Lord Robin Teverson writes…Infrastructure Bill delivers a cluster of Liberal Democrat priorities

House of Lords. Photo: Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of ParliamentA very Liberal Democrat bill got its second reading in the Lords yesterday – the Infrastructure Bill.  Lib Dems have already driven through this Parliament an Energy Act which will not just make sure that when it comes to energy infrastructure the lights stay one but that we decarbonise our energy supply.  We’ve been rolling out super fast broadband across the British countryside.  Often forgotten we also have a £35 billion railway investment programme over the next five years – and that doesn’t include HS2.

As a Party we understand that long term planned investment in our national infrastructure is an important practical policy goal where past Governments have so often failed. In this bill we move to a highways organisation that is given a long term budget that allows road investment to be planned and delivered effectively and predictably.  This is not a measure to cover our country in Tarmac, but to ensure that what we do build is part of a credible strategic programme.

As far as our housing stock is concerned the bill ensures that future homes are built to a zero carbon standard – with a provision that some of those carbon mitigation measures can be off site.  We will have to make sure that those provisions are not abused to circumvent the objective, but this is a great step forward.  It has been clear since the birth of the Coalition in 2010 that Eric Pickles wanted to trash the 2016 target for true carbon neutral homes. This bill ensures that the Tories are thwarted.  The outcome in the bill is not perfect, but we will be pressing to remove the exclusion for small developments when we get to committee stage.

Fracking can be difficult for some Lib Dems, and the bill will allow has extraction to take place deep underground people’s properties.  What is exciting is that this will also act as a big boost to geothermal energy that uses similar technology, but provides a completely renewable and non-intermittent form of energy.

Staying on the energy theme we have a policy win by insisting that renewable energy schemes are open to investment by local people and communities – they can take a share in the ownership and the profits.

In the Lords the bill is being lead by our own Transport Minister Susan Kramer.  There are areas still to improve, but this bill is set to deliver a cluster of Lib Dem priorities.

* Robin Teverson is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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  • Tony Greaves 19th Jun '14 - 3:17pm

    The fracking stuff may end up in the Bill but it is not there at the moment.


  • The immediate opposition seems to be on measures concerning public lands . The rallying to oppose call is posted below. What is in fact prosed in the bill and are these legitimate concerns?

    The Bill proposes that the Secretary of State can hand over any amount of public land to the arms-length, non-departmental Government body, the Homes & Communities Agency. The HCA can then dispose of it to developers. There will be no need to go through local authority planning processes – the Sec of State can give the green light without any local politicians or planners’ involvement, just by consulting a panel of two people.
    As for public rights of way, the proposed law allows any of them to be extinguished. There is no need for permission for easements (ie roads, powerlines, railways. drilling, tunnels, etc). And any existing laws that protects land and prevents it being built on, appear to be overriden by one simple enabling clause (see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2014-2015/0002/lbill_2014-20150002_en_7.htm#sch3

  • David Evershed 19th Jun '14 - 5:54pm

    Not all government spending labelled ‘infrastructure’ is necessarily good.

    Investment spending should both show sufficient benefit for the spending and not damage the ecology unnecessarily.

    Unfortunately HS2 does not meet the minimum benefit to cost ratio and alternative routes which avoid ploughing through muliple ancient woodlands have been ignored.

    UKIP is the only party opposed to HS2 and as a consequence will pick up votes in the many constituencies along the route.

  • Adrian Cruden 2nd Jul '14 - 8:49am

    The Infrastructure Bill contains a clause which will allow ALL public land to be privatised. There’s no need to reference the Forestry Act 1967, the Countryside Rights of Way Act or any other protective law, because Schedule 3 of the Bill- states that “the property, rights and liabilities that may be transferred by a scheme include… property, rights and liabilities that would not otherwise be capable of being transferred or assigned.”

    In plain English, this means all preceding regulations, legislation and other protections for this site are null and void – fill your boots.

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