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Report

Part of Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 15th December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Tunnicliffe Lord Tunnicliffe Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 7:00 pm, 15th December 2015

My Lords, I am conscious that there are two possible tests for deciding when to bring a debate to a conclusion. One is when all arguments have been exhausted, the other when there are no minds left to change. I suspect that the second test is the more acute one, therefore I will be brief.

Many noble Lords have taken part in the debate. In many ways I do not need to answer the points, in that it has been a balanced debate and points have been contested across the House. I am particularly grateful to those noble Lords who agreed with me; I am less enthusiastic about those who disagreed with me. A particular point raised was the matter of human rights. I counter that with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, affirmed that this part of the Bill is compatible with the regime.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, for speaking in support of my position and, in particular, for bringing out in how many areas the reverse burden of proof is in our law. It is not common, but it is there in particular cases.

I note the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on credit unions. In my speech I made the point that we were willing to enter conversations with the Government so that they could come forward at Third Reading with a sensible carve-out from the overall effect. I plead with the noble Lord—he may remember way back when he was in opposition—that we have modest resources. Putting together a series of sensible additions to do the carve-out would not be sensible. We are very happy to agree carve-outs with the Government.

I thank my noble friend Lord Brennan for once again reminding us of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. That is one of the most outstanding pieces of legislation in the British system. Its impact on safety in this country has been phenomenal. I and many managers in this country have laboured under the reverse burden of proof that that Act brings. The reverse burden of proof can be the right thing to do and has proved so in safety. We believe that it would prove so here.

The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said that we have not brought out sufficient justification. He says that it is difficult to prove. No: it has so far proved impossible. I thank my noble friend Lord McFall for reminding him, us and fellow commissioners of how forcefully they supported the reverse burden of proof in their report—I have pulled out extracts but I will not take up the time of the House and read them.

I listened to the early part of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and for a few little happy moments I thought, “He’s going to agree with me and accept”, but no. There is no difference between us in the acceptance that the new regime is a great deal better. The difference between us is on this issue of the reverse burden of proof and this issue alone, in particular the revision of the reverse burden of proof for the major institutions, which have caused so much chaos in our banking industry.

I will not proceed with any further detailed rebuttals, but simply say that one must remember that law has two objectives. Yes, one is to get convictions, but that is the least important objective. The essential thing about a piece of legislation is that it is an incentive to prevent particular actions. The wonderful thing about the reverse burden of proof, which noble Lords will see if they google it and look through headlines and articles, is just how seriously the banking community is taking it and just how it has drawn their attention. I believe that that is, in essence, why it is so powerful and effective.

The Government’s objective, as stated in the letter from the Minister, is,

“for the UK financial services industry to be the best regulated in the world”.

We share that objective, but we would like to have a greater objective, recognising that the financial industry has come from a very dark place. Let us hope that it is heading upwards now and that it aspires to be the best banking industry in the world, the most respected and the one that can be trusted most.

I am afraid that there is no meeting of minds on this issue. Therefore, I intend to test the opinion of the House.