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Report (3rd Day)

Part of Infrastructure Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 10th November 2014.

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Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, The Arctic Committee 8:30 pm, 10th November 2014

My Lords, I welcome this amendment and I was pleased to add my name to it both in Committee and now on Report. The important point to make is that my noble friend Lord Hodgson is absolutely right: if we do not put this on to the statute book as something that can happen, the temptation will pass and it will be as if it never happened. That is why I am keen that it should be done now.

I should say just as an observer, if you like, that it is very easy to expand government expenditure and very difficult to pull it back. It is easy to find uses for income if it is there, but perhaps those uses are not always the best for our long-term future. It is easy when there are financial and fiscal constraints of the kind the country is confronting at the moment, but that is not always the case. It is hoped that we will get over the current deficit at some point in the not too distant future. That is why it is important to prepare for a sovereign wealth fund so that we can build it up in an intergenerational way, as has been advocated already.

The other aspect is completely different and not at all the most important. In the last parliamentary Session this House set up a Select Committee to investigate the nature of soft power. I was not a member of the committee, but it seems to me that countries with sovereign wealth funds exercise considerably more soft power in global affairs. That is not surprising because money talks—not just within the family or in business, but across nations as well. Why does Norway enjoy its stature? It is in part because of its sovereign wealth fund. The same can be said for a number of Gulf states and for China. In terms of Britain’s status in the future, we would gain quite considerably if we were seen to be a country that is able to save, invest and exert influence financially beyond our borders in this way rather than one that just keeps its current account going through non-renewable resources that cannot be brought back. That is why I feel strongly that we should at least take the step of this enabling legislation and then let future Governments decide how it should be used.