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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 5:00 pm, 8th January 2019

My Lords, I thank noble Lords on all sides for their constructive suggestions during this short debate. I am grateful for these contributions. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, made a fair point about the approach we have taken on considering secondary legislation in Committee. We have brought through 16 statutory instruments so far—we have the joy of another four awaiting us in Grand Committee tomorrow afternoon—out of a total package of some 60, 47 of which will use the affirmative procedure. So there is an element of scrutiny. The noble Lord rightly focused on the provisions of the EU withdrawal Act, which is the substance of Amendment 7, but then we were dealing with known entities and rules.

In introducing this amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, made a very fair point and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, added to it. If I am paraphrasing her correctly, she recognises that, had she not been there, the legislation coming across to us might not have been dealt with in the interests of the United Kingdom financial services industry. I agree with that, from what I know of her role on that committee in that Parliament. Her input—and that of other members—at that stage was vital in shaping the legislation which subsequently came across. We thank her for that service. She is no longer there and, in the scenario for the future files that we are dealing with, neither will her successors be. Therefore, there needs to be a difference in the way these are treated—between the narrow definition in the EU withdrawal Act, when we knew what we were dealing with, and directives and regulations into which we may have had no input and no responsibility for shaping. These could, potentially, be damaging to the UK financial services industry. There is a long way to go with this debate, but that is the crux of it.

I turn to Amendments 2, 4 and 6, the aim of which is to require the publication of a report three months prior to the exercise of the powers under the Bill. This report would need to explain any policy adjustment or decision to omit aspects of the originating file. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, also referred to this. I reassure noble Lords that the Government’s clear intention would be to set out this information in the reports currently required by the Bill.

Further to that, as is standard practice, the Government would of course seek to engage with interested parliamentarians and the industry on the legislation before taking any statutory instruments forward. Where the secondary legislation omits aspects of any EU files, it would certainly be in the public interest to be open about the choices the Government have made in not implementing them.

Regarding the requirement to publish the reports three months ahead of each exercise of the power, the Bill currently sets the requirement that any implementing legislation be subject to the affirmative procedure. This would require laying the relevant statutory instrument before Parliament, and an accompanying Explanatory Memorandum setting out the policy intent, before the debate on the SI itself and well ahead of implementation. This is the established process for scrutinising such statutory instruments and for this reason it is the model we have chosen to follow.

I am also mindful of the fast-moving nature of financial services. In particular, there may be a need to respond quickly to market developments, and it may be important to avoid imbalances with the EU for even a short period—for example, where the files may be of a deregulatory nature. With respect, I suggest that a three-month gap between a report and laying is too long to respond to market developments. Such a three-month requirement would place at risk the basic aim of the legislation, which is to safeguard the reputation, competitiveness and efficiency of UK financial markets. However, having listened to the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, made in moving her amendment and to the subsequent points of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I am willing to consider, ahead of Report, exactly how a process might run in the future to keep noble Lords better informed. Just to manage expectations, we will probably regard three months as too long for what might need to be very fast changes to ensure that UK financial services are not disadvantaged, but I signal my willingness to discuss the issue with the noble Baroness and see whether we can find an acceptable way forward.