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Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 1st February 2016.

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Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 4:15 pm, 1st February 2016

My hon. Friend, who was a distinguished member of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, is right to say that the commission highlighted the fact that the approved persons regime made it very difficult to pin down responsibility. The new regime, with its duty of responsibility clearly articulated —every organisation will have that set out when managers are first appointed and on an annual basis thereafter—is a much stronger regime. It also delivers more flexibility in the regulators’ enforcement powers, enabling them to impose high standards of conduct through rules applying to individuals, including those whom they have not approved. The expansion of the new regime to all authorised financial services firms will enhance personal responsibility for senior managers, as well as providing a more effective and proportionate means of raising the standards of conduct of key staff more broadly.

Given the improvements that the senior managers and certification regime with the statutory duty of responsibility delivers in terms of senior accountability, the reverse burden of proof is simply not necessary. In extending the new regime to all authorised financial services firms, it is important to consider whether, under these new circumstances, the application of the reverse burden of proof to any or all firms is appropriate. Most of the firms to which the regime will now apply are small, and it simply would not be proportionate to apply it to those firms. By retaining it for the banking sector alone, we would raise serious questions of fairness and competition.