All 1 Selaine Saxby contributions to the UK Infrastructure Bank Act 2023

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UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords] Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords]

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments—as I say, I always like to take them on board—but I fundamentally disagree with him, because our amendment would ensure that we take the Bill further. As he once said, the best way to promote UK manufacturing jobs and production is to

“shape regulation to support enterprise.”—[Official Report, 16 November 2021; Vol. 703, c. 438.]

That is exactly what Labour seeks to do with our amendments, so I really hope he will support them. I understand where he is coming from, but our amendments would make sure that we deliver the projects that we need in the UK.

We know that the UK Infrastructure Bank could be a national enterprise. We have a world-leading offshore wind industry in Scotland and on the east coast, hydrogen in the north-west and on Teesside, nuclear power in the south-east, and solar power in the south and the midlands, but the potential of these industries can be realised only if investment stays in the UK. The amendments we have tabled would allow that to happen. The lack of domestic champions has compromised our security and stalled progress, and our amendments would enable the UK Infrastructure Bank to help reverse the trend.

I will speak briefly to the other amendments we are considering today. Labour strongly supported the circular economy and nature-based solutions being on the face of the Bill, and we were disappointed to see the Government remove them, but we are clear that amendment 4 has not been properly thought through. Nothing in it would do anything to improve water company performance or reduce sewage dumping; on the contrary, it would give water companies an excuse to not undertake the necessary improvement works. We will therefore not support it. Labour has set out a clear plan to end the Tory sewage scandal by introducing mandatory monitoring with automatic fines, ensuring that regulators properly enforce the rules, and holding water bosses personally accountable for sewage pollution.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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Does the hon. Lady not agree, having been in the Chamber earlier today, that the Government are already monitoring storm overflows across the country? One of the reasons why we are aware of the size of the problem that we are trying to tackle is because we have increased the monitoring from only 6% a few years ago to nearly 100% now.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
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I am not going to take any advice from the Government. They have been in government for 13 years, and what have they delivered so far? I suggest that the hon. Lady support our amendment, which would ensure that things go through properly.

The devolved Administrations must be included in the development of the UK Infrastructure Bank. I have already mentioned the fantastic wind energy sector that we have in Scotland, and I was excited to read about the opportunities that the bank has identified in Northern Ireland. We do not believe that amendment 2 is necessary to ensure that all regions and nations of the UK benefit from the Bill, so we will not support it.

As we enter another year of low growth and failed Conservative government, we know there is a vital need to invest in the infrastructure of the future. We support the establishment of the UK Infrastructure Bank and have sought to improve the Bill throughout. We want to see stronger objectives and reporting for the bank, so that it can play a role in meeting our net zero targets while creating good jobs across the country and supporting the UK supply chain’s resilience, but what the bank needs most of all from the Government is an ambitious plan. Once again, the Government are on the back foot and U-turning at the last minute with amendment 1, on the bank’s reviews. It is yet another sign that Labour is the party with a plan for government—a party that will grow the economy and create jobs for the future.

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Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith
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My hon. Friend did indeed make his intervention count, because that is a very pertinent point. Of course, the whole purpose of the bank is infrastructure and capability building, and the commitment to regions is at its heart. Regional and local growth are among its core objectives. The more diverse infrastructure we have in all parts of this great United Kingdom, the more we are naturally adding resilience and achieving our objective. Indeed, the strategic steer set by the then Chancellor in March last year makes it clear that the bank must focus on geographic inequalities by reference to the levelling-up White Paper, which includes a comprehensive set of levelling-up objectives and measures and supports the Government’s strategic approach to levelling up. We would rather do that on a portfolio basis than investment by investment, as proposed by the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead.

Amendments 3 and 4, tabled by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Richard Foord), focus on the important issue of water quality. This is an area where the Government do not need any lessons. We are taking the lead in this matter, and are taking the action that the hon. Gentleman’s party and its leader failed to take in coalition. Sometimes one detects the fervour of a convert, or even the working-out of some past guilt about their failure to take action on water.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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It is obviously delightful to have another Devon MP who cares passionately about the environment, as did his predecessor. I cannot help but wonder whether, if the Liberal Democrats were serious about this, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2012 to 2015 might have implemented some of these things. Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that there seems to be a trend of creating opportunities for dodgy graphics and social media content, rather than making serious changes to legislation?

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. It ill behoves a party that aspires to be taken seriously as a force in British politics to be all about clickbait, misleading graphics and half-truths, rather than about, for example, the data, which show that monitoring has increased from just 5% in 2016—a level at which it would be wrong for anyone to characterise themselves as having their arms around this long-standing issue—to more than 90% today. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that it will be 100% by the end of this year. We are the party that is taking action. We are the party that is finding the data, exposing the conduct of the water companies and putting record investment into the sector to solve this long-standing problem. We are the party that provides the solution.

The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton needs to consider whether he wants to be part of the problem or, as we all are, part of the solution. One of his amendments is entirely superfluous, as such a measure is already underwritten by the objectives in the world-leading Environment Act 2021. Only yesterday, we announced ambitious interim targets to deliver those objectives in our environmental improvement plan. I believe that the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber for the statement that preceded this debate. For that reason, we will accept his amendment, because it sits within the actions that we are taking and the commitments that we have made.

Finally, the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) would require explicit consent from the devolved Administration before using powers under clause 2(6) that touch on devolved competence. However, I was pleased when his colleague, John Swinney, the acting Finance Secretary, wrote to me indicating that he was happy with the content of the Bill, and would recommend that the Bill receive a legislative consent motion. Last week, I was even more pleased—imagine my delight—when the Scottish Parliament gave the Bill an LCM. The right hon. Member for Dundee East will see that not just the Government but his colleagues suggest that his amendment is not required by the Government in Holyrood. As a result, I very much hope that he will not seek to push it to a vote.

This is an incredibly important milestone and moment in establishing a new national institution that will deliver real social purpose and make an enormous difference to the lives of our fellow citizens across the United Kingdom. Establishing it today in statute will give the market greater certainty and confidence, and encourage significant private sector investment in all of the bank’s priority sectors. By partnering with the private sector—by mobilising the life force of private capital, the ferocious, problem-solving power of business—in areas that might otherwise struggle to get the investment they require, we will help speed up the transition to net zero and level up the UK. With the exception of amendment 4, which I have indicated the Government will not oppose, I hope Members understand the reasoning—even if they do not agree—that I have set out as to why we cannot accept the amendments and new clauses and that they respect the time of the House and agree not to press them to a vote.