MPs plan to scrutinise the government’s green economic plans and industrial strategy to test whether they are still fit for purpose in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The government will face two separate inquiries into its plans, by the Treasury and business department parliamentary select committees, to question whether its existing policies will help or hinder sustainable post-pandemic economic growth.
The fresh examination comes following a damning report from parliament’s financial watchdog which accused the government of an “astonishing” failure to plan for the economic impact of a possible flu-like pandemic.
The cross-party public accounts committee concluded that government schemes were drawn up “on the hoof” weeks after the Covid-19 outbreak, and that the delay risked leaving sectors of the UK economy behind.
The fresh investigations will focus on whether the government’s existing plans for green finance, a decarbonised economy and a sustainable industrial strategy go far enough to help companies recover from the financial shock of the pandemic.
The Treasury select committee initially opened an investigation into the government’s plans to “decarbonise” the UK economy last summer, but plans to reopen the inquiry to question how the UK’s response to coronavirus should take the UK’s climate targets into account.
The government’s green spending plans have already come underattack by green groups which have pointed out that the proposed £3bn to spur a green economic recovery falls well short of Germany’s £36bn investment, and French government’s £13bn plans.
Mel Stride, the Conservative chair of the Treasury committee, said “clearly much has changed” in the economy since the committee began its investigation, “so now is the time to ask whether the government can seize the opportunity presented by the crisis to further green the economy to achieve net zero by 2050”.
“Whether the level of Treasury support should depend on how much companies pollute, or if it should directly fund green infrastructure, are some of the issues that we would like evidence on,” Stride said.
The Treasury committee has called for evidence on whether the Treasury’s financial support packages should distinguish between polluting and non-polluting companies, whether there should be direct funding for green infrastructure as part of its coronavirus spending package, and whether the government’s policies should change in the wake of the coronavirus to fuel the UK’s 2050 climate targets.
At the same time, the business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) select committee plans to open a new line of investigation within its “super-inquiry” into the UK’s post-pandemic economic growth, to test whether the government’s plans pose any barriers to sustainable economic growth and job creation.
Darren Jones, the chair of the BEIS committee, said its inquiry will examine whether the government’s current industrial strategy is “genuinely strategic”, and whether it is focused on “the right sectors, issues and policy areas”.
“Fundamentally, we want to look at whether the government’s industrial strategy is properly designed and implemented to encourage the growth of a more productive, inclusive and sustainable economy which generates wealth, innovation and high-quality jobs,” Jones said.
“We are keen to hear the views of businesses, from SMEs and bigger companies too, about their thoughts on the barriers to growth and whether the industrial strategy is working for them in terms of providing the right environment to deliver sustainable investment, a skilled workforce, and high-quality jobs,” he added.