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UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords]

Volume 730: debated on Wednesday 22 March 2023

Consideration of Lords message

Clause 2

Objectives and activities

I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 3B.

The Lords proposed amendment 3B in lieu of Commons amendment 3. As the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill reaches the final stage of its passage, I am pleased that it will also include nature-based solutions explicitly.

Members will recall that in previous debates I noted that nature-based solutions were already included in the inclusive definition of infrastructure, and as such we did not think it necessary to add them explicitly to the Bill. The Government have, however, reflected on that position and we recognise the strength of feeling on the matter across both Houses. I am therefore pleased to say that we support the Lords amendment in lieu, and I hope that colleagues across this House will do so, too. We think that the amendment strikes a careful balance, making it clear that nature-based solutions are within the bank’s remit without being overly prescriptive and limiting the bank’s opportunity to invest.

I thank hon. Members for their contributions to this Bill. I am pleased that, on such an important Bill, we have reached consensus. UKIB has transformative potential, which I know is recognised and supported on all sides of the House, and the changes made to the Bill show how effective Parliament is in scrutinising legislation. This Bill is the final stage in establishing the bank as a long-lasting institution, establishing in statute its key objectives of tackling climate change and supporting regional and local economic growth.

The question is that this House agrees with the Lords in their amendment 3B. I am going very slowly in case anybody appears on the Opposition Front Bench—or, indeed, in case anybody currently on the Opposition Front Bench wishes to address the matter. No? Then we will move to the SNP spokesman.

I just have a small point. The SNP supports this Bill and the intention to create the UK Infrastructure Bank, with its objective to help tackle climate change. However, it is worth putting on record very briefly that both the original Government amendment 3 and amendment 3B in lieu from the other place—while the latter does keep “nature-based solutions” in the wording of the Bill—seek to remove

“structures underpinning the circular economy”

from the infrastructure that the Bill is designed to support in its objectives of tackling climate change and meeting the target for 2050.

I am sure people interested in such matters will look rather askance at that. How on earth can we have a UK Infrastructure Bank Bill, with highly laudable objectives to tackle climate change and meet the Government’s own targets, only then to have both the Government and the other place actively remove investment in infra-structure to support the circular economy—which, for goodness sake, must be part of the solution—from the Bill? We are not going to oppose the amendment, because the Lords amendment is marginally better than the original Government amendment, but it is worth putting on record that the removal of the words

“structures underpinning the circular economy”

from the Bill strikes me as somewhat perverse.

I find myself in the unusual and extremely uncomfortable position of agreeing with what the SNP spokesperson has just said. It is a condition that I hope will be quickly removed so that I can assert my usual sound Conservative principles.

There is an important point here, which I know the Minister is aware of, and which is not specific to this Bill. It seems a little odd, if we are looking at the next 10 or 20 years of our investment in infrastructure under the terms of the new Infrastructure Bank, to omit explicitly one of the foundational aspects of infrastructure from the Bill. I know my hon. Friend the Minister will have already reviewed that and he will say, I think correctly, that there is nothing in this Bill to stop support for investment in the circular economy infrastructure. However, I think it is important to have voices at this stage of the debate who can say that clearly, so that those who will now take forward the Infrastructure Bank know that, even if it is not in the Bill, the importance of creating the foundation of the circular economy is explicitly one of the things we anticipate and hope that the bank will do.

On behalf of the Opposition, I would like to say that we support this amendment. As other speakers have said, it improves on the text of the Bill, so we are happy to support it.

I thank the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) for the Opposition’s support. Indeed, the Bill has been characterised by support from across the House for this important institution, which, I remind the House, is already up and running. Today, I am pleased to say, we are putting it on a statutory footing.

I have heard the comments made by the right hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie), as well as by my good and hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller), who helped to pilot the Bill through its early stages. I will make the point that my hon. Friend expected me to make: the language in the Bill is inclusive rather than exclusive. His point is well made and understood.

On behalf of this House, we wish the institution well as we put it on a statutory footing. We in this House all look forward to hearing how it fulfils its objectives of levelling up and adding to the transition to net zero.

Lords amendment 3B agreed to.