New Clause 1 - Authorised reclaim funds: duty to assess and report

Part of Dormant Assets Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 31st January 2022.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 8:30 pm, 31st January 2022

I wish to put on the record my thanks to hon. Members. I am encouraged by our collegiate debate, in stark contrast to the scenes on the Floor of the House earlier today. This evening’s debate shows that Parliament is at its best when we all work together across parties to deliver for our communities. More needs to be made of what we can do when we choose to work together.

As I mentioned, it was a Labour Government who first advanced legislation to place dormant assets from bank and building society accounts into the reclaim fund after significant efforts were made to contact the owners of those assets. For this reason, we are broadly supportive of the Bill and its main aims to expand the scheme. We therefore continue to welcome attempts to incorporate a commitment to community wealth funds, which have the potential to support communities across the nation that have been left behind in recent years.

The Minister knows that Labour Members outlined our concerns at length in Committee and on Report, and my colleagues and I made particular reference to some of the flaws in the Bill that we ultimately sought to correct. It is therefore somewhat disappointing that our concerns on the health and governance of the reclaim fund have not been taken on board, particularly as transparency and scrutiny are such essential facets of our work in this place.

In Committee, the Minister argued that Reclaim Fund Ltd is

“responsible for determining the appropriate proportion of funding that it can prudently release… The amount that RFL reserves for future repayment claims is…based on actuarial modelling and assessment of…risk factors, following guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority.”––[Official Report, Dormant Assets Public Bill Committee, 11 January 2022; c. 34-35.]

Of course, independence from the Government is vital but it is also important that the Secretary of State makes a regular assessment if this fund is to be available for future generations. I sincerely hope the Minister will take on board our concerns and discuss with the Secretary of State, who is in her place, and departmental colleagues the potential for an annual report, which would be extremely beneficial for those who rely on funds from this important scheme.

Although Labour supports the Bill, we believe the Government have missed several opportunities. I urge the Secretary of State to speed up the timetable to allow for these much-needed funds to reach the communities that need them most. I look forward to closely following the development of the first public consultation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.