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Why is Theresa May Selling off Britain’s Green Investment Bank?

Jan 30 2017 Comments 0

In the wake of news that Theresa May is planning to sell off the Green Investment Bank to private Australian corporation Macquarie, there has been an outpouring of pleas, pledges and petitions for the Prime Minister to reconsider.

Not confined to just one party, the campaigners have pointed to Macquarie’s dubious track record when it comes to asset-stripping and accused May of abandoning the environmental impetus that sparked its creation in the first place.

Created to combat climate change

The Green Investment Bank first came into existence in 2010 under the guardianship of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government, who pledged to use it to find new ways to reduce emissions, increase efficiency and fund renewable technology.

Since then it has invested roughly £12 billion in more than 70 projects, helping to create commercially viable products that simply wouldn’t have been possible without its intervention. As such, it can be seen as one of the few stand-out achievements of the coalition government.

In its six years of operation, the Bank has invested in everything from anaerobic digestion in the biogas industry to energy-efficient street lighting schemes in residential areas. It has, by all accounts, been a resounding success.

Shrouded in secrecy

Since taking office in July of last year, Theresa May has made no secret that she plans to sell off all or parts of the Bank. However, what have remained shrouded in secrecy are the details of the deal.

Neither May nor her government have made it fully clear why the Bank is being sold, apart from some vague notion about making it “unfettered from the constraints of the state”. Far more likely are the pound signs that the Bank represents in terms of a quick sale.

Even more concerning than the motives behind the sale, however, is the buyer involved. Though it has never actually been confirmed, it’s widely believed that Macquarie have been gifted preferred buyer status. If true, that could spell disastrous news for the Bank and its supporters, since Macquarie have repeatedly purchased entities and sold them off piece-by-piece to the highest bidder in order to simply turn a profit.

An outpouring of opposition

Many anxious MPs have voiced their concerns about the morality and prudency of the sale, with former Secretary of State Vince Cable and former climate change minister Greg Barker both apparently having written directly to May urging her to stop the sale. The two men represent the parties which brought the Bank into existence (Lib Dems and Tories, respectively), showing the unity behind the opposition.

Meanwhile, other parties were equally outspoken in their criticism. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas forced a debate challenging the sale and asked the government: “This preferred bidder, Macquarie, not only has a dismal and terrible environmental record, it also has an appalling track record of asset-stripping. So why has the government given preferred bidder status to this company?”

Elsewhere, the shadow business secretary for Labour Clive Lewis was similarly damning in his indictment of the potential sale.

“The Tories are reportedly preparing to sell it off to a well-known asset stripper, with no guarantees that its green purpose, or any kind of public influence, will be maintained,” he said. “The government should stop the sale of the green investment bank today. Failure to do so will confirm that, however much they try to steal our clothes, underneath it’s still the same old Tories.”

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