Financial Conduct Authority

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:07 pm on 1st February 2016.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset 9:07 pm, 1st February 2016

I do not agree with my hon. Friend on this occasion. Inevitably, some employees remained the same. It would have been extraordinary if all the regulators at the FSA had been fired and sent off to the great regulatory house in the sky. The powers and the responsibilities of the FCA were changed and, indeed, it has carried out an investigation.

The FCA has to be judicious and bear in mind that some people took out swaps knowing full well what they were doing. Not every swap that was sold was mis-sold. Interest rate swaps are a very important safeguard for people who are uncertain of the direction of interest rates. Indeed, with interest rates at their current lows, many people may feel that it is prudent to protect themselves by taking out an interest rate swap. It would be wrong to so overtighten regulation or to be so sensitive to what happened in the past to make beneficial financial instruments unavailable because of historical mis-selling. Each case needs to be looked at on its merits.

When I first took out a mortgage, I did so at a fixed rate because I knew I could afford to pay that rate but was uncertain about whether I could pay a higher rate. That is a prudent and sensible thing for people to do when engaging with the financial sector. The FCA had a big job of work to do in a quasi-judicial role. It could not just arbitrarily decide that all cases were mis-sellings and therefore they all had to be compensated for.

This House, too, needs to be judicious. The motion is really serious. It says that we have no confidence in an arm’s length independent regulator that this House established just three years ago. If we really mean that, we ought to be legislating to create a new one. We should not simply pass a motion; we should say that the body has failed, that it will be abolished as of 1 April and that a new one will be created.

This motion represents an intermediate step whereby the House faces one of two risks. One is that it is passed this evening and, like many other Backbench Business motions, absolutely nothing follows from it. This House would then look foolish. It would look as if whatever we say makes no difference and we would have no future power to bring our authority to bear on independent regulators when things may be more serious.

The other risk is that the chairman of the FCA feels that he has to resign and take responsibility, because there is no chief executive of the moment, which makes this a very strange time to be holding this debate. If the chairman falls on his sword, what would we achieve? One person would go, but the organisation would remain intact because we have not legislated to replace it.

This House should be proud of its constitutional standing and recognise the extraordinary power it has. We can summon people to the Bar of the House if we are sufficiently annoyed with the way they conduct themselves. We can make them answer to Select Committees, and indeed we do. However, if we use that power without due consideration, without being certain and without having every fact at our fingertips that this body, not its predecessors, is the one in which we have no confidence, we undermine the standing of the House of Commons and its ability to do that in future when our case may be better founded.