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

Part of Relationship, Drug and Alcohol Education (Curriculum) – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 17th October 2012.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 3:30 pm, 17th October 2012

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.