Amendment 4

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 6 June 2023.

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Photo of Lord Vaux of Harrowden Lord Vaux of Harrowden Chair, Finance Committee (Lords), Chair, Finance Committee (Lords) 7:15, 6 June 2023

Yes, objective, thank you. But we are where we are.

The noble Baroness has already explained this with her usual skill, so I shall not repeat what she has said. However, I am sure that I am not alone in experiencing a feeling of déjà vu in even having a debate on this subject. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has given similar excellent speeches on multiple occasions now— I am really quite amazed by her patience. All this amendment tries to do is ensure that government policy is embedded in the activities of the regulators, yet we seem to have the same debate on so many Bills. Each time, generally, the Government give way—and rightly so. I think that the most recent occasion might have been on the UK Infrastructure Bank Act. Frankly, if it makes sense to accept this for that bank, how much more sense does it make to accept it in respect of the entire financial services industry? Surely, it is time that all Bills to which the impacts of environmental change and risk are relevant should include these clauses by default. It really should not be up to this House to ensure that the Government apply their own policies. So I hope that the Minister will follow the multiple precedents and accept Amendment 15.

The Minister introduced Amendment 4 on SDRs, which is extremely welcome, but it is only a “may prepare” clause, not an obligation, and there is no timeframe included. Frankly, it could have gone an awful lot further.

I add my support to Amendment 91, which seeks to introduce a new due diligence requirement for regulated persons to ensure that the forest risk activities that they wish to finance or otherwise support are in compliance with local laws. I am sure that the Minister will refer to creating undue burdens on regulated persons, which seems to be the usual argument in these things—but the amendment leaves the level of required due diligence for the Government to decide and regulate, so I am not going to be terribly impressed by that argument. To put it simply, our financial services industry should not be financing illegal deforestation activities.

I also strongly support Amendments 93 and 113, which seek to ensure that the impacts on climate, nature and society are properly considered by occupational pension scheme trustees, and that the FCA may publish guidance in that respect. Noble Lords with much more experience in this area than myself have spoken to that at length. Pension funds are by their nature long-term investments and systemic in size, so it is especially important that these issues of sustainability are considered fully by pension schemes. I hope, perhaps forlornly, that the Minister will look favourably on these amendments, but particularly on Amendment 15, which seems self-evident to me.