Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill — Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:53 pm on 24th July 2013.

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Photo of Lord Deighton Lord Deighton The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury 4:53 pm, 24th July 2013

I thank my noble friend for that interesting observation. The purpose of the Bill is to look at the management of the financial institutions themselves rather than the system. I would welcome that discussion later, in Committee, if my noble friend would like to take it further.

As a further deterrent against misconduct, the Government will table amendments to make reckless misconduct in the management of a bank a criminal offence. Those found guilty will face the possibility of prison sentences. Together, these measures represent an historic overhaul of the system for holding bankers to account for their actions. However, rules and sanctions alone will not guarantee good conduct. The PCBS argued that effective competition between banks is essential to ensuring high standards of behaviour, and the Government agree. We will therefore amend the Bill to give the PRA a secondary competition objective. This will give the PRA a greater role in championing competition in the banking market, to the benefit of consumers.

One key barrier to competition in banking, and in particular to new entrants and smaller firms looking to challenge the big high street banks, is the big banks’ control of payments systems. The Government will therefore introduce amendments establishing utility-style regulation of payments systems. To ensure the safety and stability of payments services, we will also bring forward amendments to provide for a special administration regime for payment and settlement systems. This will require critical payment and settlement services to be continued even in insolvency, until the firm recovers or alternative provision is available.

While the Bill is before this House, the Government will also make some technical amendments to provisions on the pension liabilities of ring-fenced banks and introduce amendments to modernise the rules for building societies, helping to create a level playing field between building societies and banks while preserving the distinct nature of the building society sector.

In the other place, the Government set out our intention to use this Bill to require the Bank of England to produce a resolution strategy for each major UK bank—that is, a plan for how the authorities propose to respond in the event that that bank failed. We still believe that resolution plans are necessary, but given that the European Council of Ministers and the European

Parliament have recently published proposals for the EU recovery and resolution directive that include similar provisions, it may be more appropriate for this requirement to be imposed through transposition of the directive than through the Bill. The Government will continue to review this issue in the light of European developments while the Bill is before this House, with a view to bringing forward amendments if necessary.

We can all agree that this is legislation of the highest importance. It is essential that we address the causes of the terrible banking crisis of five years ago, whose consequences remain with us today. The Bill is a vital step towards ensuring that this crisis is never repeated. Its current provisions represent a once in a generation reform of the structure of British banking, while forthcoming amendments will revamp the accountability regime for bankers’ conduct and standards. I look forward to constructive engagement with all sides of this House over the months ahead. To support noble Lords’ consideration of the Bill, last week the Government published drafts of the principal secondary legislation exercising delegated powers under the Bill, and I will ensure that my officials are available to noble Lords to discuss any details of the Bill. I am pleased to present the Bill for the consideration of noble Lords. I beg to move.