New Clause 17 - Reporting requirements

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 7 December 2022.

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Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 5:30, 7 December 2022

As I have made clear in previous iterations of this legislation, I am very broadly supportive of the aims of this Bill and on the Treasury Committee we have scrutinised it in detail, so I will limit my comments to just some of the huge number of amendments. I love this exercise in democracy where different MPs with different interests come forward with their amendments; I have actually worked with many of them in my life and have direct experience with them.

I absolutely support new clause 27 on freedom of expression, which my hon. Friend Miriam Cates mentioned. UsforThem, which was founded by someone in my constituency, has done some great work campaigning on schools, but was utterly traumatised by the sudden loss of access to PayPal, and we need due process around that.

On new clause 28 relating to buy now, pay later, which Stella Creasy mentioned, I was involved with the regulation of payday loans, something else that fell between the gaps and needed to be sorted—it was outrageous. I am convinced by her arguments that buy now, pay later is another gap that is not addressed. I am sure the FCA has powers to deal with that already, but I hear her frustration that the Government keep saying that they will deal with it but have not done so, so I urge the Minister to put that on his list of things to take up and deal with.

The same applies to new clause 11, which the Chair of the Treasury Committee, my hon. Friend Harriett Baldwin, talked about convincingly. It is an absolute scandal that huge swathes of the population cannot get access to financial advice and are impoverished as a result because of a failure of regulation, or excessive regulation—we can blame the EU. I was on an FCA taskforce some time ago to try to sort out this problem—I was trying to remember where it went, but it clearly ran into the sand. We absolutely need to deal with this urgently. Again, I take reassurance from the Minister’s comments that he will deal with it as a matter of urgency. I will hold him to that, as, I am sure, will the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Access to in-person banking is really important. In fact, I negotiated the deal with the Post Office on behalf of the banks to open up post offices to offering banking services. There are actually more post office branches than all the bank branches in the country combined. A lot of people complained to me about the lack of access to certain banking facilities, and I would always point out that they can do those things at their local post office, which they did not know—we need to raise the profile of that.

Opposition Members need to define clearly what they mean by “in-person banking”. There are lots of different things. Do they mean going to ask for a mortgage or just paying a bill, for example? We do lots of different things in different places. The deal with the Post Office is being renegotiated, and I think the main thing there will be to ensure that whatever services we want are put into the negotiations.

Finally, I want to talk about access to free cash. I said in an intervention earlier that I massively support access to cash. Cash use is dwindling—clearly, more people are using cards and other payment types—but we need to make sure that people who do not want to use other means have access to cash and, indeed, access to free cash. I should say—I do not think anyone has remarked on it—that paid ATMs have been dying a death over the last 15 years. There is about half the number now than there was 15 years ago. People pay for only 5% of ATM withdrawals—I never do because I find it offensive to pay to take out my own money. I fully support the sentiment.

However, on new clause 7, there is already a power in the Bill for the FCA to ensure access to cash, and that could include pricing so that the FCA can ensure access to free cash. I have two things to say about the drafting of the new clause. First, it does not stipulate whether it applies to personal or business customers. Traditionally and historically, a lot of business customers have paid for cash-handling services. Is the new clause saying that they should no longer pay for them? It is not quite clear. If they are no longer required to pay, are non-cash businesses cross-subsidising them? Secondly, the new clause does not stipulate whether it applies just to sterling cash and not to foreign exchange. If I was a bureau de change dealer, I would be rather worried about having to offer my services for free.

With those comments, I basically urge the Minister to stand by the various commitments he has made this afternoon. I support the Bill.