Interview with Philip Graham, Chief Executive, National Infrastructure Commission

As we approach the forthcoming WIG Infrastructure Conference | A cross-sector perspective on Wednesday 13 March, we spoke with Philip Graham, Chief Executive of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) about the role of the Commission, how it has been working with government during the consultation period, and the response the National Infrastructure Assessment received from organisations across the sectors.

To hear more from the NIC and key stakeholders from across the infrastructure space, make sure you book your place at the WIG Infrastructure Conference now. The event will give you unique insight into how the public sector is prioritising and making large-scale infrastructure projects a reality. Learn more here.

Where is the current focus for the National Infrastructure Commission?

Philip Graham: “Our main focus is securing a positive response to our National Infrastructure Assessment, the first of its kind for the UK. The establishment of the Commission was a big step forward in transforming how the UK plans and develops its infrastructure. Now that we’ve made our recommendations, it is important that there is an ambitious response from Government and that they are adopted and implemented in the National Infrastructure Strategy that it has said it will publish later this year. The National Infrastructure Commission was established to provide the long-term perspective that industry has long craved, and we want to see the Strategy delivering that, based on our work.”

How has the NIC been working with government?

PG: “We work closely with government – and that’s not just Westminster and Whitehall. We involve representatives from across the UK in our policy development and engage with every tier of government, whether that’s Ministers, Metro Mayors or local councillors. Our analysis is grounded in rigorous evidence and any recommendation the Commission makes comes from what the facts tell us. That’s something that Ministers, Metro Mayors and other local leaders, businesses and others see the value in and take notice of.”

How has the response been to the NIA across both government and industry?

PG: “We’re pleased that the National Infrastructure Assessment has been met with a positive response. There’s widespread feeling that a new way of planning our infrastructure – taking a long-term, holistic approach – was well overdue. The critical test now is how they are taken forward in the National Infrastructure Strategy.”

What key considerations would you hope to see included in the final National Infrastructure Strategy?

PG: “Infrastructure needs long-term vision, lasting plans and stable funding, and that is what we will be looking to the National Infrastructure Strategy to deliver. Our Assessment plans for as far into the future as 2050, so we’d want a strategy from Government that reflects that and honours the logic that brought the Commission into being in the first place. It is also crucial that it includes clear actions that demonstrate how our recommendations will be made a reality. And, having been provided by the Government with a guideline for public investment in infrastructure of 1.2 per cent of GDP, we want to see that made a reality.”

What’s next for the NIC?

PG: “As well as focusing on the response to our National Infrastructure Assessment, we are now putting the foundations in place for future assessments and looking at some of the fundamental building blocks of infrastructure policy and planning through our ongoing studies on freight, utility regulation and resilience. We are also collaborating with our Young Professionals Panel, which is made up of talented early career professionals working in the infrastructure sector. And we’re starting to explore some more creative approaches, such as looking at the role of design in infrastructure and how we can use ‘deliberative democracy’ techniques, like citizens’ juries, to inform our policymaking.”

The NIC will be speaking at the WIG Infrastructure Conference, what are you hoping to get out of the day?

PG: “There’s a lot of enthusiasm out there for the National Infrastructure Assessment and the conference will help us to harness that and bring together leaders from across the Whitehall and infrastructure communities in one room. As we approach the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy, I want to use this conference to emphasise just how important a positive and ambitious response to our recommendations – one which provides long-term vision, lasting plans and stable funding – will be in delivering the infrastructure that the UK needs.”

Do you want to learn more about the role of the NIC, and the development of the government’s infrastructure agenda?

The NIC and The Whitehall & Industry Group are delighted to announce that they are working together on this event to invite key stakeholders to the WIG Infrastructure Conference | A cross-sector perspective – a full-day event taking place on 13 March 2019 in London.

Delegates will be able to explore themes laid out in the National Infrastructure Assessment and discuss infrastructure priorities, representing the views and interests of industry and public sector before the Government responds to the report with a National Infrastructure Strategy.

Furthermore, the conference will provide an opportunity to meet experts from across government and industry to establish a holistic cross-sector approach to infrastructure, including the major government departments and agencies involved in making large-scale infrastructure projects a reality.

You will hear from:

  • Sir John Armitt, Chairman, National Infrastructure Commission
  • Tricia Hayes, Director General, Roads, Motoring and Devolution, Department for Transport
  • Sonia Phippard, Director General, Environment, Rural and Marine, Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs
  • Niall Mackenzie, Director of Infrastructure and Materials, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • James Heath, Digital Infrastructure Director, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Chris Moores, Head of Planning, Crossrail 2
  • Dan Large, Head of Infrastructure, CBI

See a full list of speakers

Biography: Philip Graham, Chief Executive, National Infrastructure Commission

Prior to joining the National Infrastructure Commission, Phil Graham worked on many of the UK’s most important infrastructure projects for the Department for Transport. He led the development of the government’s high-speed rail strategy from its inception and took it through one of the country’s largest ever consultation and analysis processes, as well as leading the team supporting Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission and working on the London Olympics. Previous roles include posts running DfT’s incident response team, working on the Eddington study of transport and economic growth and as‎ Private Secretary to the Secretary of State.

The Chief Executive is responsible for leading the National Infrastructure Commission’s overall work programme, including the development of the National Infrastructure Assessment and the delivery of the Commission’s programme of targeted studies on key infrastructure challenges. As well as heading the Commission’s management, the Chief Executive also leads its ongoing engagement with government departments and key stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

About NIC

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was set up in 2015 and provides the UK government with impartial, expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges. They produce a National Infrastructure Assessment once in every Parliament, setting out the NIC’s assessment of long-term infrastructure needs with recommendations to the government. Find out more: