Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 7th December 2022.
The hon. Member draws our attention to the very tragic cases that occur when financial regulation goes wrong and does not do its job in the way every Member of this House would like to see. He also talks about a legal threshold for that. He will perhaps appreciate that I do not have the facts of that particular case before me and that we are not drafting things here and now. I have heard from Members on both sides of the House about some of the problems in what we are talking about, which is essentially the conduct of the regulator, and I understand colleagues’ desire to look at legal liability as one remedy, but there are many powers in the Bill, and as I say, the Bill will not constrain the ability of this House or Ministers going forward.
Emma Hardy, with whom I spent a lot of time in the Bill Committee—I suspect we will hear from her later this afternoon—has tabled a new clause on considering economic risks in regulators’ cost-benefit analysis panels. I would like to reassure her that the regulators already take steps—and, to assuage her concerns, they could perhaps do more—to think about economic crime when they do that. They have the power, of course, to consult experts where they consider it relevant.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire again for raising the issue of regulatory proportionality. I wish to reassure him that the Government are clear that the burden of any regulation should be proportionate to its benefits, and that is set out in existing legislation. I am very happy to reiterate again today that I expect the regulators to fully and proactively embrace that principle, which is embedded in statute. That is particularly important, as the Bill confers on them greater rule-making responsibilities. I suspect we will hear from my hon. Friend later on.
I will now turn to Government amendments 8 to 11 —I apologise, but there are quite a lot of amendments to crack on through. Clause 6 already enables the Treasury to exempt regulators from the statutory requirement to consult on rules when they are replacing retained EU law repealed by the Bill without making material changes. Amendments 8 to 11 go further. They create a blanket exemption from the statutory requirement to consult in situations in which the regulators remove EU-derived rules from their rulebooks without replacement. The amendments also allow the Treasury to exempt the regulators when they are amending EU-derived rules or replacing retained EU law in their rulebooks, and when the only material effect of the change is to reduce regulatory burdens. That ensures that the regulators can take that proportionate approach to consultation, accelerate the repeal of retained EU law, and not let the requirement to consult be an obstacle or delaying factor. It is a long time since the British people voted for Brexit, and it is time to start delivering those benefits. Nothing in the amendments changes the obligation on the regulators to act to advance their statutory objectives, so any reduction in regulatory burdens must be compatible with those objectives.
Let me briefly cover the two remaining Government amendments, and I will then move on. New clause 20 ensures that a new type of fund vehicle currently being explored—the unauthorised contractual scheme—would be commercially viable if it were introduced. The proposed fund has the potential to improve the competitiveness of the UK by filling a gap in the UK’s existing fund offering and supporting the domestic growth agenda by facilitating greater investment in UK real estate by UK funds. Amendment 17 is a minor and technical amendment to rectify an inadvertent omission in drafting.
I will now address the amendments tabled by other Members. I am conscious that I am speaking before Members have had a chance to introduce their amendments, so I look forward to responding in more detail, where necessary, at the end of the debate. Let me start with the important issue of access to cash. I represent a rural constituency with a higher-than-average proportion of elderly and vulnerable residents, so I am acutely aware of the very real concerns around this topic. As of today, there remains extensive access to cash across the UK as a whole—over 95% of people live within 2,000 metres of a free cashpoint. I want to be clear that it is not acceptable for people to have no option but to travel large distances or pay ATM fees to access their own money.
If hon. Members have a concern in their local area, as I know many have, I strongly recommend that they reach out to LINK, which is leading the industry-led initiative to see what can be done to help constituents. LINK is delivering, for example, a new free-to-use ATM in the Pollards Hill estate in the constituency of Siobhain McDonagh—I have already made a commitment to her to visit and open it.