Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 11th September 2020.

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Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Conservative, Darlington 12:31 pm, 11th September 2020

My hon. Friend, too, highlights the excellent contributions this morning from our hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford.

The Conservative manifesto that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends stood on made ambitious commitments on the environment, many of which placed the emphasis on community-driven initiatives. It is right that this Government, and any future Government, be held to account over their environmental duties. These will include meeting the net-zero target by 2050 and the long-term, legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water resources, and waste and efficiency that will be established under the Environment Bill.

In the 25-year environment plan, the Government committed to developing a nature recovery network, and in the long term, to creating and restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside existing protected sites. A new framework for community-led nature recovery strategies will also be legislated for in the Environment Bill, to support the nature recovery network and better direct investment into the environment and green infrastructure, creating places that are richer in wildlife and provide wider benefits for local communities. The Government will also establish the £640 million nature for climate fund, which will be used to dramatically increase community-led tree planting schemes in England. Indeed, more than 40 million trees will be planted to bolster carbon capture. More research is currently being undertaken into the most appropriate species to plant across the country.

In the 2020 Budget, the Government’s record of supporting green business was made clear. I am grateful to the Chancellor for outlining a £552 million fund for consumer incentives for ultra-low emission vehicles and a reduction in taxes on zero-emission vehicles. In the Tees Valley, our excellent Conservative Mayor, Ben Houchen, has led on hydrogen-powered vehicles—from cars, buses, trains and lorries to e-scooters—and sustainable, community-driven economic growth. It is clear that, over the coming years, the Tees Valley will become a shining beacon of how businesses can sustainably grow, with the right legislative backing, to pursue local policy for local people. Teesside is also leading the way in carbon capture and storage through Net Zero Teesside, a huge intervention, with global companies coming together to address the green agenda.

I understand that the Government have already responded to the concerns of those in the mutual sector by taking steps to review our current regulatory arrangements. The Treasury is reviewing the regulatory arrangements that are in place for the issuance and marketing of non-transferable debt securities such as some mini-bonds. I look forward to the outcome of the review, and I am assured that Ministers will give appropriate consideration to the creation of any capital instrument with similar characteristics to mini-bonds.

Similarly, I welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement in the 2020 Budget that the Government would bring forward legislation to allow credit unions the opportunity to offer a wide range of products and services. Credit unions are a form of financial mutual, and I am proud to support the fantastic work of the Darlington Credit Union. I hope that the hon. Member for Cardiff North welcomes that news, as I am assured that it will help us to continue to grow sustainably over the longer term, while providing a pivotal role in financial inclusion over the coming years for the mutual sector.