New Clause 17 - Reporting requirements

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 7 December 2022.

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Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 4:30, 7 December 2022

I rise to speak to new clauses 22, 23 and 29 and amendments 19, 21 and 22 in my name, which are all about financial inclusion. I thank Martin Coppack from Fair By Design, the Phoenix Group and Mastercard for meeting me earlier this week to talk about why they support financial inclusion.

When we think of financial inclusion, we tend to think of the consumer groups that support it, such as Citizens Advice, and it is not widely known that it is supported by FTSE 100 companies such as the Phoenix Group, Mastercard and Legal & General. When I asked why they support it, they said that since we left the EU, regulators are more powerful than ever before. Of course, I do not believe that the Government should have the call-in powers that were debated earlier. That huge transfer of powers to the regulator means that it becomes even more crucial for Parliament to set the correct objectives; we have to get the objectives right if we are to allow our regulators to function effectively in the post-Brexit world.

There was a rumour that the Government were keen to push back on any additional objectives for the regulators. Apparently, they compared it with the national curriculum, where everybody wants to get their bit in, and perhaps in the same way, everybody wants their bit to be a new objective for the regulators. But even if that is the case—clearly, there is a demand for the regulators to have many new objectives and for objectives to be strengthened—that does not mean that we are incorrect, because financial inclusion is important. Ensuring that the FCA has regard to financial inclusion turns it from a nice to have to something that we must have. It would embed financial inclusion in the design of financial services and products forever.

When I met people from Mastercard and they were talking to me about future innovations in financial services, fintech and the way financial services are developing new products, they said that at the moment financial inclusion is seen as an add-on, in that they develop a product, and financial inclusion is fitted into it by asking, “Well, how can we make this financially inclusive?” Those from Mastercard told me that they want financial inclusion to be there from the beginning, so that when new products are designed and created, it is given primacy, and is there throughout the whole design.

Without financial inclusion, constituents will continue to face what is called the poverty premium. I have spoken before about the poverty premium, which is basically the additional cost of being poor, and it explains why it is so expensive to have such a low income. In Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, the poverty premium works out at £459 per household, which is nearly £6 million paid in extra costs by my constituents just because they happen to come from lower-income families. This is all calculated by Fair By Design.

For too long, the idea of financial inclusion has been a hot potato passed between the FCA, the Treasury and other regulators and Departments, with nobody prepared to take ultimate responsibility. For example, the Competition and Markets Authority started to carry out investigatory work on the poverty premium across essential services, but in the end determined it was too difficult, and it now signposts organisations to sector regulators such as the FCA. However, the sector regulators say that this is not their responsibility, as it involves elements of social policy and pricing of risk—and so we go on.

We are asking the FCA to collate the information needed to really look at and analyse the poverty premium. Of course, as we expected, the FCA says it does not want another objective. I think we probably understand why it does not want to be given any additional work to do, but it is our job as Parliament to set and establish the types of financial services we want, and to ask what our principles are as parliamentarians, what things we care about and what we want our future financial services to look like. Surely Members across the House would agree that having a financially inclusive sector or financially inclusive products that cater for people right across the population of the UK, not merely the most profitable ones, is a good thing.

When I was talking to people from Mastercard and Phoenix about this, they said that financial inclusion could open up new markets for them among those who would be interested in their products, if they were designed in an effective way. My new clauses and amendments ask the FCA to have regard to financial inclusion, and would place a duty on the FCA to report to Parliament annually on how well it is doing with financial inclusion and giving that information back to us. The proposals would end the current damaging situation by placing a clear remit on the regulator to ensure it routinely and properly explores financial inclusion issues across its work, allowing greater clarity on unintended consequences and the best interventions needed to ensure financial inclusion, as well as who is best placed to act.

The Government could save my constituents in Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle nearly £6 million, and it would not cost them a penny. Surely that, if nothing else, means that the Government should look more favourably at the amendments I have tabled.