Baroness Hayman debates involving HM Treasury during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 13th Nov 2023
Tue 27th Jun 2023
Financial Services and Markets Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 19th Jun 2023
Tue 13th Jun 2023
Thu 8th Jun 2023
Tue 6th Jun 2023
Tue 14th Mar 2023
UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments

Pension Investments

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(4 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Chancellor and indeed the Government have put forward a number of reforms to ensure that we make the UK the best place not only to raise capital but to invest pensions in future. As I am sure the noble Lord has seen, we have been delivering on the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, for overhauling the UK’s prospectus regime, we have been looking at the recommendations of Rachel Kent’s investment research review and we have been developing a new type of trading venue that will act as a bridge between private and public markets. We can be innovative, but this is a process of evolution not revolution.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as in the register. In their green financial strategy, the Government recognised that clarifying the fiduciary duties of pensions investors, which could help to increase support for long-term and sustainable investment in the UK, was needed. When will the Financial Markets Law Committee, which is reviewing the clarity of the law relating to fiduciary duty, be publishing its report?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this issue, about which I had a meeting last week with a number of fund managers. Some felt that the fiduciary duty needs to be changed, while others were content with it. The Government remain committed to considering how the fiduciary duty can be clarified. The financial markets group that she referenced is independent of government and includes various law firms and pension schemes. We look forward to the publication of its final report, but, as I say, it is independent of government and it will publish its report when it is ready.

King’s Speech

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Monday 13th November 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as chair and a director of the associated company Peers for the Planet. I will follow the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, in two respects. The first is to start with a positive and welcome the measures in the gracious Speech in relation to smoking and finally achieving a generation that will be smoke-free in this country. The second respect is that I will also be speaking on issues relating to climate and energy.

As the noble Baroness said, there are two separate, and arguably contradictory, elements relating to these issues in the Government’s proposals. First, there is the plan to mandate annual licensing for North Sea oil and gas drilling, which is a specific policy proposal to be underpinned by legislation. In contrast, we have much a more high-level and aspirational commitment to

“seek to attract record levels of investment in renewable energy sources and reform grid connections”

as well as to

“lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss”

and

“support developing countries with their energy transition”.

These are high ambitions, but with no accompanying legislation or specific policy initiatives.

I have grave concerns about both sets of proposals: on the first, whether it is quite simply wrong in principle; and, on the second, whether it is mere words without the necessary substance behind them. Nowhere is there a commitment, which we need so badly, to provide a comprehensive, effective energy transition plan against which government proposals and government progress can be assessed.

I do not dispute, and I do not think anyone does, that we need existing oil and gas now and in the immediate future, and residual amounts once the majority of the grid is decarbonised, but the annual licensing regime proposed by the Government is, according to the FT, unlikely to reverse the dwindling reserves, a poor use of parliamentary time, and

“particularly short-sighted, given the volume of private capital globally now looking for a home in supporting the green transition”.

Last week the United Nations Environment Programme’s powerful Production Gap Report 2023 concluded:

“There is a need for governments to adopt both near- and long-term reduction targets for fossil fuel production and use”.


Yet our Government seem to be going in the opposite direction.

We will not achieve an orderly energy transition and meet ambitious electrification targets based only on top-line commitments and assertions for the future. We need serious plans led by government in partnership with industry, explained properly to the public, that are long-term in nature and accountable in their governance. That means key milestones, robust measures against which progress can be assessed, and clear roles and responsibilities. It means addressing the current woeful absence of comprehensive plans to address energy demand and efficiency, and a serious plan will need to address the fundamental lack of equity in our tax and subsidy regimes for investing in fossil fuels versus renewables and other clean technologies. It cannot be right that oil and gas companies receive a 29% investment allowance, which can rise to 80% for building new infrastructure, whereas renewable energy producers receive no investment allowance whatever. To put it simply, our taxation provisions favour the building of oil rigs over wind farms. I hope that when the Minister responds she will undertake to look at financial provisions to incentivise clean energy and support the move away from high-polluting, expensive and ultimately insecure fossil fuels.

The Prime Minister has committed to putting accountability and long-term decision-making at the heart of his Government. Without a transparent and robust transition plan that drives up renewables and exits fossil fuels, there is neither long-termism nor accountability. Industries and individuals in multiple sectors deserve to understand the Government's proposals for shifting our country’s energy profile and the implications and opportunities in green growth for those industries and individuals. If we wish to continue to lead globally, as the Government say they do, other countries need to see us doing this, and doing it well, at COP 28 and beyond.

Baroness Penn Portrait The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury (Baroness Penn) (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move Motion A and, with the leave of the House, will also speak to Motions B and C. I am grateful to all noble Lords for their considered scrutiny of the remaining issues in front of us today and throughout the Bill’s passage.

I will speak first to Lords Amendments 7 and 36, and I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Boycott, in particular, for their leadership on these issues during the passage of the Bill.

The UK is a global leader in sustainable finance. The Government’s ambition to support the growth of this important area is demonstrated by the amendment relating to sustainability disclosure requirements made on Report, and the amendments in lieu of Amendments 7 and 36 introduced during Commons consideration.

I turn first to Lords Amendment 7. The regulators have an important part to play in supporting the Government’s ambitions, which was demonstrated by the inclusion of the net-zero regulatory principle at introduction. The Government have reflected carefully on the calls to ensure that the regulatory framework also reflects the Government’s nature targets.

While I welcome the intention behind Amendment 7, the Government cannot accept this amendment because it is too broad and therefore too open to interpretation. We have therefore brought forward Amendments 7A, 7B and 7C in lieu of Amendment 7, which add the relevant and well-defined targets made under the Environment Act 2021 to the new regulatory principle. It is important to recognise that addressing climate change and nature issues is not the regulators’ primary function, which is, broadly, to advance their objectives, including to protect the integrity of the financial markets and the safety and soundness of firms within the financial system and to deliver appropriate protection for consumers. Most of the levers for reaching our net- zero and environmental targets sit outside the regulators’ remit and control.

The amendments in lieu will ensure that, when acting to advance their objectives, the regulators will be required to consider the Government’s commitments to achieve the net-zero emissions target and the environment targets. I assure noble Lords that the amendments do not weaken the requirement for the regulators to consider the Government’s net-zero target. FSMA requires the regulators to act in a way that advances their statutory objectives when carrying out their general functions. When advancing their objectives, the regulators must also have regard to the regulatory principles, which aim to promote good regulatory practice.

It is for the independent regulators to decide how best to meet the requirements placed on them in legislation when discharging their general functions. The drafting of the amendments in lieu makes this clear: the regulators are required to have regard to the regulatory principle only in so far as it is relevant to advancing their objectives. This does not change the effect of the net-zero requirement, but the Government considered that this additional language was needed, alongside expanding the principle, to make this point clear and to ensure consistency. I am confident that the Government’s approach meets the intended effect of Amendment 7, and I hope noble Lords will acknowledge it as a significant step to further support the growth of sustainable finance in the UK.

I turn to Lords Amendment 36 on deforestation-linked financing. As I set out on Report, the Government again support the intention behind this amendment. The policy considerations for tackling the financing of deforestation risk commodities are complex. We are grateful for the work of the Global Resource Initiative and in particular its report on this issue from May 2022. This emphasised the need to take a staged approach and that further exploratory work would be needed to investigate the implementation of a prohibition on the financing of the use of prohibited forest risk commodities.

The Government have therefore brought forward Amendment 36A in lieu of Amendment 36, which commits the Treasury to undertake a review to assess whether the financial regulatory framework is adequate for the purpose of eliminating the financing of illegal deforestation and to consider what changes to the regulatory framework may be appropriate. This will ensure that any intervention is scoped appropriately and that the UK moves in lockstep with our international partners to ensure the effectiveness of any regime in tackling the financing of illegal deforestation.

The Treasury will be required to undertake this review within nine months of the first relevant regulations under Schedule 17 to the Environment Act being made. This will enable the Government to reflect those regulations in the review, which is essential if we are to have a joined-up and effective approach.

As the Government set out in the updated green finance strategy, we will convene a series of round tables this year. These will form the basis of a taskforce to drive forward the work of this important review and support the development of clear conclusions. This will complement the Government’s existing commitment to explore how best the final Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures—or TNFD—framework should be incorporated into the UK policy and legislative architecture. As the GRI report acknowledged, the developing work of the TNFD is increasingly important, especially as it has now included recommendations relating to deforestation in its draft standards.

Following the review, the Government will consider what further action is appropriate to progress the goal of eliminating the financing of illegal deforestation. The Bill and the existing provisions in FSMA provide the Treasury with extensive powers, including through the regulated activities order or the designated activities regime, to bring new activities into the scope of regulation if needed.

Finally, I turn to Lords Amendment 10. As the Economic Secretary set out yesterday, and as I set out on Report, the Government cannot accept this amendment. While I acknowledge the intention behind it, I reiterate the point that financial inclusion is a complex societal issue that cannot be solved through financial regulation alone. The Government are committed to the aim of ensuring that people, regardless of their background or income, have access to useful and affordable financial products and services. The Government’s view is that the FCA’s current and ongoing initiatives around financial inclusion demonstrate that it can already effectively support the Government’s leadership on this agenda through its existing operational objectives and regulatory principles.

Parliamentary scrutiny of the introduction of the new secondary growth and competitiveness objectives for the regulators comes after two consultations on the Future Regulatory Framework Review and extensive engagement with industry and other stakeholders. It is not appropriate to amend the regulators’ objectives, which are crucial to the effective regulation of financial services in the UK, at this late stage of the Bill’s passage without due consultation. Furthermore, the FCA’s new consumer duty, which comes into force on 31 July, seeks to set a higher and clearer standard of care that firms owe to their customers, and includes a new principle requiring firms to act to deliver good outcomes for consumers. It is important that the sector is given the opportunity to embed these important new requirements before considering further action of a similar nature.

I ask noble Lords not to insist on Amendments 7, 10 and 36 and to agree with the Commons in their Amendments 7A, 7B, 7C, and 36A in lieu. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register, and will speak to Amendment 7A. I thank the Minister and her team for the considerable efforts that have been put in, since the Bill left this House, to find a way to respond positively to the issues raised in my original amendment, which was supported from all sides of the House. As the Minister knows, the central issue was that of providing a clear legislative basis for financial regulators to act, not only on our climate change duties, which the Government themselves recognised and included in the original Bill, but in relation to our duties relating to the natural environment.

This issue is seen as important in Parliament but also outside it. The inclusion of nature was supported both by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta and, in a statement last week, by a group of eight leading financial firms. I am extremely pleased that the Government decided not to try to completely overturn the amendment but to introduce the amendment we have before us now, the basis of which the Minister has just explained. It recognises that the importance of climate should go alongside the importance of nature, which was not there originally.

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD)
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My Lords, I join in the thanks to the Minister, who has been very generous with her time, as has the Bill team, and who provided us with explanations and listened to our issues and concerns. I also give particular thanks to my noble friends Lord Sharkey and Lady Bowles on my Benches, who bring extraordinary expertise and analysis to all these issues. They covered for me while I was recovering from surgery, and I very much appreciate their willingness to pick up and carry that burden.

I join in the good words about the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. He has been an absolute stalwart on this entire portfolio. He is phenomenal in dealing with statutory instruments especially—an area that most of us avoid. I will miss the opportunity to be with him on these Benches, as it were, when these issues come forward again. He might have made a very good leader of the Labour Party, I should say. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and the noble Lord, Lord Livermore, for the final stages and their close working. The Cross Benches have been quite exceptional on this Bill, as, frankly, have some on the Back Benches of the Conservative Party. It has been an excellent example of cross-party working in the interests of better governance.

A striking feature of the Bill has been that common concern, particularly focused on the issues of parliamentary scrutiny and the accountability of regulators to Parliament. There have been modest steps to improve the Bill on those issues, but there is a great deal more to be done. I remain concerned, as do my Benches, about the risk being injected back into the financial services sector, but again, that is business for another day. We hope that the Bill will go through unamended in the other House. The improvements that come particularly from Peers for the Planet and from those involved in financial inclusion have been important. Again, my thanks to the attendants and the others who have supported us so well throughout this entire process.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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I join in the gratitude expressed to the Minister, who has been her usual courteous and committed self in discussing the considerable amendments that were needed to this Bill, bringing through something far better than we had at the start of the process. The noble Lord, Lord Vaux, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Wheatcroft and Lady Boycott, were all highly involved in the process. Like others, I believe we made some important changes in terms of forest risk and making certain that nature as well as climate are involved in this Bill. My only plea, the Minister will not be surprised to hear, is that I hope very much that when the Bill is considered in the other place, those amendments hold and we do not have to have the argument all over again in this House.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.
Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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I declare an interest as trustee of the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund. As a trustee, but also on my own behalf, I have no concern about pension funds being incentivised. We are there, as trustees, to look after our pensions in the future. Incentives are one thing, but, as a trustee, I am not sure I want to be dictated to and told I have to consider high-growth funds in particular.

When I look at proposals from our fund managers, I look at the return expected over a period of time. Obviously, we are long-term investors, and it may be that a firm has the potential to be one that produces excellent returns. I do not think, on the whole, that pension funds are there to help smaller and newly created firms grow. On the other hand, I can say quite honestly that proposals are in front of us in relation to infrastructure which have considerable merit. I suspect that positive decisions will follow in due course. I ask my noble friend and the Opposition to bear that in mind.

I will also comment on the proposed new subsection (3) on consultation. In addition to the parties listed, I would like to see the trade associations of, for instance, investment trusts, the associations of fund managers and a number of other organisations in the financial world which group together. If we are going to help our country in terms of growth, consultation should be with those at the coalface and those varying funds, et cetera.

I have reservations. I understand the driving force behind the amendment, but it does need some refinement before it is considered as a possible way forward.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I support this amendment, which fits very well alongside the discussions we had on the fiduciary duty of pension fund trustees. I will not push those amendments to a vote, but the work being done, as the Minister described, on having a clear and close look at the fiduciary duty for pension fund trustees would complement this amendment. I do not think it is threatening in any way to pension fund trustees; it is very carefully framed and asks the Treasury to publish a review on incentivisation. It is perfectly possible, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, to fine-tune it after the review—that is the purpose of the consultation.

This amendment is worth while. The noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, referred to the UK Infrastructure Bank and its recognition of nature-based projects and types of infrastructure as assets that could be invested in. I was involved in that amendment, on which the Minister, in her usual helpful style, listened and took action. I hope that she will similarly recognise the virtues of this proposed new clause and I support the amendment.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD)
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My Lords, I added my name to this amendment and suggested the inclusion of the Pension Protection Fund, partly because there is already quite a big conversation around how we will incentivise investment and be prepared to take a bit more risk, because the UK seems to have become very risk-averse. There has been regulatory encouragement, if you like, for pension funds to be somewhat risk-averse; I am not sure it is actually risk- averse to end up in a situation where you invest everything in sovereign bonds and have a systemic risk but, setting that conversation aside, gilts have always been regarded as a very steady investment. It has perhaps been forgotten how to invest for reward.

The fiduciary duty is important and we need to look at it, because there are implications if you suggest in any way to trustees what they ought to do. Of course, that does not mean that you have to take zero risk as a trustee—you must understand the risk and reward dynamic—but, if we move through legislative steps, we would have to add to the list of consultees a whole load of lawyers to help sort out how we deal with the common-law fiduciary duty. Overall, this is a good amendment, making the Government part of this conversation and drawing in more consultation so that more people can input with common purpose, instead of there being lots of consultations all over the place.

Of course, there is work being done by parliamentary committees and I hope notice will be taken of those, and maybe care taken, looking at proposed new subsection (4)(b) and

“adjusting the terms of reference for DB Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) funds to consider regional development as an investment factor”.

To some extent they can do that already, especially in the amounts that are retained where the local authorities are investing directly rather than through the pooled funds—and I have to declare an interest here in potentially listing a fund.

Moved by
15: Clause 25, page 39, leave out lines 11 to 13 and insert—
“(c) the need to contribute towards achieving compliance with sections 1 (the target for 2050) and 4(1)(b) (net UK carbon account) of the Climate Change Act 2008, and the conservation and enhancement of the natural environment, including compliance with relevant targets approved by Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru, and the Northern Ireland Assembly.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment adds nature to the new regulatory principle on net zero emissions.
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, when we debated this on Tuesday evening I was greatly encouraged by the support from all sides of the House for adding nature, alongside net zero, to the regulatory principles in the Bill. We also had support externally, particularly from Professor Dasgupta himself. I am afraid that I did not find the Minister’s arguments compelling, and therefore I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her introduction of Amendment 4 and her willingness to engage with Peers on the topic of sustainable disclosure requirements. However, while a government amendment on this important topic is welcome, what we have heard is yet more delay. A cynic might judge the amendment to have a whiff of green- washing about it. It does not do enough and does not do what is required. The amendment seeks to give regulators and Ministers the necessary powers to bring forward rules and regulations on SDRs in fulfilment of commitments that they made in 2019, 2021 and again in the green finance strategy in March this year.

Amendment 114 is an effort to be helpful because, despite making commitments for five years, the Government still do not have the powers to make sustainable disclosure requirements happen. Amendment 4 does not confer those powers. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, submitted a Parliamentary Question on this issue on 14 November last year, and the Government’s response was that:

“The FCA has extensive powers to … impose some of the Sustainability Disclosure Requirements”.


The noble Baroness also asked about the powers available to the Department for Work and Pensions, which would legislate for sustainability reporting by occupational pension schemes. An extensive search of the powers held by the DWP in relation to public reporting and sustainable reporting has found none that is suitable.

Amendment 4 gives the Treasury the power to issue a policy statement on SDRs and to require the regulators to report against it, but it is not an obligation—the Treasury “may” prepare an SDR policy statement. As the Minister admitted in her response last year to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, the FCA does not have the powers to actually implement SDRs. It seems that we are looking at a Whitehall paper trail that keeps everyone occupied but with no meaningful legislation.

I am in favour of easing unnecessary burdens on business. However, repeatedly indicating—as they have for five years—that the Government are planning to legislate but not actually doing it creates a burden in itself for business. Should it invest in data, in systems or in strategy? After so many reassurances but so little progress, and more reassurances today, no one really seems to know the answer.

I noted with interest that the Minister’s letter to Peers ahead of tabling this amendment said that

“the Financial Conduct Authority is taking forward Sustainable Disclosure Requirements (including consumer facing requirements) under its existing objectives and rulemaking powers which are sufficiently broad for the purpose”.

I would like to understand the misalignment between that statement and the earlier Answer to the Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. Is it because there has been a change of heart and the Treasury has discovered that the powers exist after all? I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify that. Or has the Treasury limited its proposals from its original ones so, while it did not have the powers for the original proposal, it does for the new, limited proposals? Or—and it would be deeply disappointing if this were the case—is the reference in the Minister’s letter to the FCA to “taking forward” SDRs intended to mean that the FCA would be merely progressing the work but not actually implementing it? Again, I would be grateful for clarification. The FCA consultation on SDRs closed on 25 January. We are promised a policy statement in the third quarter but, without statutory powers, that would be pointless.

I hope the Minister will be able to answer those questions and now, if we are able to accept the amendment, I hope she will be able to go a little further. While the amendment sets the right tone, it does not do what is needed. It embraces the idea of SDRs but does not make them a reality. The same governmental reluctance to take real action lies behind my Amendment 7, concerning vote reporting. If investors are to make serious decisions on ensuring that their savings are put to work in a sustainable way, it is essential that they be able to see how those who manage the money choose to vote on corporate issues. That is a crucial part of being an engaged investor. The FCA itself acknowledges that. Earlier this year, its vote reporting group stated:

“Improving transparency of how asset managers vote on behalf of their clients will mean investors can better hold them to account on their stewardship”.


We would all want that, but currently it is not possible for investors always to learn how their investments are being voted. Yes, there is now an FCA requirement under the shareholder rights directive that fund managers and insurers produce an annual report on how they have voted, but it is only that they must comply or explain; and even then, the requirement is only that they should report on significant votes. The FCA gives no guidelines as to what should be deemed significant, and what one investor feels is significant may not concur with what a fund manager deems so.

The fund manager is required to report only at group level, so, in terms of the individual funds in which investors and pension funds might be invested, how their votes have been voted in the individual funds cannot be seen; it is only possible to see across the group, which is effectively meaningless for many people who want to find out how their money is being used. A report is required to be made only annually—a hopeless timescale in an industry that moves as fast as this one. Nor is there any standard form for vote reporting. It is not a lot to ask in a digital age. The SEC in the US certainly demands it.

For all those reasons, the current situation does not serve investors as well as it should. Amendment 7 would require FCA-regulated investment managers and insurers to provide clients and those investing with them with voting information that they requested in a standard format and within 30 days. In Committee the amendment on this topic included pension funds in the requirement to report but, mindful of the DWP review of pension fund reporting, the current amendment is much narrower and does not prejudge the review. However, in the meantime it should help pension funds to monitor the way their investments are being voted. It is true that the FCA vote reporting group has yet to reach conclusions, but there is no reason to wait for that. Parliament has the power to put demands on the FCA, and this is a case where it should.

The Government accept the need for good stewardship by investors, and transparency on voting aids that. It is important, indeed crucial, for good corporate governance that decisions taken on behalf of investors should be clear and easily ascertainable. Making voting records available speedily in a machine-readable way would be a service to investors that, thanks to digital innovation, should be easy and relatively cheap to implement. Why would the Government resist that? I beg to move.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of Peers for the Planet and apologise for the fact that I may need to speak a little longer than I normally would on Report. This is a very diverse group of amendments on different subjects, some of which are quite technical, but I can be brief in relation to Amendments 4, 7 and 114, which the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, has just so ably described. I appreciate that the Minister has done what she said she would on SDRs and tried to make some progress, but I fear there is still a legislative gap there—a gap that we could, on this Bill, usefully fill for her. I support what the noble Baroness has said and look forward to the debate on Amendment 91, on forest risk commodities, to which I equally give my support.

Energy Profits Levy

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Tuesday 9th May 2023

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My noble friend makes an important point. Investors in these companies can come from all sources, including pension funds. It is right and proper that they think about the return they get from their investments when making those decisions.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests. May I take the Minister back to her fundamental argument that the electricity generator levy, which applies to renewable energy, is completely different from the energy profits levy? She has argued strongly that the latter needs the additional investment allowance to encourage investment in oil and gas, but somehow the electricity generator levy does not need that additional investment incentive. Is she absolutely sure that that is true and is she in any way concerned about the report that we may lose some offshore wind projects because of it?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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The electricity generator levy reflects a historic approach to how we pay for our electricity. New electricity contracts are often done, for example, under the contracts for difference process, which is not subject to this levy. We have also put in place a wide range of other measures to support investment in renewables. That is why we have such a great track record and why I have every faith that we will meet our stretching targets on decarbonisation in future.

VAT: Building Repairs and Maintenance

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Wednesday 19th April 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I can confirm to the noble Baroness that we already have a reduced rate of VAT in place for energy-efficiency installations. She will also be aware that we are extending the available support through a new energy company obligation, the energy-efficient Great British insulation scheme. It is estimated that the scheme will make around 300,000 homes more energy efficient, primarily through the installation of insulation measures, reducing household bills by around £300 to £400 on average per year and, crucially, reducing emissions.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I draw the House’s attention to my interests, as set out in the register. Is not the noble Lord, Lord Swire, absolutely right on this point: we have underestimated the effects on the Government’s statutory net-zero targets of the demolition of existing buildings and not taken into account the embodied carbon that occurs? The noble Baroness referred to the exemption from VAT on energy-saving materials, but that does not go across the board at the moment. The announcement in the Budget of a consultation on further extension of it was welcome, but I wonder if she can tell me when the Government expect some results from that consultation.

UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Baroness Penn Portrait The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury (Baroness Penn) (Con)
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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to the other amendments and that in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman.

I start with Commons Amendment 2. As was noted in the other place, the Government agree that the bank will make it a stipulation that any investment into the water sector must be in line with the company having an appropriate plan and making sufficient progress against that plan to deal with sewage discharges. However, I want to make it clear that in this circumstance the word “preventing” is aimed principally at preventing harmful discharges and does not mean eliminating all discharges. I want to make this distinction in the House because I do not want the bank to be prevented by fear of legal action from investing in water companies which have a plan in place to meet their obligations.

I reassure the House that the Government are already taking major steps to improve water quality. We have announced legally binding targets on water quality under the Environment Act and ambitious interim targets to deliver these in our environmental improvement plan.

This Government have also implemented the strictest ever targets to crack down on poor water company performance. On sewage spills, our storm overflows plan requires companies to deliver the largest ever environmental infrastructure investment—£56 billion over 25 years. Where water companies are found to have broken the law and face fines for this behaviour, this Government have committed to reinvest those fines directly back into schemes to improve our water environment.

Commons Amendment 3 removes the Lords amendment to include nature-based solutions and the circular economy in the definition of infrastructure. As noble Lords will recall, we debated this issue extensively in this House and it came up frequently in the Commons. At the time, I noted that nature-based solutions were already included under the inclusive definition of infrastructure and, as such, we did not think it necessary to add it explicitly in the Bill. The Government have reflected on the debate and recognise the strength of feeling on the matter and, as such, think the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, strikes a careful balance of making it clear that nature-based solutions are within the bank’s remit without being overly prescriptive.

The Government agree with the removal of the circular economy from the definition. We do not think including the circular economy—which is an imprecise term—in the definition of infrastructure would be helpful for the bank. However, I thank all noble Lords, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for raising this issue during the passage of the Bill. We reassure them that the circular economy is an incredibly important principle and will be key as we transition to a more sustainable economy in a number of sectors. While we do not wish to expand the scope of the bank, I reassure the noble Lord that several of the areas highlighted in the debate on the circular economy are covered within its existing remit and objectives; for example, nature-based solutions, waste and energy efficiency, as was clarified in an earlier amendment to the Bill. I therefore anticipate that the bank will invest in and be a key proponent of a circular economy wherever it is in line with the overall objectives.

Commons Amendment 4 removes subsection (6) from Clause 2 of the Bill. The subsection included the wording “have regard to”, but this would still have had a significant impact on the bank. For example, on improving jobs, we understand the intention of the amendment and do not disagree with it as a general principle. However, we are concerned that there may be consequences if the principle were to be applied across the board as a statutory requirement in relation to every investment proposal. It could lead to the bank being overly cautious for fear of legal challenge.

The second part of this subsection, on reducing regional inequality, is also of concern. We do not want the bank to be under a statutory duty to consider regional disparities in the same way in relation to every investment proposal that comes before it. The strategic steer makes it clear that the bank must focus on geographic inequalities. However, this is best done on a portfolio basis rather than investment by investment, which would be required by the proposed amendment.

Although the Government agree with the Commons amendment, we recognise the concern of the House, and I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, on this matter. I recommit to this House that after the Bill achieves Royal Assent the Government will amend the bank’s framework document to provide clarity on the role on the bank in levelling up the United Kingdom. We will include under the operating principles the wording:

“The bank will also address the spatial disparities across and within UK regions.”


This is in addition to the wording already in the framework document under its second objective:

“to support regional and local economic growth through better connectedness, opportunities for new jobs and higher levels of productivity”.

Commons Amendments 5, 6, and 9 concern provisions to add a duty to consult relevant Ministers in the devolved Administrations on the use of delegated legislative powers in the Bill, including the power to amend the bank’s activities or the definition of “infrastructure”, and to issue the strategic steer. Commons Amendment 7 is related and sets out a requirement for UKIB’s board to appoint one or more directors to be responsible for ensuring that the interests of the devolved Administrations are considered in the board’s decision-making. These amendments have come as a direct result of positive engagement we have had with the devolved Administrations, and I am pleased to say we have received legislative consent Motions from the Welsh and Scottish legislatures. Unfortunately, given that the Executive have not formed, it was not possible to get a legislative consent Motion from the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Given we are on the subject of the board of directors, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, was interested in whether the bank would appoint a workers’ representative to the board. I reassure him that the bank is abiding with the requirements of the corporate governance code and has appointed a non-executive director, Marianne Økland, to facilitate engagement with the workforce.

Commons Amendment 8 reduces the time period for statutory reviews of the bank following the first such review from seven to five years. This balance reflects the fact that we need to allow a nascent institution time to embed and fully establish itself in the market, which is why the first review will take place after seven years. However, subsequent statutory reviews will take place every five years to ensure proper scrutiny of the bank’s performance.

Commons Amendments 1 and 10 are of a technical nature and broaden the definition of “public authority” in relation to the bank’s capacity to lend. The drafting as is broadly meets the policy aims and would allow the bank to lend to local authorities and the Northern Ireland Executive. However, given that primary legislation can be something of a blunt instrument, we do not want inadvertently and by implication to preclude the bank from lending to other public authorities, such as any public bodies created by local authorities or government departments in future.

Finally, as is standard for a Bill that starts in the Lords and concerns matters of public finance, a privilege amendment was passed. Commons Amendment 11 removed this.

The Government have listened to concerns in both Houses and have made changes to improve the Bill. I look forward to the debate and hope that noble Lords will accept these amendments. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet and rise to speak to my Motion 3A, which as the Minister said would reintroduce nature-based solutions into the definition of infrastructure in which the UK Infrastructure Bank may invest.

We had some very helpful conversations after Report and the debates in the other place, and I think we have now reached a highly satisfactory position on this amendment, in no small part due to the Minister’s customary constructive approach to the debates that have taken place in this House, for which I am very grateful.

Of course, the original amendment included the “circular economy”, and I know that there will be some disappointment that that is not included now, but the bank’s strategy is reassuring on that issue. Anyone who listened to the item on the “Today” programme this morning about data centres using the heat they normally have to dispose of to heat up the water in local swimming pools will have heard a lovely example of how we need to put those sorts of issues together.

I thank all the Members of this House who have taken part in the debates, and in particular those who signed the various iterations of my amendment, including the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. This amendment has had significant cross-party support because of the increased recognition that nature-based solutions have a critical role to play in the fulfilment of the bank’s objectives. The Chancellor’s strategic steer in 2022 encouraged the bank to

“explore early opportunities in nature-based solutions”

and aim to have

“a positive impact on the development of the market”.

The bank has since published a discussion paper setting out its initial thinking on how it can invest in and support the growth of natural capital markets, and I look forward to the results of this consultation.

The discussion paper clearly explains the importance of natural capital as a form of infrastructure and the vital contributions it makes to our society and economy, often in ways which are more cost-effective to the taxpayer. Carbon removals through creating and restoring woodlands, wetlands and peatlands, flood mitigation measures, providing “clean and reliable” water supplies, underpinning our food security and bolstering our resilience to climate change: these constitute numerous examples of how we can deploy nature-based solutions to support our infrastructure and provide social, economic and environmental benefits. There is also an ever-increasing recognition of the key role that nature can play in solving climate change, nature being our biggest asset with which to fight it. Nature-based solutions also provide significant co-benefits, such as jobs and good health and well-being outcomes, with considerable economic advantages.

I welcome that the UK is leading on the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, but there is an average $700 billion funding gap for protecting and restoring nature globally, and evidence that more needs to be done to help market participants mainstream and scale these products alongside growing investor demand. This simple addition to the definition of infrastructure in the Bill sends a strong signal to the markets that the UK recognises this and the Government are serious about taking action to help build and develop this nascent market. It also provides certainty to the bank, which recognises that it has a role in developing capacity towards a pipeline of investable projects and is poised to act. It will encourage others to do the same and further develop the UK finance sector’s position as a leader in this important emerging new market.

As I said, I am very grateful to the Minister and her officials for the support they have given and the resolution that I think we have reached.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con)
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I support the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, in her proposed amendment and congratulate her on her tenacity in pursuing this issue. She has achieved something notable, and I thank her very much indeed. Account being taken of nature-based solutions improves the Bill and, on that basis, I also congratulate the Minister. My noble friend has proved herself to be a listening Minister, and the Government have taken a very common-sense approach, which improves the Bill. It was previously a good Bill, and it is now a better Bill after changes made in this House and the approach of the Minister and the Government.

I do not propose to detain the House, except to say that I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said in Committee and at Second Reading. I regret that we have not gone a bit further, but at least we have an improvement in this legislation. On that basis, I once again congratulate the Government.

--- Later in debate ---
Moved by
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman
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Leave out from “House” to end and insert “do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment 3 and do propose Amendment 3B in lieu—

3B: Clause 2, page 1, line 23, leave out “structures underpinning the circular economy, and””