I rise in support of new clause 10, and I am pleased to have worked alongside Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown on it, as fellow members of the Public Accounts Committee. Since 2017, I have worked with others supporting steelworker pensioners across Blaenau Gwent and the United Kingdom. Thousands of them fell victim to financial sharks. They were wrongly advised to move out of their defined benefit British Steel pension scheme. It took until last Monday, five years later, for the Financial Conduct Authority to announce a redress scheme. It was about time. The FCA righted those wrongs, but I think too late.
Early on in the campaign, I remember meeting the then chief executive of the FCA, now the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, where I was met with a lacklustre response. Along with my hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock and other campaigners, I continued to press the FCA. In 2020, I wrote to its newly appointed chief executive, however Mr Rathi did not want to meet. He asked one of his directors to meet us instead.
Later, in 2021, frustrated with the FCA giving us the cold shoulder, I wrote to the Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office. I asked if it would please investigate the FCA’s oversight of this terrible scandal. Fair do’s, the NAO did that, and it published its full report in March this year. It observed that in the summer of 2017:
“The FCA had limited insight into…what was happening in the BSPS at the time of its restructure.”
There were terrible things going on.
Even more damning were the conclusions of the Public Accounts Committee. We found that:
“The FCA failed to take swift and effective action at all stages of the BSPS case.”
“to prevent consumers from being harmed”,
which makes clear the
“limitations with the FCA’s supervisory approach”.
The point is that the FCA took proper notice of this injustice only when Parliament, through the NAO and eventually the Public Accounts Committee, dug deep to investigate.
Of course, the BSPS case is not the only example of the FCA’s failure to protect consumers in recent years; I have heard many complaints from Members across the House. The scandals surrounding Blackmore Bond, Dolphin and Azure come to mind. Consumers are our financial sector. As long as the FCA fails to exercise its powers to protect ordinary workers, it will continue to fail our constituents. New clause 10 would require the FCA’s consumer panel to lay an official report before Parliament. We could then judge whether the regulator is fulfilling its duty to protect consumers.
During my 12 years in this House, I have learned many things, but one thing stands out: parliamentary scrutiny matters. I am pleased to have support from across the House for the new clause—from our Labour Treasury team, senior Conservative Members, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Treasury Committee members, other colleagues and fellow members of the Public Accounts Committee. By supporting our new clause, Britain’s consumers could be better heard, and our financial services sector would be all the better for it.