Clause 1 agreed.
1: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Regulation(1) In section 22 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (regulated activities), after subsection (1B) insert—“(1C) An activity is a regulated activity for the purposes of this Act if it is an activity carried out by the UK Infrastructure Bank, a company registered in England and Wales with the company registration number 06816271.”(2) The Bank is to be treated as having been designated as a PRA-regulated activity under section 22A of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (designation of activities requiring prudential regulation by PRA).”
I am disappointed that so many noble Lords find the content of the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill of so little interest that they are departing this Committee.
The Committee stage of a Bill often starts with an amendment that engages the passions of your Lordships’ House and results in something close to a Second Reading debate. I am sorry to disappoint noble Lords with my rather technocratic Amendment 1, and I hope not to detain the Committee with it for too long.
The amendment seeks to bring the UK Infrastructure Bank within the regulatory ambit of both the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority. When I raised the regulatory status of the bank at Second Reading, my noble friend the Minister told me that it would not carry out any activities that required it to be regulated by the PRA or the FCA; hence it would not be regulated by them. She also said that the Treasury would carry out the FCA’s functions in relation to the senior managers and certification regime instead. I did not find that answer very satisfactory, so I tabled Amendment 1 to probe this further.
I doubt that my amendment is technically correct, given the complex structure of FSMA, and I hope that my noble friend does not feel it necessary to spend a long time telling me about the amendment’s inadequacies: it is a probing amendment. I am keen to explore why the body dealt with in this Bill, which is called a bank and will carry out many activities that proper banks carry out, should be outside the reach of the financial regulators.
While specific activities drive whether an organisation is required to seek authorisation of the PRA or the FCA, once an organisation is within that regulatory scope, a number of broadly based obligations ensue. In particular, regulated firms have to comply with the PRA’s and the FCA’s handbooks, which contain extensive requirements aimed at a huge range of things. The SM&CR, which is dealt with in this group by Amendment 53 from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is just one aspect. Others include whistleblowing, risk management, outsourcing, financial crime, and systems and controls. I could go on, but my point is that a financial services body within the ambit of the FCA and the PRA is subject to extensive regulatory supervision, and this will not apply to the UK Infrastructure Bank.
The Minister said that the Treasury would be the regulators in loco for the purposes of the SM&CR, but she said nothing about the other aspects of supervision. For example, who will look at the effectiveness of the bank’s risk management systems or money laundering procedures, which might be particularly relevant given the aim to crowd in investment?
I do not think it is appropriate or efficient for the Treasury to set itself up as a mini regulator for these aspects. The Treasury may well understand the principles of the regulatory processes undertaken by the FCA or the PRA, but it will inevitably lack the day-to-day experience necessary to operate them and to make judgments that are in line with those made for the broader regulated financial services sector. These are not trivial issues, given the £22 billion of financial resources which could be available to the bank and the leverage of private capital intended for it.
Before concluding, I say that two amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond are inexplicably in this group. I look forward to hearing what he has to say, but I am doubtful about his Amendment 42. Since nothing in the Bill stops the bank borrowing, I am not sure it needs to be given a specific power. The bigger issue is whether that power should be circumscribed in some way, given that extra debt will end up on the public sector balance sheet. The framework document which has been entered into between the Treasury and the UK Infrastructure Bank has limits on the bank’s borrowing, but those limits are not in the Bill. There are issues to be addressed around borrowing, but not necessarily those dealt with in Amendment 42. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 53 in my name—we go from Amendment 1 right the way to Amendment 53. It is much more restricted than the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. I suppose I have been rather defeatist in this amendment, in that I have assumed that the Government will not say thank you to the noble Baroness for her amendment, which I support. I think her speech was absolutely right. This bank should be regulated like any other bank in terms of prudential regulation. If that cannot be the case, we have to ensure that employees of the bank who are making important decisions about taxpayers’ money and the public sector balance sheet are fit and proper persons. The way to do that is to apply the Financial Conduct Authority’s regime for management, which in ancient history I used to know as approved persons. They should keep to the regulations that come from the FCA. If it is impossible for the bank to be regulated in the way that other banks are, it is essential that we as taxpayers and as parliamentarians are confident that those employed by the bank to make those decisions are indeed fit and proper persons. That is the simple cause and reason for my amendment.
My Lords, it is pleasure to take part in this first group of amendments on the UK Infrastructure Bank. I support Amendment 1 tabled by my noble friend Lady Noakes. When my noble friend the Minister responds, will she fully explain why the bank would not wish to come under the auspices of the financial regulators—the FCA and the PRA—and why HM Treasury would not want it to do so?
My Amendments 38 and 42 have the same purpose: to underscore in the Bill the bank’s operational independence from HM Treasury. Amendment 38 would put on the face of the Bill that the bank will be able to lend to whatever level and by whatever means it chooses without having to have recourse to HM Treasury. Does the Minister agree that this is implicit in the Bill and that to have this statement in the Bill would make absolute sense?
On Amendment 42, I agree entirely with the point alluded to by my noble friend Lady Noakes. The reason I bring Amendment 42 forward again is to further assert in the Bill that the bank should have the ability to avail itself of the capital markets. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that, again, having this provision in the Bill would clearly underscore the operational independence of the bank, which is espoused in all the briefing notes on the Bill?
My Lords, this group of amendments addresses two entirely different issues, as the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, identified. I rather fear that in the minds of the Treasury they are the same issue, which is slightly unfortunate but will probably explain a great deal of our debate today.
I will first address Amendment 42 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, which I very much support. This would allow the Bank to
“borrow on the international capital markets”,
putting that on the face of the Bill. We have a very small bank set-up here with only £4.2 billion in risk capital, which means that, for years, it will be able to do relatively little and will have to do it in such a way as to get substantial commercial returns to build up its equity base. That will allow it to grow and do rather larger things—but, since this is an important instrument for the whole goal of levelling up, you would think that impact and the need to act rapidly would be at the forefront of the Government’s thinking.
Obviously, being able to go to the international capital markets to access capital in the way that the European Investment Bank and KfW in Germany do—that is very well established—would be important. Also, given that there will be a green purpose to much that the bank does, it is important to note that one of the biggest movers in providing green financing has been the decision of the European Investment Bank as it goes to the capital markets to raise climate and sustainability awareness bonds to jet-propel finance into those markets. It is utterly beyond me to understand why those powers have not been given to the UK Infrastructure Bank; perhaps the Minister will explain.
Almost more importantly, perhaps, I want to address the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I very much support his notion that we must find a way to incorporate the senior managers and certification regime. Frankly, it has been quite a weak straw in the hands of the FCA. I do not want to entertain folks here for too long by going through the instances in which the FCA should have used it but has declined to do so, or has used it very weakly; but at least it is something to make sure we have real responsibility sited where it should be in senior management.
I want to pick up a rather different issue, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, only in passing: whistleblowing. I will talk about this in more depth in the group of amendments beginning with my Amendment 30 about the operational independence of this bank, but when we get later into the Bill we will find that a framework has been established allowing the shareholder—in other words, the Treasury and the Government—to give directions, both specific and general, to the bank. The framework elaborates on that but recognises that the board of directors of the bank may well look at these specific directions and wish to reject them. The grounds that may be given, not in a rejection but a “reservation notice” to the shareholders, include infringement of
“the requirements of propriety or regularity”
or various other things including on “value for money” or “strategic objectives” and so on; we can go into that later. In the two sections that I want to address, a reservation notice can be sent on grounds of infringement of “propriety or regularity”, or of being
“of questionable feasibility or … unethical”.
In that case, the shareholder—the Treasury, or the Government, in effect—can send a notice to the bank overriding its letter of reservation, forcing it to go ahead with the activity, even if it is considered by the bank to be unethical. The bank is supposed to provide a written direction, which, when you first read this, looks as though it will be published. However, very carefully written into the framework is the phrase
“published (unless the Shareholder has directed in writing to the Company that the matter must be kept confidential).”
I think we can guarantee that any direction that is unethical or infringes on propriety will come with an instruction to keep it confidential. At that point, for the public and Parliament to know, we rely on whistle- blowers.
That brings me to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. First, directors are not covered by the Public Interest Disclosure Act anyway. Senior employees would be, but to have any protection to be able to blow the whistle they would have to go to a regulator to make a protected disclosure. There is no regulator, therefore there is no mechanism for protected disclosure.
I want noble Lords to understand the jeopardy in which those directors or senior executives might find themselves. I suspect they will have been asked to sign some version of a non-disclosure agreement—it has many different names; I always tussle with the Government, because it turns out they have done it under a different name, such as a confidentiality agreement, but it is the same thing. There is even some talk of extending the scope of the Official Secrets Act, which could creep into this as well. I also noticed that the directors—I am sure those who have been appointed are excellent people—really would be taking steps of jeopardy if they blew the whistle, because most are making their careers as advisers to government or as chairs or directors of government-related entities, so they have a great deal of jeopardy at hand.
If this is unregulated, there is no mechanism for disclosure, even where actions within the view of the directors or senior employees of the bank infringe on propriety or are unethical. I would like the Minister to explain why the Government decided that that framework should be in place. I should also like her confirmation of whether there are non-disclosure agreements or their equivalent. If she cannot at this moment, by the time we get to the group beginning with Amendment 30 she will have had the opportunity to consult the Box. It will be a yes or no answer. I am certain we must get an answer either way.
My Lords, I will ask a brief question about regulation in the sense raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. Chapter 11 of the framework published by the Treasury says:
“Notwithstanding any exemptions that may apply to the Company, the Shareholder acknowledges that the provision of certain aspects of the Company’s activities may be subject to … the ‘FCA Rules’ or guidance or principles … the ‘PRA Rules’ or guidance or principles and … other applicable laws or regulations.”
Could the Minister help the Committee by saying what these “certain aspects” might be?
My Lords, I rise to speak to these amendments, but I will make a general point about my approach to today’s debate. I find myself agreeing with a very high proportion of the amendments. We obviously want to hear from the Minister the extent to which the Government agree with them, but it seems that the issues we will face on Report will be about which of these amendments need to go into the Bill, rather than whether they are intrinsically sensible, which I think most of them are. I even venture into uneasy territory in this group by finding myself almost agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, again. I put it in slightly guarded terms—
The noble Baroness should be uncomfortable as well.
UKIB is not an ordinary bank, but strong arguments have been made for subjecting it to at least some of the regulatory measures under the Financial Services and Markets Act. Of course, we will shortly see a new version of that legislation and it is difficult to know exactly what it will look like. Nevertheless, there seems merit in the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that UKIB staff should be passed as fit and proper persons. It may be that the Minister is able to offer assurances that that will be the case. If so, perhaps she could write to us and outline the process in more detail.
The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, talked about the bank’s lending and borrowing powers. These are important questions at this early stage of the bank’s existence and, once again, I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, this first group of amendments all cover the financial aspects of the bank. Amendment 1 in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes and Amendment 53 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson—I shall not quibble about the wording of the amendments; I understand their purpose —would subject the UK Infrastructure Bank to all financial services regulation and the senior managers and certification regime in turn. This goes against the exemption that Parliament approved for the bank last year.
The Government’s view is that adopting this position at this stage would create a disproportionate regulatory approach that would unnecessarily add to the cost, complexity and burden of a relatively small and new organisation. Financial services regulation was not intended for public sector institutions with a policy objective. UKIB does not require regulation in the same way as commercial banks. The practice of regulatory exemptions in this way follows precedent for similar institutions operating in the public sector—for example, the European Investment Bank.
It may be helpful to note that even though UKIB has a general exemption from financial services regulation, UKIB’s framework document is clear that, as far as reasonably practicable and as appropriate, UKIB will abide by the principles of the senior managers and certification regime and relevant elements of the FCA’s Principles for Businesses. As part of its compliance framework, UKIB will adopt and implement policies to safeguard itself against fraud, theft, corruption, bribery, insider dealing, market abuse and money laundering. It is therefore important to emphasise that the general FSMA exemption UKIB has been granted already does not mean that UKIB is absolved of all compliance obligations. Rather, the exemption means that UKIB has flexibility to adopt a bespoke approach to its governance that is proportionate to its activities.
Amendments 42 and 38 in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond would increase UKIB’s powers to borrow from international capital markets and give UKIB an unfettered ability to determine its own investment levels without Treasury authorisation respectively. With regards to Amendment 42, I assure my noble friend that UKIB already has these powers under company law.
Further, UKIB has a maximum financial capacity of £22 billion, including an overall borrowing limit of £7 billion. Within this limit, UKIB can borrow up to £1.5 billion a year from either the Debt Management Office or private markets, including international markets, depending on the best value for money and subject to standard approval processes.
Similarly, the spirit of Amendment 38 mirrors the Government’s ambition for the UK Infrastructure Bank: that it should have operational independence in its day-to-day operations and investment activities. The framework document outlines that UKIB has the freedom to set the pricing of its transactions. It is already using this power.
For the sake of the rest of the Committee, it may be worth me answering the noble Lord’s question during a subsequent group. I could make a good attempt now, but I think we will have a lot of discussions about the status of the framework document in the coming hours, so I want to make sure that I give the Committee the absolutely accurate answer. I undertake to do that during this Committee session.
As I was saying, the framework document outlines that UKIB has the freedom to set the pricing of its transactions, and it is already using this power. This is alongside the freedom UKIB has to set the terms and structure of its interventions, subject to delegated authority limits in place to protect the taxpayer for very large investment sizes or novel, contentious or repercussive transaction structures. UKIB can already determine the level of its own investments in line with its capitalisation and annual limits, which are agreed in its framework document. UKIB also already has the power to set the level of its lending rates.
Going any further than the existing freedom UKIB has, as this amendment seeks to do, would not be compatible with its status as a public body and would take it outside the framework through which the Treasury assures Parliament about the appropriate use of public money. With £22 billion of capital, it is right that the Government exercise some spending control to ensure it continues to meet value for money.
I further reassure noble Lords that the Government will review UKIB’s progress and financial performance by spring 2024 to ensure that it has sufficient capital to deliver its ambitions. By that stage, the bank will have closed a broader range of investments and developed a strong pipeline of further projects. I can tell my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that, as part of this review, the Government will also consider again the question of UKIB’s regulatory position to ensure that it continues to be appropriate.
To give a brief answer to the earlier question about the framework document, it is essentially a memorandum of understanding and does have legal effect in so far as the bank can be accountable to it. I will see whether I can expand on that during discussion of subsequent groups.
I turn to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. As she suggested, I may come back to her on the specifics when we get to the group beginning with Amendment 30, but I will reassure her now on one point. The Treasury must publish any direction that it gives to the bank. In this regard, what is set out in law in this Bill is the relevant piece of information, versus the framework document. That goes to some level of the discussion we will have when we consider what is set out in the Bill—it is the overriding thing to look at when it comes to UKIB’s operation.
Perhaps the Minister could clarify one thing for me. As I read the two documents put together, the instruction must be published but not the fact that the bank has looked at it and deemed it to be improper, infringing “propriety” or
“of questionable feasibility, or … unethical”.
In other words, that opinion of the bank can be completely suppressed, as I understand it, by the language of the Bill and of this document. If that is not correct, it would be most helpful if the Minister could tell me.
I will definitely pick up on that further point of detail, which relates closely to the noble Baroness’s question about non-disclosure agreements, to which I will seek to get an answer as we undertake consideration in Committee.
I hope that I have set out why the Government have at this stage taken the approach to the regulation of the bank that they have, but, as I say, it will be kept under review, specifically by 2024. I therefore hope that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.
I am sorry—perhaps I could intervene very briefly. I find it an interesting explanation from the Minister that they are not going to apply regulation because it is a smaller and younger bank. I suspect that would not apply to any other bank that was founded in the private sector. As the Minister said, the framework document goes through the senior managers and certification regime. But it says, regarding “governance and conduct”:
“This would include, as far as is reasonably practicable and appropriate for the Company, abiding by the principles of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime”.
I understand that, but either you apply it or you do not. You cannot sort of half-think about it. It is one of those things like “You’re either pregnant or you’re not”, or whatever—sorry, that is probably an inappropriate way to put it—so I do not understand how the framework document approaches this. Maybe I have it wrong; as I said, I am used to the old approved persons regime and not up to date on this, but I do not understand it.
I am not sure that I or the noble Lord would actually use the analogy that he did, but I undertake to write to him to clarify that point on the senior managers regime. Coming back to the point about it being a relatively small and young institution, I absolutely take the point that he made about commercial banks being in that position. It is not that element of UKIB alone which has influenced the decision; there are quite a few elements of the nature of UKIB. As the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said, it is not a commercial bank in many senses.
Banks and other financial services institutions are typically regulated to ensure two objectives, including that depositors and other investors are properly protected —in particular, retail depositors and investors, which UKIB will not have—and that any systemic risks to the wider financial sector do not materialise. It is the Government’s assessment that these considerations of the FiSMA regulation are not currently a concern for UKIB’s specific context. Beyond it being relatively new and small, it does not take deposits or other investments; it is also guaranteed by the Treasury as its sole shareholder, so it does not present a wider systemic risk.
To confirm the understanding of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, although the Treasury is obliged to publish the direction that it issues, the bank is not obliged to say publicly what is in its response to any Clause 4 direction. I will still come back to her on the question of non-disclosure agreements.
I will endeavour to also get back to the noble Lord during this Committee—but, if I do not, I will include my answer in my letter on his noble friend Lord Teverson’s question about what aspects of the senior managers regime we plan to apply to the bank.
I am sorry to remain persistent on this, but the Minister just said that the bank is not required to publish its letter of reservations. Is it not correct to say that what the document says is that the shareholder may effectively prohibit the bank from publishing its letter of reservations—so it is a gagging clause? That is what it says in the framework.
My Lords, before I move on to what I will be doing with my amendment, could I ask one factual question? During my noble friend’s response, she said that the UK Infrastructure Bank had a borrowing limit of £7.5 billion. I understand that the source of that borrowing limit is this framework document. Could she confirm that? If that is the case, I think it is going to make the status of the framework document and its interaction with the statute a very important issue for the conduct of this Committee. The question posed to her by the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, becomes particularly important for us to have a proper understanding. Will she respond on that specific point?
I thank my noble friend for that, I think what we take from that is that the framework document needs to be well-understood in its scope and effect for many aspects of the debates in this Committee.
In relation to my own amendments, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has raised some important issues, in particular those related to whistleblowing by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. I hope that she gets answers to the questions she has raised because they are important.
I had not appreciated that Parliament approved an exemption for the UK Infrastructure Bank last week. My noble friend did not tell me that at Second Reading, but these things pass one by when dealing with financial services regulation. We were asleep on the job when that came up, but now we have this Bill so we have the opportunity to revisit that question.
I say to my noble friend the Minister that I am not entirely convinced by the argument that, because there is no issue of protecting depositors, there is no systemic risk from the UK Infrastructure Bank, and it should therefore be exempt from the panoply of oversight and supervision banks are ordinarily subject to, whether or not they are small banks. We should not dismiss lightly the areas that have been raised: whistleblowing; the senior manager and certification regime; and financial crime. There are some very important issues which would get attention at the moment, if this were not a state-owned bank, from the FCA/PRA. Without that, nobody is looking at them. I do not think that is a very safe way to set up this bank. I hear what my noble friend says about reviewing it in 2024, but there is a question of whether it is sensible to run the risks until 2024. For today, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Objectives and activities
2: Clause 2, page 1, line 9, at end insert—
“(2A) The statement must also outline how the Bank will, when carrying out its activities, balance the objectives under subsection (3), to ensure its activities do not cause environmental harm.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is to facilitate a debate around the balancing of UKIB’s objectives, which have the potential to come into conflict.
My Lords, before I start to speak to this group, can we clear a piece of housekeeping with the Minister? I would be grateful if she could give us an assurance that, when she writes to one of us, she writes to all of us, unless there is an overwhelming case against it. I take her nod as an affirmative and thank her.
I move Amendment 2 and will speak to my other amendments in this group, Amendments 3, 8 and 20. Amendment 2 was tabled to facilitate a debate around the potentially competitive nature of the bank’s objectives. The bank has acknowledged that the climate and growth objectives are likely to come into conflict. To its credit, it has loosely committed to the “do no harm” principle. However, as we say so often during our consideration of legislation, a verbal or written commitment is not the same as a statutory safeguard.
As I referenced at Second Reading, the Government opted not to include a general climate change provision in the Subsidy Control Act. They wanted to give public authorities maximum flexibility when granting subsidies, even if they cause environmental harms. As we transition to a greener economy, one would hope that investment in and subsidy for polluting technologies will steadily decline, however there are no guarantees. As the front page of the Bill makes clear, this will become environmental law, once enacted. It therefore makes little sense to leave these matters to chance. What message does it send if our environmental law does not properly protect the environment?
Amendment 3 would broaden the bank’s climate objective to bring in the 2030 species abundance target under the Environment Act. As the Dasgupta review made clear, nature and biodiversity are inherently linked to our economic and wider well-being. We support the Government’s decision to include a species abundance target in the Environment Act and look forward to seeing the detail when it is brought forward by Defra. We worked with colleagues across your Lordships’ House to strengthen that target, and we are pleased that Ministers listened. Having set the ambition, we need concerted action to realise it.
There is not only a moral case for green, nature-based investment—those types of projects tend to have a higher cost-benefit ratio than traditional forms of infrastructure. Not only are there headline economic benefits but there are jobs to be created too. Projects to improve our natural environment could have a particularly positive employment effect in some areas with the worst labour market outcomes.
On jobs, I turn to Amendment 8, which would add job creation to the growth objective. The creation of jobs is mentioned as part of UKIB’s second objective in the Chancellor’s letter from 18 March. That document sets out the bank’s strategic steer. It is slightly curious that jobs are mentioned in that document, albeit only twice, but that has not been carried across to the Bill itself. The bank needs to be a force for good in all respects, which means creating highly paid, high-skilled jobs. The Government have long promised an employment Bill to ensure greater protection across the board, but curiously they have been unable to find parliamentary time to deliver on that commitment. The projects funded by the bank will create jobs, but it is not clear what weight, if any, will be given to the terms attached to those roles. I hope that the Minister can confirm that this is the Government’s intention for jobs created through UKIB’s investment—to be well-paid, secure jobs, rather than short-term or zero-hour contracts, with few rights and protections.
Finally, I have tabled Amendment 20, which seeks to expand the definition of infrastructure to include investment in the natural environment and the circular economy. This is a natural partner to several other amendments in this group, and the case for it is self-evident. What in a sense we are trying to do is to expand the two objectives to four; one of those objectives is about net zero, and the second is about levelling up. We want to include the environment and jobs; that way, the objectives will in our view become more balanced. I beg to move.
My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. As we approach this group, I have added my name to Amendment 2, which has just been so clearly introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. I do no more than to reiterate the point that including the “do no harm” requirement in the framework document and strategic plans is not, as the Minister suggested at Second Reading, actually significant. There is scope for conflict between these objectives, and we need to make it crystal clear in the Bill that the bank should not make investments or engaging in other activities that contradict its own objectives or the Government’s wider environmental objectives.
I would like to say my bit on the theme that will go through much of our discussions today about the absolute priority of putting essential policy components in the Bill, rather than any other accompanying document that does not have the force of legislation. We know that, when circumstances change, anything short of primary legislation can be changed or refocused. I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I remind her of our debates over the Financial Services Act. In those discussions, when asking to put things in it, we were assured that the “remit letters” to the PRA and the FCA would
“set ambitious recommendations relating to climate change”.—[Official Report, 24/2/21; col. GC 224.]
Indeed, they did. However, there was significant emphasis adjustment to those recommendations this April in the light of the Government’s focus on domestic oil and gas production in their energy security strategy. I, too, regret that we did not make it clear in the Subsidy Control Bill and it makes me more certain than ever of the virtue of ensuring that what we want is in the Bill.
I have Amendment 4 in this group, and am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, my noble friend Lord McDonald of Salford and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for adding their names to it. This amendment, like many others in the group which I generally support, considers the scope and ambition of the UKIB’s objectives. I am afraid I cannot pronounce “UKIB” as one word because, if I do, it comes out sounding like “UKIP” and I then come out in hives. I hope noble Lords will forgive me for continuing to use the initials. The amendment’s objective is to highlight two issues: one is nature and the natural environment—there are several other amendments in this group on that issue—and the other is adaptation. I am extremely glad to see my noble friend Lady Brown of Cambridge in her place and hope we may hear from her on the latter issue.
My amendment uses wording that the Government themselves proposed and passed into the Health and Care Act 2022. I will not compare duties for the NHS with the objectives of the bank further, but it is worth making one point on this matter. For the Health and Care Act, the Government set out an overarching three- pronged approach to their environmental considerations: reducing emissions, achieving environmental targets and adapting to climate change. These are interlocking issues; the Government recognised this and took action to ensure that they were given priority in that Bill. We should do the same here.
On adaptation, in particular, we must recognise that, however effective we are in our pursuit of a zero- carbon world, there is, as the third UK climate change risk assessment said,
“strong evidence that even under low warming scenarios the UK will be subject to a range of significant and costly impacts”.
According to Net Zero Strategy,
“it is essential that the UK’s adaptive capacity is rapidly developed to prepare for”
this. This amendment would address that issue.
The amendment also ensures that the protection and restoration of nature are included in the Bill. The interdependence of the climate change and nature crises has, in theory, long been agreed by the Government, and was confirmed by the Minister at Second Reading. We know that the worst climate outcomes cannot be avoided without a significant expansion in nature restoration. We also know that nature restoration supports levelling up, and regional and economic growth, through improvements to mental and physical health and through the creation of valuable jobs. However, it is also clear that there is a significant funding gap, estimated at around £5.6 billion a year by the Green Finance Institute, which needs to be bridged to achieve the necessary investment.
The UKIB exists to act as a cornerstone investor and the Chancellor has recognised its potential role in nature markets “over time”, while recognising the challenges and opportunities that exist in mobilising investment in nature. Including an objective as set out in this amendment does not shy away from the challenges but also recognises the opportunities and solutions in the pipeline. Credible projects do exist, there is precedent to draw on from the successes of the Green Investment Bank, among others, and work has been done on policies and mechanisms, all of which should enable a surge in private investment in nature recovery projects. With this momentum in mind, the bank needs to build nature into its DNA from its inception, not only to send a clear signal to domestic and global stakeholders and give impetus to investable projects, but to guide the bank’s own capacity-building and ensure it is on the front foot as these developments take place.
Those are the bases for the amendments we have put forward, but I shall listen with interest to other Members of the Committee who will be speaking on them.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and to speak particularly to Amendment 4 in this group. I address the attention of the Committee to my published interests in the register.
I shall make a couple of general points to start with, because it occurred to me that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, when speaking to the last group of amendments, was absolutely right when he said there is a great tendency on the part of the Government not to put stuff in the Bill, but rather to say, “Don’t worry, the Treasury will be looking at that”, “The Government will be looking at this”, “There will be a review of this and a review of that”. That ties in with what the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, just said about the importance of having this firmly in the legislation. We live in febrile times and it is important that some of the key points that have been put forward around the Committee, and certainly were at Second Reading, are put in the legislation.
The second point that struck me very forcibly, made by my noble friend Lady Noakes, was the importance and status of this framework document. That really needs underlining and I encourage the Minister to write to all Members to stress what the nature of this document is. She referred to its legal status. Its legal status is certainly not as strong as that of a Bill and I would be interested to know what the lasting position of this framework document is, how it is to be enforced and so on. That is key to what we are looking at.
In addressing Amendment 4, the key point, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, is about extending and clarifying the remit of the bank’s objectives. Many at Second Reading, including the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and the noble Lord, Lord McDonald of Salford, who are also speaking to Amendment 4, were clear about the importance of being explicit about objectives for adapting to actual and predicted impacts of climate change. As was very clearly set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the report of the Committee on Climate Change is key in this regard, under Section 56 of the Climate Change Act. The Government have said that they are committed to this; why, then, would they resist putting it in the Bill? If they resist putting it in the Bill, it will inevitably make not just noble Lords but the community and the public in general suspicious, and I think that would be an undesirable outcome.
It is surely integral to the work of tackling the challenge of climate change that we do this. I think we also need to give the sector and the wider world the security of making the importance of the natural world clear in the Bill, following the Dasgupta review, which, again, the Government strongly supported. They commissioned it and supported it; why, then, is it not to be put in the Bill? It is an integral and holistic part of dealing with the challenge of climate change that we also deal with the dangers to the natural environment. That would mean making positive efforts in relation to, for example, peat restoration, tackling coastal erosion, tackling flood management and so on. Why should this not also be in the Bill? I would be interested to hear what my noble friend has to say on this point.
It is important for the financial sector to know that the Government are firmly behind this. At Second Reading, I recall that the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who is not in her place at present, reminded us that in 2018-19—the most recent statistics—the UK invested just 0.02% of GDP in restoring nature. That is clearly not good enough for a nation that purports to be in the lead and in many ways is giving a lead internationally on this. We need to do much more. I trust that the Government can match their words with some real action and look at how we can amend this Bill in this very positive way.
My Lords, I declare my interests as chairman, president and vice-president of a range of environmental organisations. I too will speak to Amendment 4, to which I have added my name.
We absolutely must not miss this opportunity to make sure that the bank’s objectives are fully in line with the two biggest global challenges: climate change—mitigation and adaptation—and biodiversity decline. This amendment, as has been outlined, highlights the importance of the bank supporting investments that enable the UK to adapt to the implications of climate change and not just to reduce carbon. There is already enough carbon out there to have significantly influenced the climate—increased storminess; higher temperatures; impacts on human health, crops and the resilience of infrastructure; and flood risks to property, energy generation and distribution networks and transport. Some 85% of all major electricity distribution substations are on the flood plain. At high temperatures, as we already know, roads and rail melt. There are some real practical issues now which the infrastructure bank could get its teeth into.
I have read the successive reports of the Adaptation Committee to the Climate Change Committee, which I was privileged to help establish. I am delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, in her place, and I am sure she will talk with huge authority about this. To steal her quote,
“adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored.”
It almost makes you weep. Her reports also demonstrate that the gap between the level of risk we face in the UK from climate change impacts and the level of resilience we are developing has widened rather than narrowed. The UK is not in a good place with its readiness for and resilience against the impacts of climate change, and if the world misses its net-zero targets, we will be in an even worse place. The bank has a really valuable job to do in addressing these issues. It must do so, and therefore this should be in its objectives.
As others have said, the bank also needs to embed in its objectives a role in supporting action on the Government’s other key challenge of protection and restoration of natural capital—air, land, water and especially biodiversity—which has been on a steep decline for 50 years, and which the Government have committed to reverse by 2030.
I put the House on notice that I will become a complete bore. Having got my way with the Government yesterday when they announced that they would have a land use strategy, I can now stop banging on about that. My next subject to bang on about is the need to learn the childhood game, if noble Lords remember it, of trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. We need not just to learn that but to pull off the more difficult task of walking, talking and chewing gum at the same time. Pretty well every government policy and many public institutions should have three sets of objectives for the future: the key role that they play in whatever sphere of life they operate in, the climate change objective, and the natural capital and biodiversity decline objective. We have to become better at walking, talking and chewing gum at the same time.
As we see successive bits of legislation going through, I am sure your Lordships will hear me, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and many others banging on about that need. Remember when you were patting your head and rubbing your stomach: it was difficult but it was doable. We have to learn how to do this—to make sure that every single policy has measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation for biodiversity recovery included in its objectives, equal to the main function that it is there to deliver. This amendment would do that job for the infrastructure bank, and it would enable the bank to work for natural capital as priority infrastructure and as a key factor in screening its lending priorities.
There are several other amendments grouped with Amendment 4—Amendments 2, 3, 5, 15 and 20—which are all variations on the theme of environmental objectives. I personally think that ours is the most all-embracing, elegant and comprehensive, but I am sure there will be a degree of haggling to bring together some combined objective before Report.
My Lords, I too have put my name to Amendment 4, and I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, that it is the most elegant in this group. At Second Reading, the Minister acknowledged that expanding the objectives of the bank to include biodiversity and the protection, enhancement and restoration of natural capital was the area that most parts of the House were most interested in promoting. More than that, the Minister said that everything that could be launched in the area of biodiversity was completely compatible with the climate change objective of the bank. But as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has reminded us today, this Bill decides the DNA of the bank. So if it is not included on the face of the Bill, biodiversity and the natural environment will be essentially down-prioritised. As the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, reminded us, if it is not there, people will think that it is not important. If it is as easily incorporated as the Minister suggested at Second Reading, could we please have this explicitly on the face of the Bill?
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, and the contributions he has made to the House and to the International Relations and Defence Committee recently.
I see that two of our right reverend Prelates are present in the Chamber. I thank them for their unity and for their letter to the Times today, which I think was absolutely right. I congratulate them on that unity and that nationally important statement.
One of the things we debated in the Environment Bill—now Act—was whether we should have a statement of the biodiversity emergency in that Bill. At the end of the day, I withdrew my amendment on that, because the Minister pointed out at the time that the Prime Minister had written that there was a biodiversity and nature crisis in this country. Therefore, I find it very difficult to understand, from a government point of view, why we do not have both those crises reflected in this Bill’s objectives. Although they are very different crises, they are absolutely connected, and it is essential to solve them both. If nothing else, this bank must be part of that solution—it must be.
I come back to something that the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, said at Second Reading that I absolutely agreed with: one of the risks of this bank is that it just substitutes private investment for public sector investment. Relatively, one of the easiest areas for the private sector to invest in—because of all the schemes such as contracts for difference, ROCs in the past, and the incentive for renewable fuels—is clean energy. It is a relatively low-risk area, and we have seen that happen. In fact, it was much riskier when the Green Investment Bank started; now that we have come down the learning curve, it is quite an easy area in which to invest.
The area that is difficult for the private sector to invest in is nature-based solutions and the natural environment. Therefore, if we really want to make a difference through this bank, that is far more important as an objective than the climate change objective in many ways because it is already much easier to bring private investment into the climate change area. I would not want to exclude it by any means—as part of that, all sorts of technologies still require rather riskier capital, if you like. If we come back to things such as risk appetite, which has to be higher for this bank if it is to not just substitute private investment, the bank needs to invest in areas such as nature-based solutions and biodiversity.
That asset class—it is not really an asset class yet but perhaps will be in the future—at the moment relies on what we know as blended finance. It has a mixture of private, public and maybe offsetting or even charitable input to be able to be effective. This is clearly the one area where the UK Infrastructure Bank could make a real difference with regard to the government objectives on biodiversity, nature-based solutions and natural capital—all those areas that we have talked about already. That is why that is absolutely essential. If there are weaknesses or flaws in the Bill, this is the largest of them and the one that has to be changed. Just having that one objective on the environmental side in terms of the climate crisis cannot be and is not sufficient to cover those other areas.
My Amendment 5 also covers many of the other areas that have been talked about already. One other area where we are at the beginning of a path that needs to be trodden is the circular economy. It is very difficult at the moment to have large-scale implementation of that, and I would like to see the UK Infrastructure Bank play a part in that as well, and, obviously, the area of do no harm.
As we and the Minister know, it is always very tempting to treat these Bills as a Christmas tree, adding things on all the time. However, among these amendments, we have resisted that quite well in that we have the circular economy, do no harm, biodiversity and nature-based solutions. Those are the areas that really need to change in the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will be able to come back and reassure us on them.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this second group and to agree with pretty much everything that has been said so far.
I will speak to Amendment 15 in my name, which seeks simply to insert “nature- based solutions” in the definition of infrastructure in the Bill. For every £1 invested in peatland restoration there is a return of £4.60, and for every £1 invested in woodland there is a return of £2.80. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that in both examples that is a multiple greater than what the bank is seeking to get as set out in its aspirations?
Similarly, as has eloquently been said with regard to climate and nature-based renewal, there is an economic boon to be had if we have nature-based solutions in the Bill for the bank to clearly be able to invest in: some £50 billion for the UK economy by 2050 and, with regard to levelling up, over 100,000 jobs.
Can my noble friend say whether the bank is able to invest in infrastructure—in this instance, nature-based solutions—in UK overseas territories? A number of things can be done there. Just one example is mangrove replanting, which can have a significant impact on addressing the current climate emergency and more impact than some of the projects that can be done alongside in the United Kingdom. Can the bank invest in such infrastructure projects in UK overseas territories?
I gently point my noble friend to a report from your Lordships’ Science and Technology Committee, on which I was lucky to serve, on nature-based solutions. It clearly sets out the advantages to be had from such investments, but also the criticality, has been said across your Lordships’ House. Even if we do everything towards the reduction and eventual eradication of carbon, we must still undertake nature-based solutions. To this end, with the economic, social and environmental benefits to be had, does my noble friend agree that it makes complete sense to have nature-based solutions as part of the definition of infrastructure in the Bill?
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 6 in my name and start by declaring my interests as a project director and engineer with Atkins, and as a director of Peers for the Planet.
The problem we have, in my view, is that the second objective of the UK investment bank—to support local and regional economic growth—does not provide a clear policy intent for what the bank is to do in relation to levelling up. Getting these objectives right from the start is crucial. As the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said at Second Reading,
“the most important debates will focus on the Government’s definition of infrastructure and the scope of the two core objectives. We must get these core components right from the off”—[Official Report, 24/5/22; cols. 824-5.]
As I said at Second Reading, the current wording leaves much open to interpretation. Almost any infrastructure investment anywhere in the country could be argued to support economic growth in the region or local area in which it sits. A new transport scheme in a wealthy area of Sussex, for example, would meet this criterion by supporting local and regional economic growth. There is nothing to clarify that this refers to levelling up, or to economically disadvantaged areas. I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say in response to this at Second Reading—she stated that the policy intent is clear—but I believe the Bill would benefit from setting out in more detail exactly what this goal entails, which I will come to shortly.
I briefly remind noble Lords of the issues we are facing here. The levelling-up White Paper stated:
“The UK has larger geographical differences than many other developed countries on multiple measures, including productivity, pay, educational attainment and health.”
As the Economist put it recently:
“Britain is highly geographically unequal ... It is as if America’s rust belt or the former East Germany were home to half the population.”
As an example, I took a walk through central Derby on Sunday and asked my sons to count the number of empty shop units. We counted 14 over a 200-metre stretch in the city centre, from Iron Gate to Corn Market. The only retail outlets that seemed to be thriving were betting shops—I counted five. This issue is repeated right across the Midlands region. Walking around comparable stretches in London, I see one or two empty units at most. I know the Government get this, and I am looking forward to seeing the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill come before this House, but it emphasises that we need to make clear what is meant by levelling up in this vital legislation. Although the intent is clear from the Chancellor on his strategic steer to the bank, it needs also to be clear in the legislation. Levelling up is a long-term, generational project, so legislation supporting it must be crystal clear as to what needs to be accomplished. The strategic steer will not set policy intent over the long term; having this clear on the face of the Bill will, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, powerfully argued.
My amendment is straightforward, and I also support Amendment 9 in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, to which I would have added my name had I spotted them in time; they get at the same issues as my amendment. My amendment would strengthen the current wording by referring specifically to reducing
“geographical inequality through supporting regional and local economic growth in areas of economic disadvantage”.
This, I believe, clearly captures the Government’s policy intent for this objective and ensures that the legislation will deliver in the long term for disadvantaged areas, will deliver for the levelling-up agenda, and will make a real difference to the lives of people in those left-behind communities. I would be grateful if the Minister, in her summing up, could expand on how she believes the current wording provides a clear policy intent.
I also strongly support Amendment 4 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. As an example, the UN has called for climate finance to be split equally between efforts to curb and adapt to climate change, but most goes towards mitigation. However, I cannot beat the Cinderella analogy from the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. Therefore, it is right that adaption should be split out from the core emissions targets as a specific aim, and I support the words of other noble Lords on why biodiversity should be placed on an equal stature with climate change within the objectives of the bank.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, whom I thank for his expression of support for Amendment 7.
This is quite a large group of amendments addressing quite a narrow area of the Bill, but clearly this is crucially important. We are talking about the objectives of the bank. It is interesting that it has two objectives listed, one of which, looking at the amendments tabled by your Lordships, we clearly feel is too narrow, and the other of which is insufficiently clear. I will not speak at length to the many amendments here addressing and tackling adaptation, biodiversity and the nature crisis, because, as a Green, I do not need to; it has already been so clearly and explicitly said from all sides of the House that it does not need to come from me. We talk about tackling the climate emergency, but we must also tackle the nature crisis. It is a related and equal threat to the security of us all and it must be in the Bill. Also, the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, to the circular economy is interesting. I get at this in a different way, in terms of demand reduction and resource-use reduction, in the next group, so I will not go into that in depth now.
As the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, made clear, the second objective, to support regional and local economic growth, could mean local growth in Kensington and Chelsea or in the Sheffield constituency of Hallam, which a few years ago had the lowest rate of free school meals of any constituency in the country. The Government’s rhetoric and the discussion around this Bill says that this is supposed to be targeting disadvantaged areas, but there is nothing in the Bill which says that. Both our amendments, and the amendment tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, seek to address this. However, mine also has an extra, intentionally radical element in that it takes out “economic growth”. Your Lordships’ House has heard me say before that we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet and that chasing after growth is a problem. So, even if we target this on the most disadvantaged areas, which certainly need development, is it economic growth per se that they need? Who is the advantage of that growth and wealth going to?
I quote the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who pointed out that if our measures tell us that everything is fine when really it is not, we will become complacent. Despite the increases in GDP, and despite the 2008 crisis being well behind us, everything is not fine. Growth on its own will not solve the problem of levelling up—even growth directed to those areas. We are seeing considerable moves in parts of government towards recognising this.
I note that the Office for National Statistics has a national well-being programme that has 10 broad dimensions which have been shown to matter to people. They are the natural environment; personal well-being; our relationships; health; what we do; where we live; personal finance; the economy; education and skills; and governance. Looking around the world, the EU Council has defined the economy of well-being as putting people and their well-being at the centre of policy and decision-making. I have referred before in your Lordships’ House to the New Zealand Treasury having produced well-being budgets, which operate by guidance under the living standards framework. It is about improving people’s lives, which is what so many areas of our country desperately need.
I also note that, last year, the Government produced a new system of outcome delivery plans, which shows that there are cross-cutting priorities. I point noble Lords who want to look into this further to the report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth, which reviewed these and showed that they still do not go far enough and are too focused on growth.
It is crucial that we talk about life outcomes. I chose not to use the word “well-being”; I am attempting to find a middle ground with which the Government might be able to agree, so I put down “life outcomes”, which is not the same as “well-being”. In some areas where which we might expect the most levelling-up attention, people have a life expectancy 10 years shorter than people somewhere wealthy just down the road. We should think about that level of morbidity and ill health. I used to live in Somers Town in north London and saw on the streets how many people were visibly disabled, ill and suffering in their 30s and 40s. In saying “life outcomes”, I believe we should be trying to address those sorts of things. So the bank should surely invest in forms of infrastructure that deliver people a better life outcome.
My second amendment, Amendment 16, addresses some of the points we have already discussed at some length about the framework document. It is about the activities of the bank. I have rewritten the paragraph to specify not just “electricity” but “renewable electricity”, and not just the provision of “heat” but
“heat from environmentally friendly sources”.
This is a way of saying that there must be no investment from this bank in fossil fuels. There may be other ways of writing this down and I would be very happy to talk to other noble Lords who have similar interests. It could be argued that other amendments to “do no harm” cover this, but we explicitly need to say in the Bill, “No fossil fuels”.
I suspect the Minister will point me to the Explanatory Notes, which, in paragraph 11 on page 5, state:
“As … set out in the Framework Document, the Bank will not lend or provide other support to projects involving extraction, production, transportation and refining of crude oil, natural gas or thermal coal with very limited exemptions.”
I am not going to start debating exemptions, but I will point to the last sentence of that paragraph. Noble Lords interested in the status of the framework document might like to look at this, as it says:
“This policy will be updated over time to reflect changes in government policy and regulatory standards.”
That suggests the Government can decide to change this any time they like. Without being a legal expert, I read that as saying that the Government do not even have to table regulations to change their policies. That appears to be what they say the framework document is.
I should not have to do this, but I feel like I need to make the argument for why we must make sure this bank does not put a penny into fossil fuels. I note the letter written by the Committee on Climate Change to Kwasi Kwarteng on 24 February, which says that it
“would support a tighter limit on production … and a presumption against exploration.”
It is talking about fossil fuels. It says that that
“would send a clear signal to investors and consumers that the UK is committed to the 1.5°C global temperature goal.”
I note that the Government often like to claim to be world leading. At the COP 26 climate talks, France, Sweden and Ireland joined leaders Denmark and Costa Rica in establishing the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, which is pushing for a global treaty to stop fossil fuel extraction. That is what world leading looks like.
Finally, I have some figures to really drive this home. To be serious about a 1.5-degree target, global production of oil and gas must fall by 31% and 28% respectively between now and 2030. But the countries known as the “fossil-fuelled five”—Australia, the UK, Canada, Norway and the USA—are set to increase their oil production, so the global figures will increase by 33% and 27%. So we need a 31% fall and a 28% fall; instead, we are looking at a 33% rise and a 27% rise. It is crucial both that we do not put any money from this bank into fossil fuels and that we send a signal to the world that nobody should be putting money into fossil fuel exploration.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and president of the Rural Coalition. I shall speak to Amendment 9, which stands in my name, but I also want to give my broad support to Amendments 6 and 7, which also deal with regional inequalities, and to echo the importance of getting biodiversity and nature into the Bill.
It is telling that London, as the most productive region of the UK, receives a larger per capita amount of public spending compared to other regions of the UK. Productivity relies as much on public investment as it does on private investment but, at the same time, it makes sense economically, from a private perspective, to invest in those areas that receive significant public backing, particularly in areas such as transport. The reality is that government transport spending by region remains heavily skewed towards London, at nearly double the UK average. Hence, it certainly holds that public expenditure is a significant contributory factor to productivity, even if other factors, such as economies of scale and private investment, also play their part.
Increasing the UK’s productivity and reducing the productivity gap is the first aim listed in the Government’s 12 missions to level up the UK, but this is not adequately reflected in the UK Infrastructure Bank’s objectives. The second objective, which a number of noble Lords have referred to, is supporting regional and local economic growth. That is an extraordinarily broad objective that allows incredible levels of discretion over where the bank will focus its investment. Supporting infrastructure improvements in some of the wealthiest parts of London to drive local economic growth would fall under the remit of the bank’s activities but that is surely not what the bank is meant to be doing. We need to concentrate investment in specific infrastructure initiatives to boost regional productivity and close the infrastructure gap.
I fear that the integrated rail plan is a good example. It has its priorities absolutely inverted. Better connecting London to Birmingham and Manchester is being given precedence over connecting some of the northern cities to one another. The scrapping of HS3 and the eastern leg of HS2 remains a mistake and, to quote the Mayor of Greater Manchester, is rightly seen as a betrayal of the north. People in deprived or less productive parts of the country are tired of their second-rate infrastructure and the lack of investment in it. The amendment places a clear responsibility on the bank to close the productivity gap between regions of the UK, better to align it with the Government’s levelling-up objectives.
The need to close regional infrastructure gaps does not pertain just to metropolitan areas. It is a crippling issue for rural communities. One thing I shall come back to when we get to the amendment—later today, I hope—is how we want to rural-proof what is going though in legislation. The rural economy is 18% less productive than the national average, and while economies of scale contribute to this, the gap is primarily driven by a failure to engage with rural economies on their own terms.
Poor rural transport infrastructure and digital connectivity are arguably the two biggest factors raised by those trying to sort out the huge gap between urban and rural in this country. The fear is that the UK Infrastructure Bank, as a private company wholly owned by the Treasury, will not be subject to the usual rural-proofing requirements to which all government departments are subject. Rural areas must be adequately considered as viable locations for investment by the UK Infrastructure Bank. By focusing on closing regional productivity gaps, this amendment would ensure that rural areas and underperforming urban areas would receive their fair share of the bank’s finances—money desperately needed to level up.
As this is simply a probing amendment, I am at this stage just listening to the other interesting amendments and I do not particularly want to push this later, but I would be grateful if the Minister could address these concerns. What mechanisms will be hard-coded into the bank’s commitments to prioritise investment in those areas that suffer from poor productivity and need improved infrastructure to meet that first mission statement of Her Majesty’s Government on levelling up?
My Lords, I rise briefly to give general support to the amendments in this group and specifically to support Amendment 4 in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayman and other noble Lords. I declare my interest as chair of the Adaptation Committee of the Climate Change Committee.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that it is absolutely critical to include adaptation in the bank’s remit in the Bill. It is only too easy to forget about adaptation, as so much recent, important government policy has done—so much so that in the Adaptation Committee’s advice to government last year on the third climate change risk assessment, we included a table of recent policy and legislation, showing just how frequently opportunities to include adaptation had been missed. It is crucial that we remind everybody to think about this and putting it in the Bill will help make that difference.
The most obvious example I have pointed to recently has been support for such things as the Green Deal as well as for net-zero homes. We are asking people to rip their homes apart to make them net zero but not at the same time supporting them to make the changes that would make them resilient to the future hotter summers that we are going to experience. It would be stupid to do those things separately—to have to refurbish your home twice. We must make sure that adaptation is flagged up in the Bill.
We also need to keep reminding people that, in dealing with climate change, net zero is not enough. Even if we are on a global pathway to net zero by 2050, the temperature will go on rising up to 2050, and we will look back from 2050—well, some of us, such as the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, might—and see that every decade between now and then was the hottest on record; so we must make sure that adaptation is a focus of the Bill.
I also strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, that the Bill must recognise nature—the natural environment, our natural capital—as essential infra- structure. The Bill specifically identifies as infrastructure the technology and facilities for removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The best and cheapest and way to do this is very often a tree. It would be completely perverse to encourage a complex engineered solution in a situation where an investment in nature could deliver.
As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said—I strongly agree—investments in nature-based climate solutions, especially those for adaptation, face some of the most difficult barriers and hurdles to secure, so we should absolutely ensure that this important development of the UK Infrastructure Bank enables those critical investments. If I might do a little bit of advertising, I will say that the Adaptation Committee is currently producing a report on the barriers to adaptation investment, which will be published in the autumn. I am sure the UK Infrastructure Bank will be an important part of the solution in overcoming those barriers.
I could not possibly add to or improve on what the noble Baroness, Lady Brown of Cambridge, said in support of Clause 2(3)(a) on the environmental objectives, but I want to say something in support of the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, because the two must be tied together. If economic development is to be an objective, then it must be to level up. Some evidence is beginning to emerge that it is possible to achieve climate change investment in a way that disadvantages areas of inequality further and yet further. The altering of subsection (3)(b) would make it clear what were the twin objectives—that the objectives are not enriching the citizens of Westminster, of which I am one, Chelsea or other areas of London, and that green investment must be done with the specific object in mind of improving the economic, lifestyle or whole-life benefits of those who live in disadvantaged areas. The bank must keep both objectives in mind.
My Lords, the Committee’s debate on this group has helped to ensure that we have properly considered the purpose of the bank, particularly around its levelling-up and climate change objectives. I will first address Amendments 3, 4, 5, 15 and 20, which seek, in various forms, to provide additional scope for the bank to pursue natural capital improvement, biodiversity or to deliver environmental improvement plans, by either splitting the climate change objective or adding a third environmental objective.
The bank has a broad mandate, which includes the flexibility to support a wide range of projects to help tackle climate change and support regional and local economic growth—two of the defining missions of this Government. As noble Lords will know, the Government conducted a review, which reported in March following wide engagement with environmental stakeholders and market participants, to consider a potential broadening of the bank’s objectives to include other areas such as improving the UK’s natural capital. Most stakeholders observed that there is already significant scope for intervention in nature-based solutions within UKIB’s existing mandate, particularly through its climate mitigation and adaptation objective, and scope to invest in flood defences, water and wastewater infrastructure.
Therefore, following this review, the Chancellor confirmed in his first non-statutory strategic steer to the bank that natural capital opportunities are in scope of its existing remit and that it should explore early opportunities to support the development of markets for ecosystem services and nature-based solutions within its existing climate and levelling-up objectives. The bank will reflect the contents of this strategic steer in its first strategic plan, which will be published later this month.
Adding a third objective for the bank could dilute its focus. Although projects to deliver nature-based solutions and enhance the UK’s natural capital are within scope for the bank, these projects must link back to its core purpose, which is to deliver economic infrastructure projects. It is an infrastructure bank, and that is why the environmental review landed sensibly on nature-based solutions as a means of delivering the ends of economic infrastructure through natural technology.
The review recognised the significant potential for increased use of nature-based and hybrid infrastructure solutions, including for the water sector and greenhouse gas removals. These opportunities will be important to meet our objective to leverage at least £500 million per annum in private finance for nature’s recovery by 2027 and more than £1 billion per annum by 2030.
However, other steps must be taken to ensure that a successful market is created to finance nature. The review found that the market for nature-based solutions is constrained by multiple barriers, including insufficient scale of projects, lack of proven revenue streams and a lack of data. The bank can help to overcome some of these barriers, but work is also under way by Defra to improve standards and accreditation and to improve early grant funding through the £10 million natural environment investment readiness fund launched in February 2021 and the big nature impact fund, a blended finance vehicle that will help to create a commercial portfolio of projects.
I turn now to the bank’s “do no significant harm” commitment. Amendment 2 from the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, seeks to raise and firm up the environmental floor for UKIB projects, and Amendment 16 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, seeks to remove fossil fuels from the scope of the bank, as she explained.
With respect to Amendment 2, while there is naturally some risk of the bank’s growth objective coming into conflict with its climate change objective, we believe that this has already been robustly and appropriately covered in the bank’s framework document, which states:
“Where an investment is primarily to support economic growth, the Company will ensure that it does not do significant harm against its climate objective.”
It will be for the bank to decide exactly how to administer this “do no significant harm” clause and how to interpret it when considering individual transactions, and it is already doing this.
On Amendment 16, I say that the “do no significant harm” clause is accompanied by a sensible exclusions list, prohibiting the bank from entering into fossil fuel investments, with a small number of exemptions—for example, for carbon capture, usage and storage, which will significantly reduce emissions over its lifetime. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, can see why we need these exemptions and why it would not be appropriate to exclude fossil fuels entirely from the bank’s scope. As a package, it is sensible to keep all these conditions together in the framework document so that they may be kept under review and ensure that the environmental baseline for the organisation is sufficiently high.
Amendments 6, 8 and 9 all seek in some way to add more specificity to the existing objectives. For reasons that I will set out, the Government believe that the current drafting of the Bill is a more appropriate way to deliver against these, although they recognise the policy aims that the amendments seek to deliver. At statutory level, the correct approach is to set out the overarching policy goal and, in this context, phrasing the bank’s objective as one of supporting regional and local growth provides a clear direction for the bank without being overly prescriptive.
We would not want to use language or terms in statute that could result in unintended consequences. For instance, if we adopted the drafting of the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, in Amendment 6, terms such as “geographical inequality” and “areas of economic disadvantage” would require detailed and complicated definitions that could change over time or be context dependent. We would not necessarily want to preclude the bank from providing funding in disadvantaged areas of the south-east but, if we adopted the proposed amendment, the bank might be put in difficulty as the south-east as a whole might not qualify as an area of economic disadvantage.
However, all three amendments are addressed in the Chancellor’s first strategic steer to the bank, which states:
“Addressing the deep spatial disparities across and within UK regions is a central ambition of this government. Economic infrastructure connects people, both physically and digitally, to opportunities and the Bank has a key role to play in providing infrastructure finance across the UK and targeting investment to support faster growth in regions with lower levels of productivity … The government’s recently published Levelling Up White Paper (LUWP) outlines the need to end the geographical inequality which is such a striking feature of the UK”,
as noble Lords have noted,
“and it is important that UKIB supports this ambition. Therefore, I would encourage the Bank to target its portfolio of investments towards projects across the UK that deliver against the missions set out in the LUWP”.
Further, the steer is also clear that the economic growth objective should provide “opportunities for new jobs”. I will happily confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that it is the Government’s ambition across the economy to have more high-skilled, better paid and securer jobs. The bank’s investments to date, consistent with its strategic steer, already meet the aims of these amendments. Investments in the Midlands, Northern Ireland and Wales are already helping to boost productivity across the UK and support the creation of good new jobs.
Finally, I turn to Amendments 7 and 10, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, which focus on improving the life outcomes of people in disadvantaged areas, reducing the use of natural resources and emissions and securing the interests of future generations. I would argue that these are consistent with the existing objectives for the bank. In the long run, productivity gains and economic growth are the fundamental source of improvements in prosperity. Productivity is closely linked to incomes and living standards and supports employment. Improvements in productivity also free up money to invest in jobs and support the Government’s ability to spend on public services. The climate change objective will help to secure the interests of future generations by reducing emissions and, as discussed, investing in nature-based solutions.
The Government recognise that protecting and enhancing the natural environment and the biodiversity that underpins it is crucial to supporting sustainable, resilient economies, livelihoods and well-being. We are therefore determined to support the development of private markets that drive investment in projects that restore or enhance our natural environment.
I thought it might be worth touching again on the question from the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, about the framework document, in order to aid our discussion. The framework document is a non-legally binding agreement between the Treasury and UKIB that sets out details of how the bank works that it would not be appropriate to have in statute. Notwithstanding that, it does create some legal force, as UKIB is expected to abide by it and can be judged against it in normal public law ways. It is a public document and there are reputational reasons for UKIB to follow it, and the Treasury can enforce it both as a shareholder in the bank and through the issuing of a direction. Of course, there will be parliamentary scrutiny, given that it is a published document. It can be changed and updated by agreement of both parties, the Treasury and the bank. UKIB’s articles of association are binding in company law and have been filed with Companies House.
There are many mechanisms of parliamentary scrutiny that we are subject to every day. There are committee hearings, Questions in the House and many other different routes of parliamentary scrutiny.
To pick up on one final question, from my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond, about the bank’s ability to invest in overseas territories, the intention is for UKIB to invest in UK projects; it is not expected that it would invest in UK overseas territories.
I therefore hope, given those explanations, that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, will withdraw his amendment and that other noble Lords will not move theirs when they are reached.
My Lords, there is a sense of nostalgia. Right at the end, we had the favourite statement you get from Governments in this situation: that it is not appropriate—in other words, “We don’t want to do it, but we haven’t got an explanation why we don’t want to do it.”
This has been a valuable debate which, I hope, goes to the core of what this Bill is about. There was a high level of consensus, and I am hopeful it may grow by the time we get to Report and that an amendment will be generated, somehow magically—perhaps the Minister might consider creating it—that pulls in many of the various streams of this debate, very few of which conflicted. Most of them fitted together in different ways—in some ways, to make something too big to be useful, but certainly somewhere in there is something of the right size to be useful.
It was very interesting that the Minister said that this was a package which will be in the framework document. The fundamental difference coming out of this debate is that the Minister feels it should be a package in a non-binding document, while most of the rest of us think that most of these things should be in the Bill. I hope she will be thinking about how she might face such an amendment. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Amendments 3 to 9 not moved.
10: Clause 2, page 1, line 14, at end insert—
“(c) to reduce to sustainable levels the United Kingdom's use of natural resources and emissions of non-greenhouse pollutants, and(d) to secure the interests of future generations.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment inserts additional objectives of the Bank to protect future generations, reduce pollution and reduce natural resource use.
My Lords, in moving Amendment 10 I am rather aware from the Minister’s response to the previous group that this may have been grouped differently in her list compared to mine. I am just going to proceed anyway and if she says “I refer you to my previous answer” at the end, I will understand.
Amendment 10 refers to reducing “to sustainable levels” the UK’s
“use of natural resources and emissions of non-greenhouse pollutants”
and to securing “the interests of future generations.” To address the second part first, I am sure many noble Lords will recognise the language there, which is very much inspired by the Private Member’s Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Bird, about protecting the well-being of future generations—and indeed by the progress made in Wales, with its future generations Act. It is perhaps another way of getting towards first do no harm, as we discussed in the previous group of amendments. But more than that, it is making a larger claim: we know that the natural world in the UK is in a parlous state with air pollution, water pollution, et cetera. It is saying that if we are looking after the well-being of future generations, the bank should be investing to improve the state of things, not just to make sure that they do not get any worse.
The first part of this amendment addresses something that your Lordships’ House and the Government really need to get more focused on, which is planetary limits. In the previous group, we started to talk about how we need to add attention to biodiversity, the state of nature and nature-based solutions, tying together those planetary limits which the world is crossing over. Actually, academics are telling us that we have now broken five of the nine planetary boundaries. Three of those are climate, biodiversity and land system change, which we have already covered to some degree, but we have also come to the other two broken planetary limits. These are biogeochemical flows and what is generally known as pollution from novel entities—in general terminology, we might talk there about chemicals. About 350,000 of these are used in the world, which includes pesticides, antibiotics, plastics, industrial chemicals in mining and pharmaceuticals.
The reason for this amendment adding an objective to the bank, so that it starts to address these issues and reduces the harm done by these chemicals is that we—globally and in the UK—are very much exceeding our share of the limits of these things. This amendment is thus supposed to address both biogeochemical flows and the novel chemicals.
Coming briefly to the biogeochemical flows, the rates of nitrate and phosphate use in the UK are both well above the global average and, according to a global footprint report, we must
“Reduce nitrogen and phosphorus use by at least 80%”
—yes, I did say 80. If we are to have a bank that is investing in the kind of economy we have to live within in future, given the planetary limits, it needs to be thinking about not just climate and nature but the damage being done. Here we get to our farming systems, which is why my previous amendment referred to infrastructure that deals with food production. This is overwhelmingly related to that when we come to phosphorus and nitrogen—although sewage plants have their place. We have to look at this as a whole and see that the bank is essentially investing, for shorthand, in a sustainable economy.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, had in the previous group an amendment on the circular economy. That is a necessary and essential step forward but it is not a sufficient step, because we have to make sure not only that we are not treating the planet as a dumping ground—mining materials out of the earth and just dumping them—but that we stop mining those materials, or at least vastly reduce the amount we are mining. That is what my first amendment seeks to achieve. If anyone wants to know where my research, particularly around novel entities, comes from, it is from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
I will address one other point, which very much goes back—as I think we will do several times in this group—to our debates on the Environment Act: reducing resource use. I refer noble Lords to a report that the WWF put out when we were debating the then Environment Bill on the UK’s overseas land-use footprint. That showed that
“between 2016 and 2018, an average annual area of 21.3 million hectares … was required to supply the UK’s demand for the seven commodities”.
When thinking about what the bank is investing in, we cannot be putting further pressure on other parts of the world through that. This is an attempt to bring in a systems-thinking approach.
I come now to the other amendments in my name in this group, which noble Lords may be pleased to hear are both simpler and shorter. The first is Amendment 18. When we look at the way this Bill is written, it is quite surprising that on infrastructure it says
“roads or other forms of transport”.
This seems a rather odd way round for a Bill that is supposed to be addressing the climate emergency. My amendment seeks to take out the word “roads”. I do not believe that the UK Infrastructure Bank should be investing in any new roads. We know that new roads generate more traffic. For the foreseeable future, on the crucial point of keeping the rise in world temperature below 1.5 degrees, roads and traffic are going to generate significant amounts of greenhouse gases, not to mention all the other impacts such as air and noise pollution. If this investment is going into disadvantaged areas, the last thing they need is more air and noise pollution. Electric vehicles also produce air pollution, with a large amount of the pollution they produce being particulate matter pollution from tyres and brakes. Building new roads in disadvantaged areas makes no environmental, social, economic or well-being sense. I have simply sought to take out the word “roads” and insert “mass” transport. That is obviously what the bank should be investing in, for both environmental and social reasons.
My final point is on my Amendment 25, on something that a number of noble Lords raised at Second Reading. The activities of the bank cover a large number of utilities, obviously including electricity and water, et cetera. The Bill talks about “services” but it is not clear whether “services” includes demand reduction and efficiency. The cleanest, greenest energy we can possibly have is the energy we do not need to use. The UK Infrastructure Bank surely has to be investing in reducing the demand for electricity, heating and water use—in these islands water stress is becoming an increasing issue with the reality of climate change and the adaptation issues we were discussing earlier. The Minister may say that the Bill already covers these demand reduction issues, but I feel that it should say explicitly that the bank should be investing in demand reduction of that which it is investing in the generation of. I beg to move.
I am pleased to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and speak to the amendments in my name in this group. My amendments, grouped under two headings, “environmental restoration” and “human enablement and empowerment”, start with Amendment 13. I think we should have in the Bill that the bank should be prohibited from investing in any projects that are not inclusive by design. What does “inclusive by design” mean? It is simply this: that all users are enabled in whatever that system, infrastructure or structure itself actually is.
I can give a quick example, of where so-called shared space has been laid out across the country, with local authorities using public money to take areas—be that a local piece of public realm, a high street or whatever—which previously were independently accessible by all members of the community. When so-called shared space is put in, kerbs, crossings, road markings and barriers are taken out, and it becomes a free-for-all whereby toddlers and tankers, buses and blind people are somehow able to coexist because of this misguided concept. Public money is being used to take spaces that were previously accessible and make them effectively inaccessible. It is being used effectively to plan out of their local public realm more than one-third of the community. It is critical that in the Bill there is a clear statement of intent that anything that the bank invests in is inclusive by design.
Amendment 19 highlights the critical importance of energy efficiency and security. Much has already been said on energy efficiency, so I shall focus on energy security. There could hardly be a more significant time to make the point of the UK’s need to have greater energy security, and for that to be dramatically enhanced through understanding what it means to have a more local and more environmentally sound supply.
On Amendment 21, there could barely be a more significant piece of infrastructure than clean air. Air in so many parts of this city and other cities across the United Kingdom is actually killing our citizens. If the bank’s objectives are so clearly set as economic, with a capital “E”, clean air fits clearly within that. If we want our citizens, at whatever age or whatever stage they are at, to be fit, happy, healthy and able to develop and deploy all their talents, what they breathe could barely be more significant.
Amendment 22 looks at the UK cash infrastructure. I believe that, for reasons of financial inclusion and resilience, this again should be designated as infrastructure for the purposes of the bank—and perhaps even one stage above that, and designated as critical national infrastructure. For all the arguments around financial inclusion that we ran through in the Financial Services Act 2021—I intend to return to them when the financial services and markets Bill comes to your Lordships’ House—but also for the times in which we live, we need to have resilience in our financial systems. Cash would currently seem to be incredibly significant in providing that resilience, if and when things happen to the digital platforms and systems at local and national level.
Amendment 23 considers social infrastructure. Again, it is difficult for the Bill to espouse economic success so highly without seeing how tied to social infrastructure that economic success is—and indeed must be. There is now a fantastic body of evidence-based research and work around social infrastructure and the metrics which can be put in place. So the Bill should have social infrastructure in it to underscore both its critical importance and that it is not a “nice to have” or something additive but actually a driver of the economic success that the Bill espouses.
I turn to Amendment 24. If clean air is to be considered significant infrastructure, we must consider data and data systems as critical infrastructure—as well as the other issues talked about in previous groups on nature and the environment. So much around data will enable not just economic growth but also social, psychological, citizen, city, community, country and global growth—if we get it right. It is not an inevitability, but I believe that data is at least as important as any other factor to warrant inclusion in the Bill.
Similarly for Amendment 26, which puts skills on the same level, we can have whatever infrastructure investment for hard infrastructure, which is so tangible that it is so appealing to so many. However, whatever connectivity or infrastructure programme or project is funded, if we do not ensure that everyone is enabled to have those skills—digital, data, numeracy, literacy or resilience—and, if those skills are not seen as critical, it is really going to be a suboptimal infrastructure investment at best. In some instances, it will largely be a waste of money.
Amendment 27 reinforces the issues around social infrastructure and puts a “have regard” duty on the bank. It also asks that the bank looks to put in measures and means of measuring—the metrics—around social infrastructure for the benefits that this would bring. Again, even if one is considering this on the hard economic case, as the Bill is currently so over-rigidly founded, social infrastructure, despite its name, makes sense. Even if one only considers it on hard economics, it is obviously so much more.
Finally, Amendment 31, on green spaces, puts a duty on all infrastructure investments from the bank to have an element of green spaces as part of urban and suburban areas for the benefit of all—and, indeed, for the benefit of that investment itself. This goes to both the environmental and levelling-up points. Potentially, if we got this right and accepted this amendment, there would be £200 billion-worth of health benefits and 40,000 jobs; 3,500 communities would be enhanced, invigorated and enabled through having green space where currently none exists. For the final part of the amendment—that the bank comes back within six months and determines what percentage of any investment should go to green space—I believe that this should be somewhere “between 5% and 20%”.
In short, all these amendments are seeking to push environmental, enabling and enhancement issues right into the Bill to make lives happy, healthy and humane.
My Lords, I have Amendment 17 in this group, supported by the same cross-party group of noble colleagues as Amendment 4. It is a simple amendment which
“includes ‘energy efficiency’ within the definition of infrastructure.”
Last week, the IEA released new analysis showing that stronger efficiency measures can reduce energy bills, fuel imports and greenhouse gas emissions quickly and significantly. This was a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, when speaking to her amendments earlier. In comments accompanying the analysis, the IEA executive director, Dr Fatih Birol, said that
“inexplicably, government and business leaders are failing to sufficiently act on this.”
Indeed, when the UK Government responded to the crisis in costs being experienced throughout the country, they committed £37 billion this year to help households with the cost of living crisis. However, when they implemented a tax on the revenues of oil and gas companies, they failed to announce any new efficiency measures which could help reduce energy demands and bills—in the long term, rather than the short term. It is, therefore, very important that we show a priority for energy efficiency in this Bill.
I will say something a little more broadly about Clause 2(5), dealing with the “technologies and facilities” included in the definition of “infrastructure”. The Government have got themselves into their own problem here. We know that the letter that was sent—the strategic steer—references energy efficiency. It mentions
“the urgent need to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings in the context of high energy prices and the Government’s renewed focus on energy security.”
So they have given us the steer that this is a priority. However, in the Bill, they give a list which does not mention it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, pointed out, the list includes roads, gas and all sorts of things which might not be in line with the priorities. There is a real problem, which we have all discussed many times, with lists in legislation. Including a list like this implies that these are priorities—although I understand that other things are not excluded by the inclusion of some things in the list—but there is an implicit suggestion that these are the main or important priorities.
The Government really must think about that, as they must also think about the issue which we were discussing earlier about what falls within the framework document and what falls within the Bill. I was not alone in not finding the definition of parliamentary scrutiny for the framework document, which the Minister conjured up for us earlier on, very comforting: it may be scrutiny, but not as I know it in the most rigorous of ways. Of course, we can ask questions about it, but that is not quite what the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, was getting at when he asked his question.
The problem that illustrated is that, within those two objectives of the Bill, when people said that the objective about economic growth could include vanity projects in very rich areas of the country, the Government’s response was, “Yes, it could, but we won’t do it.” When we said that the Government are not explicit about nature, biodiversity and adaptation projects, alongside the net-zero target, they said, “Ah, but don’t worry, because it could include those.” I really think that there is a problem in saying, “Yes, those are the words on the paper, but don’t worry about, because we can sort it all out.” I suspect that a lot of the rest of today, and on Report, will involve wrestling with exactly where that balance between the Bill, the steer that was given and the framework document should come.
I do not think we should add too many details, so that the thing becomes a Christmas tree. Although I think I agreed with every suggestion that my noble friend Lord Holmes put forward as a principle, I am not sure that all of them are of equal value in this. However, I think the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—she will be pleased, on this occasion, to find we are entirely aligned—are absolutely right. The Climate Change Committee has sought for a very long time to get the Government to take energy efficiency and demand reduction seriously, and there seems to be some utterly inexplicable reason that they can never do this.
I am beginning to think that this is a kind of male thing: they want to build big things—“Nuclear power stations; let’s do that”—instead of doing much simpler things. I am in favour of nuclear power, but the much simpler things are reducing the need to generate, reducing the need to use and understanding that this is as crucial a part of what we are doing as anything else. I hope that, because we have so eminent a female Minister here, she will push against this rather aggressive view of dealing with climate change, which is always to do big things. I think it is because the Government think they get votes for that, whereas with energy efficiency it is very difficult to get people to feel you have done something useful, but we are going to have to do it.
Take the electric motor car. If we are not careful, we will all be driving too much, as I do. What fun and how much better the electric motor car is than anything else, but I have to say that I ought to be careful about how often I use it, because there are resources involved which one ought to think about. If we do not have that attitude throughout, frankly, we will get the infrastructure arrangements wrong. Taking a wider view of infrastructure without thinking about the resources we are using and a reduction, within the infrastructure rules, in the use of those resources, seems to me to misunderstand what we should be doing.
Although I would not want to add all sorts of examples of things we ought to be doing, I want to make it very clear that the last speaker, as so often, got it absolutely right: if we have a list, something as important as this should not be left out, or the answer will be, as it always is, “Well, our priorities are laid down in the Act”. The Government have done that and, really, this is only an auxiliary, an addition. I want it to be central because it actually is central. It is not a question of my inventing it—it is utterly central.
I also want it to be here because this is what the Government’s advisers have said to them again and again. It really is difficult. We saw this yesterday with the so-called food strategy—it is not a strategy at all, of course. I had to ask why the Government have not even addressed the advice of the Climate Change Committee, or half the recommendations of the Dimbleby report. I think the Government have to think much more seriously about the fact that if they have advice and do not intend to do what that advice suggests, that is perfectly all right—they are the Government—but they must explain to their advisers why they do not think that energy efficiency is central to this, when that is the advice that has been consistently given.
I end by saying, if I may, that I was really very impressed by the immediate response of the Minister to the question about parliamentary scrutiny. I did not know what she was going to say and I thought it was brilliant. Unfortunately, it is not parliamentary scrutiny. It was remarkable; I shall remember it for some time and quote it as something from the Dispatch Box that showed real class. It was really good, but what we mean by parliamentary scrutiny is that people have to come back here and explain themselves: that is what parliamentary scrutiny is and I am very concerned about that. I therefore have three points: let us add in the things we need, let us be bit reticent about overdoing it and let us make sure that that there is proper parliamentary scrutiny.
My Lords, I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Deben just said and shall speak in favour of Amendment 17 on energy efficiency. In addition to the points my noble friend just made about how it is very dangerous to have a list of things but leave out something so central, which the Climate Change Committee has, quite clearly and quite rightly, been calling for in support of other strands of the Bill, it seems to me that this would not only help in fighting climate change but would help in levelling up, help create jobs and help in so many other ways. It is a mystery to me why the Government would want to leave it out.
Furthermore, it is very clear from the Explanatory Notes that the talk is only of economic infrastructure—look at paragraph 34—so the assumption is that, in stressing economic infrastructure, this is not covered. The absence of energy efficiency therefore means that people think that this is not regarded as important by the Government, despite what the Government have said in the strategic steer, which I strongly support. I hope my noble friend will come forward with some compelling reason why this has so far been omitted and will say that it will be included before Report, because it seems to me that the Government, when stating that they are so strongly in support of this could very easily put this right by putting it in the Bill before Report. I hope my noble friend will tell us that she intends to do just that.
My Lords, I also support Amendment 17 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, to which I have put my name. All the arguments have been laid out as to why energy efficiency is important, but I share the amazement of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that this message does not seem to be getting over to the Government. It is a bit of a no-brainer, really: energy efficiency is vital not only in tackling climate change but as one of the easiest ways of addressing the impact of rising energy prices and strengthening our energy security. We need to urgently accelerate energy efficiency measures in this country. The net-zero carbon strategy had a blind spot about energy efficiency and we really are pussyfooting around.
I am old enough to remember conversion to North Sea gas. It was a splendid programme—admittedly, probably slightly simpler, but not hugely simpler, than making our homes energy efficient. It was a street by street effort; the whole nation went through it at the same time and one spent hours talking about it in the pub. There was a spirit of community cohesion around the whole conversion process and there was an end date that we had to hit, otherwise we were going to blow people up. We need that sort of programme to deal with our cold and leaky homes. We have the coldest and leakiest homes in Europe.
Just to give an example, when the energy price cap rises again in October to hit the £2,800 mark, average households in homes with an EPC of D or worse—about 15.3 million households in this country—will pay nearly £1,000 of that simply because their homes are inefficient. We cannot really continue in that mode. I believe the infrastructure bank has a clear role here.
To give noble Lords the last piece of government inadequacy on this, the Environment and Climate Change Committee of your Lordships’ House took evidence last week from the Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change. To be honest, I went home and wept, because there was huge reliance on “We’ll put lots of information into the public domain; you can go to the BEIS website and get lots of help on retrofit, energy efficiency and conversion to cleaner forms of energy”. There was a statement of completely pious hope that households would miraculously see the light and take action. That simply will not be enough.
The infrastructure bank needs to go for it. It needs to get us in the pubs talking about this national mission of a focused and sustained programme for energy efficiency. I share all other noble Lords’ view that the Chancellor’s strategic steer is insufficient. I hope the Minister will rise to the occasion, show that not all of government has a blind spot on energy efficiency and let us have it as one of the definitions of “infrastructure” for the bank.
My Lords, I will briefly speak to my Amendment 11, which is also around energy efficiency but focuses particularly on the built infra- structure in this country, which is what most of us are probably talking about. I have no objection to the broader definition, but I like the specific issue of built infrastructure. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, is absolutely right that big boys’ toys are always the focus; big nuclear is probably the ultimate example of that, although I am quite confident that it will never be built because of financial reasons, apart perhaps from Sizewell C in his back garden.
We have a bad track record in this area; it has not only been ignored but the green homes grant, which finished last year, was described by the Public Accounts Committee at the other end as a “slam dunk fail”. A great opportunity was unfortunately missed. Built infrastructure accounts for some 25% of our emissions nationally, so this is a really straightforward way to make a difference on climate change, which is one of the main objectives of the UK Infrastructure Bank. I reinforce the messages from other Members across the House. I also very much agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, on some of the infrastructure, such as roads.
We really need to take advantage of the most cost-effective way of achieving decarbonisation of our economy, through energy efficiency and by taking on the challenge of the built infrastructure in this country, on which the UK Infrastructure Bank can be a major player. It is estimated that we will spend some £37 billion of public money over the coming years on the energy price crisis. That money will all go on standing still; instead, we need to invest money to make sure that those energy bills come down in future and that we decarbonise the economy through energy efficiency. This bank ought to be a major part of that target.
My Lords, there is very little in this group that I can object to in principle. We debated the definition of infrastructure at Second Reading, with concerns expressed on all sides that items such as buildings or energy efficiency are not in the Bill. As we are doing this, I took to my own conscience and realised that we have not done the loft—the problem is all the stuff in it. Anyway, by subcontracting that a bit, we got it out.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, raises an interesting point about mass transport in her Amendment 18, while the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, raised a variety of issues including air quality, social infrastructure, data and skills training. I said at Second Reading that it is vital we get the bank’s objectives and definitions of infrastructure correct from the start. That remains my view. The bank will not be effective if its mission statement is ambiguous. However, for that very reason, it is also important that the Bill does not simply become a long shopping list.
I hope the Minister can confirm that the current definitions include—even if not explicitly—many of the initiatives raised by noble Lords. It is inevitable that there will be a composite amendment on Report which once again seeks to embrace many of the important ideas we have discussed in this group. I also hope she will take a number of these suggestions away. It may be suitable for the Government to amend the Bill, but there may be other ways forward.
My Lords, as discussed, the amendments in this group seek to clarify or extend the scope of the bank and are focused predominantly on the Bill’s definition of infrastructure. I apologise to the Committee and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that I did indeed get ahead of myself on the previous group.
First, I will address Amendments 10, 11, 17, 19 and 21, which seek to make explicit reference to technologies and facilities relating to energy efficiency, energy security and clean air. I reassure noble Lords that these technologies are already in scope of the definition of infrastructure in Clause 2. The definition captures all energy efficiency measures, including those related to buildings and homes, and energy security measures that fall in scope of “electricity” and the “provision of heat”. We expect clean air to be captured under “climate change”. The definition, which is non-exhaustive by design to give the bank an appropriate degree of flexibility over the subsectors in which it can invest, would be too long and specific if we were to list every subsection.
It may be helpful to give a little more detail on the genesis of the definition; it is based on a definition used in the UKIM Act 2020 but changed in a couple of ways. It is wider in that it relates to the technologies and facilities connected to infrastructure, giving the bank the flexibility to provide support to assets, networks or new technology. It does not seek to include social infrastructure, which I will come to, which is not the focus of the institution. It clarifies that climate change technologies, such as nature-based solutions, are in scope. That is what we have aimed to do in writing the definition. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said that the implication is that what has been listed are priorities; we have sought to provide clarity where it is needed, not necessarily to assign priority.
I turn to Amendments 18 and 25 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. Amendment 18 seeks to exclude infrastructure investment in private cars. I ask her to wait until the strategic plan is published later this month for further information on the bank’s focus in this regard. I have been assured that noble Lords will see the strategic plan ahead of Report, which is a useful development. As I have said, the definition of infrastructure is based on the precedent of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 and the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012, and does not have a specific list of exclusions in it. Amendment 25 would include reduction in demand in relation to economic infrastructure in the definition of infrastructure. The bank will invest in clean infrastructure which will, if successful, move demand away from more harmful infrastructure, thereby helping to deliver on the bank’s climate change objective.
Turning now to a number of amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes, I reassure him that, when it comes to Amendment 24 on data transfers, if such a project should arise which meets the bank’s objectives, it would be able to invest under the current definition of infrastructure. However, Amendment 22 on cash infrastructure, Amendments 23, 27 and 31 on social infrastructure and green spaces, and Amendment 26 on skills, go beyond the remit of the bank as the Government have designed it. The bank has been set up to invest in economic infrastructure, as this is where there was the greatest need for a government-backed lending institution. As we have discussed before, this is where there is the greatest scope to crowd-in private finance. That is not to say that the Government are not committed to investing in these areas, but they are dealt with elsewhere and through different mechanisms. For example, as my noble friend will know, the Government recognise the importance of access to cash and are committed to legislating to protect it in the financial services and markets Bill. On skills, the Government are investing a total of £3.8 billion by 2024-25 to support high-quality technical education for 16 to 19 year-olds, boost opportunities for adults to upskill and retrain, and increase apprenticeship funding.
While social infrastructure has been specifically excluded from the bank’s remit, it can be delivered by local planning authorities through the community infrastructure levy and Section 106 planning obligations, and this includes parks and green spaces. As part of our Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, the community infrastructure levy and Section 106 will be reformed and replaced by a new non-negotiable, locally determined infrastructure levy. The Government will bring forward a technical consultation on that new infrastructure levy in due course.
Finally, turning to my noble friend Lord Holmes’s Amendment 13, the bank recognises the importance of infrastructure that is inclusive by design and has rigorous processes in place to ensure that it complies with its legal requirements under the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010. Impacts on protected characteristics are appropriately flagged and assessed before the granting of loans.
I hope the Committee has been reassured that the existing definition of infrastructure allows for investment in many of the areas raised by these amendments today, particularly energy efficiency, which was raised by a large number of noble Lords.
Could my noble friend assure the Committee that she will look again at the inclusion of the diminishing of demand and energy efficiency, which the Climate Change Committee and others have specifically asked for? I think we in this Committee feel universally that that inclusion is necessary. I am sure there is a way of getting to it; I think we need this in the Bill.
My Lords, I commit to the Committee that I and the Government will listen very carefully to our proceedings today and, of course, to the advice from the noble Lord’s committee and other expert advisers to the Government. On the particular discussion we are having on a number of aspects of this Bill, I think we agree on the aims that we want to achieve. We may disagree on the mechanism of it, but that does not mean that the contributions of this Committee will not be taken into account before we get to Report.
I hope that, with all that in mind, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson—oh, I have skipped ahead. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, will withdraw her amendment and that other noble Lords will not move theirs when they are reached.
I thank the Minister for her encouraging, in some respects, response to this rich debate on this important group. I am sure that noble Lords who have flooded into the Chamber for another purpose will be pleased to know that I will not run through all 14 amendments in the group individually.
In welcoming what the Minister said, the Government say that they regard energy conservation and demand reduction as an important part of the bank’s remit. We all find that encouraging, but I am sensing that the broad mood of the Committee, right around these Benches, is that there is still a very strong desire to see that in the Bill.
I also pick up on the point which I guess the Minister made in reference to my amendment on roads. The Minister said—I think I am quoting directly—that “clean air is covered under climate change”. I direct the Minister to the point I made: about half of the particulate matter pollution from vehicles comes from tyres and brakes. That is not a climate change issue but it is very much an air pollution issue, and it needs to be considered.
I have no doubt that we will keep coming back to Amendment 17 on energy efficiency. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, made the important point that this is not just an environmental issue; it is also a poverty reduction issue, and there is a dual benefit from that.
I want to pick up one issue that I think the Minister did not cover, on the points I made about resource use, pollution and novel chemicals. I understand that, as a Treasury Minister, she may not encounter novel chemicals, phosphates and nitrogen cycles on a daily basis. However, I ask her to go and talk to Defra about those issues.
I will return to the whole issue of planetary limits on Report. With expressions of interest around the Committee, I think I will definitely return to the issue of roads on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 10 withdrawn.
Amendment 11 not moved.