New Clause 1 - Businesses and bodies the Bank invests in

UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 22nd November 2022.

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“(1) The Bank must publish an annual report setting out—

(a) the geographical spread of businesses and bodies it invests in, and

(b) the ownership of the businesses and bodies it invests in.

(2) The Bank must prepare and publish a “Good Jobs” plan for all businesses and bodies it invests in, which requires the business or body to improve productivity, pay, jobs and living standards.”—

This new clause ensures that the Bank considers the location and ownership of the businesses and bodies it invests in and only invests in businesses and bodies who create “Good Jobs” plans to improve productivity, pay, jobs and living standards.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

I beg to move, that the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 1 supports amendment 23. It would require the bank to publish an annual report setting out the geographical spread of the businesses and bodies it invests in, and their ownership. To be clear, amendment 23 required the independent review, conducted over longer time frames, to consider those points. Our new clause requires the bank to report annually on those matters.

Subsection (2) of new clause 1 would require the bank to publish and invest in a good jobs plan for all businesses and bodies, which requires the business or body to improve productivity, pay, jobs and living standards. Before the Minister objects, I will say that the wording might be familiar to members of the Committee, particularly Conservative members, because it is the same wording they voted to remove from the Bill earlier in Committee. The wording will be familiar to Conservative Committee members because it is the first mission of the Government’s levelling-up agenda. Given their voting record in this Committee so far, I am not sure it is something they are committed to any more, but I am sure they can agree that they want the UK Infrastructure Bank to create highly-skilled, well-paid jobs in their constituencies and across the country. I know that constituents in Erith and Thamesmead want to see better job opportunities, whether for young people or older people who are looking to reskill and retrain.

As I said earlier, we do not believe in growth for growth’s sake. We believe in growth because it creates jobs and improves living standards. With fairer choices, we see our economy growing again, powered by the talent and effort of millions of working people and thousands of our businesses. Our new clause would ensure that the bank plays its part in its mission, creating new industries across the country and working hand in hand with businesses to create jobs for the future. Before the Committee concludes, I want to take the opportunity to make some closing remarks and thank some people.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Order. That is normally done after we finish this bit. Points of order are normally done at the end.

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

New clause 1 would oblige the bank to publish an annual report addressing the geographical spread and ownership of the bodies the bank invests in, as well as a good jobs plan for all businesses and bodies it invests in, which requires the business or body to improve productivity, pay, jobs and living standards. It is similar to amendment 23, which has fallen, although it would require reporting after the event rather than a review. Many of my earlier points about amendment 23 remain pertinent. The bank already reports on its investments and will publish a summary in its annual report and accounts. The bank is capturing data on location in its deal assessments and will consider how best to report publicly on location for future investments.

As discussed earlier, the nature of an infrastructure investment means that it is difficult to hide. They tend to be fairly visible and tangible and we would all be able to work out exactly where those millions of pounds of capital had been deployed. I reassure hon. Members that the bank is subject to freedom of information requests in the usual way, which I understand is a painless process by which one can readily find out information. [Interruption.] The legislation was not brought in by this Government, so if it is deficient, it is not on our watch.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

The Minister says that it is open to individuals to put in freedom of information requests. I do not understand why the Minister would encourage that when our new clause would make things a lot easier and more transparent. It takes a lot of time to do the paperwork associated with FOI requests, so the new clause would save staff from having to do that extra admin work. In setting up the bank, why does the Minister want it to take on those extra responsibilities? It makes no sense.

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

It remains my contention that it is simply not necessary for this barnacle to be adhered to this particular ship as it steams out on its levelling-up mission across the UK, taking us on the path to net zero.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Scottish National Party, Glasgow East

If I understand it correctly, the Minister’s objection to new clause 1 is that the bank would already be doing quite a lot of reporting anyway—by a nod of the head, he is acceding to that. If the Government oppose further reporting, I presume that they object to new clause 1 because they have undertaken an impact analysis of it. Could he place that impact assessment in the Library so that Members can see it, and perhaps the new clause could be brought back on Report?

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is not a Government new clause. If anyone wishes to conduct an impact assessment of it, they are very welcome to do so, but it was not tabled by the Government.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Scottish National Party, Glasgow East

Does that mean that the Minister is objecting to the new clause purely because it was tabled by the Opposition, rather than based on evidence?

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Our position has been very consistent. I understand that it may not be the position of the Opposition, and it is no worse for that. Our position is that statute is not the be-all and end-all. The most important thing is that we get this bank up and running, delivering on its outcomes, and that we do so in good fashion, with the minimum, not maximum, amount of extra statute.

The new clause contains two elements, so I will turn briefly to the other point nested in it, which is the good jobs plan. The bank is already committed to pursuing good environmental, social, resilience and governance policy. We do not feel that adding extra statutory requirements in this particular case is the right decision. The bank will be reporting on the number of jobs created as one of its key performance indicators and will be working up measures on productivity as well as setting out the impact of its assessments, on which we will all hold it to account. With that, I ask the Opposition to withdraw their new clause.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

I am afraid that I will not be withdrawing the new clause. It is a sensible new clause and I urge all members of the Committee to support it, so I wish to push it to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division number 10 UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords] — New Clause 1 - Businesses and bodies the Bank invests in

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

On a point of order, Mr Bone. I thank all members of the Committee for our robust debate. I am sure that we agree through our different channels that we want the best for this Bill and for our constituents. I hope people take on board the fact that we have been making recommendations that we feel are best for the country.

I thank the Minister for answering our questions. I am disappointed that some of our amendments have been voted against, but I accept that the Minister is going to look at some of our recommendations on some clauses, in terms of the annual review. That is very important. Seven years is a very long time.

I thank the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire for his detailed analysis and his amendments. I thank the Chairs of both sittings, Mr Davies and Mr Bone, who have guided the Committee with skill. At times, you have been very firm, but rightly so. I thank the Clerks, Amna Bokhari and Bethan Harding, who have been invaluable. I thank colleagues, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North and our Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon, and look forward to seeing what comes out of this next.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Scottish National Party, Glasgow East

Further to that point of order, Mr Bone. Following the remarks of the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead, I thank all hon. Members for their contributions, and you as Chair, Mr Bone, and the Clerks and the officials. I thank in particular the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire. I think we knew it was unlikely that he would sacrifice his position in the governing party by voting against the Government, but his amendments were helpful in provoking discussion. I know that a number of my colleagues on Bill Committees this afternoon will not have the luxury of finishing at 3 o’clock. On that basis, I thank everybody present for the speedy way in which the Bill has passed through the House and look forward to the further stages and to any remaining t’s being crossed and i’s dotted.

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Further to that point of order, Mr Bone. I echo the comments of the hon. Member for Glasgow East and commend the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead for her graciousness and diligence. It is fully understood on this side of the Committee that Opposition Members do not have the same support as that provided to Ministers by officials. A great deal of diligence goes into preparing amendments and advocating them. The hon. Member for Ealing North is always a strong advocate for his party’s position. I thank my officials for their work in preparing and presenting the Bill. I thank you, Mr Bone, and your officers. I hope my colleagues will not mind me singling out my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire for bringing a certain je ne sais quoi to proceedings, and for advancing his own cause.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose.

Written evidence reported to the House

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