Amendment 4

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 6 June 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative 7:00, 6 June 2023

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on her Amendment 4. I am sure that it is very well-intentioned, and it meets some of the concerns that were clearly expressed in Committee. I welcome the update that will be coming from her on the green taxonomy; I believe that there will be a consultation on that. There is also the new green finance strategy, which has been published. They are all welcome.

Amendment 4 is welcome, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, explained, although it will ensure that the Treasury produces guidance or requirements for sustainable investing by pension schemes and others, it would appear that the FCA and the PRA may not have the powers to issue that guidance. So, once the Treasury has produced its recommendations, we will still need to legislate. Can my noble friend the Minister confirm that that is the case, and that we will need further legislation if we want to implement the impacts of Amendment 4 through to pension schemes?

I have added my name to Amendments 93 and 113 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. Amendment 93 deals with the investment duties of pension providers and investment managers, and Amendment 113 deals with the investment duties of occupational pension trustees and managers. Clearly, if we are to make progress in line with the Government’s laudable objectives—and I congratulate them on all the work they have been doing, including some of their world-leading work on trying to ensure that pension schemes invest more in line with green objectives and sustainable investments for the long term—the amendments will ensure that the FCA and the PRA can make those rules. The amendments are very reasonably drafted; the FCA and the PRA may make these rules, but they do not require them at this stage to do so. The trustees and investment managers must then have regard to the rules, but, as the noble Baroness explained, they can explain why they are not going to implement the rules. However, at least we can set up a system where the trillions of pounds of long-term investment money in pension schemes can assuredly do more to protect the planet and provide investment opportunities that will help with social objectives for this country.

I do not have a problem with the concept of government directing pension schemes to invest a certain proportion of their assets, if necessary, in green, sustainable and socially desirable projects, including infrastructure, forestation, nature preservation and so on. At least 25% of all pension schemes—we are talking about hundreds of billions of pounds—has come from the taxpayer in the first place in the form of tax relief. Given that 25% of everyone’s pension is tax free, that is money that was spent by taxpayers. Given the budget circumstances that the country faces, and as taxpayers would otherwise be funding these projects outside pension schemes, I do not think that it is impossible to justify the idea that, should the private sector not be forthcoming with its investments in these vital elements for future growth and for a sustainable future for us all, the Government might themselves decide to require it.

These amendments will at least pave the way to ensure that there is more chance of these huge amounts of money, which are put aside for millions of people’s retirement income later in life, being invested in a way that will benefit them and the economy, as well as ensuring that there is much more and better protection for the planet, which I know that the Government wish to achieve. So I support Amendments 93 and 113, and I have added my name to Amendment 114, so excellently explained by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, again facilitating rules that it will be necessary for schemes to follow, should the Government desire that—which is the indication that I have had from my noble friend the Minister and which is implied in the Government’s Amendment 4.