With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on our plans for one of the UK’s most productive and innovative sectors: financial services. They will be essential to our economic recovery from coronavirus, creating jobs and growth right across our country. As we leave the European Union and start a new chapter in the history of financial services in this country, we want to renew the UK’s position as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury will lay the foundations later, through the Financial Services Bill. I would like to put that Bill into context now by setting out for the House our plans to make this country more open, more technologically advanced and a world leader in the use of green finance.
Financial services have been fundamental to Britain’s economic strength for centuries and they remain fundamental today. The vigour and creativity of this industry adds over £130 billion of value to the UK economy, employs over 1 million people and has been a critical source of revenues to support the NHS through coronavirus, contributing nearly £76 billion in tax receipts last year. Let us put paid, once and for all, to the myth that financial services and the City of London are synonyms; two thirds of the people employed in financial and professional services work outside London, in places such as Edinburgh, Leeds, Durham, Cardiff and Belfast. About half of all financial services exports come from outside London too, with the north and midlands alone exporting as much as the entire financial services industry of France.
This is the start of a new chapter for financial services. The industry is better regulated, better capitalised and more resilient than it was in 2008. Coronavirus has reminded us that financial services are essential services, and the whole House will share my gratitude to the people keeping their local bank branches open, supporting vulnerable customers and working at extraordinary pace to deliver over £60 billion of new loan schemes, reminding us that this industry is at its best when it puts the interests of consumers first. As we leave the EU, we have an opportunity to set out a new vision for this sector—a vision based not on a race to the bottom, but for a financial services industry that is open, innovative and leads the world in the use of green finance.
I am taking three steps towards that vision today. Our first task as we write this new chapter for financial services is to give certainty on our approach to regulation after we leave the transition period. One of the central mechanisms for managing our cross-border financial services activity with the EU and beyond is equivalence. I remain firmly of the view that it is in both the UK’s and EU’s interests to reach a comprehensive set of mutual decisions on equivalence. Throughout, our ambition has been to manage these co-operatively with the EU, but it is now clear that there are many areas where the EU is simply not prepared to even assess the UK, so we need to now decide on how best to proceed. Of course, we will always want a constructive and engaged relationship with the European Union, but after four years I think it is time for us to move forward as a country and do what is right for the UK. To provide certainty and stability to industry and deliver our goal of open, well-regulated markets, I am publishing today a set of equivalence decisions for the EU and European economic area member states. Of course, we are ready to continue the conversation where we have not yet been able to take decisions, but in the absence of clarity from the EU we are acting unilaterally to provide certainty to firms, both here and in Europe.
I am also publishing today a detailed framework for our approach to equivalence more generally. Our approach here will be simple: we will use equivalence when it is in the UK’s economic interest to do so, taking a technical, outcomes-based approach that prioritises stability, openness and transparency. And of course we now have the freedom to build new, deeper financial services relationships with countries outside the EU. We are making good on that promise already, progressing our partnership with: Switzerland, the second biggest financial hub in Europe after the UK; India, holding a significant economic and financial dialogue just two weeks ago; and Japan, agreeing a new partnership that goes further than the EU’s own financial services arrangements.
Equivalence is not our only tool to ensure openness as a jurisdiction. Control of our own regulatory regime means that we need to be clear with our trading partners about how our overseas firms access the UK’s markets in a way that is predictable, safe and transparent, so I am announcing today that we will launch a call for evidence on our overseas regime before setting out our future approach next year. To boost the number of new companies that want to list here in the UK, I am setting up a taskforce to make recommendations early next year on our future listings regime. To build on the 113,000 jobs already supported by investment management, we will shortly publish a consultation on reforming the UK’s regime for investment funds. To encourage UK pension funds to direct more of their half a trillion pounds of capital towards our economic recovery, I am committing today to the UK’s first long-term asset fund being up and running within a year. To ensure that UK financial services exports to the EU remain competitive, we will treat those exports the same as we do for other countries. That means that UK firms will be able to reclaim input VAT on financial services exports to the EU—support for British industry and jobs worth £800 million.
We are known in this country not just for our openness, but for our ingenuity and inventiveness, too. The second part of our new financial chapter for financial services will use technology to deliver better outcomes for consumers and businesses. We are building on our existing strengths as a leading global destination to start, grow and invest in FinTech, and I look forward to welcoming Ron Kalifa’s report in this important area. We are staying at the cutting edge of payments technologies where we have just concluded the first stage of our payment landscape review and will shortly publish new plans to support the sector. We will make sure our regulatory environment is ready to manage the far-reaching implications of technology on money itself. We will publish a consultation shortly to make new forms of privately issued currencies, known as stable coins, meet the same high standards we expect of other payment methods. The Bank of England and the Treasury are considering further whether central banks can issue their own digital currencies as a complement to cash.
Finally, this new chapter means putting the full weight of private sector innovation, expertise and capital behind the critical global effort to tackle climate change and protect the environment. We are announcing the UK’s intention to mandate climate disclosures by large companies and financial institutions across our economy by 2025, going further than recommended by the taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures and we will be the first G20 country to do so. We are implementing a new green taxonomy, robustly classifying what we mean by “green” to help firms and investors better understand the impact of their investments on the environment. To meet growing investor demand, the UK will, subject to market conditions, issue our first ever sovereign green bond next year. This will be the first in a series of new issuances, as we look to build out a green curve over the coming years, helping to fund projects to tackle climate change, finance much-needed infrastructure investment and create green jobs across the country.
We have set out today our vision for this new chapter in the UK’s financial services industry, a vision of a global open industry where British finance and expertise is prized and sought after in Europe and beyond, a technologically advanced industry, using all its ingenuity to deliver better outcomes for consumers and businesses, a greener industry, using innovation and finance to tackle climate change and protect our environment and, above all, an industry that serves the people of this country, acting in the interests of communities and citizens, creating jobs, supporting businesses and powering growth as we direct all our strength towards economic recovery. I commend this statement to the House.
We have become used to disjointed, last-minute policy making recently in this House. Today’s events—with a statement entitled “the Future of Financial Services” on the very day that the Financial Services Bill is being debated—surely takes this to new heights.
The UK produces 1% of global emissions, but companies and financial institutions based here produce 15% of those emissions. Action from the Government to match the green ambitions of many in financial services cannot come too soon. Recent developments have unfortunately gone in the wrong direction. Over the last decade, the UK has pumped £6 billion into overseas fossil fuel projects via UK Export Finance, so will the Chancellor do as Labour has demanded and immediately ban the financing of fossil fuel projects through UK Export Finance?
Labour supports the move to greater disclosure of climate-related information. Two months ago, we called on the Government to show leadership and introduce mandatory reporting ahead of COP26. The Chancellor’s announcement and that of the Financial Conduct Authority this morning are positive, but they only relate to a “comply or explain” basis, with full implementation not set for many years—until 2025. The climate crisis demands bolder action. Will the Chancellor move to mandatory reporting in the 2021-22 reporting year?
Again, the introduction of green gilts is welcome, but they are mechanisms, not ends in themselves; they obviously depend on where the money raised is then invested. So far this year, the UK Government have announced around £5 billion in green investment. That compares with £36 billion in Germany and £27 billion in France. Where is this Government’s ambition for a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and where is the replacement for the green investment bank that the Conservatives sold off?
As the Chancellor rightly said, the financial sector is of course critical in ensuring that start-ups and scale-ups can access the capital that they need to grow and succeed, and that is so important right now. But that must go hand in hand with oversight and protection. The drive to encourage more tech companies to list on our stock exchange cannot come at the expense of corporate responsibility, so what will he do to ensure the long-term health of British companies and the protection of British investors? And where is the action here to protect people’s access to local bank branches and to cash on their high streets? There is more in this statement about stablecoins—hardly the talk of living rooms up and down the land—than there is about people’s access to cash.
While we debate these often welcome measures, we must not forget the elephant in the room: this Government’s mishandling—I am calling it that because that is what it is—of ensuring market access for our firms to our largest trading partner. One in every 14 UK workers is employed in financial and related professional services, yet the City of London Corporation has recently said that the approach to negotiations makes them feel like the
“neglected child of an acrimonious divorce”.
With weeks to go until we leave the transition period, we still do not know whether the EU will determine that our rules are equivalent to its own. The Chancellor’s predecessor said that
“achieving equivalence on day one should not be complicated.”
The deadline for achieving equivalence was June of this year. By that date, the UK had filled in just four of the 28 forms that it needed to complete. This Government cannot even complete the paperwork on time to secure market access to our largest export industry. The Chancellor said that today he was setting out our approach to equivalence. That should have been done months ago; it is such a critical aspect of the UK’s economy.
We have already seen damage being done. EY research suggests that over 7,000 jobs have already gone and that £1.2 trillion in assets are set to be relocated from the UK, with potentially worse to come as firms making plans decide not to locate those plans and jobs within our borders. It is too late now to strike a deal that would preserve market access securely; too late now—a phrase, sadly, that we are coming to associate with this Chancellor. Let me ask him, when did one of our most important sectors fall so far down his list of priorities?
I was hoping that this would be a rather more technical discussion. It was telling that we had all those questions from the hon. Lady but not really, until the last sentence, any word of praise or recognition for this industry. [Interruption.] Absolutely, it was about trying to score political points, sneering and sniding, with no recognition of the importance of this industry up and down the country and all the people who are employed in it—no recognition whatsoever. When I talked about the hard-working people in this industry who were making sure that customers had access to their branches and access to loans during the coronavirus, all I heard was muttering. That is not the right praise for the people in this industry because they have been working very hard and it is appropriate that they get the recognition that they deserve for that—and they will get it from this Government.
The hon. Lady asked about the TCFD disclosures and comply or explain. Comply or explain is the approach that others have taken. We will be the first major economy—the first in the G20—to mandate disclosures by 2025. A road map has been published today. It is the most ambitious timetable that any major economy has done to date. In fact, it goes far beyond what was recommended by the taskforce. I think that is something that Government Members at least will very proud of.
The hon. Lady asked about access to cash. She should know that, in the middle of October, on about the 15th, we published our access-to-cash call for evidence, which I announced back at Budget in March. The responses to that will inform our future legislative strategy. We laid out clearly that we believe it is important that everyone has access to cash. Depending on the responses to that consultation, we will decide on the appropriate next steps.
The hon. Lady commented on our response to the equivalence process from our EU partners. I think she was trying to accuse us of being slow in replying, or not quite replying sufficiently. That will be news to the team that has spent months producing 2,500 pages of responses to the Commission responses. I might add, as she seems more willing to defend the EU in its conduct of this process, that we have not had a single question back from the European Union after sending 2,500 pages of responses over to it. I might also add that we did not feel it necessary to send it thousands and thousands of pages—we adopted a constructive approach that required very little answers, given that we know its current regulatory arrangements because we all share the same ones.
We have chosen to take an approach that prioritises financial services. Rather than wait, we have acted unilaterally to provide certainty to our financial services firms and to enshrine our reputation as a place where global firms can come and do business, because this will always be the most open, the most competitive and the most innovative place to do financial services anywhere in the world.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Chancellor said in response to the shadow Chancellor that he was expecting a technical discussion. Well, technical discussion might have been possible if we had not received a heavily redacted statement at one minute to 4, which is disgraceful and disrespectful to Opposition Members. He does it time and again, and it is just not on.
Financial services are of huge importance to Scotland. I note that the Chancellor did not mention Glasgow, where we have the huge Barclays complex coming out of the ground as a sign of confidence in the Scottish economy. It is not uncommon that financial services companies have been planning on moving their assets from London to elsewhere in the UK, and the Chancellor really needs to get behind that. Things have been moved out of the City of London to right across these islands because these are important, good-quality jobs.
This year, coronavirus has overtaken Brexit for financial services in terms of focus and capacity. As a consequence, there has been significantly reduced bandwidth for people working in financial services companies to prepare for the disastrous consequences of Brexit. So can the Chancellor tell us how he will support companies with their preparations, particularly as we do not know what we are preparing for—details of the relationship with Europe are so scarce because we still do not know what that relationship is going to look like? Given that instability and uncertainty are anathema to the financial sector, can the Government provide any clarity on what people ought to be preparing for in only a few weeks’ time?
We welcome the introduction of green gilts. The Treasury Committee has been looking at them, and 16 other countries have done this, including Germany and Sweden. Can the Chancellor tell us how this will impact on Scotland? What discussions has he had with the Scottish Government on this? How will he ensure that Scotland gets its fair share of any investment to come? Will the UK Government take this opportunity of new financial powers to back the transition to a low-carbon future, to accelerate their net zero targets and to match the Scottish Government’s ambitious commitments?
Equivalence is a point in time, and as the UK diverges, there is a huge risk to our access to European markets. As the Association of British Insurers has pointed out, equivalence has been used in the past as a political weapon, so how does the Chancellor plan to mitigate that?
Lastly, the Government must put their own house in order on green issues. The Treasury has a good opportunity to work across different Departments, such as UK Export Finance, to ensure that they are all making their contribution to a greener future. The Chancellor must take this seriously right across the Departments if he is going to come to COP26 in Glasgow next year with anything worth the candle.
The hon. Lady talked about moving jobs out of London. It is already the case that the majority of financial and professional services jobs—two thirds—are out of London. I completely agree with her that Scotland has a proud heritage in financial services, and long may that continue.
With regard to providing certainty for firms and the support given to them, the hon. Lady will be aware that we put in place a temporary permissions regime some time ago, which provided that certainty to overseas firms needing to continue operating here after the transition period. They have known about that for a while, and it has been warmly welcomed. With regard to specific financial support, I point her to the announcements on input VAT, which will ensure that UK exports of financial services to the EU are not at a competitive disadvantage. Those firms will be able to reclaim input VAT, which will be worth several hundred million pounds in benefit to them, wherever they are in the UK.
The hon. Lady mentioned the ABI. I think that the ABI will warmly welcome the review that we have put in place on Solvency II. The feature of our insurance industry is the prevalence of long-term annuities. The capital treatment of those is not well managed by European rules, and there is an opportunity for us to improve things in that area, which is why the ABI has, I think, warmly welcomed our review of the Solvency II insurance regulations.
Lastly, the hon. Lady talked about the fact that others might wish to use equivalence as a political weapon. As I have set out, that will not be our approach. We will approach equivalence in a technical and outcomes-based way and seek always to provide transparency and stability, because in doing that, we will cement our reputation as the best place to do financial services in the world.
I listened carefully to the Chancellor, and he announced a green curve, a landscape review, a call for evidence, a taskforce and, God help us, a road map. Where is the bold action that is needed on green jobs and green finance? What people want is not a technical discussion but the sort of initiative that will allow things such as the Swansea bay tidal lagoon to be developed. Is he just paralysed by Treasury orthodoxy, which killed that key green project?
The hon. Gentleman asks about bold action on green measures. I have announced today that we will be the first major economy in the world to mandate the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, doing so across the economy by 2025. That demonstrates both boldness and leadership on this vital issue.
Financial services are worth over £130 billion to the UK economy and support over 1 million jobs, two thirds of which are outside London, so I wholeheartedly welcome this statement. I also welcome the announcement on the sovereign green bonds. Can the Chancellor confirm that those bonds will fund crucial projects to tackle climate change, such as the restoration of the moorlands in the Peak district and vital infrastructure investment to improve public transport across the north of England?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The transition to net zero will require enormous sums of capital to help finance it. Along with all the other market developments that it will catalyse, this bond will ensure that we can attract that capital into the UK to build the infrastructure we need.
My hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor was right to raise the fact that this Government needlessly sold off the Green Investment Bank in 2017, because when the transition period ends and we cease to be part of the European Investment Bank, we will become the only country in Europe without a public investment bank. So can I ask the Chancellor: how does he propose to fill this gap in our green finance ambitions?
Can I warmly welcome the announcement of a sovereign green bond, and may I congratulate my hon. Friend Gareth Davies on his tireless campaigning on this issue? Can my right hon. Friend say whether he agrees with me that these green gilts will help tackle climate change and create green jobs in firms of all sizes, including the many micro-businesses in my constituency of Aylesbury?
I think my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The transition to net zero will create enormous economic opportunity for companies large and small, and I know that he will champion his small businesses as they seek to benefit from it and help not just drive our recovery, but create jobs in his local area.
The Chancellor mentioned that jobs are leaving London for the rest of the UK. I would point out that jobs are leaving the UK for Europe and assets are leaving at a frightening rate—£1.2 trillion. The announcement about the green gilts is welcome, but again it is too late. We had a Green Investment Bank in this country, and at that point we could claim to be ahead in the fight on climate change. So does the Chancellor appreciate why constituents such as mine in Edinburgh West, the second largest financial sector base in this country, are concerned that this Government simply are not on top of what is happening and up to date with what this country’s economy needs?
What the financial services sector needs is a vision for the future that will ensure we remain the most competitive place to do financial services in the world, and the announcements that we have made today will ensure that that becomes a reality.
Can I thank the Chancellor for his statement and for bringing very often to this Chamber some good news? He is absolutely right about the financial and professional services work outside London. In Belfast, there are some 24,000 jobs playing a very significant and key role. Therefore, all of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland benefits. Bearing in mind the need for small and medium-sized enterprises to export their products and services to the global economy—and for that to happen and take place, financial services and banks must be regulated by the FCA in a more efficient way—could I ask the Chancellor to outline how this can be done and how it can be better achieved?
I would point the hon. Gentleman to the phase 2 consultation that is currently outstanding of our future regulatory framework review. The key purpose of that review is to ensure that our regulatory regime, after we leave the transition period, is fit for purpose. It will take into account a wide range of inputs from stakeholders, and I would urge him and his small businesses to feed into it.
I particularly welcome the Chancellor’s recognition that our financial services are critical not only to our national interest, but to the long-term funding of our public services. Against that background and with a shared objective of maintaining the position of the sector in its pre-eminence, will he confirm that, while we have set out our own equivalence decisions, we will continue to seek, wherever possible, the closest agreement and alignment with the EU, which remains an important market, and that the door is not closed upon that; and, secondly, that as we develop the very welcome proposals for a new regime for listings, a new regime to deal with the investment funds and also with the overseas persons regime, he will not hesitate to draw on the very real expertise that exists—particularly in the City, but elsewhere—for example, through the International Regulatory Strategy Group and the Financial Markets Law Committee?
My hon. Friend has long been a fantastic champion and advocate for this sector, and he is right to be so. I agree with him about the importance of making sure that our listings regime is as competitive as it can be to make sure that we attract companies to list here in London. I look forward to getting input from him and the bodies he mentioned in the forthcoming review that we have commissioned.
Would the UK Government not be in a better position to deploy these bonds if they had not flogged off the Green Investment Bank, which is headquartered in my Edinburgh South West constituency? Will the Chancellor consider passing these bond-issuing powers to the devolved Governments so that they can be put to best effect in facilitating low-carbon developments across the United Kingdom?
Sovereign gilt issues will remain a reserved competency, but one of our hopes is that creating a sovereign green bond market will catalyse a domestic green bond market, as we have seen elsewhere, which would provide a benchmark for private companies to issue private green credit. I hope that will provide more capital for more companies in every part of the UK.
I thank the Chancellor for his statement. Does he agree that our financial system should also be the cleanest in the world and free from dirty criminal and corrupt money? Would he look further at the failure to prevent economic crime across our financial sector?
My hon. Friend has focused on that issue for as long as I have been in this House—and rightly so. He will know that we passed the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 the year before last, and in the Budget we said we would consult on introducing an economic crime levy that would provide additional funds to combat the scourge of crime in our financial system. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary will be outlining further measures on market abuse in the debate on the Financial Services Bill.
We do not see very much of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this place. I wonder what it could possibly be about the Monday after the electoral routing of populism in the USA over the weekend that makes him want to come to the Dispatch Box and speak about climate change. Never mind the good management of his reputation, his Government cannot escape the consequences of Brexit and the lack of the deal that was promised for financial services. Given the shape of the UK’s economy, the consequences will be far worse for those workers that we keep talking about who are in financial services outside London and in other regions. Will he confirm what he believes will be the relative regional impact of the current state of the Brexit negotiations? What is his policy to stop Brexit making regional inequality even worse?
It would not be right for me to give a day-by-day commentary on the negotiations. As we heard from the Prime Minister at the weekend, we have made significant progress. Those talks are ongoing and it is clear that a deal can be done, but it will require both sides to act constructively. We remain ready to do that and are working hard at it.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Yet another statement—he seems to be here more often than not. Although I recognise that two thirds of the 1 million-plus jobs that the financial services industry supports are outside London, it is the City of London, in my constituency of Cities of London and Westminster, that is the heart of financial services in this country and supports those jobs across the UK. What further measures will the Government take post transition to ensure that the UK maintains and enhances its global competitiveness in the financial services sector?
My hon. Friend is rightly proud of this industry, given her constituency, and she is right that we should not rest on our laurels. We may be world beating today, but we want to remain the most competitive place to do business. The initiatives that we have launched today, for example the listing reform, which was mentioned, the investment funds regime reform, or Solvency II, will provide opportunities for us to tweak and flex our regulation going forward, and attract capital and business so that the industry can continue to grow and go from strength to strength.
Citizens Advice tells us that 6 million of our constituents have already fallen behind on a bill during the pandemic. One group exploiting the FinTech explosion that the Chancellor is talking about are the legal loan sharks of the credit sector. In the last financial crisis, the coalition Government waited too long to act and the Wongas of this world ripped off millions of our constituents, yet someone is now better protected if they take out a payday loan than credit card debt, because at least the interest rate is capped. As millions of our constituents face a terrible Christmas, will the Chancellor please learn the lessons of the last financial crisis when dealing with the financial sector? Will he please bring in a cap on the cost of all credit, so that we make sure that some of these new FinTechs—the buy now, pay laters of this world—are not the kinds of financial companies that we get coming to our shores to exploit our constituents yet again?
I know the hon. Lady has spent an enormous amount of time in this Chamber focused on these issues, and rightly so. The FCA is currently taking action to address the issues in the buy now, pay later sector, but more generally to her important question around debt and consumer credit, it is worth bearing in mind that we have provided around £38 million to debt providers this financial year, bringing the total to £100 million. Colleagues will know that from May next year, the breathing space initiative that was recently passed in this place will provide a period for individuals who are struggling with debt issues to take a pause and agree a repayment plan. Indeed, in the Bill we are considering later, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend John Glen will be introducing provisions for statutory debt repayment plans, which will further help those who are struggling paying back credit.
I thank the Chancellor for the statement and all the financial support he has given to my constituents in Gillingham and Rainham during covid-19. My question is specifically in regard to the work of the Financial Ombudsman Service and the six-month statute of limitation when dealing with complaints, as raised with me by a constituent in Gillingham and as faced by constituents around the country. With all other ombudsmen, such as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, there is a 12-month statute of limitation. Can the Chancellor explain that discrepancy? Will he be kind enough to take the matter away on behalf of my constituent in Gillingham and look at this anomaly in the interests of fairness?
I have to say to the Chancellor that his announcement this afternoon will do little to stem the haemorrhaging of jobs and assets that we have seen since the failure so far of his Government’s negotiations on Brexit. Earlier in the year, Germany announced a £46 billion investment in the green economy to stimulate recovery. How will the Chancellor’s sovereign green bond attempt to match that? What discussions has he had or does he intend to have with the devolved Administrations around these islands to discuss how the proceeds of any such bond issue might usefully be put to work?
I point the hon. Gentleman to our Budget in March, where we set out a sense of the capital plans for the next few years. What he will see there are plans to spend more than £600 billion in capital investment in this country over the next five years, raising capital investment to the highest sustained level it has seen in almost half a century.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. Many of the three quarters of a million jobs outside London in the financial services sector are located in places such as West Yorkshire, and in particular in Calderdale. Does he agree that keeping the UK at the forefront of financial services regulations and supporting an open and dynamic economy is the surest way to ensure we remain a competitive economy as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As we seek to drive our economic recovery from coronavirus, financial services can play a key part in that. Critical in ensuring that is making sure we remain an open and, as he said, dynamic place that adapts to what is changing, and that is indeed what all our measures today will ensure happens.
The great success of the financial services industry in this country sometimes means that it is also vulnerable to threats from other people around the world who want to launder money through the British system. It is good that we now have a beneficial ownership register, but the threshold for that is 25%, which is quite high—higher than some other countries. Lots of companies are granted exemptions by Government Ministers from having to show their real beneficial ownership, and Companies House has next to no resources with which to investigate whether what it is being told by individual companies is actually true. Is it now time for us to launch a further effort to tackle money laundering? Would it be good if the Government were able to say, as soon as possible, that the overseas territories, which are part of this country’s financial services institutions, were also making their beneficial ownership registers publicly available?
The hon. Gentleman is right that this important issue deserves our focus, and I am pleased that in its independent review the year before last, the Financial Action Task Force judged the UK to be one of the best regimes in the world for tackling money laundering. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is an outstanding consultation on a review of the Companies House regime, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on what we should do to take that forward.
I thank my right hon. Friend for updating the House with his statement, and for the plethora of statements that he has offered to the House. I also remind Opposition Members that this is not a UK crisis; this is a world crisis, it is a pandemic. I thank my right hon. Friend for everything that he has done to help those in the financial sector and the green economy. Many people in Beaconsfield work in both those sectors. Will he outline to the House how green finance can be used to build back the UK economy post-coronavirus, as well as meeting our climate change commitments and delivering a greener economy?
I thank my hon. Friend her for her warm comments. She is right to say that we need that finance to develop new technologies, which have helped to meet our climate ambitions. To give a couple of examples, we can be a world leader in carbon capture and storage, and similarly for offshore wind—those are the kinds of investments that will need extra financing to help develop those technologies, or further their export capabilities, and that is exactly the type of investment that this new capital will help to fund.
I confess I was surprised to hear the Chancellor say that he was grateful to the people who are keeping local bank branches open. I now have seven towns in my constituency with no bank, and only three that do have access to a local bank—it is surely the hardest hit in the UK. If he really wants to help people to keep bank branches open, when will he do more to ensure and help facilitate banking hubs in my constituency of North Ayrshire and Arran, and across Scotland?
The hon. Lady will have heard my previous answer about our plans to take forward initiatives on access to cash, and protecting it. The outstanding consultation will conclude shortly, and then we will decide on a future legislative strategy.
My right hon. Friend has put in unprecedented help to people during this crisis, but tragically in my constituency almost 2,000 people have lost their jobs. Does he agree that, as he said in his statement, Leeds is a key financial hub in this country, and many of my constituents, if not employed directly in the financial services industry, are part of the support network around it? Does he also agree that the green bonds that come out will trickle down to small manufacturers, of which I have a plethora in my constituency? Will he push ahead with great speed on that, and how quickly does he think that he can get this recovery? What I have heard from him today, quite frankly, has been, “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
My hon. Friend is right about the importance of Leeds to our financial services ecosystem in the UK, and about the importance of that industry to jobs in his local economy. We are keen to see the industry prosper across the country, in his constituency and elsewhere, and one thing that might be of interest to his constituents is the review that we are launching into the UK funds regime. That review will specifically consider whether, and how, fund domicile activity could be focused in specific UK areas to support our levelling-up agenda. I look forward to hearing my hon. Friend’s contributions to that, and I know that the industry in his area will continue to grow locally from strength to strength.
The pandemic has accelerated the decline in the use of cash across the country, but there are still 8 million people who say that it is an economic necessity, and many others who are employed in the cash industry, including in Warrington North. According to the National Audit Office, the Bank of England does not know the whereabouts of around two-thirds of known currency—about £50 billion —which may be in the shadow economy. Does that show the need for a comprehensive plan for cash?
My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary is absolutely abreast of the issue and has been for a while, which is why we have a strategy around protecting access to cash. We announced an intention to consult and potentially legislate at Budget. The consultation is outstanding, and I would very much welcome the hon. Lady’s comments, because she is right: although the economy is transitioning in a digital way, we need to protect access to cash for those who need it.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on becoming the climate change Chancellor. Does he agree that private sector businesses and investors are fundamental to achieving our target of net zero? Only they have the capacity to innovate, to make changes in the supply chain and to generate the prosperity that will make the choices we make as consumers and citizens much easier to accomplish.
As my hon. Friend knows well from his own private sector experience, we absolutely need to attract private capital alongside public capital to deliver on all our ambitions. That is why a sovereign bond is so important—it can help to catalyse a domestic private sector industry for corporates and other institutions that issue on the back of a Government issuance. All of that will leverage private sector capital and expertise to build the infrastructure that we need.
Talking of private capital, Barclays has moved €200 billion out of the UK—€3,000 per person; J.P. Morgan has moved €200 billion out of the UK; HSBC has moved 1,000 jobs to Paris; the Government have abolished the Green Investment Bank; and we are leaving the European Investment Bank. If the Chancellor is serious about investment in green infrastructure, will he look at the Development Bank of Wales as a mechanism for focusing on green infrastructure in a knowledgeable way, as happened with the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, so that taxpayers’ money can be deployed effectively to grow and green our economy?
Last year, we had the infrastructure financing review, which contemplated these specific questions. We will issue a response alongside the national infrastructure strategy, which I think will adequately address the hon. Gentleman’s questions.
I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, particularly in terms of the issuing of green gilts. Will he confirm that the benefits of the sovereign green bond will be available alongside revenue support mechanisms to support hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage, as exemplified by the HyNet project for north-west England and north-east Wales?
Without commenting on specific projects, I think my hon. Friend is right to highlight some of the areas of interest to the Government. On carbon capture and storage, he will that know we have already outlined over £800 million of investment over the next few years to help develop two carbon capture and storage clusters with the private sector. This is something the UK can be world-leading on, and it is important that we move quickly.
As the shadow Chancellor pointed out in her excellent remarks, the United Kingdom, under successive Tory Governments over the past decade, has pumped £6 billion into climate-damaging fossil fuel projects overseas via UK Export Finance. Will the Chancellor now commit to ban this activity immediately and make it a priority to invest in British green energy industries in places such as the Humber estuary and to create the future jobs we need for a real green northern powerhouse?
The hon. Lady will know the importance of offshore wind in her area, and she will have welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcements for that sector, including the increase in the amount of domestically manufactured content as we look to build on our advantage as a user of offshore wind to make sure that we also build an advantage in manufacturing the turbines. That is exactly what the hon. Lady is asking for, and this Government are in the process of delivering it.
I welcome the Chancellor’s statement, which foreshadows a huge increase in powers for the Financial Conduct Authority and a huge increase in the amount of legislation and regulations that will come through this House. What thought has the Chancellor given to establishing a specialist financial services Select Committee of this House, perhaps with some oversight capacity, so that we can manage this huge influx of legislation and regulations once we get out of the transition period on
It is not for me to suggest that the Treasury Committee needs something else to do, but my hon. Friend is right that there will be a change in the regulatory alignment after leaving the transition period, which is why our future regulatory framework review is so important. We are just embarking on phase II of that. It will consider the right balance between Government, Parliament and the regulators. That is the appropriate place for him to feed in his thoughts on how we can get that balance right.
In answer to Joanna Cherry earlier, why did the Chancellor rule out allowing the devolved Governments to issue their own green bonds? Surely that would be one way to help the Welsh Government directly fund the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project, considering that the Treasury views the contract for difference model to be too costly.
Short-termism in financing public companies has long been a concern in the UK, so I welcome the measures my right hon. Friend is taking today, which build on the work of the patient capital taskforce. I welcome the review of Solvency II, which is potentially deterring long-term investment, and I welcome the long-term asset fund, too. Will my right hon. Friend set out what he hopes it will achieve and what metrics he will use to assess whether it is working or not?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. To give him a sense of what we are trying to achieve, we know that today defined-contribution pension schemes in particular are not particularly well invested in long-term illiquid instruments—roughly 1% of their portfolios compared with about 10% for defined benefit schemes. If we can unlock that difference it is worth tens and tens of billions of pounds of extra investment in long-term infrastructure and assets in this country. I think that is a valuable prize and we will make a start on making that a reality next year.
I join the shadow Chancellor in celebrating the success and importance of the financial services sector in our country. The Chancellor said he was making a unilateral announcement about equivalence, so can he confirm that the British financial services sector now has to wait for the EU to make its unilateral announcement on equivalence and other measures that will dictate what is possible in terms of access for British businesses? The Government signed the political declaration that committed them to finding the agreement by June last year. If British business was as good as this Government at doing deals, there would be no financial sector in this country.
Maybe I can help clear this up for the hon. Gentleman. There are a set of decisions that we can make unilaterally. There are others that we cannot, because the nature of the decision requires mutual collaboration between us and the other partner. We have obviously refrained from making those decisions. We have also refrained from making decisions where it would not be in our economic self-interest to do so. But we remain ready, and we stand ready, to talk constructively and co-operatively with our European partners and reach agreement on the remaining outstanding decisions.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. I strongly welcome the new sovereign green bond, an idea I have been promoting for many months, especially in the far east. Can he explain how he will ensure that the projects invested in are suitable projects?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s campaigning on this important issue. She asks the right question to make sure the money is going where we want it to go. I can give her the reassurance that we will be using the use of proceeds structure, along with the principles from the International Capital Market Association. That is the most widely used and recognised structure in the ESG—environmental, social and governance—investing space, and it is the structure that is used by pretty much all other sovereign issuers. It will ensure that the money raised goes where it is required and deserves to go.
Credit unions have been a lifeline for many people in local communities during the pandemic. What steps is the Chancellor taking to support credit unions and the mutual sector in terms of growth?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the importance of credit unions in providing credit to those who need it. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary recently hosted a roundtable to make sure the industry is getting the support it requires.
The announcement of a sovereign green bond is to be welcomed as an important step forward in the financing of infrastructure and industry, and is essential to achieving net zero, but what sort of access will the Welsh Government have to this important source of green finance to ensure that projects and priorities that fall within its remit are adequately supported, given that the Chancellor seems to have ruled out empowering the Welsh Government to issue their own green bond?
The UK Government issue UK debt. Where spending has a Barnett implication, the money is provided to the Welsh Government. The sovereign bond is just a way of financing the expenditure of the United Kingdom. The Barnett consequentials will always be provided if and when the appropriate expenditure is made, for the Welsh Government to use as they see fit.
I warmly welcome the statement today, particularly on the issuance of green gilts, which is a great idea. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that the issuance of a green gilt marks a great opportunity to showcase Britain’s place in the world in terms of our financial services power to move towards net zero by 2050?
I pay enormous tribute to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned tirelessly, written tirelessly and advocated tirelessly for many years for the UK to issue a sovereign green bond, and I know he will be heartened by the announcement today. He is absolutely right, and he knows better than most what a signal this will send across the world of our desire to be a global leader in green finance and to deliver on all our ambitions. I know he will pay a key part in making sure that we do.
The Chancellor seems to be either deaf to or in denial about some of what Opposition Members are saying to him today. EY has calculated that over £1 trillion of assets are being moved out of the UK to the EU as a result of Brexit. Does he accept that? Is he proud of it? Does he think it is a price worth paying for Brexit? Does he seriously think that what he is announcing today will mitigate that somehow?
What we are announcing today will ensure that the UK remains the most open, competitive, technology-leaning and dynamic place to do financial services anywhere in the world. It is a constantly changing industry and it is right that we are on the cutting edge of developments. Now that we are outside the EU and leaving the transition period, we have the ability to make further changes to our regulatory regime, to enhance our competitiveness and to attract jobs, capital and business to the UK.
Regarding the comment made by Alison McGovern, I do not know where Labour MPs have been these past few weeks, but the Chancellor has been here today,
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He will know from his extensive experience in financial services how important the announcements today are. He makes a very interesting suggestion, and I would love to meet him to discuss it further and see what we can do.
Thank you. We will have a three-minute suspension to allow the safe exit and entry of right hon. and hon. Members.