Amendment 11

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 12:15 pm on 8 June 2023.

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Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative 12:15, 8 June 2023

My Lords, I declare my interests as a director of two investment companies, as stated in the register. I agree to some extent with what the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, said, but I am not sure I can agree that the United Kingdom’s financial markets are uniquely peculiar in any sense. It is true that we do not have such a large domestic hinterland as the United States, but compared with financial centres such as Switzerland and Singapore, we have a rather larger domestic hinterland. I do not think what he said is therefore so relevant as he perhaps believes.

Furthermore, I agree that our high standards and what used to be called “my word is my bond”, which was what I was taught on day one when I went to work for Kleinwort Benson in the City, are very relevant. We have always been proud, and rightly so, of the very high standards and honourable way, in the main, in which our financial institutions have conducted their business. Indeed, competitiveness of the market depends, to a degree, on maintaining those high standards. But competitiveness also depends on having clear, comprehensible and proportionate regulation, and in recent years our regulation has become too cumbersome, particularly after the FSA was split into two regulators. If you are a dual-regulated company, it is a nightmare to have to report much the same information but in different formats to the two regulators. This is why the time spent by executive committees of operating financial companies in the City is so greatly taken up by compliance, reporting and regulatory matters, rather than innovation and the development of new businesses to attract more international companies to do their business in London, thus providing more revenue for the Exchequer and more jobs for British people, and indeed for non-British people to come and work here.

I support the Government’s amendments to strengthen the reporting requirements of the regulators, and Amendments 40 and 41 tabled by my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond. I agree with those noble Lords who have thanked the Minister most sincerely for her response to concerns expressed across the House about accountability and scrutiny. However, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association has expressed concern that the Bill, as drafted at present, largely allows the regulators to decide how to fulfil the reporting requirements for the competitiveness and growth objective.

Clause 37 acts as a backstop that allows the Treasury to compel additional reporting. What assurances can the Minister give that the Government’s response to the ongoing consultation on the appropriate metrics for the regulators to publish will lead to concrete changes to which metrics are published, given that the Bill will have been passed by the time the Government respond to the consultation? Given that it will not be possible to include any details of specific metrics or how the Treasury will exercise its powers in Clause 37 in primary legislation, how can the Government ensure that the consultation will lead to a sufficient challenge to the regulators, allaying concerns about them marking their own homework in their reporting? Will the Minister also give assurances that the Government’s response to the consultation will reflect the parliamentary debate in this area, where noble Lords have consistently stressed the need for extensive metrics to be published by the regulators with regard to the new objectives?