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Part of Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 15th December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Tunnicliffe Lord Tunnicliffe Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 5:45 pm, 15th December 2015

Thank you very much—the implementation of the reverse burden of proof. If I go back to my script, I will get it right.

It is important not to underestimate, as the Government seem to be doing, just how significant a departure this would be from the previous regime, not only symbolically but practically too. There could be no denying the intent and commitment to bring about the most rigorous and thorough regulatory regime if the reverse burden of proof were introduced. We believe that knowing that there is nowhere to hide from failure, and that the burden is on you as a senior manager to prove that you took all reasonable and necessary steps, is a more powerful tool to bring about such change. That is why Labour has tabled this amendment to ensure that it comes into force next March, along with the rest of the SMCR.

We have been prepared to listen to the Government’s defence, and accept that they have put forward a very convincing point about why the reverse burden of proof might not be wholly acceptable in its current form. I speak specifically on the issue of proportionality. Given that the Bank of England and Financial Services Bill extends the scope of the SMCR to the entire financial services sector, we fully acknowledge that exemptions from the burden of proof for those not covered by the original proposals would be entirely sensible and necessary, but we do not regard a differentiation in regime as an insurmountable hurdle to overcome.

Therefore, by way of consensus, if the Government would be willing to indicate their intention to bring forward amendments at Third Reading preserving the reverse burden of proof but making exceptions for smaller firms, we would be open to further discussions. However, if the Government fail to do that, it is our responsibility to stand up for the change that people desperately want to see in the banking sector. It is the difference between reform and the status quo—the difference between the path back to public trust and continued disbelief. It is the difference that we need and deserve.