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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 3:45 pm, 8th January 2019

My Lords, there is no need for me to repeat the arguments put forward in respect of the earlier measures considered here, so I will speak predominantly to Amendment 5. I looked carefully at the Minister’s summing up at the end of Second Reading. These issues had been articulated widely and we did not think that the Minister was at that time in a position to make forthright improvements, but we are worried now because we are now in Committee and we all recognise the privations of time. It seems to me that, with issues as serious as they are, the Minister ought to consider whether there is a basis for discussion between us outside the Chamber to resolve what, after all, is an essential part of the Bill but is not satisfactory, as it reads at present, to the Opposition parties.

Amendment 5 limits the adjustments—I notice that the word “adjustments” covers a multitude of potential activity and I am not sure that I am entirely happy with that as a defence of where the Government expect the Treasury to go—that the Treasury may make to specified EU financial services legislation to,

“adjustments in connection with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU”.

At present there is no restriction on these adjustments: they could be made in the context of circumstances other than the main purpose of the Bill. We must all recall that this is a Bill of a very specific kind; namely, to cope with a no-deal situation, with the expectation on the Government’s side that it will not become law—that is, it will not be necessary for it to become law because a deal will have been achieved. That is a position that verges on the optimistic at this point, but of course it will be clarified by debates both in this House and in the Commons over the next few days.

As currently drafted, the Bill allows the Treasury to make any adjustments it may consider appropriate. That is the dreamland of the Treasury. I should think it is probably the dreamland of any adviser to the Minister, or any Minister, on any Bill, that he should have that capacity; that there should be provision for adjustments to be made subsequently. Of course, these will be adjustments that the Treasury—the Government—considers to be appropriate. That is scarcely anything other than a pretty outrageous position to adopt.

I also want to comment on Amendment 7, which limits the adjustments—that word again—that the Treasury may make to provisions of specified EU financial services legislation

“to preventing, remedying or mitigating deficiencies in retained EU law”,

and prevents the regulations under Clause 1 from making policy changes,

“other than to reflect the United Kingdom’s new position”,

if we have a deal and have left the EU, vis-à-vis the European Union. The wording of this amendment comes directly from what the Minister said to the House at Second Reading. It comes from the Government’s own explanation of the powers they are using under the EU withdrawal Act for onshoring SIs. I cannot see how the Government can resist accepting the concept of this amendment. They surely do not want to arrogate to themselves powers different from those defined in Amendment 7, which follow the position the Government have adopted up to now. But the Minister must be sufficiently anxious that, in addition to the amendments we have just discussed, from both the Liberal Benches and ours, we have real anxieties about the way in which the Bill stands before the House. The response we received at Second Reading satisfied none of us; otherwise, we would not have felt moved to table these amendments. We will need to make progress because as far as the Opposition are concerned, these are central issues to the Bill if it eventually becomes law.