Amendment 11

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 8 June 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Penn Baroness Penn The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury 12:30, 8 June 2023

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for that constructive debate and I seek to engage only with the points that have been raised.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, that high regulatory standards are a key to London’s and the UK’s competitiveness as a financial centre. That is why the growth and competitiveness objective is a secondary objective to the primary objectives already in existence. However, high regulatory standards are not the only contributor to the growth and competitiveness of our economy or the sector. The new secondary objective, therefore, has an important role to play.

To address specifically the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, on day one of Report—the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, reflected on that again today—that the government amendments in this area somehow seek to elevate the secondary objective from its position within the hierarchy, that is not the case. These amendments reflect the fact that they are new objectives for the regulators and it is right that we have a focus on new objectives being added through the Bill to understand how they are being embedded into the operation of the regulators.

The noble Lords, Lord Vaux and Lord Davies of Brixton, asked how the reporting will take into account the fact that the objectives are secondary and how they will impact on the primary objectives. It is in the structure of the objectives that the growth and competitiveness objective can be delivered only in the context of achieving the primary objectives. That is built into the system. Each year, in addition to these two reports provided for in our amendment, there will be the annual report from the regulators looking at their delivery across all their objectives.

Several noble Lords asked whether having a report on this specific objective for just two years was the right approach. We think it strikes the balance between reflecting the new nature of these objectives and, over time, integrating them into the working of the regulators and reporting them in future annual reports. However, I point out to noble Lords that the Government have the power to specify certain matters to be addressed in those annual reports if we think it necessary in future. Under Clause 37, we also have the power to require further reporting on certain matters, so if the Government felt that further focus on the embedding of these new objectives was needed, there are powers in the Bill that would allow that to be drawn out.

My noble friends Lord Trenchard and Lord Ashcombe, and others, raised concerns about the need for specific metrics for reporting the regulators’ delivery against their objectives, as set out in my noble friend’s amendment. As noble Lords recognise, that is exactly the purpose of the Government’s current call for proposals. We do not think it is right to have the metrics in the Bill, because that would hinder the objectives that my noble friends are talking about, in terms of having the best possible set of metrics that can be adapted and updated to ensure that Parliament, industry and the Government get the information that they need on the regulators’ performance.

My noble friends Lord Holmes and Lord Ashcombe also drew attention to Amendment 92 in this group. I am aware that the speed and effectiveness with which the regulators process applications for authorisation remains an area of concern for both Parliament and industry, and the Government share those concerns. In December, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury wrote to the CEOs of the PRA and the FCA, setting out the importance of ensuring that the UK has world-leading levels of regulatory operational effectiveness. Publishing more and better data detailing the FCA and PRA’s performance is critical to meeting these aims. That is why, in their reply to the Economic Secretary’s letter, both CEOs committed to publishing more detailed performance data in relation to authorisation processes on a quarterly basis.

On 19 May, both the FCA and the PRA published their first set of enhanced quarterly metrics relating to their authorisations performance, including the average time taken to process applications. The reports demonstrate that the regulators, particularly the FCA, are making progress towards meeting service-level targets, while recognising that there are further improvements to be made on some measures. The Government will continue to monitor this data to assess performance and discuss continuing efforts to improve operational efficiency with the regulators.

I am glad to have heard the general support for the Government’s amendments in this group. As my noble friend Lord Holmes said, we drew heavy inspiration from his contributions in Committee, and those of other noble Lords.

Amendment 11 agreed.

Amendment 12 not moved.