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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 8th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative 5:45 pm, 8th January 2019

My Lords, I have put my name to this amendment. My noble friend has raised an important point about Brexit itself and its implications for the regulatory regime. I do not propose to follow up on his technical discussion, but there is a wider point to be made. Here, I will draw on the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, who said that, in the two-year period during which the Bill provides powers, things will happen. We can set out our regulatory stall, but our strategy for regulation needs to become clearer during the two years in which the Act will be in effect.

It is important that the Government do some serious thinking about how this country will present itself to the world via its financial services as part and parcel of the new regime. Noble Lords will know that, for a number of years, I was a director of one of the self-regulatory organisations which governed the City before the passage of the Financial Services and Markets Act. A wise old bird once told us that we should think about it like a high jump. If you set the bar too low, everybody can clear it and you will attract to your market all sorts of undesirable characters and firms, and there will inevitably be failures and problems, which will damage your overall reputation and therefore you will lose your world standing. By contrast, if you set the bar so high that nobody can get over it without enormous cost, bureaucracy, time and difficulty, you may have a market relatively free of failure but it will have very many fewer participants. I encourage the Government to think about how we set that high-jump bar for regulations, given the comments my noble friend made in his opening remarks.

The only other point I want to make is this: regulation tends to be on an upward lockstep. For the most part, regulators do not have a reverse gear. Few regulators come along and say that, given that the world has changed, they no longer need the powers they have because they can do a perfectly satisfactory job without them. Rather, they are left with those powers, which then have to be enforced and have a cost. The commercial vessel then gets more and more barnacles and slows through the water, and it is never able to go in for a hull clean.

My remarks are not an argument against regulation per se. They urge the Government to have regular reviews of regulation to ensure that it is properly focused and achieves a worthwhile result.