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Amendment 14

Part of Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill - Report (and remaining stages) – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 23rd June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Liberal Democrat 4:30 pm, 23rd June 2020

I thank noble Lords who signed the amendment and spoke in support. The noble Lords, Lord Hodgson and Lord Holmes, and my noble friend Lady Kramer all spoke from experience about how banks will behave to extract cash. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked what grounds the Government had for thinking banks could be constrained. The noble Baronesses, Lady Drake and Lady Altmann, expressed concerns about gaming. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, admitted that the amendment was persuasive. There is consensus that the focus is people.

The Minister’s answer is simply that if the banks press for too much, the payment will not happen and the moratorium will end. That does not stop the accelerated payments and death by a thousand cuts. From the cash flows and other information they have about their clients, banks are well able to know how much they can take a company for and to pace their demands until the money is gone or they have pressurised the business into other lucrative financial arrangements. It is game on.

I am not convinced by the answer about financial stability; the Minister knows this is a subject I know very well. Contracts on market operations do not have to end; it is simply the acceleration of payment on lending that needs restriction. Every pound that is required over and above the general terms existing pre-moratorium is tantamount to reaching through and picking the pocket of employees, pension schemes and small businesses.

The scope given to banks and other lenders to press their advantage during moratorium is too great. It can remove the very breathing space that is the objective of the moratorium. I have not heard any expression of limit to reasonableness other than some kind of banking self-control caused by a moratorium end if the banks get too greedy. As my noble friend Lord Fox said, it is simply tiptoeing around the banks.

To save jobs and businesses and protect pensions, banks must be far more equally in the moratorium. No amount of employee consultation can blunt the banks, and I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 160, Noes 241.