Safe Hands Funeral Plans

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 12th May 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 5:02 pm, 12th May 2022

The hon. Gentleman makes his points somewhat speculatively, but expresses some valid specific concerns about the journey that Safe Hands went on. Other investigations cannot take place until the administration process is concluded. The driver for the regulations that we are to introduce was the fear among Members from all parties a few years ago. The important thing is to give reassurance going forward. There will be a day of reckoning for the directors of Safe Hands, who will have to account for what happened, but the administration process must happen first. I cannot say any more on that, but the hon. Gentleman’s relevant points are noted.

I must stress that an inability to meet the new standards of regulation—because of issues with conduct, business models or trust arrangements—does not mean that the regulation is at fault; rather, by bringing the sector into regulation, we expose unsustainable practices that, left unchecked, could ultimately worsen and impact more consumers. As the famous adage says, sunlight is the best disinfectant. In this instance, by regulating we will turn the spotlight on businesses that operate with unworkable models, and will prevent consumer harm.

My hon. Friend Paul Maynard asked about the low-interest loan scheme that we have been piloting with South Manchester Credit Union. I hope to visit Manchester in the week after next. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there is a wider agenda in terms of affordable credit, and I am still very much committed to developing that instrument and making it widely available, alongside making other interventions in respect of credit unions that we can talk about when the financial services and markets Bill comes to the House shortly.

It is right that the Government act to protect consumers, many of whom will be elderly or vulnerable, with a robust, proportionate regulatory framework. In addition, a well-regulated market will promote effective competition and drive better long-term outcomes for consumers. As I have said, Safe Hands customers can be assured that they will be covered for at least another six months. I encourage other providers and market participants to take further action, as Dignity has done, to protect consumers of firms that will not become authorised.

I assure the House that the Government and the Financial Conduct Authority continue to work closely with each other and with the sector—I have mentioned those two meetings that I have personally held, and meetings that my officials have held, with industry representatives—to ensure that that shift to regulation is as smooth as possible. I take account of the several valid points raised this afternoon. We all have a moral obligation to ensure that funeral plan customers and their loved ones receive the certainty that they need and deserve.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.