Energy minister Greg Barker today told Parliament that the £1bn set aside for a Green Investment Bank in the government’s Spending Review was “a batstop” and more cash would follow.
Mr Barker was on the floor of the House of Commons with his DECC colleague Charles Hendry to field energy questions in the absence of Chris Huhne, who is travelling back from his trade trip to China.
The departmental question time also marked the Commons debut of shadow energy minister Meg Hillier, who wasted no time in attacking the proposals for a green bank. She branded it a “crowd-pleasing gimmick” and accused the government of revealing no details about it.
But Mr Barker hit back: “That’s a bit rich.” He said that before the coalition came to power there was “no work done in the Treasury” on the bank, so the government was “starting with a clean sheet of paper”.
He said details of the bank would be revealed in the Spring, but Ms Hillier countered that: “Spring in civil service language can extend for a very long period of time.”
The debate came as the government’s green bank plans were this week branded “an appalling waste of an opportunity”.
Hugh Parnell, founder of the Cambridge Energy Forum, told a meeting organised by the Aldersgate Group that small- to-medium-sized enterprises risk being excluded from the bank because it would focus only on big business.
He added: “It would be such an easy win. Unfortunately this government is so high-browed on cost cutting, that they only think of value for money and therefore they essentially exclude any innovation companies from anything to do with the public sector and the public sector is 50-60% of procurement in this country.”