Theresa May has been urged to stop the Green Investment Bank being “killed off” by a sale to private firm Macquarie, amid fears the assets will be stripped and its environmental purpose abandoned.
MPs from across the parties raised concerns about the proposed sale in the House of Commons, after Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green party, called a debate arguing the whole process should be stopped.
Nick Hurd, an energy minister, refused even to confirm that Macquarie was the preferred bidder, citing commercial sensitivity.
But Lucas launched into an attack on the Australian investment bank, saying it had a “very, very worrying and dubious track record”. She said: “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?”
She added: “Will the minister admit that this selling off could lead to the bank being fatally undermined as an enduring institution? Will he stop the killing off of the Green Investment Bank? Will he halt the sale process with immediate effect?”
The Green Investment Bank was set up under the coalition with £3.8bn of government money, with the aim of “greening the economy”, but George Osborne, the former chancellor, took the decision to sell off a majority share.
Hurd insisted independent trustees would have a special share to safeguard the environmental purpose of the bank under its new ownership. He also did not appear opposed to the sale of some of the Green Investment Bank’s assets after privatisation, saying: “Let’s not get into a position where we say holding on to assets is good in itself.”
Hurd said: “Potential bidders are interested in the Green Investment Bank precisely because of its green specialism. We are asking potential investors to confirm their commitment to Green Investment Bank’s green values and investment principles and how they propose to protect them, as part of their bids for the company.