Examination of Witnesses

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:11 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Fran Boait:

Shall I kick off? This is definitely one of the key issues in the Bill that I wanted to raise. Although I understand that the Bill is about regulation and tidying up a few things, it does set the framework and direction for future financial regulation. It is important to say at the outset that we are only 11 years on from a global financial crash that resulted from deep regulatory failures. Neither my organisation nor Jesse’s existed 10 years ago—they were formed since the crash. Without a number of amendments to the Bill, it could pave the way for a repeat of that failure.

To put it in context, I remind you that, according to the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, the banking cash cost Britain about £7.4 trillion and it would take the financial services sector’s tax contribution about 100 years to make up for that. It is a really important Bill that sets the direction, but accountability and transparency are severely lacking in its current form. The civil society sector is tiny, relative to the industry lobby. Although we have engaged in FCA and PRA consultations, the fact that we are onshoring so much legislation right now means that we need to think about the balance of input from the industry and civil society. It is worth noting that the EU, which obviously to date has been where the scrutiny for much of this legislation has been, funded civil society consumer, environmental and social groups in order to provide a balance to the industry lobby, because it recognised that this area is severely complex and critical.

The substantial transfer of power to the financial regulators—the Treasury, the FCA and the PRA—is concerning if there are not increases in parliamentary scrutiny and more detail about the accountability framework. I noted this morning that a number of amendments have been put forward, and I think a lot of them enhance accountability and require parliamentary scrutiny and reporting. I would really welcome that. I could list them—I have some of the numbers. An MP put forward a suggestion for a new specialist financial services Joint Committee between the Commons and the Lords, and that would be welcome, especially if it engaged with civil society.

From where we are starting, in its original form the Bill really is quite concerning in relation to accountability and transparency, but we would welcome all the amendments being put forward—and more—to improve those aspects.