Commission,
- representing the NICW in public, including in the media,
- working with the Welsh Government to ensure a suitable support team is in place to provide the NICW with robust analysis and advice and/or commission work as necessary.
The NICW will produce:
- an annual report covering governance issues, its activities over the previous 12 months and its work plan for the coming 12 months,
- a “state of the nation” report every 3 years. This report will take an impartial view of the current state of economic and environmental infrastructure across Wales and make recommendations for its improvement,
- occasional reports on particular infrastructure matters as the NICW sees fit.
In developing its analysis, the NICW should make appropriate use of work undertaken by other bodies. This should include but not be limited to:
- the National Development Framework,
- future trends,
- the State of Natural Resources Report,
- work undertaken by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales,
- work undertaken by government and public bodies,
- work undertaken by academia, professional, trade and third sector bodies and think tanks.
The NICW should exercise caution not to duplicate research already conducted. Where the NICW identifies the need for new targeted research it should commission and evaluate appropriate work. Any research conducted should be published and made easily available to the public.
When producing its reports, the NICW will include a transparent assessment of the impact on costs to businesses, consumers, government, public bodies and other end users of infrastructure that would arise from implementing the NICW’s recommendations.
The NICW will also monitor progress in delivering the infrastructure developments it has recommended.
Welsh Government support
The Welsh Government is committed to supporting the independence of the NICW by:
- formally responding to the NICW’s reports, stating clearly whether the government accepts or rejects the recommendations,
- giving reasons where it disagrees with the NICW’s recommendations and, where appropriate, presenting an alternative proposal for meeting the identified need,
- responding as soon as practicable, which should mean within 6 months in the vast majority of cases and never longer than a year,
- tabling the NICW’s annual and “state of the nation” reports and the government’s responses to them in the National Assembly for Wales.
The Welsh Government will provide the NICW with clear guidance by issuing a remit letter. This will include a binding fiscal remit to ensure that the NICW’s recommendations would be affordable.
The NICW will ensure that its recommendations are in line with the remit.
The NICW is accountable to the Welsh Ministers for the quality of its advice and recommendations and its use of public funding. The NICW should ensure that the evidence and analysis behind its recommendations are robust.
The NICW may also have its work scrutinised by the National Assembly for Wales. The NICW should make itself available to discuss its reports and the analysis that underpins them with relevant National Assembly Committees.
The Welsh Government will be held to account by the National Assembly for Wales for the direction it gives to the NICW. It will also be scrutinised in respect of the recommendations it does or does not accept and the rationale behind these decisions.
Policy making is the responsibility of the Welsh Government and ministers are responsible for taking decisions on infrastructure policy and delivery. Ministers will have sole responsibility for deciding whether to endorse the NICW’s recommendations and for deciding how recommendations should be taken forward as policy.
The NICW will hold the government to account for delivering any NICW recommendations that it agreed to take forward.
The NICW will seek to operate in an open and transparent manner, building consensus around its recommendations and engaging across parties and with the public, policy-makers, infrastructure experts and relevant bodies.
The NICW’s involvement process must be proportionate, meaningful and strategically focussed. The NICW will consider the infrastructure needs of all parts of Wales. It will implement appropriate processes to involve Wales’ regions and communities. The NICW’s involvement processes will enable, and not restrict or distract from, its ability to provide strategic, long term advice.
Relationship with UK infrastructure bodies
The NICW will have a role in relation to UK Government infrastructure responsibilities and the National Infrastructure Commission. The NICW will engage closely with the National Infrastructure Commission and bodies under the jurisdiction of UK government as appropriate. Productive working relationships with the National Infrastructure Commission and other UK bodies will be crucial in being able to develop meaningful advice and recommendations on cross-border matters. They will also be important for considering the implications of developments based wholly in England which will have a major impact on Wales. The NICW should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place and regularly reviewed.
Where information sharing and collaboration with infrastructure bodies in other parts of the UK and overseas would be beneficial the NICW should make appropriate arrangements.
Arrangements for reviewing the NICW
The NICW will be subject to a comprehensive review of its status, remit and objectives before the end of the fifth term of the National Assembly for Wales (2016-2021). Subsequent arrangements for reviewing the NICW will be established after this initial review.
Amendment, modification or variation
This Terms of Reference is effective from (Date of agreement 30/10/2019) and continues until the NICW or the Welsh Government deems fit to amend subject to agreement of both parties.