Extent

Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 6th February 2018.

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Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 10:15 am, 6th February 2018

I beg to move amendment 7, in clause 29, page 25, line 32, leave out from beginning to “extends” and insert “Part 1, other than the provisions mentioned in subsections (2) to (3B),”

This amendment makes a minor drafting change, restructuring the extent clause, in consequence of the changes to that clause made by Amendment 8 and the amendments relating to Part 2.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 8 to 16.

Clause stand part.

Clause 30 stand part.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

It is pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Rosindell. Amendments 7 to 16 are consequential to main amendments that the Committee has already made. Clause 30 allows the provisions of the Bill to be enacted at the appropriate times, some in relation to part 1 and some to part 2.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I have concerns about clause 30. If the Bill is put on the statute book as drafted, with the current commencement provisions in clause 30, the new financial guidance body might not be as effective as we would all have hoped. Ministers might want to address these concerns and reflect on whether the commencement provisions are still appropriate.

The first concern is whether the financial guidance body has access to sufficient data to help guide it on the allocation of the debt advice funding that will continue to be available as a result of the levy on banks. Unlike in the United States, we do not have in law a comprehensive requirement that banks and other lenders have to provide clear datasets to Government and regulators on where, and at what level, debt is being incurred. Therefore, one cannot track exactly where the most indebted parts of the country are.

I raise that concern because a number of years ago I had the opportunity to visit the estate of Thamesmead, which straddles the boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich. Thamesmead is an estate of about 55,000 houses, but it had no bank branch at all. As a result, the only lenders available were payday lenders and other high-cost providers of credit.

Order. The hon. Gentleman appears to be speaking not to the amendment before us, but to one that has previously been debated. I remind all hon. Members that they must stick to the amendments before the Committee at this stage.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr Rosindell. I am concerned that we should not rush to commence the legislation until we have had an assurance that the new financial guidance body will have accurate data about which parts of the country have the highest levels of debt and the highest levels of cost. I am seeking to use this debate on clause 30 stand part to ask Ministers what confidence they have that the new body will be able, without further legal changes, to know where the most highly indebted parts of the country are, and therefore where the most debt advice funding should be allocated.

One of the great contrasts between this country and our great ally, the United States of America, is that there is provision in American law for banks, building societies and other lenders to have to report to bodies what they are lending and at what rate. Such a provision would allow the new financial guidance body to work out which areas might need a higher level of debt advice funding.

The second reason why I gently suggest that we should not rush to commence the Bill is that I believe the Minister should reflect—I gently press him to do so—on whether credit unions, which are a key tool for tackling the level of indebtedness in this country, have all the powers they need to support the new financial guidance body to take the necessary action to bring indebtedness down. Clearly, we want to ensure that there is still access to credit, but we want it to be affordable.

The third and final reason why I gently suggest Ministers should not rush to commence the Bill is that I believe they should check whether some of the worst, highest cost lenders, such as BrightHouse, pay an appropriate levy, under the provisions of previous Bills, to fund debt advice. It certainly seems to me—

Order. The commencement clause does not give us the ability to discuss anything we wish to discuss. We need to stick clearly to the amendments before us, rather than using this as a way to discuss other matters.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I am extremely grateful to you, Mr Rosindell, because you made your intervention just as I was drawing my remarks to an end. Given your great act of charity, I have made the three points I wanted to make, and I now look to the Minister to address my concerns.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

That was undoubtedly the most ingenious way of creating a submission. I have to confess that, when I looked at the commencement order that I have to speak to, I did not expect to have to answer three specific points, but I hope I can give the hon. Gentleman a detailed answer. I assure him that if I fail in that task, I will give him a definitive answer next Monday, when we will meet to discuss these matters.

Let me take the hon. Gentleman’s points in reverse order. BrightHouse will be covered by the levy for the single financial guidance body. I believe that I will be able to give him more detail when I see him in 10 days’ time.

The hon. Gentleman will know that I founded and built up a credit union. I think I am the only MP to have been mad enough to do so—the grey hair I am rapidly acquiring is due to that mad endeavour, of which I am extremely proud. I am no longer specifically involved in it, but both I and my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury are passionately committed to credit unions. We will review the nature of credit unions and how they are provided for statutorily under the Credit Unions Act 1979. I am happy to discuss that with the hon. Gentleman separately.

Let me make three points on access to data. First, the Money Advice Service already performs that service by creating a data bank and an information process by which it can judge the way ahead. Secondly, clause 18 specifically addresses requirements for the disclosure and interaction of data between the various bodies to ensure that the point the hon. Gentleman raised is addressed. Thirdly, with regard to the Bill as a whole, FCA work is also going on to obtain a quarterly dataset. Both the FCA and the Money Advice Service are doing that. I will happily reply in more detail to the three points that he rightly, and very ingeniously, put to me.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I am grateful to the Minister for his generous response. Perhaps he would be willing to look kindly on a letter setting out some of the concerns about the dataset that is currently provided. I gently suggest that Ministers might engage with UK Finance to encourage the release of further data to help make that a more useful exercise.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I would be delighted to receive such a letter. I commend the Government amendments to the Committee.

Amendment 7 agreed to.

Amendments made: 8, in clause 29, page 25, line 37, at end insert—

“(3A) In section (Occupational pension schemes: requirements to recommend guidance etc)—

(a) subsections (1) to (5) extend to England and Wales and Scotland;

(b) subsections (6) to (9) extend to Northern Ireland.

(3B) Paragraph 25 of Schedule 3 extends to England and Wales and Scotland.”

New subsection (3A) updates the extent clause so that the amendments to the Pensions Schemes Act 1993 in NC2 extend only to England and Wales and Scotland and the amendments to the Pension Schemes (Northern Ireland) Act 1993 extend only to Northern Ireland. New subsection (3B) contains text previously in subsection (6) in consequence of restructuring this clause.

Amendment 9, in clause 29, page 25, line 38, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert—

“(4) Part 2, other than the provisions mentioned in subsections (5) and (5A), extends to England and Wales and Scotland.

(5) The following provisions extend to England and Wales—

(a) section24(12) and Schedule4;

(b) section27;

(c) section (PPI claims: interim restriction on charges imposed by legal practitioners after transfer of regulation to FCA).

(5A) Section (Cold calling about claims management services) extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

This amends the extent clause, so that the new clause inserted by NC3 extends to England and Wales only, and the new clause inserted by NC6 extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Amendment 10, in clause 29, page 25, line 42, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

“( ) This Part extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.” —

This amendment contains a minor drafting change consequential upon the restructuring of the extent clause.

Clause 29, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 30