Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [HL] - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:34 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Liberal Democrat 3:34 pm, 8th January 2019

My Lords, for the purposes of the Committee stage of this Bill, I declare my interest as in the register as a director of the London Stock Exchange plc.

This Bill, as was elaborated at Second Reading, is intended to provide a way to land so-called in-flight legislation. However, as many noble Lords also observed during Second Reading, the scope for amendment of that legislation is wide and not limited to the type of onshoring provisions of the withdrawal Act. Indeed, there is no promise of onshoring at all. This point is noted by the Delegated Powers Committee in paragraph 17 of its report on this Bill. The fact is that there is just a wide power to make legislation related to any of the provisions in any of the legislation in subsection (2) or specified in the list in the Schedule. There are no provisions defining how close it must be to that legislation, and the power is not anchored only to withdrawal from the EU.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the mechanism is an alternative to primary legislation. Although the power is time-limited, I do not consider that that is sufficient control to replace primary legislation entirely. It cannot be left open for the Government to cherry pick, to diminish, to add or to do things that depart from expectation, in terms both of the policy in the EU instruments that the power covers and the policy that has been laid out by government with regard to relations with the EU after Brexit.

The doubt starts right at the opening words, which state:

“The Treasury may by regulations make provision … corresponding, or similar, to … any of the provisions, of any specified EU financial services legislation”.

The use of “or” clearly implies that the regulation may make provisions that are corresponding but not similar. A simple suggestion may be to make a penalty for a failure in a corresponding position, but not the same penalty. So, too, could it be the other way round: a provision may be similar but not corresponding. A penalty may be moved to somewhere else or attached to a different provision. We often talk in particular about criminal penalties, when we are equalising them out between different types of provisions.

Amendment 1 would replace “or” with “and” so that it said “corresponding and similar”, thus making the objective clear: it corresponds to a particular EU provision and it is in similar terms. That seems to be a good and clear start to the Bill rather than the imprecise start that it currently has.

On its own, the amendment would not solve all the problems, including the Government’s plea for some flexibility. In other amendments in later groups, I probe how that might be done. Other noble Lords have amendments in this group which suggest further limitations on power. As it has fallen to me to speak first, I shall briefly comment on them

Amendment 3, tabled by my noble friend Lord Sharkey, makes a good point about not changing the primary purpose of the EU legislation, and it could sit alongside my Amendment 1 as well as standing alone. Amendment 5, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, and others, would limit the provisions to the circumstances of withdrawal from the EU. I am interested in the debate around that point. How far would the Government intend to stretch the term,

“adjustments in connection with the withdrawal”?

What other form of amendment not connected to withdrawal might they be contemplating?

Amendment 7, by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, progresses the limitation to reflecting the UK position outside the EU. In later groups, I have put forward some probing amendments that would limit the scope of amendment in other ways but which are a little more permissive, so, for now, I reserve my own position on Amendments 5 and 7 save to say that, if it is not feasible to construct suitably restrained flexibility, limitations of the kind set out in Amendments 5 and 7 would have to become the default position. I beg to move.