My Lords, before we progress with Third Reading, I shall make a very brief statement on legislative consent in relation to the Bill. My officials have worked closely with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations throughout the set-up of the bank and the passage of this Bill. All three Administrations have welcomed the establishment of a national infrastructure bank. The bank has also been developing its own relationship with the devolved Administrations and their institutions—for example, the Scottish National Investment Bank. I am pleased that the bank has now completed a deal in all four nations of the UK. We continue to discuss the requirements for legislative consent with the devolved Administrations, and I am grateful for their continued engagement on this. I beg to move that the Bill be read a third time.
My Lords, much has happened since last week’s Report stage, when your Lordships passed two sensible amendments. These changes would considerably strengthen the Bill’s climate and levelling-up credentials, ensuring greater external support for the bank and its work.
The Prime Minister has rightly said that the business of government must go on over the coming weeks and months. In that spirit, I hope that the Treasury will reconsider its opposition to these amendments. This will ensure that the next Prime Minister gets a stronger Bill on the statute books. If Ministers, whether the current crop or their successors, do not like the current wording, they are welcome to change it. However, simply overturning the amendments would show poor judgment. The economic picture has become gloomier, while dealing with the climate and biodiversity crisis is ever more pressing. Through this revised Bill, the bank can play an important role in both battles, supporting the creation of good jobs and doing more to protect nature. When one of the many leadership hopefuls assumes the office of Prime Minister, these issues must be at the front of their mind.
Until then, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, for taking this Bill through its Lords stages. They have been ably supported by a range of Treasury officials, to whom I am also grateful. I am even more grateful to my Labour Party policy adviser, Dan Stevens, for his invaluable advice and help.
In the meantime, I wish the bank well as it continues to find its feet and comes to its initial investment.
My Lords, obviously my colleagues and I support the creation of the UK Infrastructure Bank. We regret that it does not have the genuine operational independence that was a clear statutory characteristic of the Green Investment Bank, which was sold off by this Government as soon as the coalition ended, but we are where we are.
The work of this House has improved the Bill significantly. The Government amended it to provide absolute clarity on the UKIB’s role in supporting investment in energy efficiency; we thank the Minister for that. Noble Lords from all sides of the House also supported further changes to establish that the bank’s objectives extend to nature-based solutions in a circular economy. I hope that the Government will not attempt to reverse these meaningful improvements.
However, the Bill has followed what has become a consistent government thrust: diminishing Parliament and enhancing the power of the Executive; I will not repeat all our previous arguments about Henry VIII powers and the power of direction. The Government have promised to amend the framework document by the end of the year to assure us that not only the directions, including their content, but any objections made by the bank to such directions, including letters of reservation, will be made public. This transparency is vital; I thank the Minister personally for making sure that we got a meaningful response to this issue with a commitment not just to removing the gagging clauses originally in the framework document but to ensuring full transparency through the publication of the relevant documents.
I thank the Minister and her team for their openness and willingness to meet. I thank Peers around this House who worked together to get improvement—they are too many to name—but I believe that the Government’s nightmare is an amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, supported by the noble Lords, Lord Tunnicliffe and Lord Vaux, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and me.
Last of all, I thank my own ranks. I thank Sarah Pughe and Mo Souidi in the Whips’ Office, who provided us with organisation and backing. I thank my noble friends Lord Sharkey and Lord Teverson, who brought their particular and extensive expertise to bear on this Bill; they have earned and enjoy the respect of this House.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their constructive approach to each stage of this Bill. In particular, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.
The level of scrutiny and debate on the Bill demonstrates the importance of the bank’s mission and has served to demonstrate once again the expertise of this House on topics from corporate governance through to the definition of infrastructure and our target for tackling climate change. Although this is a short Bill—something that may be welcomed—it is an important one given the bank’s potential to deliver a step change in tackling climate change and supporting levelling up through supporting the development of high-quality infrastructure across the whole of the UK.
I am therefore pleased to see the Bill progress towards becoming law, supporting the bank to become a fully-fledged, operationally independent institution able to deliver on its mandate as agreed by this House. I thank noble Lords on all Benches for working constructively on this both during debates and in the many separate discussions that I have had on this Bill.
Finally, I recognise the work of the parliamentary counsel in drafting this Bill and in supporting its passage so far. I also thank the House staff, the excellent Bill team, and my noble friend Lord Younger for his support. I am not alone in this House in looking forward to seeing the impact of the bank’s investments in improving the vital infrastructure of this country. I beg to move.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.