Clause 2: Objectives and activities
1: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, at end insert—
“(ii) to adapt to any current or predicted impacts of climate change identified in the most recent report under section 56 of the Climate Change Act 2008, and(iii) to protect, enhance and restore the United Kingdom’s natural capital, including by supporting efforts to meet the targets and improvement plans under Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Environment Act 2021,”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies that the Bank’s objective to help tackle climate change includes mitigation of climate change, adaptation to climate change, and the protection and restoration of the UK’s natural capital.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a director and co-chair of Peers for the Planet.
I thank the Minister for the constructive dialogue that has taken place throughout the passage of the Bill, including the meeting with the bank’s chair and chief executive last week to discuss their new strategic plan and the subsequent letter from the chief executive, which we received today. These meetings have been useful and have provided some comfort that the bank’s leadership, which is obviously of very high quality, has considered and intends to address many of this House’s concerns about issues such as natural capital, climate resilience and how certain types of infrastructure, such as gas and roads, will be treated. It would, however, be extremely helpful if the Minister made clear from the Dispatch Box the position on gas exploration and road building, concerns about which were raised in Committee and in our meeting. Although I know she believes that those concerns are unfounded, it would be helpful to have on the record some of the assurances that we received informally.
I welcome the Government’s amendment on energy efficiency, to which I have added my name. It is a much-needed signal of their recognition of the urgency and importance of making progress in this area. I hope the Minister may have an opportunity to have a word with her noble friend about the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, where we could do with some movement on the same topic.
Where we have not made progress in making changes to the Bill is on the environmental priorities, including nature-based solutions, the circular economy and adaptation. It is with these issues, about which we spoke at length in Committee, that this group of amendments is concerned. I have tabled Amendments 1 and 6A, while similar related issues are raised in amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Holmes of Richmond, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. My amendments have signatories from all sides of the House, for whose support I am extremely grateful. Indeed, the Minister herself recognised the importance of these issues but simply queried the need to spell them out in the Bill.
Following the Minister’s comments in Committee, my Amendment 1 no longer sets out a third stand-alone objective for the bank, which she indicated would be extremely difficult to do, but is limited to expanding on the climate change objective to clarify exactly what
“to help tackle climate change”
means for the bank in practice, and to reflecting what has been indicated by the Chancellor, the Minister and the bank itself—that is, that resilience and adaptation measures and nature-based solutions absolutely fall within the scope of the climate change objective.
Given the consensus on this, it is hard to understand the argument against including these additional proposed new subsections and making clear that the bank has within its founding objectives a coherent, integrated response to climate change, and sending a clear message to the markets that these are priority areas for market development. We all agree on this, so why do we not make that clear to everyone else out there?
Including nature in the Bill in no way ignores the fact, as has been argued, that the market for nature-based solutions is nascent. What it does provide is a strong signal that the bank recognises that it has a role in developing capacity towards a pipeline of investable projects and will be poised to act—crucially, encouraging others to do the same—when these come to fruition. Moreover, the bank has a role now in helping build and develop these markets, including through taking a nature-positive approach to near-term projects, building internal capacity for future projects and taking a joined-up approach across government-related bodies, including UKRI, the British Business Bank and local authorities, to help seed projects and initiate the local capital and innovation needed to bring those projects to market.
On adaptation, we are told that it is agreed that climate-resilient infrastructure is critical to reaching net zero, and that mitigation and adaptation will be considered together. But even the Climate Change Committee’s most recent progress report last week observed that the UKIB consultation on investment priorities focused on key net-zero infrastructure priorities, but
“has no mention of adaptation.”
Clarity, focus and policy direction are needed.
Amendment 6A, the second tabled in my name, offers an alternative approach to these issues by including the circular economy and nature-based solutions in the definition of infrastructure, by making explicit that the infrastructure solutions set out in the indicative list in Clause 2(5) include those related to the circular economy and nature. As the Minister will have noticed, it mirrors the approach that the Government themselves have taken to energy efficiency.
I have already spoken about the importance of including nature in the Bill. It was generally accepted how important an issue it was in Committee, so I can be brief on this point. It is not in question that nature-based solutions play a role. The bank’s new strategic plan, which is focused on short initial timescales, already provides examples of some of the main near-term opportunities in the water sector for nature-based solutions. Explicitly stating that nature may play a part in infrastructure projects which realise the bank’s objectives would provide the confidence and the clarity needed to give momentum to the development of these solutions.
Similarly, adopting circular economy structures within the definition should be uncontroversial and a signal of how infrastructure projects may be approached. The bank’s strategy already says that it is
“open to financing … circular economy projects.”
A circular economy approach is completely in step with producing positive synergies between the bank’s objectives. Circular economy principles recognise planetary boundaries, promote fairness and reduce overconsumption. It is estimated that circular economy infrastructure could support up to 450,000 jobs by 2035 in reuse, recycling and remanufacturing. Crucially, those jobs would be in occupations and areas suffering higher rates of unemployment.
In our debates, the Minister spoke at length about the need for clarity, but the Bill is Parliament’s only opportunity to be not only clear but explicit about policy priorities. The Government recognised that by proposing their own amendment on energy efficiency. I believe that there is support all around the House for taking exactly the same approach to nature-based solutions and the other issues covered in these amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. I also welcome the Minister’s and the Government’s change of mind, if you like, on including energy efficiency specifically in the Bill. We all know that the International Energy Agency cried out about developed nations not doing anything about energy efficiency. We also know that it is the cheapest and most effective option: this programme would avoid huge amounts of further capital expenditure. We have not been good at making sure that we pursue that for our housing or building stock.
Having said that, energy efficiency, as measured by output against energy per year, has gradually increased over the years in this economy. This is the silent way of reducing the energy bills that so many of us receive in our inboxes these days—I was going to say through our letterboxes—and I really welcome that. But it is not enough.
I put down an amendment, similar to the noble Baroness’s, on including “biodiversity” and the recovery of nature as an objective. I do not understand why the Government do not find it straightforward to include this, because it accepts that there is a biodiversity emergency. The Treasury in particular produced the fantastic Dasgupta report, which went through the whole area of natural capital, partly covering how we can solve this issue but also clearly painting the challenges. I congratulate the Treasury on having initiated that report but perhaps not quite so much on the follow-up to date. But here is an opportunity to put this into the Bill.
However, if we cannot have this as an objective in the Bill, I very much support Amendment 6A tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, which references
“the circular economy, and nature-based solutions”.
This could be a major step for government policy on the circular economy, which was very well described by the noble Baroness. But I get the impression that, out there in the real world, people are enthusiastic about local repair shops and being able to mend the stuff they buy so that they do not have to buy it again, saving money and resources and helping on climate change. So, the circular economy element is equally important.
Of course, nature-based solutions are a natural way—literally—not just for a number of climate change and biodiversity recipes but to help the natural environment in all sorts of ways. They do this more cheaply and, compared to just pouring concrete, have wider effects, as we know, on areas of adaptation like water quality and flooding, which have been so neglected, as the noble Baroness said.
I favour Amendment 9, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. If we saw any UK Infrastructure Bank investment in roads, we would be concerned about its climate change objectives. I also strongly support, and have put my name to, Amendment 11 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I am sure that she will explain this herself, and I will not remark on it at this stage.
My Lords, I rise to speak in particular to my Amendment 9, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his support. I very much agree that climate change means that we cannot be building new roads, although big issues of air pollution are of course also addressed in this group.
I have to begin, since I do not get the chance to do it very often, by commending the Government on their amendment on energy efficiency. It demonstrates the sentiment of our debate in Committee—and indeed throughout the House and the country—and shows that campaigning really does work. Let us see lots more of it.
Essentially, I agree with everything the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, have said, so I will not repeat those points. However, we are increasingly hearing from the Government about the importance of biodiversity and the state of nature. Indeed, I had the pleasure recently of attending an event at the Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Show & Conference, at which the Government and Members of this House and the other place expressed their concerns and spoke of the importance they place on restoring nature. Surely, the Infrastructure Bank should be explicitly directed to do that.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, we are talking about sending a message to the bank and to the country about the importance of biodiversity in nature, and we can also look to the international stage. We see reports expressing grave concern about the state of the COP 15 biodiversity talks, and the entire nature community is screaming out for leadership in those talks. Clearly, as the chair of COP 26, it should be our responsibility to lead the way. As the noble Baroness said, if the Government are saying, “We already mean this anyway”, what is the harm in including such a provision in the Bill and sending that message out to the international community as well as to the country?
On the circular economy amendment, in Committee I tabled an amendment calling for a reduction in resource use. In the interests of efficiency and time—and given that I was not getting many positive signals from the Government—I did not table it this time, but I think the Government will come back to this issue so that we can make at least some progress on it. Explicit support for a circular economy, which is a necessary but not a sufficient condition, given that we continue to treat the planet as a mine and a dumping ground, is essential in order to see some progress. We will certainly see the other place pushing on the question of resource use.
My Amendment 9 is a modest amendment, and it is perhaps worth making clear what I mean by it. I am very happy if the Government want to look at using different terminology, but I point out that what I mean by “roads” is major stretches of roadway. I do not mean tracks up to new onshore windfarms, government enthusiasm for which we are finally seeing signs of in the media, which is greatly encouraging. If the Government wish to find another form of wording, I point out that, clearly, what I am referring to is major road infrastructure. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, the climate emergency does not allow that. This issue crosses over with the clean air amendments in this group, and the issues of disadvantage that we are going to discuss in the next one. Broadly speaking, air quality is worst in the poorest, most disadvantaged areas of the country. New roads are the last thing those areas need, as they would make the air quality even worse.
To say that the Infrastructure Bank is not for roads but for mass transport should be considered uncontroversial. It is not my intention to put the amendment to a vote, but this is a debate that will continue in the other place. I commend all these amendments to your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 7 and 10 in my name, but before I do I join others in congratulating my noble friend the Minister on tabling the government amendment on energy efficiency. It speaks to an amendment that I and others tabled in Committee, and it is certainly welcome that it will now, rightly, be included in the Bill.
Amendment 7 would insert just three words: “nature-based solutions”. There is a lot in the Bill about climate and carbon, but the reality is, as noble Lords are well aware, whatever we do and must do on that front, we will still be left with a pressing, urgent need for nature-based solutions. As other noble Lords have mentioned, we have “roads” in the Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, has just pointed out, I do not think anybody would necessarily be against roads as a secondary, tertiary or lower-level aspect of an infrastructure project—to get to the shoreline for offshore wind, to give another example. However, that is at best a tertiary part of the bank’s investment, or of that particular infrastructure project, yet it is in the Bill. If “roads” can be there, surely “nature-based solutions” has at least an equal place in the Bill. Would my noble friend consider including “nature-based solutions” and, in exchange, taking “roads” out of the Bill? That would be a thoroughly good thing.
Finally, in similar terms, my Amendment 10 would insert “clean air”—perhaps one of the most significant, precious and essential parts of our infrastructure. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that it would not be difficult or controversial, and that it would be a thoroughly good thing, to have “clean air” on the face of our infrastructure bank Bill?
My Lords, the House this afternoon represents one of the Prime Minister’s favourite metaphors: a nest of singing birds. Everybody who has spoken agrees with each other; I agree with everything that has already been said, but particularly with what my noble friend Lady Hayman has said. I have added my name to her Amendment 1, and I will make just two additional points to the ones she made.
First, the Government agree that nature, nature recovery and nature-based solutions are important, and they say that all of that is encompassed within the Bill as drafted. But if nature is not mentioned on the face of the Bill, it will always look secondary; it will always nest behind climate. It will not have the same prominence or importance, yet all the facts suggest that the biodiversity crisis is at least as urgent as the climate crisis. These two things, according to the facts and the evidence, deserve to be side by side. If they are not, the bank and others will draw obvious conclusions.
Secondly, the only point I have heard made for why there is resistance to having nature on the face of the Bill is that there are not really any projects ready to go. My answer to that is: so what? This Bill is setting the course for the years ahead. It does not matter that there is not something ready to go in the next few months, because these projects will surely come. One issue that has detained your Lordships’ House time and again over the last year has been water quality and the fact that water companies are dumping sewage hundreds of thousands of times a year into our rivers and the sea. It is easy to imagine a project on water quality that would not really be about climate but would be all about nature. Surely that would deserve to be supported by the UK Infrastructure Bank. So I ask the Minister to reconsider one last time.
My Lords, first, I apologise for not attending the earlier stages of the Bill. I was caught out by conflicting diary commitments, but I have been following the debates and the developments around the Bill through all the stages, and my noble colleagues will know of my interest in this issue.
We have been grateful to the Minister for the continued dialogue on the contents of the Bill. However, as we heard today, there remains unfinished and unresolved business, and I am therefore grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and all noble Lords who set out the case for their amendments so clearly; we share their concerns. The number and range of amendments in this group on the environmental priorities demonstrate that there is a feeling across the House on this issue. The noble Lord, Lord McDonald, described it beautifully as a “nest of singing birds”. I concur with that description, because there is a concern that the ministerial responses in Committee simply have not been good enough to embed “nature-based solutions” and the “circular economy” into the bank’s founding legislation. However, we believe that these principles are crucial for the creation of green jobs, for harnessing the best science and technology, and for reshaping the economy away from the damaging fossil fuel mentality that exists at the current time.
Amendments 1 and 3 demonstrate our ongoing concerns about the implementation of the “biodiversity” and “natural capital” commitments of the Environment Act, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, quite rightly pointed out, were designed to underpin the very compelling evidence in the Dasgupta review. In that report, Dasgupta made it clear that enhancing nature and biodiversity are more than aspirational extras; they lie at the heart of our future economic and social well-being and are fundamental to delivering our climate change commitments. This is why we believe that these principles should be a major driver of the bank’s activities and spelled out in the Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has made clear, the Chancellor’s strategic steer in March set out that the Government are already calling for the bank to grow natural capital markets through its investment. This Bill seems the proper vehicle to drive that policy through.
I have also added my name to Amendment 6A, which would make it clear that the definition of infrastructure projects should be widened to include “nature-based solutions”, rather than just concrete and metal. I also think that Amendment 9 of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, quite rightly challenges the emphasis on “roads”; surely public transport and green energy should be priorities in future. “Nature-based solutions” can be anything from creating natural flood defences to restoring our woodland, peatland and parks. The growing market for investment in nature-based land use is an illustration of its potential for delivering our climate change commitments.
The amendment also embeds the principle of the “circular economy”, putting greater emphasis on our scarce resources through better reuse, repair, recycling and remanufacturing. As noble Lords have said, these are principles to which the Government are already committed but have been slow to implement. Placing these in the Bill would provide the means for drawing in new revenue streams to transform our manufacturing processes. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has already set out a convincing argument for Amendment 6A and—depending on the Minister’s response—if she wishes to test the opinion of the House, we will support her.
We also have our Amendment 11 in this group, which seeks to expand the definition of “harmful pollutants” to include those
“which are not greenhouse gases but”
other forms of “particulate matter”, such as car tyre air dust, which can be just as
“detrimental to air quality and human health.”
Therefore, we think that the case for expanding that definition is vital. I am grateful to the Minister for her discussion with my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe on this issue, and hope that some of those assurances can be placed on the record today.
As is the case with so many other Bills, there seems to be a significant gap between what the Government say they want to achieve and what they are willing to commit to in legislation. Whether it is biodiversity, air quality, the circular economy or ensuring that infrastructure projects use nature-based solutions, their record of delivery does not match their stated ambitions. There always seems to be a political or legal excuse for delay. All we are doing in these amendments is formalising policy commitments already agreed by the Government, and providing a mechanism for financial support. There is already a review process built into this, but, if we are not rightly ambitious about delivering projects outside the normal investment portfolios, we will find ourselves in the seven-year review stage facing a tally of missed opportunities. This is why it is so important for noble Lords to support the amendments in this group, and I hope that they will.
My Lords, we start Report with a topic that has already been central to our discussion of the UK Infrastructure Bank: its role in investing in nature and the environment. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and all noble Lords who have engaged with the Government on this important topic.
I turn first to Amendments 1 and 3, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which seek to add natural capital, biodiversity, wider environmental targets and climate adaptation to the bank’s climate change objective. As we discussed in Committee, nature-based solutions and projects to support climate adaptation are already within scope for the bank. Those who attended the briefing with the bank’s chief executive and chair last Tuesday will have heard that the bank is keen to explore this area. We have given thorough consideration to the question of adding to the bank’s objectives through our environmental review on whether nature-based solutions should be in the objectives. We engaged with a wide range of stakeholders during this review, from think tanks to investors, and we heard from a majority of them that they felt that there was already significant scope for intervention in nature-based solutions within the bank’s existing mandate without adding a third objective.
In considering this question it is important to acknowledge that the bank already has two stretching and broad objectives that are the outcome of significant work, starting from the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission and the national infrastructure strategy. Ultimately, the bank is an infrastructure bank, so it should invest in nature as a means of achieving its objectives and to enhance the UK’s infrastructure. The Chancellor made this clear to the bank when he sent it a strategic steer in March this year. The bank’s strategic plan sets out that it will explore opportunities to invest in nature and highlights opportunities to invest in water-related projects, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, mentioned.
While the bank’s scope to invest in nature is already significant, it is important to note that this is not the only, or indeed primary, government intervention to support the market for natural capital projects. I will mention just a few areas. To provide an accredited route for income for nature projects, the Government are backing the maturation of the woodland carbon code and peatland code through the nature for climate fund and woodland carbon guarantee. To create demand for nature projects, we are implementing regulation to grow the market—for example, through mandating biodiversity net gain for development. The nature recovery Green Paper also sets out plans in this area, specifically on ensuring that environmental regulation and regulators, including Natural England, the Environment Agency and Ofwat, are equipped to support the uptake of nature-based solutions and more strategic, landscape-scale approaches to environmental protection and enhancement by industry. To help the market mature from grant support to a more commercial basis, Defra has established the natural environment investment readiness fund of up to £10 million, which will provide grants of up to £100,000 to environmental groups, local authorities, businesses and other organisations to help them to develop nature projects in England to a point where they can attract private investment. Defra is also initiating the big nature impact fund, a blended finance vehicle designed to use public concessionary capital to attract private capital into the fund. The fund will invest in a portfolio of natural capital projects that can generate revenue from ecosystem services to provide a return on investment. These initiatives will support the growth and commercialisation of the natural capital market.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for her support for the government amendment in my name. I again reassure noble Lords that it was always the Government’s intention that the bank could invest in projects to increase energy efficiency—for example, the retrofitting of homes. In fact, this forms a key aspect of the bank’s strategic plan. However, recognising the points raised in debate on this, I have tabled this amendment to add “energy efficiency” to the non-exhaustive definition of infrastructure in Clause 2 to ensure that it is explicit that the bank can invest in projects to increase energy efficiency.
Amendments 6A, 7, 9, 10 and 11 all seek to make further changes to the definition of infrastructure in the Bill. Amendments 6A and 7 seek to add “nature-based solutions” to the definition of infrastructure. As noble Lords have already heard, the Government are confident and, through our review of the bank’s environmental objectives have sought third-party views to ensure, that the definition we have included covers nature-based solutions. The bank’s strategic plan also makes clear its commitment to supporting the development of a circular economy.
On Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, I hope she has received the letter from John Flint, the bank’s CEO, on this issue. As highlighted in the bank’s strategic plan, we do not anticipate the bank investing much in roads. However, it is important that it has the flexibility to do so under the right circumstances. The bank may, for example, consider supporting local authorities in road upgrades that feature as part of their wider transport infrastructure and transport decarbonisation plans. For example, the bank has already financed the West Midlands Combined Authority’s sprint bus programme, which includes road adaptations such as priority signalling, redesign of junctions and additional bus lanes.
I take this opportunity to comment on the bank’s investment in gas, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, asked about. The bank will not lend or provide other support to projects involving extraction, production, transportation or refining of crude oil, natural gas or thermal coal, with very limited exemptions. These exemptions include projects improving efficiency, health and safety and environmental standards, without substantially increasing the lifetime of assets, for carbon capture and storage or carbon capture, usage and storage where projects will significantly reduce emissions over the lifetime of the asset, or those supporting the decommissioning of existing fossil fuel assets. The bank will not support any fossil fuel-fired power plants unless this is part of an integrated natural gas-fuelled CCS or CCUS generation asset.
Finally, I come to Amendments 10 and 11 tabled by my noble friend Lord Holmes and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. This is a difficult area to tackle, so let me set out how the bank considered the wider environment within its policy framework. First, there are investments which, while addressing climate change or growth, can help to improve the environment. Separately, there is a policy framework considering whether and the extent to which the bank’s investments impact environmental factors beyond climate change. With this in mind, I shall set out how the objectives of the bank relate to pollution.
The bank’s objectives are tackling climate change and regional and local economic growth, but not wider pollution. The bank can invest in projects that tackle pollution, but only so long as they also help to achieve its core objectives of tackling climate change or regional and local economic growth. Investments directly into infrastructure to tackle other pollutants that can impact clean air will already be broadly covered by the existing definition of infrastructure and the objectives in the Bill. For example, tyres would fall under transport, in the same way that water pollution is covered by water, and tackling those pollutants is in scope as long as that investment is also tackling climate change and/or facilitating regional and local economic growth. As we have discussed, there are likely to be large numbers of synergies in this area.
I know that there has been interest from Peers in broadening the bank’s definition of infrastructure to ensure that the bank takes into account the wider environmental impacts, beyond climate change, of its investment decisions. Widening the definition of infrastructure in this way is not the best way to achieve this. Instead, the way that wider environmental impacts are dealt with is via the bank’s environmental, social resilience and governance policy. The ESRG policy and framework that the bank is developing will be used to screen projects and provide transparency on its portfolio. Part of this policy will involve collecting data from each investment to meet reporting standards, such as the forthcoming sustainability disclosure requirements, which will include green taxonomy reporting. The objectives of the green taxonomy include pollution prevention and control, which the bank will need to report on for its investments.
More broadly, infrastructure projects are subject to a range of environmental regulations appropriate to their specific type and circumstances. It would not add value to apply these directly to the bank when they already bind the project developers directly. Defra is consulting on new legal targets for air quality, water, waste, and biodiversity, which the Government are required to set under the Environment Act by October this year and which noble Lords will be well aware of.
I hope, therefore, I have provided sufficient reassurance for the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, to withdraw her Amendment 1 and for other noble Lords not to move the other amendments in this group when they are reached.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. As in Committee, we saw support from all around the House. Unfortunately, the Minister has not completely reassured me. I am grateful for her reassurance on gas and understand the reason for including roads, with caveats, in the infrastructure. I sort of understand not wanting to change the objectives, because of the process she described with consultation and wanting to keep clarity for the two objectives.
What I cannot understand is refusing to include the circular economy and nature-based solutions in the infrastructure. I am afraid her arguments are undermined by the Government’s actions. They keep roads in there even though they need to be caveated and we need reassurances that they will not be a mainstream activity of the bank. However, they tell us that they are absolutely committed to making these an activity for the bank. We know that the Treasury, departments and everyone who talks about these issues understands the connection between nature-based solutions and climate change. They understand that we need to tackle these areas; there is no difference between us. These are not tablets of stone, unlike the objectives—and the Government are seeking the leave of the House to change the objectives on energy efficiency. If they can do it for energy efficiency, why cannot they do it for nature-based solutions and the circular economy?
I rest my case on that issue and will return to it when we come to Amendment 6A. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 2, page 1, line 13, leave out “and”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to probe whether the Bank would need to meet both objectives in the exercise of its activities.
My Lords, Amendment 2 is a probing amendment so I can be very brief. Its purpose is to seek clarity on how the objectives of the bank will work together and to allow the Minister to put that clarification on the record.
We have discussed this informally with the Minister and her officials, and I am grateful for the time they gave us. Our questions were about whether the two basic objectives—tackling climate change and supporting regional and local economic growth—both needed to be met in any project. Is that what “and” means here in the Bill? In her letter to us of last Tuesday, the Minister responded:
“I can confirm that the Bill’s drafting does not mean that a project must meet both those objectives. The Bank can invest in projects which meet only one of these objectives, so long as supporting a project to deliver regional and local economic growth does not do any significant harm against the Bank’s climate objective.”
As far as it goes, that is clear and helpful; I look forward to the Minister putting it on the record in a moment.
However, it raises a couple of other issues. For example, does it work the other way round? Is it permissible to invest in a project to support the bank’s climate objectives as long as it does no significant harm against the bank’s regional and local economic growth objective? I assume that this is the case—I would be grateful for confirmation that it is. What does “significant” mean in these contexts? What criteria will be used to provide a threshold test for significance? Will each project carry an assessment of the harm that pursuing only one objective may cause to the other? Will any such assessments be published along with other details of the project? I look forward to the Minister’s reply and the arrival of complete clarity.
My Lords, Amendment 5 is in my name. I declare my interest as a project director working for Atkins and note that I am co-chair of the Midlands Engine APPG. First, I thank my supporters on this amendment; I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for all his help in crafting it, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his support. My remarks are equally applicable to Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to which I have added my name.
To briefly reiterate the issue, the current levelling-up objective of the bank, set out in Clause 2, is not clear enough to articulate the levelling-up purpose of the bank in the Bill. Indeed, I would question what the words
“support local and regional economic growth”
really add to the Bill. Almost any conceivable infrastructure investment will meet this objective for the area in which it sits.
As the Minister has previously stated, we have the strategic steer in the form of a letter from the Chancellor, which clearly sets out levelling-up objectives. However, levelling up is a long-term, generational project—as is this bank—and the strategic steer will not bind it in the long term. Ultimately, if nothing is done because of the lack of clarity in the Bill, the bank and the Government may drift away from the levelling-up purpose expressed in the strategic steer and may not undertake the vital work of helping disadvantaged areas in the long term.
This is particularly the case because the effects of agglomeration work against infrastructure spend outside the metropolis. The economic return is simply much better in areas that already perform well, so those projects have a much better chance of proceeding. Inequality becomes entrenched and self-fulfilling. That is why it is so important that, for an infrastructure bank still focused on making a return, levelling-up objectives are clear in the Bill. This can be solved via the simple amendment we have set out. It takes on board feedback from the Minister in Committee to avoid any complicated definitions of disadvantaged areas. It does this by using similar comparative wording to a recent government amendment to the Subsidy Control Act. The amendment would mean that Clause 2(3)(b) read:
“to support regional and local economic growth, with an emphasis on reducing social or economic disadvantages within the United Kingdom.”
I am very grateful to the Minister and her team for meeting me and for their efforts in investigating this issue. I know that the Minister is concerned about legal challenge and whether the wording would cause the bank to be too cautious in its approach, but this wording captures the very fundamentals of levelling up. Given the guidance for the bank in the strategic steer, all its investments should be compliant with the wording in any case, so I do not believe that this would limit the bank in any way.
Amendment 12 provides the same clarity in a slightly different way, by ensuring that the first mission in the levelling-up White Paper—the key mission of relevance for the bank—is written into the bank’s objectives. Ultimately, both amendments address the same issue: we want to be confident that there is some permanence to the bank’s objectives on levelling up and focusing on disadvantaged areas. The strategic steer and a letter to the bank do not offer this permanence, so I hope the Government will agree that something needs to be done to ensure that the bank will deliver in the long term for disadvantaged areas, deliver for the levelling-up agenda and fulfil its potential to make a real difference to the lives of people in those left behind communities all across the country.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale. It was particularly useful that he spoke before me because I have taken some of the words that he and his supporters put down in their amendment but made an additional change, taking out the words “economic growth”. But I agree entirely with everything the noble Lord just said about the need to focus on reducing disparities and tackling economic and social disadvantages. As he said, that takes the wording from the Government’s own approach in another place and it would be very hard for the Government to argue against that.
I argued extensively in Committee about why economic growth as a target in its own right has failed and, indeed, is undeliverable, because you cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. I will not go over those arguments again now, but I think it is very clear from the fact that we are back here again, after an extensive debate in Committee from all sides of your Lordships’ House, simply saying that the bank will work for regional and local growth. As was said in Committee, that could be regional and local growth in Chelsea and the wealthiest 10 wards in the whole country, which is surely not the purpose, and it therefore needs to be clarified in the Bill. As was said in our earlier debate when we were talking about the environment, we have seen acknowledgement of the need to change the Bill already. This is surely another crucial change.
I was pleased to attach my name to Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and backed by the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. This is again putting levelling up in the Bill. It is what the Government say the Bill is for. Surely, it has to be specified in it.
My Lords, I am going to be exceedingly brief because so much has been said which I support. I want to make a couple of comments on Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and others, that I have been pleased to sign. I want to make a point that I think has not been hit on. It is really important because it signals to those who put together projects and then turn to the investment bank and look for resources and funding that they are going to have to meet tests such as improving productivity and making sure that they are delivering well-paid jobs.
Putting that in the Bill would take it away from being a passive measure by which the bank looks at and decides whether to support projects and moves it into the active category. Those who are going out and investing will look closely at whether they are delivering against those various tests. There is so much that is good in the various amendments within this group—I very much support my colleague on Amendment 2—but I particularly wanted to underscore the message-signalling that is deeply inherent in Amendment 12.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this important debate. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, and the right reverend Prelate—who is not present—for their support in tabling Amendments 4 and 5. Those texts are similar in intent to my Amendment 12, and those colleagues made a powerful case for tightening up the bank’s second objective.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, who joined the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, in signing Amendment 12, which I shall turn to now. The Government say their absolute priority is to deliver their levelling-up agenda. Ministers say they will use every tool available to them to ensure left-behind communities can catch up economically, compared to London and the south-east. However, anybody reading the Bill would be hard-pressed to identify that intent. Yes, the bank should be operationally independent from government, but that does not mean it cannot support the levelling-up agenda in its day-to-day work.
Amendment 12 would, in essence, place the first mission from the Government’s recent Levelling Up White Paper in the Bill. The amendment would not prevent the bank from acting in a manner that deviates from that mission. It will be free to invest in climate-related schemes or projects in wealthier parts of the UK; that would remain the bank’s prerogative. However, the amendment would introduce a general requirement for the bank to have regard to the public interest in targeting funds in a manner that will improve productivity, jobs, pay and living standards.
The Government say they want to create good jobs, lift people’s pay and improve life chances. However, at the same time, Ministers are slashing the size of the Civil Service and washing their hands of responsibility for pay negotiations in sectors where the Government have a direct interest. We still await an employment Bill that has been promised for many years. That Bill was not deemed a big enough priority to be included in the Queen’s Speech, meaning many workers will lack important statutory rights.
The aforementioned White Paper mentions that by 2030, the Government want to see the gap between the best and worst performing regions of the UK narrowing. We want to see that gap close, too, but let us be realistic: it will require concerted action, not just warm words.
The year 2030 is not very far away. Let us consider the current economic context: the economy is on the brink of recession and is forecast to flatline in 2023. The cost of living crisis is squeezing household incomes to an extent not seen for decades. There is not a huge amount of time to turn this picture around. If we are to do so, we need urgent action to create secure, well-paid jobs, and the bank can help only if it is explicitly encouraged to do so.
Amendments to the framework document or strategic steer are not enough to target the bank’s mind or provide comfort that the Treasury is sufficiently invested in following through with its stated ambitions. It is regrettable that the Government have not brought forward their own amendment at this stage in proceedings. We have pushed for this in meetings with the Minister but have not succeeded.
We will listen carefully to the Minister’s response today but feel that this is an important issue which deserves to be in the Bill. Unless the noble Baroness is able to commit to an amendment at Third Reading, I am minded to test the opinion of the House when Amendment 12 is called.
My Lords, I will first take Amendment 2 from the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, which, as he explained, seeks to probe our use of “and” in the activities of the bank to see whether it must meet both objectives or just one. As we discussed previously, the bank’s two objectives—to help tackle climate change and to support regional and local economic growth—are both stand-alone but complementary objectives. I can confirm that the Bill’s drafting does not mean that a project must meet both of those objectives but rather that over the breadth of its activities the bank must meet both.
The bank can invest in projects which meet only one of these objectives, so long as supporting a project to deliver regional and local economic growth does not do any significant harm against the bank’s climate objective. The bank wrote to noble Lords with further detail on the “do no significant harm” policy on Friday.
To address the noble Lord’s two specific questions, there is no reverse or equivalent “do no significant harm” policy for climate change investments with regard to local and regional economic growth. However, in reality we do not consider the bank likely to invest in something harmful to economic growth given the need to crowd in private capital and be additional, in line with its investment principles. The bank will create its own framework for assessing what “do no significant harm” means, drawing on best practice from around the world.
Amendments 4 and 5 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, attempt to define levelling up within the local and economic growth objective of the bank. I reiterate why we have taken the approach that we have. The Bill sets the foundation on which the bank will operate. The specificity of how the bank’s objectives will be achieved will be contained in the framework document and in the strategic steer and strategic plan. This is the appropriate use of primary legislation, which can be a blunt and inflexible tool. Specificity in the Bill must be backed up with detailed and precise drafting, and a number of the aspects which we will discuss today are not easily defined. Failure to do this unnecessarily increases the risk of legal challenges which the bank will face, and that increased risk could result in the bank having a decreased risk appetite for investment.
That is why we have taken the approach we have done with the objectives. We have kept the high-level principles in legislation and supplemented those with additional information in the strategic steer and the framework document. The definition of local and regional economic growth is addressed in the first strategic steer, issued by the Chancellor in March, which stated that a focus on geographic inequality must be a priority for the bank. It also pointed to the Levelling Up White Paper to set out the missions with which the bank should align itself when considering investments. We could not do something like that in the Bill.
Future Governments and the bank are likely to want flexibility in determining areas of focus, and increased specificity in the Bill will reduce this flexibility. The objectives cannot be amended by secondary legislation. That is a deliberate choice, but it also means that we must be careful about what we put into something which cannot be changed easily.
On the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, although similar wording is used in the Subsidy Control Act, the contexts are very different. In that legislation, the use of the phrase is related to an exemption to a prohibition in a specific context where tight parameters are needed. However, here it is operating as a limit on the long-term and overarching functions of the bank and will impact on every project that it enters into. As a result, the risks that we have previously discussed, and which relate to the bank being excessively cautious in considering investments for fear of legal challenge given the subjective nature of the suggested drafting, are much higher.
Amendment 12, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, focuses on improving productivity, pay, jobs, and living standards, and reducing geographical inequality. The effect of this amendment would be that every investment would need to have regard to these two areas. He has included the wording “have regard to”, but this will still have significant impacts on the bank. On improving jobs specifically, we understand the intention of the amendment and do not disagree with it. However, we are concerned that there may be consequences. It could again lead to the bank being overly cautious for fear of legal challenge. For example, it might be nervous to invest in a new technology because that would cause job losses regarding an older or outdated technology. By extending the range of objectives, we increase the risk of tension between those objectives and, therefore, the risk of legal challenges to the bank’s operations.
I assure the noble Lord that the bank’s early deals are already creating jobs across the UK. For example, a deal with the West Midlands Combined Authority, which invested in a project that will increase connectivity between residential and employment areas by setting up a green bus route, is projected to unlock nearly 4,000 jobs. The strategic steer is also the right place to provide specificity about jobs or employment to meet the current needs of the country. Here, government can be more specific about quality, location and types of role.
Similar to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, a requirement on reducing regional inequality would mean that the bank has increased risk across a number of its investments. However, this amendment has the added risk of applying to its functions generally, not just to the regional and local economic growth objective. For example, what would happen if a future Labour Government wanted to use the strategic steer to allow the bank to focus on green jobs? What if the green jobs did not offer significant productivity increases in the same way as another investment, or if those green jobs were focused in a poor area of the south-east of England? There is a risk that, under the drafting of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, the bank would be unable to focus on green jobs—or would at least be cautious about focusing on green jobs—given the read-across from the legislation. However, I understand the points being made in the debate today and commit to updating the framework document to ensure that there is wording which is consistent with the strategic steer and levelling-up White Paper. The wording here is:
“Addressing the deep spatial disparities across and within UK regions”,
which I hope that noble Lords agree captures what we are trying to achieve.
I hope that this goes some way towards addressing the concerns of noble Lords, although it does not seek to make changes to the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, can withdraw his amendment and that other noble Lords do not move theirs.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Amendments 3 to 5 not moved.
6: Clause 2, page 1, line 22, at end insert—
“(4A) Before making any investment decision, the Bank must ensure that the principle of additionality is met.(4B) The principle of additionality is that—(a) all activities make a contribution which is beyond what is available or is otherwise absent from the market,(b) all activities do not crowd out the private sector, and(c) all activities have effects that encourage private sector funding to a multiple specified by regulations made by the Treasury.”
My Lords, it is a pleasure to open this group of amendments and to move my Amendment 6. This amendment boils down to just one word, which predates the investment principles of the bank, the objectives of the bank, the strategy of the bank, the framework document of the bank and everything else associated with the bank: additionality. That is the bank’s raison d'être—no additionality, no bank.
As mentioned in the first group of amendments, we have “roads” in the Bill but nothing about additionality. My Amendment 6 would seek to set out exactly what additionality means, how it covers crowding out as well as crowding in, and what multiple Treasury should set on that crowding in.
Government Amendment 23 is purely an amendment to review what the bank has done on crowding in after seven years. It says nothing on crowding out, hence why I support Amendment 24 in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes, which I will say no more about.
My Amendment 6 covers both the end-point—the review—and the beginning, the mission the bank needs to be on. It is all well and good to have a review at the end of 10 years, or now seven, but without Amendment 6 the review is just the spectre of an individual walking backwards into the future, wringing hands about what the bank has done, either positively in achieving additionality or negatively. Although a review is significant and important, it always arrives a little too late to influence what has just happened.
It is critical that additionality is in the Bill for the benefit of the bank and for the private sector, which would have the confidence to know that the bank would operate to the threshold of additionality, which would have to be achieved or that specific investment would not be entered into. If the Minister cannot accept my amendment, would she commit to meeting with me between Report and Third Reading to look at what we can do to get additionality in the Bill to strengthen the position of the bank, to make projects far more likely to crowd in and not crowd out funding and, ultimately, to benefit everything we are trying to do in this infrastructure space? I beg to move.
My Lords, I have Amendment 24 in this group, which is an amendment to the Minister’s Amendment 23. It is always rather strange speaking to an amendment to an amendment when the amendment itself has not been spoken to—but I will do my best.
First, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond on his Amendment 6. It is well drafted and encompasses what we understand by additionality in the context of the operations of the UKIB. In Committee, it was widely agreed that additionality was so important that it should be in the Bill. I think it was also agreed that the boundary between what is in this Bill and is in other documents outside the Bill, including the framework document which is not even referred to in the Bill, has been set in the wrong place. When I say that the Committee agreed these things, I do not suggest that the Government agreed, but the vast majority of the Committee was aligned on these matters.
The Minister has been generous with her time with noble Lords, and I thank her for the meetings she arranged and for her letter of last week. She gets a gold star for effort, but I am afraid that that is not matched for content. On additionality, my noble friend claimed that the absence of an agreed definition in the Bill could stop it developing over time. That is nonsense. Additionality, as a basic concept, has barely shifted in the many years that I have been involved in public sector matters. The essence of it is about, and always has been about, something that should occur that would not otherwise have occurred but for the particular intervention or action. It is a universal principle that can be adapted to a number of circumstances.
I then suggested to my noble friend the Minister that, rather than try to produce a specific definition, she could put a high-level definition in the Bill and take a Treasury power to issue guidance to UKIB. That too was brushed aside. The Treasury likes to keep stuff in documents, such as the framework document, which it alone controls. I remind noble Lords that, as my noble friend the Minister informed us in Committee, the framework document is not even legally binding.
Nevertheless, I recognised that the Treasury is something of an immovable object on this issue, so I decided that it would be better to pursue the Minister’s offer of a way forward and include additionality issues in the periodic reports which are required by Clause 9. I thought that half a loaf would be better than no loaf, but I have to say that Amendment 23, which my noble friend has tabled, is a serious disappointment. It represents no more than a quarter of a loaf.
Amendment 23 adds an additional reporting requirement to Clause 9 but it is a lop-sided approach to additionality. Its focus is on the extent to which UKIB’s investments in projects have encouraged additional investments in those projects. It therefore will cover the extent to which projects have enabled crowding in, but it does not explicitly cover crowding out, which has always been my biggest concern, because a bank with a high capital ratio and a low cost of capital can easily outcompete private sector financing. I do not believe that if UKIB were to finance the whole of a transaction to the complete exclusion of the private sector in circumstances where 100% private finance could have been obtained, it would be captured by my noble friend’s amendment—it would not come close to being captured by my noble friend’s amendment. Such a transaction would not have encouraged or discouraged private sector finance; it would have bypassed it completely. That is why my Amendment 24 refers to investments having been made by UKIB
“despite an adequate supply of private sector financing”.
My noble friend the Minister will doubtless say that it is not in UKIB’s strategic plan to do transactions without private sector financing. It was never in the strategic plans of the European Investment Bank to crowd out private sector financing, but it did it anyway, in collusion with private sector borrowers, who were quite happy to take soft loans from public sector lenders who were much easier to deal with than hard-nosed real bankers in real banks.
My noble friend the Minister has also referred in correspondence to the impact of the Subsidy Control Act, which became law earlier this year. I have to say that the Act, which refers to subsidy decisions, sits rather uneasily with the practice of doing investment deals in the context of a bank. I accept that at a high level it would apply to UKIB. I just think that the language is very difficult to interpret in the context of what UKIB would do. My main concern is that there would never be an enforcement action against UKIB because the crowded-out private sector financiers are exactly the same people who want to be invited to any crowding-in party. It simply will not be in their interest to try to get the Act enforced against UKIB.
For all these reasons, I am very disappointed that this Bill, which I have never regarded as a shining example of Conservative economic values in any event, is going to ignore the concept of crowding out, which ought to be something dear to any Conservative Government’s heart. I shall not move my amendment when we reach it in the Marshalled List, but I live in hope that there are still some Conservatives in the Treasury who might have a change of heart before this Bill reaches the other place.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 24 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, to which I have added my name. The noble Baroness has already eloquently explained the rationale for this amendment, so I will try to keep my speech reasonably short.
Like the noble Baroness, I was strongly drawn to Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, which would insert the critical additionality principle into the principles of the Bill. That would be the preferable approach, but, like the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, I have been persuaded, reluctantly, to go along with the Government’s approach of making this something the bank reports on.
That leads me to amendments in the final group about the timing of those reports, which are, at the moment, seven years apart. If this is to be the way we deal with additionality, the report timings need to be shorter.
I thank the Minister for her engagement during this process. It has been exemplary. I thank her for listening and I am pleased that she has introduced the principle of additionality, albeit into the review process, by amending Clause 9 with Amendment 23. However, I share the disappointment of the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, with that amendment and, in particular, the way in which it fails to deal with crowding out. It deals with the additionality element, but it does not deal with the crowding-out element.
If noble Lords will forgive me, I will touch on why crowding out is important, because I am not sure it is widely understood. It sounds like a technical economic term, but it is not; it is a very practical and important issue. Crowding out happens when the Government, in this case through the bank, invest in direct competition with the private sector by offering lower interest rates or better terms generally. This is something, as the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, has said, that the Government have rightly criticised the EIB for doing in some circumstance. I think the EIB got some things right and was quite good in certain circumstances, but there are also plenty of examples where it crowded out.
First, crowding out is a waste of taxpayers’ money—why should the taxpayer, in effect, subsidise a project that could perfectly well be financed by the private sector? More damaging still is the effect that crowding out has in actively discouraging the development of a thriving private sector financing market for the sorts of investments in infrastructure and the environment that the bank is meant to encourage. Why would a private sector financier bother to create an infrastructure financing business if it will simply be undercut by the Government’s investment arm? So the impact of crowding out is to reduce the longer-term availability of private sector finance, and it may end up actually reducing the level of infrastructure and environmental investment over the longer term, which is precisely the opposite of what we are trying to achieve with the infrastructure bank. That is why it is so important that the bank does not crowd out private finance.
Amendment 24 is designed to ensure that those situations where crowding out occurs are explicitly reported on, rather than just ignored. The Minister said in her letter of 30 June that
“given that review will cover crowding-in, that necessarily includes the question of whether crowding-in did not happen with the attendant risk of crowding-out. This is because additionality is designed to measure genuine additional private finance, in other words investment that would not otherwise have happened ... I would fully expect the independent review to address the question of crowding-out under the terms of this drafting.”
However, let us look at the drafting of Amendment 23: it simply does not do that. It requires the review to report only on
“the extent to which its investments in particular projects or types of project have encouraged additional investment”.
It does not refer to situations where the bank has replaced private finance, in whole or in part. Indeed, in the slightly odd situation where it replaced private sector finance only in part—for example, by taking 50% of an investment—as drafted, the bank would be able to measure the other 50% as additionality, even though it would have happened anyway. A project where 100% is replaced by private finance would simply be treated as not crowding in. There is nothing in Amendment 23 that would mean it would be the actual crowding out would be measured or reported on.
Given the importance of the bank not crowding out the private sector, which, as I have explained, would potentially undermine the bank’s very purpose of encouraging infrastructure and environmental investment, the Government should look very closely at accepting an amendment like Amendment 24. At the very least, could the Minister please be explicit at the Dispatch Box—rather than implicit, as she was in her letter—that her Amendment 23 is intended to ensure that the review is intended to cover, and will actually report on, those situations where the bank invests despite there being private finance available for the investment? That wording is really important, and her letter is not explicit on that point.
My Lords, it was not my intention to speak on this group but, given that all the non-government speakers have been from the other side of the House, I felt I should offer an argument from this side of the House that is perhaps 180 degrees opposite to that presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, but, none the less, makes an argument for either Amendment 6 or Amendment 24.
The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, suggested that she preferred private bankers to public bankers. Private bankers have been left to provide the direction for our economy and society over the past few decades and look where that has got us: we are having to talk from all sides of the House about the urgent need to level up and to tackle poverty, inequality, our climate emergency and the nature crisis. Therefore, we need to make sure that the bank is not crowding out private finance. If it is, it is spending money in the wrong places. It needs to be doing things that are innovative and different from what we have been doing up to now. That is why I encourage either the mover of Amendment 6 or those speaking to Amendment 24 to consider testing the opinion of House, and I offer them Green support.
My Lords, my motivation here is somewhat different: I want to see the bank move along the risk spectrum. There is a temptation, due to the structure of the bank, for it to stay within the range of fairly safe investments. It has to produce a return and it has a very small risk capital base, but I would like it to maximise that to move along the risk spectrum. I see no other way to accelerate the innovative technologies that we need, or development in disadvantaged areas where people have typically turned their backs, unless the bank is willing to take on that much higher risk profile. The various additionality amendments seem to create that kind of pressure to move UKIB much further down the risk spectrum than it might otherwise feel comfortable in doing, meaning that it therefore does not maximise the opportunities in front of it.
My Lords, I join my noble friend Lady Noakes in applauding Amendment 6 in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes as a gallant attempt at defining additionality, although I dare say another Peer might draft it differently.
I want to make a more general point about additionality before coming on to the specifics of each amendment in this group. Additionality is a key principle underpinning the bank, and it is something that the Government take very seriously. That is demonstrated by the fact that additionality is one of the bank’s core investment principles, as set out in its framework document and strategic plan. However, following legal advice, the principle is not included in the Bill as there is no single agreed definition of additionality in a financial context that we could appropriately include in the Bill. Approaches to assessing additionality are developing over time and we would not want to stymie that development by creating a statutory definition of additionality at this stage.
While the term “additionality” has been included in previous legislation—for example, the Dormant Assets Act 2022 and the National Lottery Act 2006—additionality in those contexts had a different meaning: of funding projects or activities that the Government would not have otherwise funded. Assessing private sector additionality is more complex because it involves more actors and varied forms of financing. Each deal will have a particular set of circumstances that will indicate the amount of additionality that the bank is bringing. For the bank, as part of that, additionality means ensuring that it both crowds in private finance through its investments and avoids crowding out the market by providing finance that could have come from the private sector.
The bank has set out its approach to assessing and measuring these concepts of additionality in its strategic plan, which was published at the end of June. Currently the bank will assess additionality on a case-by-case basis, assessing the evidence as part of due diligence and monitoring that through a key performance indicator on the levels of private sector finance that it has crowded in. This is a measure commonly used by other organisations such as the OECD.
Crowding out is best assessed through evaluations and medium-term assessments of whether the portfolio of investments has led to crowding out in a particular sector. The bank is developing its thinking on how it will monitor and evaluate its work at both deal and portfolio level, including setting up an independent evaluation.
Further to this, additionality is implicitly covered in the Subsidy Control Act 2022, which of course applies to any subsidies the bank gives. Schedule 1D states:
“Subsidies should not normally compensate for the costs the beneficiary would have funded in the absence of any subsidy.”
Given the protections of the Subsidy Control Act 2022 and the regulatory regime, the difficulty in accurately defining additionality in the Bill, the work the bank is already doing on additionality and, finally, our amendment to the review, I hope my noble friend Lord Holmes will feel able to withdraw his amendment. I must say to my noble friend that the Government do not intend to bring forward any amendments at Third Reading, so I must disappoint him on that front. I should also say that to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, in relation to the previous group, if I was not clear on that front.
The amendment in my name to Clause 9, on the statutory review, will ensure that the review of the bank will measure its success in encouraging additional investment. The drafting of the amendment is based on the reference to additionality in the framework document. I should like to provide reassurance that, given that the review will cover crowding in, it necessarily includes the question of whether crowding in did not happen, with the attendant risk of crowding out. This is because additionality is designed to measure genuine additional private finance—in other words, investment that would not have happened otherwise. I would fully expect the independent review to address the question of crowding out under the terms of this drafting.
The bank could act as the sole financer of a private project if it meets the bank’s investment principles and objectives, but it is highly unlikely that the bank, as the sole financer of a private project, would crowd out private investment, as the bank would be the sole investor in very immature or nascent financial markets for a technology only if no other investors were willing to support the project.
The bank’s initial assessment of the technologies, sectors and markets it plans to engage in, as published in its strategic plan, will allow it to focus its investment in areas with a limited risk of crowding out. This will continue to be developed and reviewed. In cases where the bank would act as the sole financer of a private project, it would expect to have a transformational impact on the market and for the market to be able to attract private capital over the medium to long term. This in part speaks to the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, about the bank being able to operate along the risk spectrum, as it were, rather than seeking to invest solely in perhaps lower-risk or less innovative projects, given the other demands that it has: making a return on its investments and becoming self-funding.
Given this, I am grateful to my noble friend for her commitment not to move her amendment when it is reached. I hope that, in future, my best efforts produce more than a quarter of a loaf.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on this group, and particularly my noble friend Lady Noakes for bringing forward Amendment 24. I shall summarise what the Minister said: that additionality is pretty much impossible to define, but the bank will definitely do it—so that is good. It is unfortunate that we cannot have that in the drafting of the Bill given that, as I said in opening the group, this is the raison d’être of the bank: its only ultimate purpose is additionality. As other noble Lords have said, not having this could lead to less rather than more, and taxpayers’ money being put to that purpose.
It is desperately disappointing that we cannot have additionality in the Bill. I will withdraw my amendment but, in doing so, I gently, politely and respectfully request that my noble friend the Minister considers not moving government Amendment 23 and working to meld it with my noble friend’s Amendment 24 to come up with something that actually covers both crowding out and crowding in. Certainly, as drafted, government Amendment 23 does not do this. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 6.
Amendment 6 withdrawn.
6A: Clause 2, page 1, line 23, after “includes” insert “structures underpinning the circular economy, and nature-based solutions,”
My Lords, in the earlier debate on this amendment, we heard very powerful arguments for including nature-based solutions and the circular economy in the definition of “infrastructure” in the Bill. The arguments that we heard from the Front Bench were not as strong: the principle was accepted, and we were asked to accept the reassurance that these issues could be included because they were in the framework document or the strategic plan. This is Parliament’s opportunity to say what its priorities are. I believe that there is support for this around the House, and I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.
Amendment 7 not moved.
8: Clause 2, page 1, line 25, after “heat” insert “and, in relation to electricity, gas and the provision of heat, energy efficiency”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would make it clear that energy efficiency, in relation to electricity, gas and the provision of heat, is within the definition of infrastructure.
Amendment 8 agreed.
Amendments 9 to 11 not moved.
12: Clause 2, page 2, line 4, at end insert—
“(5A) In exercising its functions, the Bank must have regard to the public interest in targeting investment in a manner that—(a) improves productivity, pay, jobs and living standards, and(b) reduces economic disparities between the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would ensure the Bank has regard to the first mission of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper when exercising its functions under this Bill.
13: Clause 2, page 2, line 9, leave out subsection (7) and insert—
“(7) Regulations made under the powers set out in subsection (6) are subject to the “super affirmative procedure” as set out in subsections (8) to (15).(8) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament—(a) a draft of the regulations, and(b) a document which explains the draft regulations.(9) Where a draft of the regulations is laid before Parliament under subsection (8), no statutory instrument containing the regulations may be laid before Parliament until after the expiry of the 30-day period.(10) The Secretary of State must request a committee of either House of Parliament whose remit includes infrastructure, economic growth, finance or climate change to report on the draft regulations within the 30-day period.(11) In preparing a draft statutory instrument containing the regulations, the Secretary of State must take account of—(a) any representations,(b) any resolution of either House of Parliament, and(c) any recommendations of a committee under subsection (10) made within the 30-day period with regard to the draft regulations.(12) If, after the 30-day period, the Secretary of State wishes to make regulations in the terms of the draft or a revised draft, he or she must lay before Parliament a statement—(a) stating whether any representations, resolutions or recommendations were made under subsection (11); (b) giving details of any representations, resolutions or recommendations so made; and(c) explaining any changes made in any revised draft of the regulations.(13) The Secretary of State may make a statutory instrument containing the regulations (whether or not revised) if, after the laying of the statement required under subsection (12), a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(14) In this section, references to “the 30-day period” in relation to any draft regulations is to the period of 30 days beginning with the day on which the original draft regulations were laid before Parliament.(15) For the purposes of subsection (14) no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which either House is adjourned for more than four days.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to provide Parliament with the opportunity for enhanced scrutiny of the regulations made under this section.
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 18. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, and my noble friend Lady Kramer for adding their names to both amendments and to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for adding his name to Amendment 18.
The Bill contains Henry VIII powers in Clause 2(6)(a) and (b). These powers would enable the Treasury to amend the activities of the bank and change the definition of infrastructure by regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. There is no constraint, the Treasury has carte blanche: it can add to, subtract from or modify any or all of the bank’s listed activities; it can change what counts as infrastructure by adding, subtracting or modifying. This would enable fundamental changes to be made to the bank’s operations without any meaningful parliamentary scrutiny. The Government have previously asserted, and may do so again today, that the affirmative procedure for SIs constitutes meaningful parliamentary scrutiny, but this is obviously not the case.
In its 2018 report, the Constitution Committee noted:
“Without a genuine risk of defeat, and no amendment possible, Parliament is doing little more than rubber-stamping the Government’s secondary legislation. This is constitutionally unacceptable.”
But there is a way of enhancing scrutiny of secondary legislation. This is the super-affirmative procedure, and our Amendment 13 would replace the affirmative procedure with this super-affirmative procedure. Erskine May, in Part 4, chapter 31.14, characterises this procedure as follows:
“The super-affirmative procedure provides both Houses with opportunities to comment on proposals for secondary legislation and to recommend amendments before orders for affirmative approval are brought forward in their final form … the power to amend the proposed instrument remains with the Minister: the two Houses and their committees can only recommend changes, not make them.”
During the passage of the recent Medicines and Medical Devices Act, the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, very helpfully summarised the super-affirmative procedure as follows, saying
“that procedure would require an initial draft of the regulations to be laid before Parliament alongside an explanatory statement and that a committee must be convened to report on those draft regulations within 30 days of publication. Only after a minimum of 30 days following the publication of the initial draft regulations may the Secretary of State lay regulations, accompanied by a further published statement on any changes to the regulations. They must then be debated as normal in both Houses and approved by resolution.”—[Official Report, 19/10/20; col. GC 376.]
It was in that Bill that the House last voted to insert the super-affirmative procedure. There was widespread support from across the House—from Labour, from these Benches, from the Cross Benches and even from two extremely distinguished Conservative Peers. Prior to that, according to the Library, the last recorded insertion was by the Government themselves in October 2017 in what became the Financial Guidance and Claims Act.
When they are not doing it themselves, the Government traditionally put forward any or all of three routine objections to the use of the super-affirmative procedure. The first is that it is unnecessary because the use of the affirmative procedure provides sufficient parliamentary scrutiny. This is obviously untrue. The second routine objection is that the super-affirmative procedure is cumbersome. I take this to mean only that this procedure is more elaborate than the affirmative procedure; which is, of course, the whole point. It is necessarily more elaborate because it provides for actual scrutiny where the affirmative procedure does not. The third routine objection is that it all takes too long. This has force only if there is some imminent deadline, and there is none in this case.
In Committee, the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, argued in favour of retaining the Henry VIII powers in Clause 2:
“There may, however, be instances where we need to update the definition of infrastructure or the bank’s functions to ensure that the bank can continue to fulfil its objectives as a long-lasting institution.”
He went on to give an example:
“New green infrastructure technologies may emerge in the future which we would want … to include in the bank’s definition of infrastructure, to signal to the bank and the market that the bank can invest in these technologies.”—[Official Report, 14/6/22; col. 1541.]
I am afraid that this is a very weak argument. The definitions of “infrastructure” in the Bill are not exhaustive, as the Minister has again said this afternoon. The bank could simply decide that it wanted to include new green technology and say so in an official press release. In any case, the Treasury could always direct the bank to include these new technologies and any such direction would be published. As things stand, the Henry VIII powers would enable the Minister to change both the bank’s activities and the definitions of infrastructure without constraint or meaningful parliamentary scrutiny. Our Amendment 13 would restore an element of parliamentary scrutiny; Parliament should not be bypassed.
Amendment 18 addresses the issue of transparency over aspects of the Treasury’s relationship with the bank, including operational independence. The relationship between the Treasury and the bank is in large measure set out in the framework document. It is not entirely clear what the legal status of this document is, and there are inconsistencies between it and the Bill. We will discuss those later when we talk about the need to revisit the framework document and align it with the Bill, but I will examine just one section of the document.
Section 15 is entitled:
“Resolution of disputes between the Company and the Shareholder”.
The company is the bank and the shareholder is the Treasury. Paragraph 15.2 sets out a fairly standard procedure for trying to arrive at an agreed resolution of a dispute. Paragraphs 15.3 and 15.4 set out what happens if the resolution process is unsuccessful. Under the terms of these paragraphs, the Treasury may give the board of the bank directions of a specific or general nature.
If the board and the accounting officer reasonably believe that a given direction would conflict with a set of prescribed items, the board may issue a reservation notice in writing to the Treasury in respect of a direction that in its opinion would:
“infringe the requirements of propriety or regularity … not represent good value for money for the Exchequer as a whole … be of questionable feasibility or … unethical … be contrary to the Strategic Objectives ... result in the directors of the Company being in breach of their legal duties … and/or … not be in the best interests of the Company for any other material and demonstrable reason.”
The Treasury may nevertheless instruct the bank to comply with the direction. If that happens, the bank must seek a written instruction to undertake the actions set out in the direction. This written instruction is called a written direction; there is an oral equivalent, called an oral direction. The bank then has to follow the written direction. It is also required to tell a list of people what has happened and to arrange for the existence of the written and oral directions to be published. However, there is a caveat. The existence of the written or oral direction may not be published if the Treasury has directed the board in writing not to do so.
There are several things wrong with all this. First, there is no mention of publishing the reservation notice in the framework document at all. In her letter to us of 25 June, the Minister said:
“we have committed to update the Framework Document to clarify this position to reflect that the Bank may publish its Reservation Notice.”
Why “may” and not “must”? After all, the Bill specifies that the Treasury must publish any direction.
The second thing wrong is that the framework document explicitly requires the bank to
“arrange for the existence of the Written Direction or any Oral Direction … to be published”.
That is, unless the Treasury tells it not to. Why the odd language about publishing the “existence” of the written or oral directives? In plain English, that is not a requirement to publish the contents, but only the existence of the written or oral directives. That clearly cannot be right.
The third thing wrong is the Treasury’s power, set out clearly in the framework document, to gag the bank by directing it not to reveal the existence of a written or oral directive. The whole chain of events must be transparent at every point. If operational independence is to have any real meaning, the bank and the Treasury must publish not only the original directive but also any reservation notice and any written or oral direction.
That is what Amendment 18 would do. It simply amends Clause 4(3)(b) to read that the Treasury must publish a direction and
“any subsequent, consequential or relevant correspondence between the Treasury and the Bank.”
That means it must publish the content of such correspondence, not just the fact of its existence. I beg to move Amendment 13.
My Lords, I will speak to two sets of amendments. Before doing so, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Vaux and Lord Wigley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, for their support in the drafting of the amendments and for co-signing them. They fall into two distinct categories.
The first group, Amendments 14 to 17, relates to Clause 3. They are intended solely to deal with the framework document, about which we have had many discussions today and on various occasions. There is one in existence, but it is now more than a year old. That document needs to be brought in line with the other governing documents of the bank. It seems clear that, if you are to govern a bank properly, effectively and efficiently, its governing documents must be got right.
One of the problems with the framework document is that it is not clear what it is. Is it a very mundane document—I hate to use the word, but I think it is right—that deals with ordinary day-to-day activities or a much more important document, as the Minister suggested earlier in the debate, which might be used to fine-tune the way the bank will work or the objectives it is to be set?
Is it legally binding? Without seeing the document that will operate in the course of the bank’s governance, it is quite impossible to say, unless there is a clause which says that it is not legally binding. If it is not legally binding, unless it deals with day-to-day matters such as meetings, there may be no problem, but which is it?
Is it consistent with the Bill and the clauses that will be inserted into the strategic priorities? The present document is quite clear; it contains provisions that are redundant, such as those relating to the objectives and the appointment of directors, because they have been overtaken. The purpose of this amendment is to press the Government to be clear about what may or may not be an important part of the governance of the bank. I intend to say no more about that group of amendments.
Amendment 21 is a much more important amendment and goes to a constitutional point. Economic development is a devolved issue. It is not a straightforward one, because the government Acts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland contain extensive reservations on aspects of economic development, as one would expect. One would expect that, ordinarily, the Governments of the devolved constituent parts of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United Kingdom would work closely together on so important an institution as the UK Infrastructure Bank. The Bill ought to reflect a properly organised structure, so that there is consultation and the views expressed by the devolved Governments are taken into account on consultation.
It is useful to look to Germany. KfW has one of the most successful track records in the world on the operation of an investment bank; 80% of it is owned by the federal Government and 20% by the Länder. It therefore has an institutional structure.
In the UK—I do not make any point about what has been decided—this is 100% owned by HM Treasury. Given the need for co-operation, particularly with the Welsh development bank and the equivalent development bank in Scotland, we ought to be clearer in the Bill that there should be appropriate consultation on its key features. I accept that the strategic plan put forward by the bank makes some mention of working in co-operation. Indeed, it mentions Wales or the Welsh six times, and Scotland gets a bit more as it is mentioned eight times, but Northern Ireland gets a bit less as it is mentioned only twice. But when one looks at the analysis of what is there, there is nothing of any real substance on which the Governments of the devolved constituent parts of the United Kingdom can get any comfort.
The Bill needs a legislative consent Motion. Another important feature is that we ought to recall the Sewel convention; we ought to be concerned at the number of instances where there is no consent. We are gradually moving away from the concept of “not normally” legislating the areas of devolved matters without the consent of the devolved legislatures. In this area, that is a very important point. Therefore, this amendment is put forward to provide a mechanism for consultation on three critical areas, and this inclusion should check and institutionalise in the Bill a structure for proper consultation in relation to the three most important functions of the Government on it: the ability to amend by regulation; the ability to appoint directors; and the creation of the statement of strategic priorities.
Given the current circumstances—and the real need to hold the union together—I hope that this amendment could be one which the Government would readily accept. Consultation is not going very far. One could put forward a clause which went much further, and I very much hope that the Government will look favourably on this proposed new clause, but I shall listen carefully to what the Minister has to say and, in light of that, consider whether I would seek to test the opinion of the House on this provision.
My Lords, I have been in your Lordships’ House since 2005 and one of the things that has always surprised me, having come from another part of the Commonwealth, is the way in which secondary legislation—statutory instruments and regulations—has grown like Topsy. Secretary of States are always accountable to Parliament and, if you give power away, some people never want it to be brought back. The Bill is an innovation. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, was right that we do not want to simply put things back into the systems of other banks, and this is a risky bank. It will go into areas where hitherto nobody has gone.
I speak only to Amendment 13, which seeks to provide Parliament with the opportunity for enhanced scrutiny of the regulations made under this section. That is all it is doing: Parliament must not just pass a law and allow the Secretary of State the power to make regulations and statutory instruments which then cannot be clearly watched. I have always believed that good law is good law—no one should be frightened of any good law. Therefore, the Secretary of State must not see this affirmative action as a hindrance of their function and their work. No, it is simply enhancing the scrutiny of regulations made under this section. I urge those who tabled this wonderful amendment to stick with it and not just give it away.
My Lords, I have added my name to all the amendments in this group, which cover four separate topics, and I will touch on each of them briefly. First, Amendment 13, which the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, eloquently explained, aims to introduce a greater level of scrutiny to the use of the Henry VIII power that is included in the Bill. The activities and, in particular, the definition of infrastructure are fundamental to what the bank can do and how it will be measured. It must be right that changes to this are subject to a meaningful level of parliamentary scrutiny and, as the noble Lord clearly explained, the affirmative procedure has sadly become a bit of a sham. Amendment 13 seeks to find an interesting balance between the rubber-stamping of a statutory instrument and full use of primary legislation. I urge the Government to support this, and I would be quite supportive generally of seeing more of this process in Bills more often: we have seen far too many of these Henry VIII clauses, as we have just heard.
Amendments 14, 15, 16 and 17 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, to which I have also added my name, are aimed at trying to resolve issues around the framework document that we discussed at length in Committee. As we heard, the framework document is a slightly peculiar animal: it seems to have no real legal status, but it is an important document in how the bank will behave. The consensus around the Chamber in Committee was, I think, that the balance within that is too far towards including elements of principle rather than the day-to-day running of the bank. These amendments do not really address that. All they ask is for the framework document to be updated, and that it should be consistent with the statement of strategic priorities. That seems pretty straightforward and simple.
There are a number of areas where the more recent statement of strategic priorities is inconsistent with the framework document. One example—it is relevant to the discussion we had on the previous group about additionality—is that the strategic priorities expressly do not require local authority investments to achieve additionality, but the framework document does. Perhaps the Minister could explain why. I doubt that she will accept the amendments, but could she at least confirm that the framework document will be updated and that it will be brought into line with the statement of strategic priorities?
Amendment 18 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, addresses the extremely important point raised in Committee, I think by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, that as drafted the Bill—in conjunction with all these other governing documents, including the framework document—would require directions given by the Treasury to be published, but would not require situations where the board disagrees with that direction to be published or explained. Indeed, it effectively applies a gagging order, and that cannot be right. This important amendment brings in some essential transparency to that and I wholeheartedly support it.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, that the final amendment in the group is the most important. It introduces a simple requirement to consult the devolved Governments in various situations, and in preparing or changing the statement of strategic priorities. The bank’s activities will cover the whole UK, which I think is a good thing. The Minister has indicated, as does the statement of strategic priorities, that the bank is establishing a good relationship with the devolved Governments, and with the bank’s counterparts in the devolved nations. However, the Bill does not mention this. As someone who lives in Scotland and is a passionate unionist, I am consistently surprised by the fact that legislation that covers the whole UK rarely includes proper consultation requirements. That seems really counterproductive—even dangerous—as not taking proper account of the reasonable views and concerns of the devolved nations further undermines the strength of our union.
It gives ammunition to the nationalists that the Government do not take the devolved Governments seriously. We are heading rapidly towards a break-up of the union if we behave like this. This amendment does not create any veto powers or anything of that nature, which I would strongly disagree with that as you cannot work something if one party has a veto. It just requires consultation and that the reasonable views of the devolved nations be taken into account when setting the strategy or appointing directors.
I urge the Government to accept this. More widely, I urge them to start to be more consultative and include clauses of this nature more generally in Bills that cover the whole of the UK. That will strengthen, not weaken, the union and will ensure that the bank takes actions genuinely in the interests of all parts of the UK. If the noble and learned Lord decides to divide the House on this matter, I certainly will support him.
My Lords, I have added my name to all the amendments in this group but I will try to be brief. I want to pick up on the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Vaux. Amendment 21 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, deals with consulting devolved Administrations. It ought to be a matter of course that in every Bill where consultation is important, it is in the Bill. It then underscores the constitutional relationship between central government and the devolved Governments. The expectation that it is to be dealt with either in other documents or just off the cuff is, I suspect, one of the reasons we see so much stress and pressure on the union today. It embodies a lack of respect, to be quite frank, and it ought to be a matter of course that we see these arrangements in a Bill.
I will look at the other amendments tabled and so well drafted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. On updating the framework document, we have heard of nothing but the importance of that document. On almost every issue we raise, we are told that it does not need to be in the Bill because it is in this absolutely critical document—the framework document—which is actually a document agreed between the Treasury and the bank; it is not even necessarily in the public arena. Yet we can see that it is inconsistent with the Bill as it stands, never mind with the issues that have surfaced in the course of this very complex debate. It is a document that desperately needs to be updated. I know there is a plan to update it by the end of this year but that is completely out of touch with making sure that we have proper, consistent and meaningful arrangements in place for a bank that is already functioning as we stand here today. I very much support those amendments.
I now look at the two amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey. Amendment 13, so eloquently supported by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, addresses another fundamental problem that we see in one piece of legislation after another: the wide use of Henry VIII powers to allow secondary legislation—which cannot be amended and, in effect, cannot be rejected—to change primary legislation fundamentally. It almost makes a joke of primary legislation. I know the Government would say that they would not exercise the power widely and it is just a marginal change here or there, but the Bill is already written to allow for marginal changes. The only time when that clause would be relevant would be if fundamental changes were to be made. I would argue that those should come back to Parliament, at least for the level of engagement of a super-affirmative.
I want to speak most to Amendment 18 because I am truly exercised on the issue of transparency. As others have said, the Bill requires the publication of a direction when the Treasury basically decides it is going to tell the bank what it can do. It can give it instructions that are either general or specific. It could say, “Make this loan and do it this way.” That is entirely allowed and there has to be a publication. But what is not that established is that when the bank says no and then is overridden, that information comes into the public arena. When it says no, it says so in a letter of reservation and the kind of issues it can raise are fundamental, such as issues of propriety, issues of ethical behaviour and issues of departing from the fundamental purpose of the bank.
I think we must have an absolute assurance that those will be published so that they are in the public arena. Let me give an example. The Minister has often drawn parallels between this bank and the British Business Bank, which allows me to draw a parallel with the British Business Bank’s decision to accredit Greensill to provide a Covid-related loan. We know, because it is now in the public arena, that when Greensill applied to the British Business Bank for accreditation, various parts of the Government fairly bombarded the British Business Bank with emails. They did not say “accredit it” but kept saying how important it was that they knew the result, asking whether it was done yet and saying that this would be fundamental to the future of steel in the UK and so on. Anyway, as we all know, the British Business Bank did accredit Greensill and, I suspect, regrets the very moment that it did so.
If a direction from the Treasury had been published on that issue, I am sure it would have said: “This direction is intended to make sure that our very important steel industry survives. It is to support jobs. It is to support communities related to the steel industry.” The reservation would have said something very different. I suspect it would have said: “We do not believe that the entity, Greensill, meets our ethical standards. We believe that it is basically an organisation that has got itself into some very unfortunate and potentially unethical arrangements and is on the verge of bankruptcy.” That is why it is important that the reservation notice is published and the conversation does not exist only in the context of the direction. That is why I say to the Minister that we cannot have an arrangement where the bank could, if it wished, publish its reservation notice; it is crucial that it publishes its reservation notice. I argue that on the grounds of the propriety that should surely lie at the heart of all the legislation that we provide in this House.
My Lords, I rise very briefly to say why—my Whip may not be too happy to hear this—I wish to vote for the amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, which I know is not the view of my party at present.
I think the distance between central institutions in London, such as the Bank of England, is far too great. We have not really taken account of the mechanics of devolution in our constitutional and legal arrangements. This was shown—very dangerously so—in the Brexit negotiations, when important features of the Welsh economy, notably in agriculture, were not attended to by the Westminster Government. Wales and, I suppose, Scotland were treated in a somewhat colonial fashion and the consequence was that a great deal of ill will was needlessly caused. The noble Lord across the House mentioned difficulties that have arisen in the case of Scotland.
I hope we would accept an amendment that thinks in terms of harmonising the economic strategies in London and the devolved authorities. I speak as one who believes strongly in the union but also in devolution for Wales. I hope very much that the amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, who is deeply learned in these matters, will be accepted.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, for tabling the various amendments in this group. I was pleased to sign Amendment 18, which would increase transparency relating to Treasury directions. The Minister and her officials have offered several helpful assurances on this subject during discussions between Committee and Report. I am grateful for those assurances, but I am not convinced that they go far enough. As with the earlier group on job creation and levelling up, this may be another area where the Treasury leans on the framework document as the preferred way forward. If that is where we end up after the Bill has been considered in another place, so be it, but there is merit in this House taking a view on transparency safeguards today.
Sadly, we have become all too familiar with non-legislative commitments or safeguards being flouted. By strengthening Clause 4, we can at least ensure that the bank will have a voice if there are concerns around the Treasury’s use of its powers. Accordingly, if the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, divides the House on this issue, he will have our support.
Elsewhere, I appreciate the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, to see the regulations under Clause 2 subject to a form of super-affirmative procedure. However, this concern was not raised by your Lordships’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and we will of course debate relevant regulations if and when they are brought forward in the future. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, has tabled a number of amendments in this group, and I hope that the Minister will be able to provide a comprehensive reply.
As with so many other pieces of Whitehall legislation, there is a clear overlap with devolved competence, and the Government will therefore have to seek consent Motions. I have huge sympathy for Amendment 21, which seeks to ensure formal consultation with the devolved authorities in certain circumstances. While the Government will dispute this, they have a poor and arguably worsening record in engaging with colleagues in the devolved nations. However, I am not convinced that an amendment to the Bill would change that, or that Conservative MPs will defy the Whip when the Bill is considered in the Commons. I hope this is an area where the Minister can provide strong, non-legislative commitments. Crucially, the Government must then follow through on them.
The union is at least fragile, and the way these relationships are conducted can add to that fragility. It is crucial on this occasion that the Government do everything they can to overcome the present concerns on this matter.
My Lords, Amendment 13 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, seeks to make the bank’s delegated powers subject to the super-affirmative procedure. As indicated in Erskine May, the super-affirmative procedure has been deployed for secondary legislation where an exceptionally high degree of scrutiny is thought appropriate. This procedure has rarely been considered the appropriate one to prescribe in primary legislation; where it has, the relevant instances have tended to be of a particularly substantive and wide-ranging sort. The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, gave us an example but I had another: the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, where the super-affirmative procedure was used to regulate significant powers under which Ministers could amend legislation to remove regulatory burdens. It cannot be said that amending the bank’s activities or the definition of infrastructure reaches the threshold of requiring the super-affirmative procedure. I have noted comments from noble Lords, but I also draw to their attention the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s response to the Bill, which stated:
“There is nothing in this Bill which we would wish to draw to the attention of the House.”
On the other amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, in this group, Amendment 18 on the power of direction, I recognise that there has been some concern about the wording in the framework document in relation to the issuing of directions. In particular, there were concerns that the Treasury would be able to “gag” the bank. That is clearly not the intention, and I have taken away the wording in section 15 of the framework document to make it clear that Her Majesty’s Treasury is not able to prevent publication of a written direction or any reservation notice in respect of that direction.
It is incumbent on the Treasury to meet its obligation to publish the direction and any associated reservation notice as soon as appropriate. Of course, there can be circumstances in which the publication of a written direction or any associated reservation notice needs to be delayed for reasons of national security or commercial sensitivity. An example of this occurred, in relation to a similar power in a different circumstance, during the sale of British Steel Ltd, where the Secretary of State directed the Permanent Secretary to continue an indemnity with the official receiver but delayed publication during negotiations with Jingye, despite value-for-money uncertainties, as to publish at the time would likely have undermined the rescue deal due to commercial sensitivity concerns. However, I will be clear with the House that if publication of a written direction were to be delayed for reasons of commercial sensitivity or national security, we would ensure that it was sent to the chair of the Public Accounts Committee immediately and on a confidential basis.
I hope that I have addressed the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey. However, to be absolutely clear, and maybe to go further than I did in our previous discussions, we will amend the framework document to be clear that where a direction is issued, an accompanying reservation notice “must” be published—rather than “may”—and, to further clarify, the content of the direction and reservations must be published rather than the fact of their existence. I hope that that provides further reassurance to noble Lords on that matter.
The amendments to Clause 3 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, seek to ensure that the bank’s framework document is updated to reflect any strategic steer, and that any revised framework document will be laid in Parliament. In maintaining the bank’s framework document, the Treasury will follow the guidance set out in Managing Public Money. This guidance states that framework documents should
“be kept up to date as the partnership”—
between a department and its arm’s-length body—
The Treasury will update the bank’s framework document as needed to follow this guidance. As has already been noted, the Treasury is currently reviewing the framework document and will publish a new version once the Bill has passed, which will include changes brought about by this House; for example, the clarification which I mentioned earlier in relation to the bank’s ability to publish a reservation notice if the Treasury subsequently issues the bank with a direction, and, in reference to an earlier debate, the clarification of the second objective in local and regional growth relating to levelling up and regional inequalities.
On the publication of framework documents, Managing Public Money is clear. Any revised framework documents should be published and laid in Parliament. Further, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury laid a Written Ministerial Statement today where he set out that all departments should lay their framework documents in Parliament. This has put the question of publication beyond doubt.
On whether the bank’s framework document should be updated to reflect the content of the strategic steer, I think that in that respect I differ in opinion from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. Managing Public Money sets out that framework documents should contain information on purpose, governance and accountability, decision-making, and financial management. It does not specify that they should contain information on current policy steers or priorities.
The bank’s framework document and strategic steers fulfil very different purposes; the framework document providing an agreement to govern the relationship between the bank and the Treasury, and the strategic steer providing an opportunity for the Government of the day to provide steers on current priorities and policy emphases. That does not mean that there will never be circumstances in which the framework document is updated. I have already told the House that we will reflect on the wording in the framework document on the regional and local economic growth objective. However, I do not think that the framework document needs updating every time a strategic steer is issued. It should be updated only when necessary, to provide for continuity and to avoid creating unnecessary resource burdens. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, would be inventing a new process for the framework document, when there is already a process set out in Annex 7.2 of Managing Public Money.
On this, I also refer noble Lords to the strategic steer issued by the Chancellor in March. This provided a steer on priorities for the bank in light of the situation in Ukraine, and the recently concluded environment review, as well as other priorities for the bank to reflect in its first strategic plan. None of this information impacted the high-level framework under which the bank operates, as set out in the framework document, and therefore a mandatory update to the framework document would have been unnecessary. However, the strategic steer must be reflected in the bank’s strategic plans. This is provided for in the Bill.
Amendment 21 seeks to bring a consultation process on the use of some of the powers in the Bill with the devolved Administrations. I appreciate the intent, but this will cut directly across the negotiations that we are having with the devolved Administrations on the legislative consent process. This was brought up in Committee and I explained then that the normal practice is to bring forward any amendments required for a legislative consent Motion in the second House, which for this Bill would be the Commons. It would not be appropriate to accept this amendment until we have begun those negotiations with the devolved Administrations in earnest.
I hope that I can reassure noble Lords by saying that we have begun those discussions with the devolved Administrations in a positive fashion. Engagement with the devolved Administrations on the set-up of the bank was also positive. They all support the establishment of a national infrastructure bank. The bank has also been developing its own relationships with the devolved Administrations and their respective institutions, such as the Scottish National Investment Bank. The bank has now also completed deals in all four nations.
The tone and tenor of the bank’s relationships with the devolved Administrations and their respective institutions, and the way that the bank has gone about its business so far, give noble Lords in this House quite a bit of reassurance, I hope, about the collaborative approach that the bank has taken so far and intends to take in future. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, feels able to withdraw Amendment 13.
I thank the Minister for her response and thank all other noble Lords who spoke to Amendment 13. I detect a chillier wind from my right than I would have liked. Under those circumstances I can only repeat that the House will not have a substantive opportunity to scrutinise these important things. I regret that. The loss of both parliamentary authority and the ability to scrutinise what comes before us is a critical issue, which I have no doubt we will come back to in future Bills. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 13.
Amendment 13 withdrawn.
Clause 3: Strategic priorities and plans
Amendments 14 to 17 not moved.
Clause 4: Directions
Amendment 18 not moved.
Clause 7: Directors: appointment and tenure
19: Clause 7, page 3, line 17, at end insert—
“(ba) at any time, the Bank has at least one non-executive director who is a representative of workers;”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment ensures that the Bank’s board would have at least one workers’ representative at any time.
My Lords, in Committee we had a wide-ranging debate about the bank’s board and whether the Bill should include requirements about its composition, expertise, and so on. Responding, the Minister said that she could understand my temptation to have a workers’ representative on the board but asserted that it was not necessary for several reasons.
During our very helpful follow-up discussions, we have discussed the various processes being followed by the bank as it constitutes its board. I have been assured that my concerns will be dealt with in due course, though it is not clear exactly how and when. I have therefore re-tabled the amendment that I tabled in Committee to give the Treasury another opportunity to explain the position. If it were the Labour Party setting up this institution, we would ensure that the board contained at least one non-executive director responsible for representing the views of workers. Having those views aired would improve the quality of jobs created through the bank’s investments.
I will not pre-empt the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, in relation to his Amendment 20, but it is fair to say that there is genuine concern across Your Lordships’ House when it comes to the effectiveness of this board. I hope that the Minister can offer a degree of reassurance today and perhaps commit to providing updates on the bank’s appointments, as and when they are confirmed. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak briefly to Amendment 20. I traversed the reasons for this amendment at Second Reading. I traversed them again in Committee. I need not weary your Lordships by traversing them a third time. The points are obvious.
Enlightened departments have now agreed to put into Bills qualifications for the boards of important institutions. One sees that in the Climate Change Act and the Environment Act. It is a great pity that the Treasury is not an enlightened department. It should have a little more humility and appreciate that if you are to run something as important and, ideally, successful as an infrastructure bank, you ought to tick off the qualifications of the board as a whole. I have listed what they should be; they are drawn very carefully from the Climate Change Act and the Environment Act and adapted to ensure what I spoke about earlier; namely, that you have people who come from the devolved nations or who have a knowledge of the devolved nations. This is another way of dealing with the point.
However, having made those arguments, which are obvious and ought to be accepted, I fear that the Treasury is obdurate on this point. I just hope that in due course there will be a more humble and less entrenched view than its omniscient view about its capacity to do everything without some statutory guidance.
My Lords, briefly, I support Amendment 20 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. It is self-evident that the bank’s board should have the experience and skills that the noble and learned Lord proposes in his amendment, rather than just being Treasury placemen. The success or failure of the bank in achieving its objectives will depend entirely on the experience of the people running it, so I urge the Minister to accept this very common-sense amendment.
My Lords, I offer Green group support for Amendment 20, to which we would have attached our name had there been space.
In Committee, I suggested that the bank should not be in the hands of the Treasury at all. I got some expressions of interest but not enough support to bring it back on Report. However, it is clear that we need systems thinking, as I often say in your Lordships’ House. We need an approach that looks beyond the narrow growth in GDP to something broader and more holistic. This amendment is a step towards achieving that.
My Lords, I speak on this group with some trepidation; I hope I do not show the lack of humility that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, has accused my department of. I will stand up for the Treasury: in my dealings with this group of public servants, they have been bright and suitably humble, trying to work in the best interests of the country.
I will take the amendments in reverse order. The amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, as he explained, seeks to ensure that the bank’s board has the necessary expertise to deliver on its objectives. He is right to focus on the importance of the bank’s board in steering this nascent institution to deliver on its two wide-ranging objectives across the whole of the UK.
I reassure noble Lords that the bank’s board already contains a wealth of experience in infrastructure finance, policy-making, economics and green investments, across the public and private sectors. Collectively, its members have worked at similar national organisations, such as the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the UK Green Investment Bank and UK Export Finance, as well as leading financial services firms and central government departments. John Flint, the bank’s CEO, was chief executive of HSBC, and Annie Ropar was the CFO at the Canada Infrastructure Bank. So, in its infant form, it has already attracted some high-quality individuals to work there.
The bank’s non-executive directors were recruited in line with the guidelines set out by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, and were selected based on the skills they could bring to the board to deliver on the bank’s mandate. These appointments could be audited by OCPA in due course. OCPA’s guidelines include a principle of merit, which means
“providing Ministers with a choice of high quality candidates, drawn from a strong, diverse field, whose skills, experiences and qualities have been judged to meet the needs of the public body or statutory office in question.”
As I have said in previous groups, in drafting this Bill, we are seeking to create a high-level framework within which the bank can operate, while providing for the longevity of its objectives. Therefore, given that appointments are already recruited in line with OCPA’s guidelines, which we expect OCPA to review and which include a principle of merit, I do not think it is necessary to add greater specificity to the Bill on this point. Including these provisions could be overburdensome and prevent the bank and Treasury hiring the most appropriate people for the roles.
I spoke about the recent appointments in Committee, so do not propose to do so in detail again, but I would be very surprised if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, could find much fault with the appointees. He has also expressed an interest in the representation of the devolved Administrations and, as he spoke about on the previous group, in making sure that the board and the bank command the confidence of all four nations in the UK. As I said to him before and will happily say again, commanding that confidence is central to how the bank has gone about its business. The skills of the board will adequately represent the needs of all four nations, although, as I said on the previous group, specifics in that area are not necessarily a discussion for now, as they are part of the process of legislative consent. I therefore hope that the noble and learned Lord does not move his amendment when it is reached.
The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, seeks to ensure that the bank always has a representative of the workers on its board. The UK Corporate Governance Code already states that a company should have one or a combination of a director appointed from the workforce, a formal workforce advisory panel or a designated non-executive director to facilitate engagement with the workforce. It also states that, if the board has not chosen one or more of these methods, it should explain what alternative arrangements are in place and why.
I give the noble Lord my absolute reassurance that the bank will comply with the UK Corporate Governance Code; however, as I have said, it is a nascent institution, with its board appointments made and the non-executive directors joining only recently. The bank has not yet had the opportunity to determine how it will meet this specific provision. It is currently establishing its governance and will report on its progress in its annual report and accounts. The noble Lord can expect an update there.
I am happy to write to the noble Lord to set out those anticipated timelines. The annual report and accounts are published and laid before Parliament so, between those two pieces of information, I will endeavour to cover this for the noble Lord. If we reach the annual report and accounts and are not in a position to do so, I will pick this up again then and ensure that I get back in touch.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate, and I thank the noble Baroness for her assurances on my specific point. I hope that it is seen through and that the result is not that the bank explains that it is not following the code, for some reason. This is an alternative, but one that I would deeply regret if it were chosen. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 19 withdrawn.
Amendment 20 not moved.
21: After Clause 7, insert the following new Clause—
“Consultation with devolved governments(1) Before exercising the powers of the Treasury under section 2(6), the Treasury must consult the Northern Ireland departments, the Scottish Ministers and the Welsh Ministers and take account of any views expressed in the consultation.(2) Before preparing a statement of strategic priorities under section 3(1) and before exercising the powers under section 3(3) to revise or replace the statement, the Treasury must consult the Northern Ireland departments, the Scottish Ministers and the Welsh Ministers and take account of any views expressed in the consultation.(3) Before exercising the powers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer under section 7, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must consult the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales and the Northern Ireland Executive and take account of the views expressed in the consultation.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment provides for there to be consultation with the devolved governments in relation to amendments of the Act under clause 2(6), the statement of strategic priorities under clause 3(1) and 3(3), and the appointment of directors by the Chancellor of the Exchequer under clause 7.
My Lords, I listened very carefully to what the Minister said but, in view of the great constitutional importance of ensuring that we put this into Bills and my wish to put down a marker on this point for the future, I would like to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 9: Reviews of the Bank’s effectiveness and impact
22: Clause 9, page 4, line 2, leave out “Treasury must” and insert “Chancellor of the Exchequer must appoint an independent person to”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment (and the others to clause 9 in the Minister’s name) would require: reviews to be carried out by an independent person; the reviews to include consideration of “additionality”, or the extent to which the Bank’s investments encourage additional investment by the private sector; the independent person to give reports to the Treasury; the Treasury to publish those reports. The time limit for completing the first review would be 7 (rather than 10) years.
My Lords, I turn to Clause 9 of the Bill, on the statutory review. We had an extensive debate on this in Committee and, reflecting on that debate, the Government have tabled several amendments to this clause.
On the timing of the review, in Committee I set out the rationale for the first statutory review of the bank taking place after 10 years. This was for two reasons: first, to ensure that we could accurately measure the effect of the bank’s long-term investments and, secondly, to ensure that we do not overburden the bank with constant reviews. As I have previously noted, the Treasury is currently undertaking a review of the bank’s framework document and will undertake a review by spring 2024 of the bank’s capitalisation. The bank will also be subject to frequent Cabinet Office-sponsored arm’s-length body reviews, which should be conducted by an independent person.
However, I understand the strength of feeling in the House and, for this reason, I tabled an amendment to shorten the timescale for the first statutory review. Bringing forward the initial review to take place no later than seven years after Royal Assent will mean that the first statutory review will be conducted in 2029. This fits neatly with the timing of the levelling-up missions, which the bank’s work will support, that are due to be achieved by 2030.
I turn to my other amendments to Clause 9. I heard concerns in Committee that the Treasury would, in these reviews, be marking its own homework. That was not the intention, and so I have brought forward an amendment to clarify that the Treasury will appoint an independent reviewer to conduct the review. Noble Lords will, I hope, be further reassured that the Cabinet Office-sponsored reviews, as I have just noted, will have a recommendation that they be conducted by an independent reviewer too. I hope noble Lords are content with these amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendments 30 and 32. I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Noakes, Lady Kramer and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for their support. In fact, I think I may have achieved a world first in getting the noble Baronesses, Lady Noakes and Lady Bennett, to sign the same amendments. I hope, therefore that the Minister might take note of this extraordinary event and take the amendments seriously.
First, I thank the Minister for her amendments in this group, and for listening to and acting on the concerns that were raised by noble Lords as the Bill has proceeded. Her amendments are very welcome, especially those that deal with the issue that was previously raised about the Treasury marking its own homework. Having an independent person carry out the review is an important step. I also welcome the reduction of the period before the first review from 10 years to seven years. I think everyone agreed that 10 years was way too long, but even after that change, there will still be a review only every seven years, which I still think is too long. Amendments 30 and 32 would reduce this to every five years.
The argument in favour of the longer period seems to be that infrastructure investment is long-term, which it is, and therefore it will take a longer period before the success of the bank can be evaluated. I think this rather misses the point. Although it is true that the success of a particular investment may take more than seven years—indeed, it might be 20 or 30—to become clear, the review should be covering how effectively the bank has performed in making investments. Is it making enough investments, are they appropriate, are they in the appropriate parts of the country and, importantly, do they meet the additionality principle and, as we discussed earlier, the crowding-out problem? We do not need to wait until the investments themselves reach maturity to be able to see how well or badly the bank is performing in making investments.
This is especially true now that the only way of assessing the bank’s performance, in terms of additionality and crowding out, is through this review. Seven years is a very long time to wait before we can see whether the bank is achieving its additionality objectives; in particular, whether it is in fact crowding out private finance. A lot of damage will have been done in seven years if it is. It would be more difficult to change the direction if we wait that long.
Seven years is also substantially longer than the parliamentary cycle, and it does seem appropriate that the review period should be brought closer to that cycle. I have proposed a compromise of a five-year cycle, which is a balance between being too much of a burden on the bank and an appropriate level of scrutiny and transparency. I do not expect the Minister to accept this, and I am not going to push it to a Division, but she has mentioned in the past that the bank will be subject to all sorts of different reports, scrutiny, and so on. I ask her to at least confirm that the annual report and accounts will contain information on the progress of the bank, in terms of the sort of investments it is making and, in particular, that that will touch on the additionality question, even if it falls short of a formal review.
My Lords, I will be very brief. I thank the Minister, particularly, for establishing that the review will be carried out by an independent body. That is absolutely crucial; we really could not have had the Treasury marking its own homework. That is now going to be established on the face of the Bill.
In terms of the review period, I am totally with the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, on this one. I add one reason to the many powerful arguments that he made. The two issues that this bank is set to address, climate change and levelling up, have a great deal of urgency behind them. Therefore, the decisions that the bank makes in its early days, even if they have a long tail to them, will be crucial. If that direction needs to be changed, the bank needs to know that that is Parliament’s view before we get to seven years out, at which point, particularly around climate change, it will be far too late to change a direction that is not meeting the needs of our climate change agenda. So, particularly for this bank, because it is tied to very specific objectives, a much earlier review phase is crucial.
I join the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, in being interested in how the Minister will lay out these other reviews that are meant to fill that gap. Why should we be having partial reviews that partially fill parts of the gap, rather than the comprehensive reviews on impact that could be managed under various amendments before the House today?
My Lords, although I see an attraction in a higher frequency than the Government are proposing, equally, I think that, in many ways, even five years is too long. I take comfort in what I hope to hear from the Minister: that we will have much of the information we need to come to a judgment about the success, and effectiveness—crowding in and all those issues—annually in the report. Her assurance on that matter is crucial, but I have confidence that she will be able to give it.
My Lords, as I have said, I have listened to the concerns of the House around Clause 9, and it is for that reason that I have sought a compromise and tabled the government amendments to this clause, as I outlined earlier.
On the shortened timescale proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Vaux and Lord Tunnicliffe, and others, I have already set out the rationale for why the Government have gone for seven years. To reassure noble Lords on their questions about needing more regular information, quite rightly, on how the bank is performing, the bank’s strategic plan set out a whole range of KPIs that it will be assessed against, including additionality, to address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Vaux. Those KPIs will be reported on in the annual report and in the updates to the strategic plan in future.
So more regular information will be provided on the progress of the bank, not just through the statutory review. In addition to the other reviews that I mentioned in my opening speech, there is currently a review by the National Audit Office looking at the set-up of the bank. As I said in Committee in response to my noble friend Lady Noakes, the bank is also subject to reports and investigations by Select Committees of both Houses and has already come to give evidence before those committees. I reassure noble Lords that the statutory review is not the only avenue through which the work of the bank will be scrutinised. There will be ongoing scrutiny through several different avenues, including in its annual report and accounts, which will judge its progress against many KPIs. With that, I beg to move.
Amendment 22 agreed.
23: Clause 9, page 4, line 5, after “growth” insert “(including the extent to which its investments in particular projects or types of project have encouraged additional investment in those projects or types of project by the private sector)”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
Amendment 24 (to Amendment 23) not moved.
Amendment 23 agreed.
Amendments 25 to 29
25: Clause 9, page 4, line 5, at end insert—
“(1A) After each review, the independent person must—(a) prepare a report of the review, and(b) submit the report to the Treasury.”Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
26: Clause 9, page 4, line 6, leave out “After each review,” and insert “On receiving a report,”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
27: Clause 9, page 4, line 7, leave out “a report of the review” and insert “the report”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
28: Clause 9, page 4, line 9, leave out “published” and insert “submitted to the Treasury”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
29: Clause 9, page 4, line 9, leave out “10” and insert “7”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
Amendments 25 to 29 agreed.
Amendment 30 not moved.
31: Clause 9, page 4, line 11, leave out “published” and insert “submitted to the Treasury”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
Amendment 31 agreed.
Amendment 32 not moved.
33: Clause 9, page 4, line 11, at end insert—
“(5) In this section, references to an “independent person” are to a person who appears to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be independent of—(a) the Treasury, and(b) the Bank.”Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s first amendment to clause 9.
Amendment 33 agreed.