[Mr David Crausby in the Chair] — Backbench Business — Green Investment Bank

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:16 pm on 29th October 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 3:16 pm, 29th October 2015

Well, the shadow Minister should see the list of questions I have been asked, not least by the shadow Minister himself. I will try to answer those questions and, if I fail, Mr Wright can intervene at the end.

I was asked whether the management of the Green Investment Bank would prefer a statutory lock. The chief executive officer allegedly said that he is “agnostic” about privatisation, but he did say that he prefers a statutory lock. He also said that he wants the ability to raise funds from the private sector, and he understands the need to remove the statute and the statutory constraints.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness asked how the shareholder framework document will change. Clearly, the framework document will need to change as the shareholding changes. When the bank was set up in 2012, the document’s primary purpose was to set out that the bank should operate independently so that the Government could not interfere in its investment decisions and to ensure the bank’s green ethos. Privatisation will further increase that operational independence, but the bank’s green ethos is now entrenched. The Green Investment Bank is what it is, and it is what is in its business plan, which will be a material document in the shareholder subscription round.

My hon. Friend also asked whether the market failures that the bank was set up to address have now improved to such an extent that we no longer feel the bank needs to operate in the same way. He is right that the bank was set up shortly after the banking crisis in the depths of the dark period of 2010, 2011 and 2012, when the economy was moving very slowly, to rectify a lack of long-term liquidity in the market. It is true that long-term funding for infrastructure projects has recovered strongly, as illustrated by the data I gave earlier. There was a lack of specialist green infrastructure investors, particularly at scale, which is what the bank has now become. The bank has helped to support such infrastructure projects, and we intend that the bank will remain a specialist green investor after privatisation. That is what the bank does, and it is what an acquirer will be buying. We want to let the bank off the leash to do more of that.

Caroline Lucas, who is no longer in her place—she gave her apologies—asked whether a profit-maximising bank would be in danger of crowding out investment because it would be just like any other bank. In fact, the Green Investment Bank is already profit maximising; it has turned its first profit. It exists to prove that it is possible to be green and profitable. That is in the bank’s very DNA; we want to show that the green economy is a real economy. That is how we will attract the private sector capital that we need. The GIB’s expertise can do so regardless of whether it is in the private or the public sector, of course, but we want to give it the freedom to raise that money.

The hon. Lady also asked whether other countries are copying us. It is true that we were in the vanguard when the Conservative-led coalition set up the Green Investment Bank, and we have been copied. It is our ambition to be in the vanguard as we take the market forward. We need to raise not just hundreds of millions or billions, but tens of billions—actually, over the next decade or so, we need to raise hundreds of billions—of money for green infrastructure. There is no way that any Government could fund all of it, even if they wanted to. We need to go to the next stage by leading private sector capital into the market.

Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness, asked whether the bank cannot raise debt anyway, and whether we had explored all the options. The truth is that equity raising by the bank will effectively score like debt to the public sector once that equity is invested, so this is not just about debt, but about ensuring that the bank has the right financial mix to operate. My hon. Friend also asked about the European fund for strategic investments, a £300 billion pot for capital raising, and whether the bank will still be encouraged and able to access that money.

The Government are aware of the European funding for infrastructure investment, and are examining how best to make use of that facility—my hon. Friend makes a good point. In our view, that does not alter the case for moving the bank into private ownership. We absolutely need to ensure that it can access funding. The Government and devolved Administrations are actively considering, along with other UK institutions, how they can work alongside the bank to maximise the impact for the bank and others of accessing that European funding. The EFSI guarantee can be used by the bank to co-invest in and co-finance with both public and private institutions, so privatising the bank does not in itself preclude benefiting from the European fund.