Committee (2nd Day)

Part of Financial Services Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 3rd July 2012.

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Photo of Lord Eatwell Lord Eatwell Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 4:30 pm, 3rd July 2012

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I was going to say "short debate" but it got a bit longer as we went along, as these things tend to do. The reason is because, although it appeared at the beginning to be a debate on semantics, it actually addressed the fundamental issue of giving powers to unelected officials in the form of the Financial Policy Committee, the exercise of which would in the past have typically been associated with elected, accountable politicians. That is a fundamental philosophical issue in the Bill and it is interesting to reflect for a moment on why it has arisen.

First, there is a fundamental difference among many in this House about whether it is more desirable to have a separable economic policy, in which monetary and financial policies are pursued entirely separately from policies on growth and employment, or a collective economic policy conducted with the Bank, the Treasury and all relative institutions collectively deciding on the overall stance that should be taken. That is a fundamental debate in economic analysis. However, it is not the point here, which is why we have been slightly diverted.

The point here is about the role of the Financial Policy Committee, which is an innovation that has arisen because of the change in economic circumstances, involving the speed at which innovation in financial policy can dramatically change the environment of a given government policy. The Government can suddenly find that a particular economic stance is being undermined or distorted by significant innovation in financial markets. The development, for example, of the credit derivatives that underpinned sub-prime mortgages in the United States changed the whole housing finance policy of the United States-an innovation by financial institutions that changed the environment of government policy.

The key role of the Financial Policy Committee is to watch out exactly for those sorts of things. That is what it is there for: to maintain a persistent study of what is happening in financial markets and how that might change the environment for government policy, and of the implications of any particular stance that the Government and/or other economic policy actors, such as the Bank, have taken.

Having said that, this was an interesting debate and we have eventually focused on the issue of "supporting" or "having regard to". Obviously, since I put the amendment down with my noble friend, I think "having regard to" is a more appropriate relationship given the role of the Financial Policy Committee, but, in light of the debate, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Amendment 35 not moved.

Amendment 35A

Moved by Lord Sassoon

35A: Clause 3, page 3, line 35, leave out from first "to" to end of line 36 and insert-

"(a) contributing to the achievement by the Bank of the Financial Stability Objective, and

(b) subject to that, supporting the economic policy of Her Majesty's Government, including its objectives for growth and employment."

Amendment 35A agreed.

Amendment 35AB

Moved by Lord Eatwell

35AB: Clause 3, page 3, line 36, at end insert-

"(1A) The Financial Policy Committee is to exercise its functions with a view to contributing to the achievement by the Bank of the FCA's integrity objectives, including but not limited to those set out in subsection (2)(f) of section 1D and section 1DA of FSMA 2000 as inserted by section 5 of the Financial Services Act 2012."