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

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight that semantic distinction. His constituents and mine want help; they do not know whether they are asking for regulated advice or guidance. He will also be aware that we have carried out a consultation—the financial advice market review—which closed in December. We are now studying the responses to that consultation with a view to seeing whether the current distinction is linguistically, and indeed legally, appropriate. He will hear more on this interesting topic in due course.

The Bill also makes a number of smaller changes. We are legislating to give the Treasury the power to make recommendations to the PRA and the FCA about aspects of the Government’s economic policy. Those will be non-binding remit letters. We are also allowing the Treasury to make regulations implementing a more competitive framework for insurance-linked securities business. That will help to preserve London’s position as a centre for specialist insurance and reinsurance.

Following debates in the other place, we are also making a change that will support our ambitions for a diverse financial sector by putting consideration of mutuality and other types of business organisation into both regulators’ guiding principles. There will also be changes within an existing banking group to authorise a bank to issue banknotes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Illegal moneylenders prey on the most vulnerable people in society, causing their victims immense misery. That is why we will act now in the Bill to ensure that illegal moneylending teams have the funding they need to continue to protect consumers and prosecute loan sharks. We will introduce an amendment in Committee to give the Treasury a power to provide financial assistance to persons involved in taking action against illegal moneylending. The amendment will also give a power that allows the FCA to collect a levy from consumer credit firms in order to fund their financial assistance.

In conclusion, the measures that I have outlined today build on reforms to financial regulation and contribute to the Government’s commitment to deliver a new settlement for financial services. I see that John McDonnell is now on the Opposition Front Bench. By indicating that they do not support the Bill, the Opposition have put themselves on the wrong side of the argument on a range of sensible measures. By voting against the Bill, they will be voting against stronger governance and transparency in the Bank of England and in particular against making the Bank more accountable to Parliament and the public by giving the National Audit Office the power to conduct value-for-money studies of the Bank. They will be voting against extending the benefits of greater accountability for the senior managers and certification regime to all authorised financial services firms.

By voting against the Bill, the Opposition will be voting against ensuring that consumers who can sell their annuity income through the new secondary market have access to Pension Wise guidance and, where appropriate, take financial advice to support their decision. As well as that, they will be voting against proposals to place new duties on the FCA to cap early exit charges for those eligible to access the pension freedoms and to ensure that illegal moneylending teams have the funding they need to continue to protect consumers and prosecute loan sharks. The Labour party has been wrong on financial services regulation in the past and it is wrong again today. I commend the Bill to the House.