Clause 19 - Repeal of competition scrutiny power

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 9:45 am, 8th March 2012

I am sure that some inspiration will flow, as most of my speaking notes relating to competition are on clause 22. I am happy to come back in clause 22 to talk about the new competition arrangements, which will make quite an important change to the interrelationship between the OFT and the FCA. There are amendments in a later group on the memorandum of understanding between the FCA and the OFT.

Returning to where we were on Tuesday night, as part 6 was done on a stand-alone basis, just in case the UKLA was moved from the FCA’s remit, it has particular competition powers, which are no different than those elsewhere in FSMA. It was just in case we needed to do a lift and shift to another body. Now that we have determined that the UKLA will be a permanent part of the FCA, it will be subject to the same competition powers that apply to the FCA more broadly. Whereas historically the OFT has played a greater role in competition in financial services, as we have given the FCA the competition objective, the FCA will now play a greater role in pursuing competition in financial services. That is an important change in the new regime compared with the previous one.

However, the OFT still has an important role. It may scrutinise the rules of the regulators to consider what impact those rules will have on competition. There is also an enhanced referral process from the FCA to the competition authorities to deal with certain market structure issues. The Bill gives the FCA much greater powers on competition, but at the same time retains a key role for the OFT in scrutinising the role of the FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority. There are also new referral rules in place, which will help overall and lead to a greater strengthening of the role of competition in financial services. All members of the Committee would share the objective of wanting to see a more competitive system. The FCA has a key role to play in that. We cannot, however, overlook the importance of the OFT in this.