Amendment 4

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 6 June 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Penn Baroness Penn The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury 6:15, 6 June 2023

My Lords, the UK is a leading jurisdiction for sustainable finance, and the Government are proud of that record and determined to maintain and further that position. Since Committee stage, London has been ranked as the leading global green finance centre for the fourth consecutive time. Government effort, including on sustainability disclosure and reporting, has played a vital role.

The Government’s success in green finance has been down also to the responsiveness and technical capability of our independent regulators, who have collaborated to drive forward our policy on sustainability disclosures. The Government’s approach was established in the 2021 paper, Greening Finance: A Roadmap to Sustainable Investing, where we set out the foundations of sustainability disclosure requirements—or SDR—which build on our world-leading implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, or TCFD. This includes taking forward an approach across the economy to implementing international standards, enabling firms to plan for the transition and ensuring that this information flows to investors and financial consumers. Credible, usable information is a core component of green finance that will allow us to reach our goals on sustainability. When this information is available, market participants can use it to take sustainability into account when making investment decisions. Our plan for SDR is central to delivering this.

In Committee, some noble Lords raised concerns about the Government’s ongoing commitment to implementing these important reforms, the legal basis for implementing them, and the timelines for doing so. I am therefore pleased to be able to update noble Lords on a number of substantive developments since then.

Significantly, the Government published an updated green finance strategy on 30 March. This set out next steps across core elements of SDR. The Government will consult on extending the transition planning requirements—a core component of SDR—to the largest private companies once the Transition Plan Taskforce has completed its work later this year. The Government will also set up a framework to assess the suitability of the IFRS International Sustainability Standards Board’s standards for adoption in the UK. The Government remain committed to delivering a usable and useful UK green taxonomy and expect to consult on this in autumn 2023. They are also committed to setting out further detail on SDR implementation and the timeline for it this summer to reflect the rapid development of international standards.

Alongside this, the Financial Conduct Authority continues to take forward SDR for authorised persons, including consumer-facing disclosure requirements, under its existing objectives and rulemaking powers, which are sufficiently broad for the purpose. The FCA intends to issue its policy statement on SDR and investment labels in the third quarter of this year.

However, the Government recognise that SDR policy has strong links to wider environmental policy and that they therefore have an important role to play in shaping SDR. That should be recognised in legislation. Parliament must be able effectively to scrutinise the actions of government and the regulators in this area.

Amendment 4 will therefore require the FCA and the PRA to have regard to any policy statement made by the Treasury on SDR when they make rules in connection to sustainability disclosures. The amendment obliges the regulators to consider the Government’s wider policy goals when bringing forward SDR rules, while still maintaining their independence.

Regulators will also be required to report on how they have satisfied the requirement to have regard to any such policy statement on an annual basis. This will support Parliament in scrutinising the regulator’s actions on SDRs. This ongoing reporting will support transparent, structured co-operation between the regulators, government and Parliament to achieve the UK’s objectives in this space.

We will be debating a number of other sustainable finance issues today, and disclosures are at the heart of some of the matters that they raise. The amendment is therefore an important measure in that context as well as in its own right. I beg to move.