New Clause 27 - Money laundering offences: electronic money institutions, payment institutions and deposit-taking bodies

Part of Financial Services Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 13th January 2021.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee 5:15 pm, 13th January 2021

The core purpose of the Bill is to ensure that the regulatory framework for financial services will continue to be effective now that we have left the EU. Of course, there are other measures in the Bill, on matters such as the open market arrangements with Gibraltar and debt advice; it is wide in scope.

In Committee, we considered the Bill in detail, and I commend my hon. Friend the Minister for his knowledge and vision. It would be fair to say that some of the measures that we looked at were in very specialist areas and were perhaps a little dry; I am thinking about the work to transition away from LIBOR and implement the Basel standards. That obviously had not been easy work; it had been detailed work, and the development had taken place over a significant period.

The Minister has placed certain underlying principles at the heart of his work, and we see them in the Bill. The first is ensuring that the UK will have world-leading prudential standards, and that those will be overseen by regulators with the powers they need. There is no doubt that the world, including the UK, has seen appalling financial scandals; I am thinking about insider dealing, money laundering and bank fraud. Our regulators must be equipped to deal with this fast-moving market. They must be careful that they are not so backward-looking that they are solving the last crisis, but they are also nimble enough to have proportionate regulations for the sector.

The second principle that my hon. Friend the Minister is operating under is the recognition that different types of activity, and different scales of company, require different approaches. The Bill enables the introduction of the tailored investment firms prudential regime. I believe that the whole Committee wanted to see a firmer approach taken to wrongdoing, alongside measures to ensure that the UK’s strong position in this critical sector is maintained. I think that the Bill does that—indeed, that is the bulk of the Bill—but it does, of course, require regulators to enforce that properly.

A further principle of my hon. Friend’s work is helping people with debt problems. We have already heard about clause 32, which introduces changes to the debt respite scheme. Those are of great significance to many of our constituents up and down the country. Essentially, there are two elements: a breathing space and a statutory debt repayment plan, the point being early intervention and recognition of the problem. That will help people escape the cycle of debt, which is sometimes very easy to get into and very hard to break out of.

In our evidence session, the Committee heard from Peter Tutton, head of policy at the debt charity StepChange. Mr Tutton described this as “a cracking scheme”—I wrote down the quote when he gave us his evidence. That is a significant endorsement of the Minister’s work. The Bill also contains a measure to provide a route for a successor account when the Help to Save term matures, so that the balance is transferred to an alternative savings account—again, practical support that will help many people.

There are many new clauses and amendments before us. I welcome Government new clauses 27 and 28 and new schedule 1, which basically broaden—update, really—the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to include e-money institutions. I am pleased to see that that is supported by the Labour party in its own new clause 6, which will not be moved. There is clearly a recognition on both sides of the House that the Act needed to be updated and tackled.

New clause 7, in the name of Stella Creasy and many others, looks at the unregulated “buy now, pay later” market. It is easy to see how an interest-free product could help people spread payments for a sofa or other high-cost item, but it could also be a route into debt trouble. I am pleased that the Minister has commissioned a review, which is due to finish very shortly. May I just ask him to consider its recommendations very promptly?

Overall, this is a good Bill. I thought that the Committee scrutinised it well, and I will support it this evening.