Clause 16 - Listing rules: disciplinary powers in relation to sponsors

Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 9:30 am, 8th March 2012

I beg to move amendment 147, in clause 16, page 68, line 37, at end insert—

‘(9) The Treasury must lay before Parliament a copy of any statement published under this section.’.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission, Chair, Public Accounts Commission

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 148, in clause 17, page 74, line 15, at end insert—

‘(9) The Treasury must lay before Parliament a copy of any statement published under this section.’.

Amendment 158, in clause 25, page 111, line 38, at end insert—

‘(8) The Treasury must lay before Parliament a copy of any statement published under this section.’.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

It will not be a surprise to the Committee that the amendments relate to our general concerns about the need to improve parliamentary accountability and scrutiny of the new institutions, their reports and the functions that they fulfil. The three amendments hopefully represent an opportunity to embed those principles when it comes to the issuing of statements by the FCA. In our view, it is not enough to charge the FCA or the Treasury with publishing statements or directions simply as a way of appearing best calculated to draw it to the attention of the public. It seems rather odd in this instance for the regulator to publish a document for the benefit of the public, but not lay it before the public’s elected representatives in Parliament.

We do not want the FCA or the Prudential Regulation Authority simply to become creatures of Her Majesty’s Treasury. There is general anxiety about the Bill in that respect, so the amendments would balance the procedure in favour of a parliamentary interest and not only a Treasury interest. I have explained the rationale behind our amendments, and we hope that the Minister will understand the logic of such provisions.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Nottingham East that it is important, when appropriate, that documents are laid before Parliament, and the Bill identifies circumstances when that should happen. For example, under clause 77, reports into failure should be laid before Parliament, as should annual accounts. The clause is about various rules and guidance, and there is a danger that we lay too much before Parliament. We do not want to avoid parliamentary accountability or scrutiny, but there is a risk that we lose sight of the important documents that Parliament should scrutinise and those documents on which Parliament should hold the regulator to account.

Routine and detailed materials, such as rules and guidance, or statements of policy on penalties, should be published by the Financial Services Authority, but they do not need, given their volume, to be laid before Parliament. We do not disagree with the principle of laying documents before Parliament, and we have stipulated elsewhere in the Bill that that can happen, but we want  to apply a materiality threshold to avoid Parliament being swamped by rather detailed and quite prescriptive bits of guidance.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I understand the Minister’s logic, and there is some sense in making sure we do not bog down the poor old House of Commons Library with voluminous copies of notes and details of arrangements, but I have one caveat. In this particular circumstance, it might be useful to publish statements or details relating, perhaps, to poor standards or misbehaviour on the part of a firm or set of firms. Putting something in the public domain and the parliamentary domain offers useful additional censure, which could put helpful pressure on companies or regulated bodies. They will then recognise that if they fall outside the proper standards of regulatory behaviour, there is the prospect of public censure or public reporting of their behaviour. However, I understand the Minister’s point.

It is probably necessary that I withdraw the amendment at this stage, but I would place on record the fact that, in doing so, I in no way wish to downplay the strength of feeling about the need to have proper routes back to Parliament and not just the Executive. Having had the opportunity at least to discuss the point, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Again, this is a sensible clause. It relates to the powers to suspend sponsors advising issuers on listing rules and disclosure, and it makes good sense. It says the FCA can decide to suspend, rather than ban, a firm from being a sponsor or adviser to a company that is going for listing. It also brings into line the rules on individuals and firms.

I would be grateful, however, if the Minister could clarify what rights of appeal there are against an FCA decision to suspend sponsors. Is there a normal process of appeal, should individuals feel that that decision was in any way unjust?

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Yes. The clause introduces new disciplinary powers. Giving the FCA the power to suspend is quite a proportionate response. The hon. Gentleman is right to ask whether there is a procedure for appealing against such a decision. Proposed new section 88B sets out the procedure and the right to refer a decision to the tribunal. I hope that reassures the hon. Gentleman that there is a right of appeal in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.