Amendment 16

Part of Financial Services Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 14th April 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Kramer Baroness Kramer Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Treasury and Economy) 5:30 pm, 14th April 2021

My Lords, I think my noble friend Lord Addington put his finger exactly on the problem here. These are a series of amendments, all of them good and strong, that tackle really significant issues that seem to affect a particular selection of our population who find themselves constantly recognised but pushed into the long grass, so that we do not get regulation of the underlying problem. I hope that today we can collectively as a House ginger up the Government to say that this really must be dealt with—not just given to working groups or consulted on yet again but put on a track to get resolution quickly.

On Amendment 16 in Grand Committee we discussed bailiffs and the need to improve their behaviour and get it within the right statutory context, so I will not add more, other than to say that with Covid and the consequences for so many people who will find themselves out of work or in debt, this becomes more urgent than ever. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, should know that, if she finds an appropriate vehicle, we would be very willing to support on this. It must be dealt with. It would be lovely if it were in the form of a government amendment, but somebody will have to move on this very quickly or a lot of people will be paying a sad price.

On Amendment 26, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, sometimes a personal experience leads to identifying a real problem, and he has put his finger on another problem. If I were a regulator, I must say that anyone who could get my attention and show me that we are getting abuse and misbehaviour within the financial services sector ought to be welcomed. If the definition of eligible customers makes it difficult or impossible to use as broadly as it should be, a look at that definition is urgent. If I were the ombudsman or the FCA, I would certainly want to know that someone was out there attempting to scam the public. I can assure the Government that the scammers know all the loopholes and weaknesses in the definitions, so plugging them as rapidly as possible makes obvious sense.

Amendment 27, dealing with the issue of gambling, focuses on important and powerful tools to ensure that gamblers can restrict their own imprudent or addictive behaviour. It is an important amendment. I was looking, almost by chance, at a January study in Frontiers in Psychiatry, which had done a survey that demonstrates that gamblers are at greater risk of gambling harm as a consequence of Covid and lockdown, which have exacerbated well-established risk factors for disordered gambling: social isolation, lack of social support, boredom and financial insecurity. The severity of gambling problems also has a high correlation with depression and anxiety, which are very much associated with Covid and lockdown, so we have a very unfortunate vicious circle. If this is not exactly the right amendment, I hope that the Government will act, because it seems that a lot of people are particularly at risk both now and over the months to come.

When I saw Amendment 37C, I thought it must be a government amendment that had been handed to a friendly Peer, because it seemed to tackle an issue that is absolutely pertinent. I had no idea that something like 200,000 disabled youngsters will, when they turn 18, find it difficult, if not impossible to get the benefit of a child trust fund because their carers have such hurdles to cross to access those savings. Obviously, I take seriously everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, but I also know the noble Lord, Lord Young, well enough to know that he would be very able to recraft the amendment to deal with the primary issues that she mentioned. It seems to me that there are some natural safeguards because of the limits to small amounts of money, and other pertinent issues were raised to make sure that this is narrowly drafted to deal only with child trust funds, and junior ISAs could be accommodated. If he were minded to bring it back at Third Reading, if he does not get the assurances that he needs from the Government, I would be very willing to support it.

We have a long evening still ahead of us. As I said, this is a very useful group of amendments, and I hope the Government will take seriously the content of each of them and find a way to turn concern into action.