Financial Conduct Authority

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:48 pm on 1st February 2016.

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Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 9:48 pm, 1st February 2016

I am left with very little time to cover such a wide-ranging debate. I congratulate the Backbench Business Committee and my hon. Friend Guto Bebb on securing this debate.

I think we can all agree that it is important that in the Financial Conduct Authority we have an organisation to keep financial markets honest for our constituents and for markets, which play a crucial role in our economy.

We all want financial services to be on the side of our constituents—the people who want to work hard, do the right thing and get on in life. It is therefore vital that financial services display and uphold the highest standards of behaviour and treat their customers fairly.

The House will no doubt be aware that most small business lending is not regulated. Obviously, when an independent regulator is involved, we need to ensure that the right people are doing the job. Last week the Chancellor announced a number of new appointments to the FCA board, including an excellent new chief executive. As the Chancellor said, Andrew Bailey was the outstanding candidate to be the next chief executive. He brings with him a wealth of experience of financial services regulation in the United Kingdom. He is simply the most respected, most experienced and most qualified person in the world to do the job. However, I want to put on record the Government’s gratitude to Tracey McDermott, the acting chief executive, for all her hard work over the past four months.

Last week we also appointed four new non-executive directors: Bradley Fried, Baroness Hogg, Ruth Kelly and Tom Wright. The new directors provide a balanced mix, on the gender front and in terms of their public and private sector experience and their experience of politics, as well as a wealth of knowledge of consumer issues and the financial services sector more generally, adding an invaluable independent challenge to the board. We believe that the new appointments will strengthen the organisation, and, by ensuring that it has the best possible leadership, will help the FCA to remain a strong, tough regulator that protects consumers and ensures that financial markets work for the benefit of the whole economy.

There are clearly still challenges ahead for the FCA, but it is worth remembering the positive steps that it has already taken. It is in the process of implementing the new senior managers and certification regime, which includes applying enforceable conduct rules to anyone who is involved in the financial services activity of a bank. It has introduced improved whistleblowing requirements, and a new remuneration code that will ensure that individuals are not rewarded for taking excessive risks. It has taken action to protect consumers, such as the regulation of consumer credit, which has included capping the cost of payday lending to protect consumers from unfair costs.

FCA regulation is already having a dramatic impact on the payday market. Indeed, the FCA found that the volume of payday loans had fallen by 35% in the first six months since it took over regulation in April 2014. There has been a new focus on competition in banking and other markets, such as excellent work on Fintech and the innovation hub. Last year the Treasury and the FCA jointly launched a financial advice market review, which is designed to make financial help more accessible and affordable for all our constituents. It is also worth highlighting the role of the Financial Ombudsman Service, to which Members may wish to refer their constituents when they have problems with financial services firms.

The Government are as keen as those who are present tonight to resolve the matters that have been raised by a range of Members. We heard from not only my hon. Friend John Mann, my hon. Friend Mark Garnier, the hon.

Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), my hon. Friend Craig Tracey, Mr Williams, my hon. Friend Mr Streeter, Ruth Cadbury, my hon. Friend William Wragg, Kirsten Oswald, my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg, Michelle Thomson, my hon. Friend James Cartlidge and Ian Blackford, as well as Rebecca Long Bailey.

A number of points have been raised, and I shall deal with them in turn. The issue of the banking culture review was raised by the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy, and the hon. Member for Bassetlaw. The first time I personally heard about the FCA’s decision to discontinue the review was when the story broke in the media on new year’s eve. We have made it abundantly clear to the House that no Treasury Minister or official was involved in the FCA’s decision, and the FCA has made it clear that it did not inform the Treasury before the decision was made public.