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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Jesse Griffiths:

Before I turn to the risks, I want to recognise that it is not the case that more regulation is better or that regulators should not have leeway to design proportionate regimes. That is absolutely not the case, and we need to recognise that. However, I think there are risks involved in turning over quite so much authority to regulators as the Bill proposes. As we mentioned, it will allow them to make changes to important regulations with limited parliamentary oversight. Secondary legislation will become one of the main ways in which regulations are changed.

The risks come from different angles. The obvious risk—we have seen this in the past in the run-up to the global financial crisis—is that there is a potential problem of regulatory capture, where the regulators become very close to the people they are regulating, who have regular discussions and meetings with them. The more those decisions take place behind closed doors, the greater that risk becomes.

From our perspective, another big risk is that you miss out on the opportunities to have a broader section of voices contribute to framing regulatory changes, from the kind of organisations that Fran mentioned, which represent the people who are the most badly affected by problems in the financial sector—those with problem debt or who are highly financially vulnerable—to those who think about the environmental impacts of the different regulations. The other risk is that we will not be able to reflect some of the most important impacts that changes in regulation will have.

I will make one final point. It is extremely important for Members to think about how they can actively encourage participation and engagement in those discussions by more of the groups that represent those affected by the financial system. This is in no way a criticism of the Treasury, which I know has a lot on its plate now, but there was an important consultation we noted over the summer that had a one-month consultation window during August, which basically made it impossible for groups that are not directly involved in that particular issue to think about the implications and whether they should contribute. Having requirements to consult in a certain way that allows more groups to participate would be useful.