Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 1st February 2016.

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Photo of George Kerevan George Kerevan Scottish National Party, East Lothian 5:21 pm, 1st February 2016


As the right hon. Member for Chichester pointed out, time after time when there have been regulatory failures, the regulators have been implicated. I therefore do not want to return to a situation in which it is up to the regulators to prove that something has gone wrong in the new regulatory regime, when they are partly responsible for it. I want the onus to fall on the bankers themselves.

It is worth looking more forensically at the reasons against the presumption of the reverse burden of proof. Andrew Bailey has argued that there is a worry that when the next crisis comes along, senior bankers will rush off to the European Court and claim that their rights under the European convention on human rights are being taken away because of the reverse burden of proof. That is rubbish.

The Parliamentary Commission was perhaps a little unwise to use the phrase “the reverse burden of proof”, even though we all use it and I use it. We are not talking about criminal law and making people guilty until proven innocent. We are talking about infractions in banking if, say, a banking crisis takes place. The legislation that the Government are trying to change would make it an infraction to be responsible for an activity in which wrongdoing took place, rather than for committing the wrongdoing itself. To give a flippant example, if it is a criminal offence to be in charge of a bawdy house, the prosecution needs to prove only that somebody was in charge of that house of ill repute, not that they were selling their own body. It would be no defence that they thought the bawdy house was a nunnery.

The reverse burden of proof regime makes managers responsible for the activity in their banks. When a disaster takes place, it is up to them to prove that they failed to stop it happening, rather than, as has always been the case, it being up to the regulators to find the solution and explain what happened, which means that everyone hides behind collective responsibility.