New Clause 22 — Interpretation of the green purposes: duty to assess impact on the Climate Change Act 2008

Relationship, Drug and Alcohol Education (Curriculum) – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 17th October 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

‘(1) In interpreting the purposes in section 1(1)(a) to (e), it is the duty of the UK Green Investment Bank to assess whether the implementation of its investment strategy, or similar document outlining or amending the proposed investment portfolio of the UK Green Investment Bank will, as a whole, increase the likelihood of achieving carbon budgets and greenhouse reduction targets as set out under the Climate Change Act 2008.

(2) In subsection (1), whether or not an investment strategy will increase the likelihood of achieving carbon budgets and greenhouse gas reduction targets shall be assessed compared to a scenario where identified investments or investment categories did not proceed.

(3) In undertaking the assessment required under subsection (1), it is the duty of the UK Green Investment Bank to have regard to the advice and reports of the Committee on Climate Change required under sections 34, 36 and 38 of the Climate Change Act 2008.

(4) The Board must make a decision to adopt or amend its investment strategy or similar document described in subsection (1), unless it is satisfied, as a result of the assessment in subsection (1), that the proposed investment portfolio will, as a whole, increase the likelihood of achieving carbon budgets and greenhouse gas reduction targets under the Climate Change Act 2008.’.—(Mr Iain Wright.)

Brought up, and read the First time .

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 25—The UK Green Investment Bank: prohibition on investment in nuclear power or the nuclear industry

‘The UK Green Investment Bank may not engage in activities that involve facilitating or encouraging investment in nuclear power or the nuclear industry.’.

Amendment 77, page 1, line 11, clause 1, at end add—

‘(3) In undertaking investments in accordance with the green purposes outlined in subsection (1), the UK Green Investment Bank will identify opportunities in which small and medium-sized enterprises can be awarded contracts.’.

Government amendments 1, 2 and 3

Amendment 76, page 3, line 24, clause 4, at end add—

‘(7) Subject to the approval by the European Commission of the State aid notification concerning the establishment of the UK Green Investment Bank, the Secretary of State shall provide the European Commission with State aid notification concerning the intention to allow the Bank to borrow, including borrowing from the capital markets.

(8) The duty in subsection (7) must be fulfilled no later than 31 December 2013.

(9) It is the duty of HM Treasury and the Secretary of State to either—

(a) permit the UK Green Investment Bank to begin borrowing from the capital markets by April 2015, or

(b) to present to Parliament a report within one month of the passage of this Act giving a clear, certain, alternative date for the UK Green Investment Bank to begin borrowing, based on Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts for the public finances and advice from the Green Investment Bank on its need for borrowing powers, both subject to the European Commission approving the State aid notification concerning borrowing.’.

Amendment 89, page 3, line 24, clause 4, at end add—

‘( ) Subject to approval by the European Commission of the State aid notification concerning the establishment of the UK Green Investment Bank, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to provide the European Commission with State aid notification concerning the intention to allow the Bank to borrow, including borrowing from the capital markets.

( ) The duty in the above subsection must be fulfilled no later than 31 December 2013.

( ) In the event the European Commission approves the State aid notification concerning borrowing, it is the duty of the Treasury and of the Secretary of State to permit the Green Investment Bank to begin borrowing from the capital markets no later than 30 June 2015, or, if State aid approval has not been received by that date, no later than one month from the date of approval.’.

Government amendments 4 and 5

Amendment 78, page 4, line 9, clause 6, at end add—

‘(5) The Secretary of State will be required to receive independent expert review of the performance of the UK Green Investment Bank.

(6) The Secretary of State will be required to receive such a review no less than every five years.

(7) An interim review no less frequently than every two and half years.

(8) The independent expert review in subsection (5) must, in particular, include or contain information relating to—

(a) an assessment of the UK Green Investment Bank’s environmental performance in fulfilling the green purposes as set out in section 1.

(b) an analysis of the main trends and factors likely to affect the future development, performance and investments of the UK Green Investment bank,

(c) macroeconomic analysis, including assessments of demand in the UK economy and international factors likely to affect green investment and skills within the relevant industries,

(d) assessment of the competitiveness of the UK Green Investment Bank in securing competitive advantage for the UK in green and low carbon economies relative to other countries, and

(e) recommendations to improve the UK Green Investment Bank’s impact in fulfilling its green purposes in section 1.

(9) Prior to the commencement of a review in relation to subsection (5), the Secretary of State must request the views of—

(a) The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change,

(b) The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

(c) The Committee on Climate Change,

(d) Ministers from the devolved administrations,

(e) investors and interested parties, and

(f) members of the public, and provide a copy of the results of the consultations to the person or persons undertaking the independent review.

(10) The Secretary of State, in the capacity of shareholder, must provide such information as he considers reasonable to enable the person or body undertaking the review to fulfil the requirements of this subsection.

(11) A review made in relation to subsection (5) must be published and laid before both Houses of Parliament.’.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Those hon. Members who served on the Committee will recall that we spent a great deal of time considering whether the green purposes of the green investment bank, as set out in clause 1, were appropriate—namely, whether they were too restrictive or limiting to prevent long-term investment in innovative low-carbon technologies or too wide or broad as to mean that high-carbon investments could not be considered by the bank. As I said, we deliberated over this issue in Committee at length.

Of the five criteria, only one needs to be met to justify the appropriateness of investment by the bank. Was clause 1(1)(b), which refers to

“the advancement of efficiency in the use of natural resources” sufficiently tight and robust to deal with the need to ensure that the green economy and the transition to a low-carbon economy are put into effect? In Committee, I used the example of a gas-fired power station that might be marginally more efficient in its use of the earth’s natural resources given 2012 levels, but might well be seen as hopelessly dirty and inefficient by 2030.

That is the purpose of new clause 22—to deal with concerns that investments by the bank might not be in keeping with its green purposes, or at least the spirit behind those purposes. That is why we thought that making an explicit link with the Climate Change Act 2008 would be the best way for an appropriate balance to be struck between giving the bank the flexibility to consider its investment portfolio and ensuring that it cannot and does not decide to fund high-carbon investments. New clause 22 therefore proposes that the green investment assesses whether its investment portfolio helps the achievement of carbon budget and greenhouse reduction targets as set out under the 2008 legislation.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

We can consider that when hon. Members debate new clause 25. We had considerable debate about it in Committee. The question now is: what is the purpose of the green investment bank? Is to ensure that we can kick-start innovative technologies that cannot have market buy-in, or is it a question of ensuring that the targets set out in the 2008 Act are met? There is a conflict there, which we considered in Committee at some length. I think that there is potential to consider nuclear, certainly in respect of the nuclear supply chain and ensuring that we can achieve these objectives. I am keen to hear the debate over this matter in the next few moments. It is important to probe the Government on whether this is an appropriate avenue for the bank to invest in.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I shall give way to two eminent members of the Public Bill Committee, but I must bear in mind the fact that we do not have time to debate these issues at length.

Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Conservative, Stroud

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that generous introduction. I am glad I stood up when I did. The danger of the shadow Minister’s speech so far is that he is focusing on energy, where, of course, a green investment bank should be considering many other technologies and many other issues than energy. That is one of the problems with new clause 22.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I understand that. The hon. Gentleman will recall that I posed a number of questions in Committee: could the green investment bank invest in forests or in the supply chain for the automotive industry to ensure that we have low-carbon engines? There was a whole range of different debates in Committee, which I thought were useful. As I said, there is a balance to be struck, and that is what new clause 22 is about. Is the aim to achieve what we all want to achieve—igniting, for want of a better term, the green economy—or is the provision too prescriptive? There is a balance between being too broad and too narrow.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

I thank the shadow Minister, but I am a bit disappointed by the tone of his remarks. I want to get clarity about the point that was raised a few moments ago about nuclear, so that I can understand the position of those on the Opposition Front Bench. Would Sheffield Forgemasters, for example, which is a nuclear supply chain company, be eligible for assistance from the bank?

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The hon. Gentleman will recall that I mentioned this issue at length in Committee, when he quite rightly probed me on it. I reiterate my answer to Jonathan Edwards a few moments ago. There is a conflict here. What is the purpose of the green investment bank: is it to ensure that we have innovative technologies where there is current market failure making it difficult to get investment, or is it to ensure that we do as much as possible to tackle carbon emissions, meet low-carbon targets and so forth? Within that, nuclear could be a source of investment.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Before I give way, I should declare an interest in that I have a nuclear power station in my constituency. I would quite like another one, and I think that part of that supply chain could be considered by the green investment bank. I would certainly like more clarity on this from the Government.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To be honest, I do not see this contradiction. Given that nuclear takes so long to get up and running, it is not going to help us to meet our carbon targets fast enough. It also requires Government subsidy, which is why the whole of the EMR—electricity market reform—is being rigged to deal with that. Also, the jobs that we hope the green investment bank will create will surely be jobs that we would like to see here in the UK. If we use the bank to subsidise nuclear, what we are doing is basically subsidising jobs in places like Russia, China and France.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I shall come on to this in a few moments. Because of a huge lack of clarity in the Government’s energy policy—anywhere, but particularly in respect of the renewable energy component—many foreign investors will not view the UK as the destination of choice for investment in any case. We have huge potential to be the market leader for renewable and low-carbon technologies, but I think we are missing a trick when it comes to the scale of ambition and the time scale of the green investment bank. The purpose of the new clause is to probe and challenge the Government to ensure that we make this part of a growth strategy rather than to allow it to happen somewhere in the future in a way that makes it virtually meaningless.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

Given the shortage of time, it may be helpful if I deal with two points now. I can confirm first that the European Commission has granted state aid approval to the green investment bank, and secondly that the Commission strongly discouraged the inclusion of nuclear in our application for state aid. Its inclusion would have delayed approval, and nuclear projects are therefore not in scope in respect of the current application.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I thank the Minister for his clarification. It is somewhat at odds with what was said in Committee by the then Minister, Norman Lamb, but we are where we are—and I am very grateful to the Minister for his announcement about the state aid application, because it gets rid of at least a paragraph of my speech.

Let me now deal with amendment 76, which makes an important point about what the green investment bank should be doing in the light of its potential, the huge opportunities that it provides, and the equally huge scale of the challenge presented by the need for us to decarbonise our economy. If we are to achieve what we want to achieve, we need active government. Working with business, the Government must assess our present comparative advantage in this sector, and work out how we can maintain or enhance that advantage in the future.

There is a huge, pressing need for policy certainty for investors in the green economy, but so far the Government have not been able to provide it, to the detriment of the country’s chances—this is relevant to what was said by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion—and the chances for jobs and growth.

Only last week, seven of the world’s largest energy and engineering firms wrote to the Chancellor asking for greater certainty in energy policy to kick-start green manufacturing investment. The Timesreported that such companies as Siemens, Alstom UK, Mitsubishi Power Systems, Areva, Doosan, Gamesa and Vestas had warned that while they saw

“potential for significant further investment to support the UK’s move to low carbon generation”,

that investment would fail to materialise if the Chancellor and the Government did not take steps to address the high levels of uncertainty and political risk that were afflicting the sector.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I know that the hon. Gentleman is a keen advocate of manufacturing in this country, but we require policy certainty. I hope that he will address the point made in an excellent article by Camilla Cavendish that appeared in The Times last month. She wrote that

“instead of building the equipment in England”,

companies were building offshore wind turbines elsewhere.

“These companies remain uncertain about investing in the UK… the impression that the coalition is split has spooked companies whose boards need to commit capital for 20, 30, 50 years, whether in wind or nuclear power, biomass or solar.”

Is not the lack of the long-term certainty that is so necessary undermining the chances of jobs and growth in this crucial area?

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

I thank the shadow Minister for telling me what I should say in my intervention. What I was going to say was that, although I did not catch the name of every company in the list that he read out, I am pretty sure that the headquarters of all of them are outside the UK—as, by the way, are those of the major manufacturers of offshore wind. And, yes, it is a problem.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

That is why I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman will be supporting our amendment 77—which is intended to promote the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in the supply chain and to ensure that we can realise the great potential of the green economy—and will object to the Government’s amendments 1 and 3, which state that investment can take place not in the UK but elsewhere. As someone who wants to support manufacturing in the UK and the ability of home-grown businesses to provide jobs, growth and export potential for our companies, he will doubtless be supporting us in the Lobbies.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith

Time will be limited for later speeches, so let me say this now. My hon. Friend read out a list of companies that had expressed concern about the mixed messages coming from the Government. I know from private discussions that I have had with people in some of those companies that they are very worried about where the Government are going, and want more clarity. The amendment provides a good way of clearing up the confusion created by the Government, and making their commitment stronger again.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I agree. The same point was made by the CBI, which concluded in a report produced this summer entitled “The Colour of Growth: Maximising the potential of green business”:

“while business wants to keep up the pace, they are equally clear that the government’s current approach is missing the mark, with policy uncertainty, complexity and the lack of a holistic strategy damaging investment prospects.”

The Government and the Minister—when he is listening—must respond to that. They must provide policy certainty so that investment can be made in the UK.

In Committee, when we discussed the green investment bank and its borrowing powers, I said that we had thought long and hard about the issue. At the time the then Minister, the hon. Member for North Norfolk, said:

“The Government have also committed that the Bank will borrow from April 2015”,

although he then qualified that by using the stock phrase

“subject to public sector net debt falling as a percentage of GDP.”—[Hansard, 12 July 2012; Vol. 548, c. 793W.]

However, given the Government’s failures in relation to its own borrowing targets, that commitment is so far from being achieved as to be virtually meaningless. would contend that a deficit reduction plan without an accompanying growth and employment programme is no deficit reduction plan at all.

Ours is one of only two G20 countries in recession. In March, the Office for Budget Responsibility reported that the Government might meet their debt target by the skin of their teeth, but since then borrowing figures have been significantly higher than forecast. The deficit is now going up—borrowing is now going up; it has increased by 22% so far this year, as a direct result of this Government’s policies. Citigroup forecasts that the Treasury may have to borrow £48 billion more than it originally forecast by 2015-16, meaning that the Chancellor’s key fiscal target of having public sector net debt falling as a proportion of GDP by 2015 will not be reached. It is widely anticipated that the Chancellor, in his autumn statement to be held in winter, will have to carry out a humiliating climbdown from that important target of his, based largely on his misguided economic policies.

Where does that leave the green investment bank? At a time when our potential as a leading market for green business is under threat, both from intense overseas competition and from uncertainty from this Government, what impact does this failure of fiscal policy by the Chancellor have on this growth area? That is the context behind our amendment 76. We want the green investment bank to be able to provide a stimulus for growth in our economy as soon as possible, but we are equally mindful of the double-dip recession that the Chancellor’s policies have inflicted on the country. Our amendment would ensure that state aid approval on the green investment bank’s borrowing power would be sought and achieved no later than 31 December 2013. What the Minister has said about that is certainly welcome, but what impact will it have? Does it mean that borrowing will take place earlier than 2015? When does he imagine borrowing from the capital markets will be permitted?

Our amendment proposes that the bank must be able to begin borrowing by April 2015 or, if that is not achievable, Parliament must be provided with a clear and alternative date as to when such borrowing may be permitted, based both on OBR forecasts regarding the state of the public finances and on advice from the green investment bank on the need for borrowing powers to achieve its objectives.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

I wonder why the hon. Gentleman is insisting on that caveat, as the position shared by his Front-Bench colleagues not that long ago was unequivocal in saying that as of June 2015 the bank should be permitted to borrow. The Opposition are now moving away from that position and I simply do not understand why. They are watering down what was there before and is contained in my amendment 89.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

My firm policy commitment is to ensure that we have the green investment bank borrowing as soon as possible, as a stimulus to growth. We were mindful of amendments that we tabled in Committee about that, but we also have to consider the appalling financial mess that the Government are dealing with in respect of increased borrowing. Borrowing was going down prior to the general election, but now it is going up. We do not know what the circumstances will be in 2015, so we need to ensure that there can be certainty, based on the imperative to have the green investment bank borrowing from the capital markets as soon as possible while being mindful of the need for rigour and discipline in the public finances.

Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Conservative, Stroud

Is it not possible that the green investment bank can encourage other private organisations and banks to step in and start contributing to the green economy, as that is really what this is all about? It is about providing the right confidence, on the basis of a framework of some certainty, which the Minister has asked for and the Government are giving.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Absolutely, and that is why the hon. Gentleman will be supporting our amendment 77 and rejecting Government amendments 1 and 3.

If our economy has sectoral strengths, it is right, in an active industrial strategy, for the Government to be looking to maximise those strengths. They also need to seek to develop further capabilities, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, that could lead to greater investment, growth and employment opportunities here in the UK and, we hope, to the exporting, for commercial gain, of some of the work, expertise and capability here. We want economic benefits to flow to companies within the United Kingdom. That is not to defend protectionism, or to deny the need for competition and foreign direct investment, but to ensure that the Government, as part of a fundamental, active, industrial strategy, work with business to see how this country can gain and maintain market advantage.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I cannot resist giving way to the hon. Gentleman again, even though I am conscious of the time, because the manner in which he puts his hand up as if he needs to go to the toilet is so endearing.

Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Conservative, Stroud

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. It is important to understand the length and complexity of supply chains and that we do not tie ourselves down to thinking that the supply chain is just within Britain, as it goes further than that. We need appropriate co-operation from the supply chain in big operations. The Government are rightly focusing on supply chains more generally, but we need to bear that in mind.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Absolutely. I think the hon. Gentleman can go to the toilet now. Recent research has concluded that capital expenditure costs for something as important and significant as offshore wind projects, in which my constituency could play a leading part, could fall by a third in the next decade if a greater proportion of the parts were made in the UK. We need to be mindful of that and the Government must work with business to enhance the supply chain possibilities, opportunities and capabilities in the UK. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman, with the greatest of respect, that that is not happening, largely because of policy uncertainty. That is what amendment 77 is designed to address.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

The hon. Gentleman is talking passionately about policy certainty, yet his amendment 76 reintroduces uncertainty. I cannot emphasise enough that it is amendment 89 that would ensure that the bank would be able to borrow from 2015. It is actually what the Liberal Democrats agreed at their party conference only a few weeks ago. If the hon. Gentleman wants policy certainty, why will he not support amendment 89?

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I know that the Liberal Democrats have such power and significance in the coalition that they will be able to advance that proposal. If it is one of their manifesto or conference commitments, it will certainly happen. That might not look as sarcastic as it should do in Hansard, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The serious and important point at the heart of amendment 76 and amendment 89, tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion, is the question of the extent to which we can have the green investment bank operating at scale as quickly as possible, ensuring that it can borrow from the capital markets as quickly as possible and be a major ingredient in the stimulus for growth while at the same time being mindful of the deterioration in the public finances that has largely been caused by the Government’s economic policies. The emphasis on austerity means that tax receipts are going down and benefit payments are going up, so borrowing figures have had to rise by more than a fifth in the past year alone.

Let me go back to the point made by Neil Carmichael. I mentioned Government amendments 1 and 3 and I find it baffling that the amendments state that investments can be considered

“whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere”.

I fully appreciate and support the need to tackle climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy on an international and multilateral level. The hon. Gentleman was quite right to say that supply chains are somewhat more complex than they would be if they were solely domesticated. How on earth, however, do these Government amendments to an enterprise Bill that was supposedly designed to improve the competitiveness of the UK economy help to stimulate enterprise and economic activity in this sector in Britain? Is there not a huge risk that Britain’s potential as a world leader in this field will be lost as a direct result of the Government’s amendments? I ask the Minister to think again and to reflect on the amendments we have tabled and on the new clause.

As we have only 17 minutes left to debate this subject, which is incredibly important for the future of this country, I shall now take my seat.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

I shall try to answer all the questions that have been asked and then leave some time for further comments from other Members who have tabled amendments and new clauses or who wish to speak.

The green investment bank will play a powerful role in promoting the green economy. What we heard from the Opposition suggested that they had introduced such a measure themselves, but this is a coalition measure that is testament to the coalition. It is widely and strongly supported by Liberal Democrats and Conservatives alike and will, I think, help the UK to make a successful transition to a low-carbon economy. I am pleased to have been able to confirm that the European Commission has allowed the bank to make commercial investments in a wide range of sectors. We are therefore fully on track for the bank to be operational within a matter of weeks.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South 3:45 pm, 17th October 2012

I believe the Minister said that the European permission excludes nuclear power, which forms by far the largest part of low-carbon electricity in this country and is likely to continue to do so. Given that, will he amend the purpose stated in clause 1(1)(a), as it is no longer accurate?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

The application, which has just succeeded, did not include nuclear. We do not plan to amend that purpose, not least because the Bill provides that the bank can, in time and if appropriate, be moved from the public sector into the private sector using secondary legislation, without changes having to be made to primary legislation.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Will the Minister assure the House that when he talks about a powerful institution to support the transition to a green economy, he is talking about a bank that will be able to borrow? I regret that the Bill contains no commitment to that borrowing. If the bank were able to use the public spending allocated as a capital base, it would be able to borrow, and if it were in line with, for example, the Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten in the Netherlands, it would be able to make approximately £150 billion of extensive loans. That would give far greater and more powerful support to the green economy than the funding currently allocated to it.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

The Government have already made a clear commitment that the bank will be able to borrow from April 2015, subject to public sector net debt falling as a percentage of GDP, and the borrowing could take several forms, including from the capital markets. I reiterate that commitment today. Nothing in the Bill prevents that from taking place.

As the Bill stands, the bank is allowed to invest only in activities it considers likely to contribute to the achievement of one or more of the green purposes in the UK. Government amendments 1 and 3 would allow the bank to invest in activities it considers likely to contribute to one or more of the green purposes, whether in the UK or elsewhere. The point about global supply chains has already been made powerfully. The amendments will provide important flexibility in the bank’s future activities. We believe that, for the foreseeable future, the bank’s activities should continue to be in the UK, and the Government and the Secretary of State, as shareholders in the bank, will be able to ensure that that is the case.

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

As I understand it, under the Bill in its current form, the bank would not be able to invest in a project that crossed borders—for example, a cable from the Republic of Ireland to the UK or a North sea supergrid. Am I correct, or will the amendment allow investment in such projects?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

The amendment will allow the bank in future to invest in the UK or elsewhere, but we have amended the bank’s statement of objects in its articles of association so that the bank’s activities are limited to those the board considers will, or are reasonably likely to, contribute in the UK to one of the green purposes. I hope that that answers both questions and addresses the reasonable point made by the Opposition that UK public spending should have a UK focus. We think this is the way to deliver the best of both worlds. The bank’s directors will be required to act in accordance with the company’s constitution to ensure that the bank contributes to the United Kingdom, and there will be flexibility for the future without the need for future primary legislation.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Will the Minister talk us through a scenario in which an investment decision might be made, say, for offshore wind capability, where prices may be cheaper in, say, Germany than in the United Kingdom? Will cost or the achievement of the bank’s purposes be the key consideration? What conflict and tension exist between cost, value for money and the supply chain capability here in the UK?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

Clearly, one reason for establishing a green investment bank is to ensure that it delivers against the green purposes. Of course cost is vital. That is why we are setting up the bank so that it will act on a commercial basis. The crucial point is that it must act in accordance with one or more of the green purposes, otherwise there would be no point in it being a green investment bank.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

For clarity on the point that was made from the Opposition Benches, there is a proposal for a very large wind farm in the Republic of Ireland, whose output would come over to the UK through an interconnector and would therefore hit our green purposes. Could we invest in that scheme in the Republic of Ireland under the Bill?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

I would want to look at the details of the scheme. However, the amendments that we have made to the articles of association refer to the bank contributing in the UK. I would expect, though I cannot formally confirm, that an interconnector would have an impact in the UK as well as on the other side of the Irish sea. I will write to my hon. Friend with more details.

Amendment 2 was tabled in response to a suggestion from Mr Wright that the designation of the bank should be subject to an affirmative resolution of Parliament. We made it clear in Committee that we are looking towards that. We want to ensure that Parliament has the full ability to scrutinise these issues and I hope the Opposition will support that change in arrangements.

Amendments 4 and 5 deal with directors’ pay. The Government have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to ensuring that UK companies apply the highest standards of corporate governance. We have already introduced measures under the Bill to require quoted companies to seek shareholder approval for the directors’ remuneration policy. This change ensures that the bank will abide by these new commitments so that it is treated as a quoted company for the purposes of chapters 4 and 4A of part 10 of the Companies Act 2006, and so that the company is required to seek shareholder approval for the directors’ remuneration policy. This requirement would continue if the bank were one day moved into the private sector. I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the House will support the Government’s commitment to the very highest standards of corporate governance.

Opposition amendments 76 and 89 deal with the bank’s ability to borrow. As I said, the Government committed in Budget 2011 to fund the green investment bank with £3 billion to 2015. This is a serious demonstration of the Government’s green credentials and it is an appropriate level of funding for a new financial institution so that it can build market confidence and show a positive commercial return, while mobilising additional capital for green infrastructure projects in accordance with its green purposes. It is a major injection of capital which underlines our strong commitment to the bank.

We have also already given a clear commitment that the bank will be able to borrow, including from the capital markets. It may help if I explain the legal position in respect of borrowing by the bank. As a company formed under the Companies Act, the bank already has the power to borrow. The bank’s constitution provides, understandably, that the company will not incur borrowing without Government consent. This restriction is imposed by the Secretary of State as shareholder and does not affect the underlying position under company law that the company, as a legal person, has the ability to borrow.

I want to be clear that we are considering carefully the case for the bank borrowing from the capital markets from 2015-16, subject to the caveats I have mentioned. It is too early to make commitments about the level or type of funding. The views of the bank’s board will be an important factor, so we will have to discuss with it the appropriate level and source of future borrowing. We made a firm commitment in Committee to seek state aid approval from the Commission in respect of borrowing before the end of this Parliament. However, we cannot move to seek that approval before we know the mechanism for and quantum of borrowing. The bank’s borrowing will clearly be scored against national debt totals, so it is entirely reasonable for the Government to take that into account as part of our future spending and fiscal plans.

In summary, the Government agree with hon. Members about the importance of the issues relating to the bank’s funding, and their role in highlighting those here is welcome, as the Government want no one to be in any doubt about our serious ambitions for the bank and the green economy. These considerations will clearly be critical to the bank’s future and we will consider carefully how to provide clarity, either through the company’s constitution or by other means, about the legal position with regard to the bank’s borrowing.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

On the other means, will the Minister commit to looking carefully at introducing an amendment in the other place to put that on the face of the Bill?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

We have been very clear about our commitment to allow borrowing and will look at how best to bring that clarity, which I am sure will include discussions with my right hon. Friend and others.

On the amendment relating to small and medium-sized enterprises, we are strongly committed to supporting SMEs and, indeed, are already providing major help to them through, for example, the business growth fund and the regional growth fund. I must declare an interest: a family business with which I am not directly connected is involved in energy efficiency matters. I expect the green investment bank already to benefit SMEs in a number of ways. For instance, some of the smaller funds that have already been set up are likely to generate investments for SMEs, provided that their targeted project size is under £30 million. However, I do not think that introducing a statutory basis would help, not least because it would increase the complexity of decision making in the bank, increase uncertainly and could increase the likelihood of judicial review. Therefore, we cannot support the amendment.

With regard to amendment 78, on the question of independent review, we think that parliamentary scrutiny and the normal corporate law requirements will be important. First, Parliament has a vital role in ensuring that the bank remains green. Secondly, Parliament will oversee the Secretary of State. Thirdly, I have no doubt that the Select Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee will look at the bank, and its accounts and reports will be placed before Parliament. However, it is important to be clear that the bank is a Companies Act company and, as such, directors owe duties to the company rather than directly to Parliament. We dealt with new clause 25 earlier in the debate on nuclear power.

Finally, the green purposes are clearly important as they relate to the essence of the green investment bank and to the company’s green objectives. Our goal is to have a broad definition of what is green. We agree that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a vital objective, which is why four of the five priority sectors relate directly to it. The bank will be required to report on greenhouse gas emissions associated with its own activities and the board has agreed that the bank will also report on the greenhouse gas impacts of its own investments.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because although we have nearly run out of time—we knew we would when the Government voted for the programme motion—I want to put clearly on the record the fact that unless the bank’s ability to borrow is included in the Bill it risks being nothing more than a fund, which would be a tragedy. I say again that if the Liberal Democrats want to vote in line with their own manifesto and their party policy, agreed scarcely a few weeks ago in Brighton, they should support amendment 89, which I would have loved to have pushed to a vote.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills

The Liberal Democrats and, indeed, the Conservatives are supporting this with £3 billion of Government and taxpayers’ money, and that demonstrates their commitment. However, we need a balance. The new clause would increase again the chance of judicial review. Nevertheless, while we are clear that the overall goal must be carbon emissions, we do not want to rule out other investments, some of which were mentioned by the shadow Minister, and support for wider green measures. We will therefore consider tabling a further Government amendment in the other place to clarify the point that is raised in the new clause.

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 16 October ).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

The House divided: Ayes 220, Noes 292.

Division number 78

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means

I now have to announce the result of the deferred Division on the question relating to the order on the abolition of the Commission for Rural Communities. The Ayes were 301 and the Noes were 211, so the Ayes have it. I also have to announce the result of the deferred Division on the question relating to sulphur contents and marine fuels. The Ayes were 479 and the Noes were 33, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).