Amendment 1

Part of UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 4 July 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 3:45, 4 July 2022

My Lords, I rise to speak in particular to my Amendment 9, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his support. I very much agree that climate change means that we cannot be building new roads, although big issues of air pollution are of course also addressed in this group.

I have to begin, since I do not get the chance to do it very often, by commending the Government on their amendment on energy efficiency. It demonstrates the sentiment of our debate in Committee—and indeed throughout the House and the country—and shows that campaigning really does work. Let us see lots more of it.

Essentially, I agree with everything the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, have said, so I will not repeat those points. However, we are increasingly hearing from the Government about the importance of biodiversity and the state of nature. Indeed, I had the pleasure recently of attending an event at the Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Show & Conference, at which the Government and Members of this House and the other place expressed their concerns and spoke of the importance they place on restoring nature. Surely, the Infrastructure Bank should be explicitly directed to do that.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, we are talking about sending a message to the bank and to the country about the importance of biodiversity in nature, and we can also look to the international stage. We see reports expressing grave concern about the state of the COP 15 biodiversity talks, and the entire nature community is screaming out for leadership in those talks. Clearly, as the chair of COP 26, it should be our responsibility to lead the way. As the noble Baroness said, if the Government are saying, “We already mean this anyway”, what is the harm in including such a provision in the Bill and sending that message out to the international community as well as to the country?

On the circular economy amendment, in Committee I tabled an amendment calling for a reduction in resource use. In the interests of efficiency and time—and given that I was not getting many positive signals from the Government—I did not table it this time, but I think the Government will come back to this issue so that we can make at least some progress on it. Explicit support for a circular economy, which is a necessary but not a sufficient condition, given that we continue to treat the planet as a mine and a dumping ground, is essential in order to see some progress. We will certainly see the other place pushing on the question of resource use.

My Amendment 9 is a modest amendment, and it is perhaps worth making clear what I mean by it. I am very happy if the Government want to look at using different terminology, but I point out that what I mean by “roads” is major stretches of roadway. I do not mean tracks up to new onshore windfarms, government enthusiasm for which we are finally seeing signs of in the media, which is greatly encouraging. If the Government wish to find another form of wording, I point out that, clearly, what I am referring to is major road infrastructure. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, the climate emergency does not allow that. This issue crosses over with the clean air amendments in this group, and the issues of disadvantage that we are going to discuss in the next one. Broadly speaking, air quality is worst in the poorest, most disadvantaged areas of the country. New roads are the last thing those areas need, as they would make the air quality even worse.

To say that the Infrastructure Bank is not for roads but for mass transport should be considered uncontroversial. It is not my intention to put the amendment to a vote, but this is a debate that will continue in the other place. I commend all these amendments to your Lordships’ House.