Amendment 16

Part of Financial Services Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 14th April 2021.

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Photo of Lord Tunnicliffe Lord Tunnicliffe Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow Minister (Transport) 5:45 pm, 14th April 2021

My Lords, the issues covered by this group are wide-ranging in nature but all important. Amendments 16 and 25 return to issues that we explored in Grand Committee, while the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, have found interesting ways to bring important issues to our attention.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, made a convincing case for the need to reform how bailiff activity is regulated. One interesting thing about the Covid-19 pandemic has been its ability to make us look at long-standing issues in a new light, and issues of personal debt are no exception to that. It is promising that both sides of the argument—bailiffs themselves and charities providing advice to those with problem debt—seem to agree on the need for change. This is not a common occurrence, and it provides an opportunity that I hope the Government will seize in the weeks and months ahead.

I know that my noble friend Lord Stevenson, working alongside the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has been pushing on this in the background in the hope that the Ministry of Justice can provide a more meaningful response than we had in Grand Committee. What we really need is for the department to identify an appropriate legislative vehicle for this matter. We very much hope that this will be signposted in the document promised for later this year.

Amendment 26 seeks to broaden the scope of the Financial Ombudsman Service to allow potential customers to submit complaints against financial services firms. This is a fair question to ask: clearly the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, is not satisfied with the previous answer to it. On day 1 of Report, we passed an amendment that would enable the FCA to impose on regulated financial services entities a statutory duty of care towards customers. We hope that, despite their misgivings, the Government take this forward, as we believe that new consumer-centric working practices could negate the need for a proportion of complaints to the ombudsman.

Amendment 27, tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, is not only an impressive interpretation of scope, but raises important questions in relation to the tools available to those experiencing issues with problem gambling. Labour has previously been critical of the Government’s lack of urgency in launching reviews and introducing legislation and regulation. That process is now under way—indeed, I believe that the initial call for evidence has now closed. It is clear to all colleagues that the current regulatory regime has serious shortcomings. Without seeking to pre-empt the outcomes of the DCMS-led review, I hope that the Minister can demonstrate that the Government will take the right reverend Prelate’s suggestions on board.

Finally, Amendment 37C raises what looks to be an important issue in relation to certain payments made from child trust funds or junior ISAs on behalf of children with learning difficulties. I do not believe that we have touched on this issue previously, so I hope that the Minister will commit to a future discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, and my noble friend Lord Blunkett.