New Clause 17 - Reporting requirements

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 7th December 2022.

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Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 5:15 pm, 7th December 2022

With your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to start, before getting into the meat of this, by paying tribute to a Labour councillor in Hitchin who recently and suddenly passed away in my constituency. Judi Billing had served as a district councillor since 1980 and was an excellent servant, and I wanted to make that point on the Floor of the House.

I rise in particular to support new clause 17. As we all know, this is really an enabling Bill and a lot of its meat will come in regulations that will be passed in the coming weeks and months. In the short time available to me, I think it is important to stand up for the regulators, because someone has to in this debate. I want to stand up for them not because I have agreed with every decision of the Prudential Regulation Authority, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Payment Systems Regulator or anyone else, but because a lot of the right criticisms that I and many other colleagues have had of the regulators arise more as a function of the system in which they operate than as a result of the decisions made by those individual regulators or institutions.

There is a key point about accountability, which many colleagues on both sides of the House have already raised: there needs to be strengthened accountability to this House. I have made the point many times before, but I urge those on the Treasury Bench, His Majesty’s Treasury and Parliament to look at this more deeply. Unless we can strengthen the accountability to this House and the other place of the regulators directly, we will continue to run up against criticisms that they are not taking colleagues’ considerations into account.

There is also a need for more effective accountability to the Government. What I mean by that is that the Government have clearly set out, in a series of actions, policy statements, speeches and strategies over the past few months, and in numerous reviews, what their intentions are. Those have been supported when it has come to votes on the Floor of this House, but sometimes there is a gap between the intention of the Government and what ends up coming through, even when regulations are passed to that end. It is important that the regulators and the Government work together to find a system whereby the Government can ensure that their strategic aims are being supported on an ongoing basis by the regulators. This is not just about saying what the policy is, passing regulations and allowing the regulators to get on with it. However well they try to do that, a lot will get missed, so we need to think about that.

We need to rethink the entirety of our regulatory structure, particularly as to how it governs financial services. We have very powerful regulators that have taken on a huge amount of power from the European Union, and they are doing their best. There are some overlaps between them and there are times when certain aims of one conflict with the aims of the other, even in relation to the competitiveness objective that has come up many times in the passage of this Bill. We end up with the situation where the regulators have to balance off competitiveness and other secondary objectives, and indeed the primary objectives. We have to work out how we are going to put together a framework that enables better accountability to this House, and better accountability to the political aims that have been passed by this House and to the aims of the Government, so that we get a regulatory system that drives a better, more competitive, safer financial services system.

To that end I have set up the Regulatory Reform Group, of which some Members of this House and others outside are a part. I intend to work with the Government on this issue, because unless we get it right, all the best intentions that all colleagues have in different areas will find it hard to be effected because of the structural difficulties that are inherent. So I would like to stick up for the regulators but say that they need to be able to operate in a more effective system.