What is the national wealth fund and what will it invest in?

<span>Rachel Reeves with Mark Carney, a member of the national wealth fund’s taskforce of business leaders.</span><span>Photograph: Justin Tallis/PA</span>
Rachel Reeves with Mark Carney, a member of the national wealth fund’s taskforce of business leaders.Photograph: Justin Tallis/PA

What exactly is the government’s national wealth fund?

The new chancellor, Rachel Reeves, launched the NWF on Tuesday with the aim of boosting investment in national infrastructure projects such as ports, gigafactories and hydrogen and steel projects.

It was a key pledge in Labour’s manifesto and the party has been working on it with the help of a taskforce of business leaders, including the Aviva chief executive, Amanda Blanc, the Barclays chief executive, CS Venkatakrishnan, and the former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who have been providing advice and recommendations since March this year.

It is not a sovereign wealth fund like those of Norway or Saudi Arabia, for example, which manage cash generated by the government through state-owned natural resources such as oil, as well as surpluses from international trade, bank reserves or privatisation projects.

Rather than being set up to manage any budget surplus, the NWF is meant to boost investment in key industries while giving investors the confidence to park money in the UK by showing that the government is willing to share the risk of pouring cash into long term infrastructure projects.

What will the NWF invest in?

The fund will seek to deploy £1.8bn of public funding to ports, £1.5bn for gigafactories (including for electric vehicles), £2.5bn to clean steel, £1bn for carbon capture and £500m to green hydrogen.

However, the target is to attract £3 of private cash for every £1 of public funding put in via the NWF, which, if successful, would take total investments to about £29bn.

Who is going to manage and deploy that money?

In effect, the NWF will operate as a “concierge service” for businesses and investors looking to pour money into the UK.

Rather than launching a whole new body from scratch, Reeves said it would lean on the existing expertise of the three-year-old UK Infrastructure Bank, which is headed by the former HSBC chief executive John Flint.

It also plans to revamp the British Business Bank, which is best known for administering the Covid business loan schemes and has experience in venture capital involving taking stakes in small but growing private companies.

How much will the NWF cost the taxpayer?

Roughly £7.3bn will be provided by the Treasury to inject cash into the fund.

Labour said in its manifesto that the seed money would come from “closing the loopholes” in the windfall tax on oil and gas companies. The Treasury said further funding details would be set out in the next budget, alongside wider tax and spending plans.

Could taxpayers make money from the NWF’s investments?

While it is hoped that the schemes funded will generate an annual return for taxpayers, there is no guarantee – as with any investment – that the money will be recouped.

The Treasury has not said how much it hopes to make from its investments, though if the UK Infrastructure Bank’s own targets are any indication, it could be in the range of 2.5% to 4%.

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