New Clause 17 - Reporting requirements

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 7 December 2022.

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Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 2:30, 7 December 2022

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; you are as wise as my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire is flattering. We will make some progress and allow others to contribute.

Let me move on to access to banking and payment services. Just as we have said about cash, they are the essential ingredients of modern life and for many businesses. The new clause tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) and for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer) raised the important issue, to all of us in this House, of free speech, and the crucial role of payment service providers in delivering services without censorship. Since Committee stage, I have met with my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye, the FCA and PayPal regarding its recent temporary suspension of some accounts. I draw hon. Members’ attention to my letter deposited in the House, in which I set out the Government’s position on that important matter. I also circulated the letter from PayPal that sets out that it re-evaluated and reversed its decision in a number of the specific cases raised. It says that it was never its intention to be an arbiter of free speech, and that none of its actions was based on its customers’ political views.

I want to be extremely clear that the Government are committed to ensuring that the regulations respect the balance of rights between users and service providers’ obligations, including in respect of freedom of expression, whether of the Free Speech Union, the trade union movement, law-abiding environmental movements or anyone else expressing lawful views. To ensure that the existing regulatory regime is operating as it should in that respect, I will seek further evidence through the Government’s review of payment services regulation in January. To continue this transparent dialogue with colleagues on an important subject, I will provide an update to Parliament in the form of a written ministerial statement before the formal closure of that review, and table amendments to the relevant regulations using the powers in today’s Bill, if necessary.

We recognise the value that the mutuals sector brings to the UK economy in providing a door to affordable credit. The Government are committed to the health and prosperity of the mutuals sector, which is why we supported the private Member’s Bill of Sir Mark Hendrick, which would allow co-operatives, mutual insurers and friendly societies further flexibility in determining for themselves the best strategies for their business. As I said in Committee in response to amendments tabled to today’s Bill by Tulip Siddiq, the Government consider that the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 already ensures that regulators consider mutual entities as they exercise their regulatory functions.

Let me turn to another matter, which is as important to me as I know it is to many colleagues across the House: financial inclusion and consumer protection. The Government are committed to financial inclusion, and want to ensure that people, regardless of background or income, have access to useful and affordable financial products and services. While I respect the intention behind the amendments tabled by Emma Hardy, who has been a consistent voice on this important matter, the FCA gave evidence that it does not consider that a new requirement for it to have regard to financial inclusion would add to its ability to act in this area.