I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The UK Infrastructure Bank Bill will finalise the bank’s set-up and ensure that it is a long-lasting, enduring institution. The Bill will set out its objectives to tackle climate change and support regional and local economic growth in legislation, as well as giving the bank a full range of spending and lending powers, so that it can benefit communities across the country and help the UK achieve its net zero goals. The bank is already having an impact. Since summer 2021, when the UK Infrastructure Bank became operational, 10 deals worth close to £1.1 billion have been done, including providing financing for a new £500 million fund that could double the amount of subsidy-free solar power in the UK.
This is a Bill for the whole UK. Thanks to £22 billion-worth of capacity, the bank will be able to support infrastructure investment and the levelling up of the whole UK. The bank represents a step change in the Government’s ability to crowd in private sector capital and to address the economic and climate challenges the country faces. The UKIB will focus on prioritising investments where there is an under-supply of private sector financing, which we expect will unlock a further £18 billion of investment.
Before I go on, I would like to thank my noble Friend Baroness Penn for her work in bringing the Bill through the other place. The Bill has already undergone thorough scrutiny, as Members would expect, and I look forward to discussing it further today and in Committee in a few weeks’ time.
It is worth remembering why we set up the UKIB. Four years ago, the National Infrastructure Commission published its national infrastructure assessment. It recommended that the UK create its own domestic bank if funding for economic infrastructure was to be lost from the European Investment Bank. As Members will recall, the UK did lose its EIB funding, worth around £5 billion a year. However, I would like to be clear that this is not intended to be and is not a direct replacement for the EIB funding, which, given its very broad remit, at times crowded out private sector funding. There was widespread consensus that we would need to bring forward plans for the UKIB, which we did, and I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), who played an instrumental role in bringing those plans to fruition.
When establishing the bank, we were cognisant of three specific recommendations from the NIC. First, that there would be governance to safeguard the operational independence of the bank. We will come on to it later, but one of the key purposes of the Bill is to protect exactly that. It will make it impossible for the Government to simply dissolve or sell the bank without further legislation. We will also be unable to alter its core objectives on climate change and regional and local economic growth.
Secondly, the bank should provide finance to economic infrastructure in cases of market and co-ordination failures, catalysing innovation. We all know that infra- structure projects take a long time and cost a lot of money, and I want to see more private investment in such projects. Often, however, the private sector does not provide enough finance to emerging innovative technologies that have a higher risk profile—for example, net zero technologies or those that are in areas of the UK that do not historically get financing.
Can the Chief Secretary explain why the bank is investing in a very expensive cable electricity link between the United Kingdom and Germany, given that we are in the same time zone and have similar weather, and both countries are chronically short of electricity capacity? It does not sound like a good idea to me.
I will not be able to comment on specific investments. As I said, a series of investments have been made in the last 12 months, and I would be happy to correspond with my right hon. Friend and put him in touch with the bank so that the logic behind that decision can be explored with him.
May I broaden out the question the Chief Secretary has just answered? Can he explain the oversight of the bank? There will be a report after a certain number of years, but will it be regulatory oversight, oversight by Parliament or oversight by the Treasury?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the work that he did in the Treasury in recent months as my successor as Economic Secretary.
The board of the bank has been filled over the summer so that the right expertise has come in to oversee the investments and metrics for success. They will be accountable through normal processes and accountable to Parliament. Indeed, the chairman and chief executive of the bank have made themselves available to Parliament through the process of this legislation, and I attended meetings with them earlier this year with Members of the House of Lords. I know that they are willing to be scrutinised on the logic of their evolving processes and remit so that they can capture the wisdom of this House and the other place.
With regard to the climate change objectives, significant public and private investment will be needed to achieve the UK’s infrastructure policy goals, and low-carbon investment will need to be significantly scaled up to deliver net zero. That is highlighted by the fact that the UK’s core infrastructure—power, heat and transport networks—account for more than two thirds of UK emissions. Without the bank, the private sector is likely to focus its investment on lower-risk technologies and sectors, and we will not achieve regional and local economic growth without better infrastructure in every region of the country.
Disparity in infrastructure across the country has been identified as a key driver of economic inequalities, and central to the Government’s ambitions to level up is setting up new institutions boosting productivity, pay, jobs and living standards. The bank will help to grow the private sector and support it to deliver opportunities in parts of the country where they are lacking. Without intervention, the private sector is likely to continue to target geographic areas that have historically received higher levels of private capital. Targeted advice, support and challenge from the bank can help raise ambition and boost the capability of regional and local government as they tackle complex infrastructure projects.
Finally, the NIC recommended that the bank be set up in 2021. As I have already mentioned, the bank has been operational since last summer and has £22 billion of capacity. The bank is also operating across the UK and has already invested in each of our four nations. I am pleased that each Government have supported the bank, and discussions for a legislative consent motion are progressing well.
In that context, I come to the provisions of the Bill. It will complete the setting up of the bank as an operationally independent institution. It is a short Bill of 11 clauses, broadly split across three areas. First, the Bill enshrines the bank’s objectives and activities in legislation to provide clarity for the bank and the market on the bank’s long-term purpose. That is covered in clause 2, which includes the bank’s core objectives; its activities, including providing finance for the private sector and public authorities; and a definition of infrastructure.
The definition of infrastructure is inclusive and based on existing definitions in the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012 and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. Crucially, given the bank’s scope, we have focused the definition on economic infrastructure. As a result of the Bill’s passage through the Lords, we included energy efficiency in the definition to clearly signal policy intent. I am sure that we will discuss that further in this debate and in Committee.
I highlight that we have taken a power to amend the activities and definition of infrastructure to allow the bank to keep pace with an innovative market. We have not, however, taken the same power to amend the bank’s objectives. That is vital in providing clarity to the market and to ensure that the bank is not fundamentally changed without further primary legislation.
Secondly, the Bill will allow the bank to provide financial assistance to the private and public sector including, crucially, giving the bank the power to lend directly to local authorities in Great Britain and to the Northern Ireland Executive. That is covered under the bank’s activities in clause 2 and further defined in clause 10 and clause 5, which allows the Treasury to put the bank into funds.
It is important to note that the bank will be able to lend directly to each UK nation, including their local authorities. In the case of Northern Ireland, we have designed the bank to be able to lend directly to local authorities and the Northern Ireland Executive. That accounts for the fact that the Northern Ireland Executive hold responsibility for most capital infrastructure projects that would be the responsibility of local authorities in the rest of the United Kingdom. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, this is a Bill for the whole UK.
I would be very happy to look into that matter and respond to my hon. Friend at the end. It is probably deemed to be unnecessary, but I will give absolute clarity, or the Exchequer Secretary will when he closes.
Thirdly, the Bill supports the operational independence of the bank by setting out clear governance and accountability in how it will be run. That is covered by the remaining clauses, including board requirements in clause 8, reporting requirements in clause 6, a review of the bank that will also look into its additionality in clause 9, and the ability for the Treasury to issue a strategic steer in clause 3 or a direction in clause 4.
Although the bank is still in its infancy, it is already taking a leading role in the clean infrastructure market. Over time, we expect the bank to catalyse new markets of infrastructure by crowding in private capital to help meet our climate change ambitions and level up across the UK. In much the same way that the EIB helped to catalyse the offshore wind market, where the UK is now a global leader, the UKIB will help to catalyse the infrastructure markets and technologies of the future.
Indeed, the Bill will be at the heart of our focus on our long-term energy security. It will help the Government to deliver more renewables, including more offshore wind. I have no doubt that the bank will grow to be a sophisticated and adaptive tool, which will allow the Government to quickly place capital behind the projects that this country needs. I reiterate to hon. Members on both sides of the House and to the wider public that we have designed the bank to endure and be a long-lasting institution that will deliver the long-term priorities on which we all depend. I greatly look forward to this afternoon’s debate and to drawing on the expertise of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I will set out the views of the Opposition. We will not oppose the Bill today, as it seeks to put the UK Infrastructure Bank, which has been operating on an interim basis since June 2021, as we heard, on a statutory footing. We support the establishment and strengthening of the bank, and we want the new institution to play its part in tackling climate change and supporting regional and local economic growth.
The need for economic growth is central to the challenges our country is facing today, and it comes after 12 years of low growth under the Conservatives. During the last Labour Government, despite the global financial crisis, the economy grew by 2.1% a year. Since 2010, however, the Tories have grown the economy by just 1.5% a year. The outlook under the Tories now is even worse, with growth forecast to be the worst in the G7 over the next two years. As the previous Chancellor recently admitted, under the Conservatives we have been stuck in a “vicious cycle of stagnation”.
That stagnation in our economy has seen real wages fall and the tax burden rise for working people in this country. Even before the disastrous mini-Budget, working people were paying the price for the Conservatives’ record of failure on the economy. What the then Chancellor announced on 23 September poured petrol on the fire, as Ministers unleashed a discredited and reckless economic approach on the British public. Trickle-down economics, unfunded tax cuts and an ideological slashing of protections for workers and the environment—no wonder the former Prime Minister and Chancellor were removed from office so quickly, and no wonder the current Chancellor has had to U-turn on almost every measure. The truth is that this economic crisis was created in Downing Street. The damage has been done, and working people will be paying the price for years to come.
Part of the reason for the Conservatives’ failure to grow the economy as it could have been growing over the last decade has been their failure to invest in the infrastructure our country needs. As we look ahead to the coming decade, investment in our country’s response to the climate emergency could not be more critical, both to protect the environment and to grow the economy.
That is why Labour’s green prosperity plan is so important. Under our plan, we would invest in wind, solar and nuclear power to make our electricity system zero-carbon by 2030, we would insulate 19 million homes across the country, bringing down carbon emissions and people’s home energy bills, and we would invest in new jobs in industries of the future, from electric vehicles to clean steel.
We recognise that the UK Infrastructure Bank can play an important role in supporting essential investment. We therefore welcome the fact that one of its objectives, set out in clause 2 of the Bill, is to help tackle climate change. But setting up the bank is not enough on its own; we need a Government who will drive forward the agenda of green investment that we need. Sadly, the Government’s record makes it clear that they will fail to rise to that challenge.
There is evidence of that failure littered throughout the past 12 years. Ten years ago, the Government set up the Green Investment Bank. Five years later, they sold it off to a private equity group. The Public Accounts Committee said that the bank had
“failed to live up to original ambitions”.
The Committee was clear that, in selling it off, the Government had been focused on
“how much money could be gained from the sale over the continued delivery of GIB’s green objective.”
Supporters of the current Prime Minister on the Conservative Benches may remember that, two years ago, the then Chancellor published a video on his YouTube channel titled: “Rishi Explains: Green Home Grants”. In that video, the now Prime Minister excitedly announced that the brand-new green homes grant scheme was open for applications. However, I was not able to find any videos of him explaining why the green homes grant scheme closed six months later and saw £1 billion cut from its budget. Although he seems to have forgotten to make a video explaining that, the Environmental Audit Committee was happy to set out its views. In its report, “Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes,” it concluded that the scheme had been
“rushed in conception and poorly implemented”
and described its administration as “nothing short of disastrous”.
The Opposition spokesman talks about the importance of sticking with plans and of permanence. That is quite right; this is infrastructure, which lasts a long time. Will he therefore use this opportunity on the Floor of the House to give the assurance that, should Labour form a Government in the near future, it will make no changes to the objectives listed in the Bill?
It would be a strange parliamentary procedure for the Opposition to commit to a Bill that has not even passed into law yet; let us see what happens in Committee and on Report and what the Government do, and indeed what we inherit when we become the next Government if we win the next election. So much has changed over the last few weeks; we do not know exactly what we are going to inherit and it is not sensible to make commitments now. We will set them out in our own time ahead of the next election.
Of course, the Government’s record of failure over the last 12 years continues to this day. In January, the Government pledged £l00 million to help Britishvolt, a UK battery start-up company, to build its planned battery gigafactory in Blyth, but when Britishvolt faced a critical hurdle yesterday and needed to access some of that funding, the Government refused. If the Government are not prepared to back a British business investing in green technologies and new jobs in Blyth, what on earth are they doing? When this money was announced, the then Business Secretary said the new factory was
“exactly what levelling up looks like.”
It turns out he may have been right, as this is exactly what levelling up looks like under this Government: broken promises, a record of failure, and a Government unable to deliver the investment and jobs we need.
The truth is that the Government and the newly appointed Prime Minister have a record of failure on investing in green infrastructure for our country and our economy. So, while we welcome the new UK Infrastructure Bank and its focus on tackling climate change, we know that no matter how well it plays its part, the British people need a Government with an effective plan to make the investment in the jobs, homes and energy supplies of the future a reality.
I have focused so far on the first of the UK Infrastructure Bank objectives set out in this legislation: helping to tackle climate change. The second of the two objectives in the legislation is also critical for the bank’s success, and is described as being
“to support regional and local economic growth.”
We firmly support that objective, and we want to see all parts of the country benefit from investment in green jobs of the future, along with improved rail and other transport services, and other essential modern infrastructure, including broadband. But when it comes to supporting economic growth across the country—“levelling up” as the Government used to call it—we know that words ring hollow unless people see change. That is why clause 2(6) is so important, as it seeks to make sure the bank has regard to the first mission of the Government’s “Levelling Up” White Paper when exercising its functions under this Bill. We have heard rumours that the Government may seek to remove this new requirement from the Bill now that it is back in the Commons. I am sure the Minister will agree that doing so would make it clear the Government have abandoned their commitment to levelling up, so I urge him in his closing remarks to confirm that this requirement will remain in the Bill.
Finally, along with doing all it can to help tackle the climate crisis and to support economic growth, we believe that the UK Infrastructure Bank must also play its part in helping create good-quality jobs with decent pay and conditions. All businesses and bodies receiving public money from the UK Infrastructure Bank must have a plan to create those good jobs with decent conditions, and there must be tough contractual sanctions to make sure those commitments are honoured. To make sure the bank keeps that focus on good jobs at the heart of its approach, there must be a worker representative on its board.
After 12 years of low growth from the Conservatives, there is a vital need to invest in the infrastructure of the future. We need to invest across the country in new transport, new digital infrastructure, new sources of energy that are sustainable and secure, and new high-quality jobs with decent pay. That is why we support the establishment of the UK Infrastructure Bank and this Bill’s aim of putting it on a statutory footing.
We will of course press Ministers in the Commons Committee and Report stages to improve this legislation, and, as well as seeking changes from Ministers, we will defend changes made in the Lords that we believe have improved the Bill. Alongside the insertion of levelling up targets that I have mentioned, we welcome the amendment that changed the definition of “infrastructure” to refer to the circular economy, nature-based solutions and energy efficiency. We further support those amendments that strengthened requirements on the Government to have a more regular and meaningful review of the bank’s effectiveness and impact.
However, even if we succeed in strengthening this Bill and the operation of the bank, we know the country needs far more from its Government. We need a Government who will use this bank as part of a far more ambitious plan to grow the economy, to make the transition to net-zero, and to create jobs and industries in all parts of the country.
The record of this Government to invest in greener homes, energy, and jobs is one of failure. The latest so-called “growth plan” from the Conservatives crashed the economy, and their newly appointed Prime Minister is doomed to fail, as he is trapped so tightly by a need to put his party first, leaving the country second. The truth is we need a fresh start to face the challenges of the future, and the sooner the British people get the chance to have their say, the better.
It is a pleasure to welcome this sensible Bill, which puts the operations of the UK Infrastructure Bank on a statutory footing. It is pleasing that the Opposition will support the Bill, but it was somewhat worrying to hear the Opposition spokesperson, the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) say that the Labour party was not committed to its objectives. That will send a worrying signal to investors in infrastructure, who want to see a long-term view from both sides of the House on the plan for UK infrastructure. Perhaps he might clarify in his closing speech that Labour will commit today to make no changes whatsoever to the Bill’s objectives. It would be helpful for him to make that indication.
It is right that amendments were made to the Bill in the House of Lords to include issues to do with the circular economy and nature-based solutions. That will broaden its aspect and applicability.
In opening, my right hon. Friend the Minister referred to the European Investment Bank. It is true that the UK used to benefit significantly from investment funds coming from the EIB, but those really came to a close in 2016-17 and, as that was five or six years ago, we should be honest about the need to get the bank moving. I am not trying to push for quicker movement, but this is an opportunity to start getting to the £5 billion or £8 billion that the UK Investment Bank said was its objective in its strategic plan this summer.
I turn to crowding in, which is one of the three parts of the bank’s “triple bottom line”, as it calls it. That is absolutely the right thing. There is plenty more that we can do, and I know that the Government are focused on that. With Solvency 2 and pension fund money being made available for more infrastructure expenditure, will the Minister update the House on the Government’s thinking about that?
The City of London and the Government have made tremendous strides in promoting green finance and London as a centre for that. Again, it would be useful to hear an update from the Minister on the UK’s leadership position, which the bank could play a significant part in helping us to deliver.
One of the most important parts of the 2019 review of infrastructure finance was about how the Government can provide a reliable delivery pipeline. That means that they are clear about the projects that they wish to promote and have a timetable that paces them out over a number of years. The National Infrastructure Commission can—it does not always—do a good job of that. Perhaps we will hear more about that in the near future.
I return to the point that I put to the Minister about another part of the triple bottom line: generating
“a positive financial return”—
which it says is
“in line with the Bank’s financial framework.”
Perhaps that is the answer to why it is not in the Bill, but it would be helpful to have a little more transparency about what the financial framework would be and how it will be brought to the House for some regulatory oversight. Will that be through hearings of the Treasury Committee or other reports that may be made to the House from time to time?
That is an important factor in the UK Investment Bank’s goals and the role that it can play in helping the UK to achieve net zero. Let us be frank: when, I think, four or five years ago, the House committed to achieving net zero in a certain timeframe, there was no price tag attached. It was the biggest commitment ever made without a price tag attached for the British taxpayer. The UK Investment Bank can play a role in making sure that that price tag gets smaller and smaller. In fact, one objective the UK Infrastructure Bank says it wishes to focus on is the transition to subsidy-free models. That is absolutely essential to some key aspects of how we achieve net zero, in particular the decarbonising of home heat where we will need to attract private sector capital and long-term, patient capital. We will need the Government, through the UK Infrastructure Bank, to provide some catholic investment and, most importantly, the product structures that enable drawing in of that capital behind the most effective way, while also being able to show how we get out of the taxpayer funding it all. We cannot afford to make unfunded pledges again and again on not only this generation of taxpayers, but on future generations of taxpayers. That is why I am particularly keen on pressing the Minister and, should I be fortunate enough to sit on the Public Bill Committee, investigating further—[Interruption.] I guess that is a straight no, Mr Deputy Speaker—how we can ensure that the commitments to a positive financial return and to transitioning from subsidy-free models are given more weight in the structure of the UK Infrastructure Bank.
Finally, I draw the attention of those on the Treasury Bench to clause 4, on the power of direction. This is a familiar topic, I think, in various parts of the Treasury at the moment. I would be interested if in his winding-up speech the Minister provided us with a little more of his thoughts. There was a debate on that in the other place. It might be helpful if the Minister updated us on what further thinking there has been on the power of direction.
This is a very sensible Bill. It confirms what is already the case and I am sure it will go through the House with very great speed.
On what has just been said, the issues relating to the power of direction in clause 4 and the steer that can be given on the strategic priorities by the Treasury deserve to be explored in a little more detail. When I see words like
“the Government will not normally”
and I think about what the Government do not normally do in relation to Scotland, I think the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) is right to be slightly anxious.
However, I give the UK Infrastructure Bank and the Bill a broad welcome. Taking the Bill at face value, there is nothing to criticise in its objectives of helping to tackle climate change and supporting the efforts to meet the UK Government’s 2050 targets. Nor is there anything to criticise in the objective to support regional and local economic growth. What I would point out, however, is that—the Minister alluded to this—the delivery of support to facilitate local and regional growth is provided in Scotland by the Scottish Government, local government and other agencies, and that the green targets in Scotland, for example the earlier net zero target, are also set independently in Scotland. It is therefore important that the UKIB supports the devolved Governments’ objectives and does not, even inadvertently, end up working against them. That is important, because Scotland has its own infrastructure investment plan, our own global capital investment plan and our own national strategy for economic transformation that provides the framework for the Scottish Government’s policy priorities.
There is—I am sure the Minister is aware of this—clearly an overlap between the strategic objectives of the UK Infrastructure Bank and the Scottish National Investment Bank, particularly in the context of tackling climate change and supporting regional economic growth. The UKIB’s aims include:
“to help tackle climate change”
“to support regional and local economic growth”.
The Scottish National Investment Bank’s aims include:
“investing in inclusive and sustainable economic growth”
“investing to promote environmental wellbeing”.
To ensure that both banks meet their goals and deliver the maximum impact for the people of Scotland, and in line with the objectives being set in the Bill, it is essential that the two banks are able to work together to identify and support appropriate infrastructure projects in Scotland. It is also vital that Scottish interests are appropriately represented and that there is an awareness of the Scottish economic context and the Scottish Government’s policy goals. To ensure that there is alignment between both of the bank’s aims, there should be an administrative mechanism, such as a memorandum of understanding, between the UK Infrastructure Bank and the Scottish National Investment Bank to ensure that policy alignment is maintained. I fear that, unless we have such a mechanism, UKIB’s aims might be undermined and there will ultimately be a risk that it will not deliver fully on its objectives.
It is also vital that the creation of UKIB is not seen as an excuse to reduce further the Scottish or any other departmental or devolved Administration budget. We have already had a £1.7 billion real-terms cut since last December. However, I welcome the Bill and its strategic objectives, including tackling climate change, but it is vital that the Scottish Government’s more ambitious climate targets are reflected either in the Bill or in the way in which the bank operates.
My next point is on the bank’s activities, which are clearly described in clause 2 as
“providing financial assistance to projects wholly or mainly relating to infrastructure”
“providing loans to relevant public authorities”—
and so on. That is broadly welcome, as is the description of infrastructure underpinning the “circular economy”—not least because the Scottish Government are introducing a circular economy Bill to advance a zero-waste and circular economy by increasing reuse and recycling rates and improving waste and recycling services. It is important that the investment bank can therefore fund existing bodies such as non-governmental organisations, think tanks and other agencies that are already specialists in their fields. Let us take, for example, the Scottish Institute for Remanufacturing at the University of Strathclyde, which enables industry to become part of the circular economy. To date, the Scottish Institute for Remanufacturing has committed substantial sums to support Scottish remanufacturing to become part of the circular economy.
I also particularly welcome the express inclusion of railways, including rolling stock, in the description of infrastructure. However—this is a very narrow point—I was at a loss as to why there was no specific reference to electrified rail or carbon-neutral rolling stock. That may be implicit in the Bill’s intentions, but it would nevertheless have been helpful to see it.
On strategic priorities and plans, the Bill states:
“The Treasury must prepare a statement of strategic priorities…The Treasury must comply with subsection (1)…The Treasury may revise or replace the statement…The Treasury must lay a copy…before Parliament…The Bank must…act in accordance with strategic plans which reflect the Treasury’s statement”.
I can well understand why the Treasury would be intimately involved in the creation and the nuts and bolts of setting up a bank, but I am at a bit of a loss as to why devolved Administrations, other agencies, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and even those responsible for levelling up have no specified role in setting out the bank’s strategic priorities.
My final point is that, sadly, as has been mentioned, we have been here before with the Green investment bank. The Minister said twice in his opening remarks that he wanted the bank to be long-lasting and to endure, and I agree entirely. However, the way in which the Bill is drafted fails to provide the certainty that many of us would like about its future. The Treasury has too much power over the investment bank’s functions and there are few safeguards to ensure that the bank is not sold off to a private company. It is vital that the Bill contains more of an assurance that UKIB will not meet the same fate as the green investment bank: it was privatised and is now owned by the Macquarie Group. The Green Investment Group, as it is now known, carries out extremely valuable work, but it is vital that the new investment bank is not set up at public expense and public risk only to be sold off later. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will recall that when it became clear that the old green investment bank was to be privatised, the decision was described as reckless. This is what was said at the time:
“The Green Investment Bank is not just the government’s most lauded innovation in the war against climate change. It has kept investment in the real economy going at a time when bank lending had fallen to an all-time low. It has played a critical role in supporting the UK economic recovery.”
I would like the UK Investment Bank to be long-lasting and to endure. The last thing we would like to see is the public purse and public risk being used to establish an institution that is then privatised, no doubt with some Minister hoping for preference later and a seat on the board. That is not what our party considers the circular economy.
I welcome the Chief Secretary back to the Dispatch Box; it is genuinely a pleasure to see him back. It is quite ironic that we are here today to discuss setting up or reinstating something that was previously working well, because that rather mirrors his career. As has been mentioned, we had a green investment bank—it was a Liberal Democrat creation during the coalition Government years—and what we are really doing is setting it up again. It was sold off to the private sector, as the right hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) mentioned, and it made £144 million in profit for its new Australian owners last year, which just goes to show what an important role is being played by our funding partners for our climate change objectives.
The Liberal Democrats believe that it was a short-sighted move to sell off the green investment bank in the first place, so we very much welcome this Bill to set up something similar again. However, we worry that it might be too little and too late to make a real impact. Over the past seven years, numerous opportunities will have been missed to make substantial investments that could have made a real difference in progressing towards our net zero targets.
One of our big concerns is that the infrastructure finance that will be made available through the bank is very small in comparison with the challenges that we face with climate change and with levelling up. The bank will therefore need to mobilise a huge volume of private finance to meet the Government’s infrastructure goals and international climate goals. The bank has £22 billion of financial capacity over the next five years, but the Institute of Chartered Accountants has estimated that we will need £40 billion of investment per year to deliver net zero by 2050, and the Office for Budget Responsibility has projected that £1.4 trillion of investment will be needed by 2050 to deliver our climate change objectives. We really need the bank to be a success and mobilise those funds if we are to honour our climate commitments.
The Bill rightly identifies tackling climate change and achieving net zero as its strategic objectives, alongside supporting regional and local economic growth. However, as Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Lords have expressed, there is a need for a joined-up approach to protecting our environment, with biodiversity included as an objective alongside climate change. Since the Government sold off the green investment bank, the markets have failed to deliver on developing floating offshore wind, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, marine and tidal energy, broadband roll-out, carbon capture and storage or insulation—there is such a long list. So many green technologies could have been supported via the continuation of the green investment bank.
We want more ambition from the Government on the green agenda. We would like to see net zero achieved by 2045 rather than 2050, with a proper green industrial strategy so that we have a long-term plan in place. We want bold action to fire up net zero, from new targets for zero-carbon flight to new industrial strategies for hydrogen and power cabling and a major restructuring of the UK economic model to ensure that it is fit for the future.
To achieve climate targets, we need to limit warming to 1.5° by 2030. I welcome the Government’s concession in the other place that they will include investment in energy efficiency in the bank’s remit, as they have repeatedly failed to decarbonise our housing stock and take steps to reduce fuel poverty, but it is important to remember that effective investment requires much more than making money available. We need to ensure that finance is channelled into developing the skills needed to enable a green transition and help British businesses to become global leaders in key future technologies.
In 2012, the green investment bank was created. Ten years later, we are starting again, but the Liberal Democrats wish the project well. We want the Bill to proceed swiftly through the Commons and the bank to be successful.
It is a pleasure to contribute to the debate, and to make a very short speech about the sort of projects that I hope the UK Infrastructure Bank will support. Given that we are talking about more than £20 billion, I am surprised that a great many Members of Parliament are not making specific bids. However, I will make the best of the time available to me.
This bank was created to replace the European Investment Bank, which, as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, had a proud record of investing in Wales. In the decade preceding the EU referendum, the EIB made £2 billion worth of investments in a wide range of sectors in Wales, including social housing, transport, energy, water and education. Wales was promised “not a penny less” during the referendum campaign, so a benchmark figure should be £200 million of investment in Wales per annum, adjusted for inflation. The Welsh Government have already expressed their concern that there is an overall shortfall of more than £1.1 billion in the Welsh budget as a result of our departure from the EU. I hope that the Minister will clarify whether the “not a penny less” promise applies to UK Infrastructure Bank spending.
Before I turn to the main focus of my speech, I want to touch on governance and accountability. Infrastructure development in my country is largely the responsibility of the Welsh Government, and I therefore welcome what the Minister said in his opening remarks about a greater role for the devolved Administrations. However, I am sure he will be aware of the Welsh Government’s view—as well as that of various Senedd Committees—that that Government should have equal status in terms of establishing the bank’s governance structures, as well as a role in setting its remit.
Currently all the bank’s directors are appointed by the Chancellor, and one small and obvious first step would be for the Welsh Government to appoint a director. According to the House of Commons Library, between five and 14 directors can be appointed by the Chancellor. While this would still be a far cry from an equal partnership, if the devolved Governments appointed one each, that would still allow 11 appointments for the Chancellor, including those of the chair and chief executive.
On the issue of scrutiny, it seems to me completely reasonable for the bank to be subject to a statutory requirement to appear annually before the relevant Senedd Committees. It may surprise Ministers and indeed other Members, but the Welsh Government do not brief Welsh MPs on their position in relation to UK Government Bills. In view of the work that has taken place in the Senedd and the statements made by Welsh Government Ministers about the Bill, they would do well to inform Welsh MPs of their reasons for not allowing those of us who bother to research their proceedings to understand where they are coming from. However, my understanding is that following close scrutiny of the Bill, the Welsh Government, as well as three separate Senedd Committees, believe that every clause requires the Senedd’s consent, as opposed to the six clauses for which the UK Government are currently seeking consent.
Furthermore, I understand that the Welsh Government have made it clear that they will not grant consent to the Bill unless their concerns about governance and accountability are addressed—perhaps the Minister was being slightly optimistic in his opening remarks—because the bank operates on a UK-wide basis, and will be able to exercise functions in Wales in areas of devolved competence.
If the new Prime Minister wants to restore integrity and accountability to the premiership, he surely knows that a key part of that process is resetting intergovernmental relations not only with the EU but with the Welsh and Scottish Governments. As I have said, nearly all post-Brexit related Bills are being used to trample over the devolved settlements. This is the first big test for the new Administration: that the UK Government is going to adopt the more grown-up approach of collaborating fully with the national Governments within the Union. Can the Minister guarantee that the bank will not support any projects in Wales that the Welsh Government oppose?
What I really want to talk about, however, is a project that I believe falls perfectly within the UK Government’s stated aims for the new bank, namely helping to address geographical wealth inequalities within the British state and helping to tackle climate change. The Minister will be aware of the protracted discussions about the proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. In 2013, plans were announced to develop the lagoon. The development received planning permission in 2015, but plans collapsed in 2018 after the UK Government decided that they could not justify a contracts for difference financing model for the scheme. Since then, new proposals for a £1.7 billion lagoon were announced in October last year. DST Innovations hopes to build the lagoon over a 12-year period as part of the wider Blue Eden scheme that will include the UK’s largest floating solar farm, 5,000 cutting-edge eco-homes and a high-technology battery factory creating 1,000 jobs. The lagoon itself aims to produce 320 million MW of electricity, and agreement has already been reached with Swansea Council for a plot of land for the battery facility.
Such a project would place south Wales at the forefront of global environmental technology innovation. It would be a transformative project for the area and I am sure we all agree that we want to see the plans come to fruition. My concern is that we have felt close to delivering a Swansea lagoon on many occasions. I therefore ask the Government: is there scope for discussions between the infrastructure bank and the developers—that is, if they are not already happening? The ability of the bank to offer guarantees, for instance, could be useful in helping the developers to draw down the private finance they are seeking, hopefully at a preferential or slightly more favourable rate.
New technologies such as this come at a premium, but I hope the British Government will have learned from wind and solar that, once established, these technologies become much cheaper and an essential part of the electricity generating mix. Tidal is also a reliable energy source, giving it added value compared with other renewable technologies. Tidal technology off the Welsh coast offers huge opportunities for Wales, and I am sure the Minister will be aware of proposals for a far bigger lagoon, over 30 km in length, off the north Wales coast.
Furthermore, the Welsh Government last month announced the creation of their own renewable energy generation company, with initial plans to develop wind technology on public land. I really welcome this policy, because my constituency houses many wind developments that are owned by the state-owned companies of other Governments, which means that the profits from the use of Welsh resources leave Carmarthenshire and leave Wales. Revenue from the new Welsh Government-owned company will be reinvested in schemes to increase energy efficiency in the Welsh housing stock, and it therefore becomes circular—another stated aim of the bank. Clearly, there is therefore scope for formal links between the UK Infrastructure Bank and the company owned by the Welsh Government.
Labour supports the creation of the UK Infrastructure Bank, and we support the Bill’s placing the bank on a statutory footing. In Committee, we will want to see changes to ensure that the bank focuses on strategically important areas, not least energy efficiency, nature-based solutions and job creation. We will also want to see changes to the governance of the bank, for example ensuring that there is a workers’ representative on the board of the bank.
This Government have a terrible record on infrastructure over the last 12 years, whether it is their cancellation of Northern Powerhouse Rail or their dismal failure to invest in renewable energy or take decisions on new nuclear. Their lack of strategy and planning was also shown when they closed the UK’s gas storage facility. Indeed, these 12 years of failure on infrastructure are central to the Conservative Government’s failures of low growth, low productivity and low investment.
Those 12 years of failure were also the prelude to the disastrous mini-Budget of 23 September. The Bank of England was forced to step in four times to support financial stability and rescue pensions, and there was criticism of the UK Government by the International Monetary Fund. Interest rates went through the roof, there was huge volatility in the pound and inflation is higher than in comparable countries. So, yes, the Conservatives crashed the economy. The result is higher mortgage payments for households, higher borrowing costs for businesses, chaos from the Government, crisis for ordinary people and crisis for the economy. The economic failure by the Conservatives has left the UK ill-prepared for the current energy crisis, pushing up bills and risking energy shortages.
A strategic approach to infrastructure is essential, and it is Labour’s industrial strategy that follows the evidence from across the economy. Unlike the Conservatives, our plan follows evidence from around the world. At the heart of our plan is Labour’s green energy plan. We will invest in the energy sources of the future. Our plan will deliver self-sufficiency in renewable energy by doubling onshore wind, trebling solar and quadrupling offshore wind, all supported by the creation of a publicly owned “Great British Energy” company. Our plan will create half a million jobs in renewable energy and a further half a million jobs in insulating 19 million homes over 10 years. Our plan will invest in the technologies and industries of the future, from EV charging points, supporting a burgeoning electric car industry, to clean steel and developing shorter, more resilient supply chains. Our plan will create jobs, cut bills and deliver energy security, and it will transform our prospects after 12 years of economic failure by this Government.
The UK Infrastructure Bank has to take a long-term view in the national interest. So what is the Government’s record? The sale of the green investment bank to private equity, yesterday’s distressing news about Britishvolt and the failure of the green homes grant scheme—all mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North (James Murray) and all examples of where the UK Infrastructure Bank could do so much better to ensure a greater chance of success with the right strategic mandate.
What should be the approach of the UK Infrastructure Bank? Labour’s industrial strategy will deliver prosperity through partnership: the Government working with business and trade unions to create thriving businesses, prosperous workers and successful communities that benefit from investment in the whole country and from a strategy that supports the everyday economy as well as those in advanced manufacturing. The question for this Government is whether their approach to the UK Infrastructure Bank matches the scale of our ambition.
It is worrying that, just last week, the Prime Minister answered a question about onshore wind by talking about offshore wind. I wonder whether he understands the difference. His refusal to end the moratorium on onshore wind is telling, and it certainly is not an indication that this Government intend to make a bold, ambitious commitment to benefiting from the opportunities of a low-carbon economy. A good test of whether this Government really are committed to infrastructure investment is whether the new bank will deliver the decarbonisation we need and whether it will enable this country not just to survive but to thrive, by making the most of the massive economic opportunities available from the energy transition.
We have exciting technologies in wind, solar, tidal, carbon capture and storage, nuclear and hydrogen. Will the bank give investors the confidence they need to develop the benefits for our domestic economy and for export markets, too? So far, the bank has faced criticism for following the market rather than setting new strategic priorities for big infrastructure projects. Will the bank really support local and regional economic growth? After 12 years of failure, people can be forgiven for being somewhat sceptical.
An industrial strategy is a partnership between Government, employers and workers. In government, we enshrined partnership working in the Olympic Delivery Authority to ensure good local jobs, and to ensure that those jobs were central to the construction of Olympic facilities. We set up the Automotive Council with employers and trade unions to protect local jobs. We will be pursuing amendments in Committee to enshrine a commitment to local jobs in the bank’s remit, and we will push for worker representation on the board. That is the recommendation of E3G, which says that a diverse representation includes workers. Partnership in a successful economic and industrial strategy depends on worker representation. We will follow the evidence in our approach. Our amendments in Committee will push this Government to do so, too. Labour’s approach to infrastructure and industrial strategy is through partnership. We recognise that success will follow when Government work with business and with workers.
Investing in infrastructure in a low-carbon future can deliver across the country, not least because of how the exciting opportunities are geographically spread. It can deliver prosperity in every community. The jobs in insulating 19 million homes will, by definition, be created in every community, especially in those with the poorest housing stock, which are those with the greatest need of good jobs as well as warmer homes. We can transform our prospects at home and through the export potential of new technologies. But the bank has to be on a sound footing, alongside a strategy and with objectives that are consistent with the way the bank is set up. We support the creation of the bank. It is a great way for us to implement our plans in government. It is a great way to give businesses and investors certainty. It is a great way of offering prosperity to communities through the creation of new jobs. But the bank has to be allowed to be ambitious, to push for new opportunities and to set the market, not just follow it. That is what an industrial strategy does. It is what Government can contribute to as a partner, where business would otherwise struggle to attract investment. It is also how to transform our economy, our country and our communities.
I begin by saying how grateful I am to all the Members who have contributed today; it has perhaps been more a case of quality than quantity. When we talk about the funding of this important bank, it is a case of both quality and quantity. We are talking about billions of pounds of investment for two crucial priorities for this Government and this country: levelling up and net zero.
Let us be clear that that work is already under way, with the bank delivering very important projects to date, as we can see when we consider the following: £107 million for the redevelopment of the former Redcar steelworks site on Teesside, which will drive forward the offshore wind sector and create 800 jobs; 4,000 more jobs unlocked by investment in green transport in Birmingham, connecting its city centre, Solihull and Birmingham airport through a zero emissions corridor; spades already in the ground to ramp up solar and meet our energy needs, with plants opening in Newport, south Wales, and Strensham, Worcestershire; and fast, affordable and reliable broadband to 8 million homes across 285 towns and cities in England and Wales by 2025, with a further investment to deliver ultrafast broadband to businesses and households in rural Northern Ireland.
Let me turn to the comments made by the Opposition spokespeople, as I am grateful for their support. I could not tell at times whether it was enthusiastic or slightly reluctant, but either way I am very grateful that we have a consensus in this Chamber on the importance of delivering this Bill, including from the SNP, whose support I am also grateful for.
Both the hon. Members for Ealing North (James Murray) and for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) spoke about our record. Let us be clear about something: between 1990 and 2019 our carbon dioxide emissions in this country fell by a staggering 44%—they fell by almost half. I do not think there is any other industrialised economy that can compare on that. In the same period, our economy grew by three quarters, because we can have growth and cut emissions—we are proving that. That is why the bank has the dual mission to deliver on net zero and on investing in local and regional economic growth. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Sefton Central chunters from a sedentary position. He was critical of our efforts on offshore wind and renewables, but we have the largest capacity of offshore wind in Europe. I am proud, as the MP for South Suffolk, of the extraordinary contribution of offshore wind off East Anglia and what it is doing to drive forward this country’s journey to net zero. The difference here is that we are doing it in the real world. Let me put that in context. Renewables in 2010 made up just 7% of our total energy, whereas this year the figure was up to 43%. We have seen extraordinary growth and we should all be very proud of that.
Both the Labour spokespeople asked the specific question on worker representatives. I understand where they are coming from, but we do not believe this amendment would be necessary. We have asked the bank to abide by the corporate governance code to the extent appropriate to the UK Infrastructure Bank, which specifies that the board should engage with the workforce through either a director appointed from the workforce, a former workforce advisory panel or a designated non-executive director. The bank has appointed a NED, Marianne Økland, who will take on this role. I hope that that answers that question.
The hon. Member for Sefton Central asked about our commitment to levelling up, so let me be clear. The levelling-up fund has already awarded £1.7 billion, and there is £2.6 billion from the shared prosperity fund, £3.2 billion from the towns fund and £5.7 billion from the city region sustainable transport settlements. I call that a commitment to levelling up, and we on the Government Benches are proud to be pushing that forward.
My hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) speaks on these matters with great expertise; not only was he a Treasury Minister, but we must not forget that in the real world he was a successful businessman in his own right. He posed some very good questions, including one about the target rate of return. I can be clear that in the framework document for the bank, a target return of 2.5% to 4% by the end of 2025-26 is set out. We think there would be problems were we to state that target in law—one can imagine the potential downside—but to ensure transparency there will be a review of the bank’s operations within seven years. The review will look specifically at additionality—the degree to which investment is additional—because although we support the bank, we all have to defend the interests of taxpayers. We look to them as I look to you as I speak, Mr Deputy Speaker.
My hon. Friend also asked about green finance leadership. I can confirm that according to the latest global green finance index compiled by Z/Yen, London is once again classed as the greenest finance centre in the world. Rumour has it that a certain Treasury Minister might well be in Egypt next week promoting that very point.
On the power of direction in clause 4, no one should get too excited; we are not talking about a return to the good old days of socialism. I confirm that the bank is operationally independent. The Treasury can already issue directions to the bank under companies law and as set out in the bank’s framework document. Clause 4 simply puts the existing power on a statutory footing for transparency and accountability.
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) for his welcome and for his discourse on rolling stock. As the son of a father who was into model railways, train sets and all the rest of it, it brought back some memories. He and the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) both spoke about devolved issues. All I can say is that we at the Treasury have had very positive discussions with the devolved Administrations, and the bank itself has of course spoken to both the Development Bank of Wales and the Scottish National Investment Bank. I am sure we will have further discussions and a very positive relationship. On specific investment, I say to the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr that the bank is operationally independent, but I am sure it will take into account the points he put on the record today.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) made a very good point when she spoke about the sheer scale of the investment needed to deliver net zero. We in His Majesty’s Treasury are well aware of that. That is why it is so important that the funding capacity from this bank will be £22 billion, crowding in a further £18 billion. That is a huge step forward, but we know there is more to do, which is why it is important that the Bill is before the House. It is the next step in a necessary but exciting journey of transformation of infrastructure projects in our country. It will establish the bank in the market and ensure its longevity in the future.
As my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said in his opening speech, we have designed the bank to be a long-lasting institution to deliver long-term priorities and projects on which we all depend and, above all, net zero and levelling up. For that reason, I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Uk Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords]: Programme
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords]:
(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 22 November 2022.
(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Consideration and Third Reading
(4) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.
(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.
(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.— (Jo Churchill.)
Question agreed to.
UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords]: Money
King’s recommendation signified.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise—
(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:
(a) any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by the Treasury; and
(b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under or by virtue of any other Act out of money so provided; and
(2) the payment out of the National Loans Fund of any sums payable out of the Fund by virtue of the Act.—(Victoria Atkins.)
Question agreed to.