Green Investment Bank - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:53 pm on 1st November 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My Lords, on 3 March this year the Government launched the Green Investment Bank sale process and it is currently ongoing. I can inform the House that good progress is being made. In particular, yesterday the GIB announced the names of the special share trustees appointed to be the custodians of its green purposes, and I congratulate the noble Lord on his selection as a trustee. The Government will provide a full report to Parliament once the sale is completed.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee

I thank the Minister for her reply and for the good work she has done in this area. Will the Government put additional conditions into the contract for sale to ensure not just that the green purposes are kept for the bank, but that it does not become a shell company with those investments placed elsewhere to avoid such constraints, and that the bank will continue to invest in the UK green economy so that it can continue to thrive?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

In addition to the special share, which will protect GIB’s green mission, the Government have asked potential investors to confirm their commitment to the GIB’s green values and its investment principles, and explain how they propose to protect them. Green investment is, of course, what the GIB does—it is in its DNA. Investors will buy into its reputation, its green business plan and forward pipeline of projects, all of which are focused on the UK, although there could be international potential as well.

Photo of Lord Mendelsohn Lord Mendelsohn Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (International Trade)

My Lords, we welcome the appointment of the trustees to ensure the Green Investment Bank will retain its green mission under new ownership, and we warmly applaud the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. The crucial ability of the trustees to exercise this vital role now depends on the contracts and corporate arrangements between the buyer and seller. Will the Minister confirm that the trustees will have access to the transaction, contract and documents, and some funds for expert legal advice, to ensure that they can do the job this House voted for?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The trustees will have all they need to do their job, but the noble Lord will of course recall from our lengthy and useful discussions during the passage of the Bill that their role relates to the articles of association, ensuring that the green purposes of the bank are maintained. That is where they come in: they are not envisaged as a management board for the GIB, whether in its current state or whatever. They have an important role to play.

Photo of Viscount Ridley Viscount Ridley Conservative

My Lords, are green investments judged by their results or their intentions?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The GIB is a commercial operation. It has it purposes, and it judges where it should make investments. What we have in the GIB—a world first—is a dedicated green investment bank, which we should celebrate and which a number of bidders have showed an interest in acquiring so it can move forwards and expand.

Photo of Baroness Featherstone Baroness Featherstone Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

My Lords, I was very pleased to hear the Minister say that a number of bidders are interested, because my understanding was that there is only one serious bidder. Am I right? If so and there is only one, would it not be better to wait for a better purchase price?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Given the commercial sensitivity of the sale process, I am sure the noble Baroness will understand that I cannot comment on the identity of any bidders. They have been required to sign confidentiality agreements, as is appropriate. As I have said, there will be an announcement once a deal is signed, and the Government will provide a full report to Parliament on the sale, proceeds and so on when the sale is completed.

Photo of Lord Geddes Lord Geddes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Will my noble friend allow me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who, unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, asked his supplementary without a note in his hand?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I agree with my noble friend that this is an excellent example of good practice.