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Part of Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 15th December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative 6:30 pm, 15th December 2015

After the speeches that we have heard, particularly that of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, I had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, might rise to the Dispatch Box and say, “In the circumstances, I will no longer press this amendment”. But, sadly, he has not. In declaring my interest, I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, and the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, that not only did I completely agree with every word they said but I thought that they made outstanding speeches.

I strongly support the extension of the senior managers and certification regime to all sectors of the financial services industry. It will create a fairer, more consistent and rigorous regime for all sectors of the financial services, enhancing personal responsibility for senior managers as well as providing a more effective and proportionate means of raising standards of conduct of key staff more broadly, supported by what we have heard during this Bill will be more robust enforcement power for the regulators.

As I have not persuaded the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, so far, perhaps I may now proceed to declare my interest as chair of the Credit Union Expansion Project and Cornerstone Mutual Services. The noble Lord did not mention credit unions, but credit unions as deposit takers are subject to the senior managers regime. I am delighted that, due to the advocacy of the Association of British Credit Unions and the support of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions, both the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority have made special allowances for smaller deposit takers to apply a simplified regime in recognition of the need for proportionality. But not a word of that lies in this amendment. There are no associated amendments helping to deal with the position of credit unions.

If this amendment were to be carried, we would have the reverse burden of proof applying to managers in credit unions. Credit unions in the vast majority of cases have fully non-executive volunteer boards which are democratically elected by and drawn from a credit union’s membership. They already face significant challenges in attracting and retaining skilled and experienced individuals willing to sit on their boards on a voluntary basis. The imposition of the heightened personal responsibility which the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, would impose by removing this clause would compound and exacerbate these difficulties for many credit unions. Some larger credit unions have already begun to move away from the voluntary board model in order to attract the right people in the light of SMR and, in particular, the prospect that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, might succeed in this amendment. There are many other reasons but, please, do not impose this level of responsibility on institutions—admittedly deposit takers—like credit unions.

We have heard all the arguments about presumption of innocence. We have the opportunity of a regime which will be tougher and fairer. Please do not let us complicate it any further by introducing a disparate, varied scheme. Let us impose this new regime, which I believe will be very successful indeed.