I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
It has been a pleasure to take this legislation through this House. There has been a good level of interest from Members from all parts of the House, and a wealth of suggestions and recommendations have been made, which is a testament to how important the issues in this Bill are. Indeed, some of the suggestions have made their way into the Bill.
The Bill will: make the Bank of England more transparent and accountable to Parliament and the public; further strengthen standards in the financial services sector; and strengthen protections for consumers, especially when accessing the new pensions freedoms. Building on the fundamental reforms to the regulatory architecture introduced by the Financial Services Act 2012, the Bill delivers a set of important evolutionary changes to the Bank. It ends the subsidiary status of the Prudential Regulation Authority and creates a new Prudential Regulation Committee, on the same footing as the Monetary Policy Committee and Financial Policy Committee. It makes the oversight functions the responsibility of the whole court, ensuring that every member of the court, executive and non-executive, can be held to account for the use of these functions. It also enhances the accountability of the Bank to Parliament by making the whole Bank subject, for the first time, to National Audit Office oversight. If I may, Mr Deputy Speaker, let me correct something I said in error earlier, when I confused NAO with FOI—freedom of information. Of course, FOI has applied to the Bank of England for some time; this Bill brings in the NAO oversight.
The Bill also implements the remaining recommendation of the Warsh review, updating requirements for the timing of MPC publications and meetings. As my right hon. Friend Mr Tyrie said on Second Reading, this Bill
“brings the Bank of England more up to date as an institution, and in doing so it should greatly improve the scope for making it accountable to Parliament and the public”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 605, c. 667.]
During the passage of this Bill we have rightly devoted considerable time to the question of the appropriate role for Parliament. The Treasury Committee plays a crucial role in providing effective scrutiny of the FCA’s chief executive, and the agreement that we have announced today reinforces that.
The second aspect of the Bill is that it strengthens conduct in the financial sector by extending the senior managers and certification regime to all firms covered by the discredited authorised persons regime that we inherited. We all agree on the vital importance of high standards of conduct in the UK financial services industry. This Government have already taken the initiative in this area; we took a key step by bringing in the regime for the banking sector in March this year. The expansion of this new regime to all authorised persons will enhance personal responsibility for senior managers across the industry and raise standards of conduct more broadly.
Thirdly, the Bill introduces support for consumers accessing the new pension freedoms. To support consumers who, from April 2017, will be able to sell their annuity income stream in the secondary market for annuities, the Bill will extend the scope of the Pension Wise guidance service to cover these consumers, and introduce a requirement that, in effect, ensures that consumers with a high-value annuity receive appropriate financial advice before making the decision to sell their annuity income stream. These measures will help make consumers better informed and less vulnerable to mis-selling and scams.
In order to ensure fairness for people seeking to access their pensions early, the Bill will also give the FCA a new duty to cap early exit charges that act as a deterrent. This will provide real protection to consumers in contract-based pension schemes who are looking to make use of the freedoms.
The Bill also supports the Government’s consumer protection objectives by giving the Treasury a new power to provide financial assistance to illegal money-lending teams tasked with tackling loan sharks. Today, we have also added the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Mr Walker.
In closing, I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to the debates, both by speaking and by tabling amendments. In particular, I thank all the members of the Public Bill Committee for their efforts and for the time spent going through the Bill clause by clause. The hon. Members for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) and for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris) provided challenging discussion throughout the passage of the Bill. The hon. Members for East Lothian (George Kerevan) and for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Roger Mullin) gave close scrutiny to the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester made valuable contributions that have been most helpful and insightful, particularly on Treasury Committee matters.
I also thank the Treasury Whips, my hon. Friends the Members for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) and for Central Devon (Mel Stride), who have provided me with much support both during and outside Bill debates. The Chairs of the Public Bill Committee, my hon. Friend Mr Brady and Phil Wilson, and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have handled our scrutiny well.
I thank my Parliamentary Private Secretaries, who took on the important and thankless task of sitting behind me during our sittings and ensuring that I got the right briefing, for supporting me generally throughout this process.
Finally, I give thanks to the organisations that have assisted us in developing the Bill—the Bank of England, the National Audit Office and the Financial Conduct Authority. I must also give sincere thanks to Treasury officials, lawyers and parliamentary counsel, who spent many hours in the box, drafting amendments and briefings for these debates.
We have had useful and wide-ranging debates, and our discussions with Members in all parts of the House were constructive, even when we did not agree and had to settle matters with a vote. We have shown an understanding of each other’s position and improved the legislation as a result. The Bill will now go back to the other place, where their lordships will consider the useful changes that we have made to the Bill. I hope that they will welcome the legislation in its current form.
In conclusion, this Bill makes changes to strengthen the governance and accountability of the Bank of England. It will contribute to the Government’s commitment to strengthen standards across the financial services industry and ensure that consumers are well protected. I commend its Third Reading to the House.