Clause 6 - Power to amend the Credit Rating Agencies Regulation

Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 24 November 2020.

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

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

The Basel standards include rules relating to credit assessments—also called external ratings—which some firms use to assign risk ratings. Risk ratings are used to determine the minimum amount of capital that must be maintained by a firm, and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East has already drawn attention to this matter.

In the UK, credit ratings agencies, or CRAs, that issue credit assessments are regulated by the credit ratings agencies regulation, and the changes needed to the CRA regulation to implement Basel are minor. Consistent with the 1 January 2023 international deadline, however, the PRA has yet to issue its rules implementing the Basel 3.1 reforms, and it makes sense to consider changes to the CRA regulation as part of the wider 3.1 package of changes. Therefore, the clause gives the Treasury a power to amend the CRA regulation while requiring it to consider the Basel standards when that power is exercised. That confirms our intention to use the power only to implement changes stemming from Basel. The changes to the CRA regulation will help to ensure that the UK is fully Basel-compliant.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury) 4:30, 24 November 2020

I have a couple of questions, because credit rating agencies did not cover themselves in glory in the financial crisis, so I want to be clear about what clause 6 does and does not do with regard to them. How does the credit rating agencies regulation regulate them at the moment, and how will that be altered by the provisions in clause 6? For example, does clause 6 deal with the situation where a credit rating agency charges a fee to those who are asking for a rating and with the potential conflicts of interest involved in that process? That played out in the financial crisis, as anyone who has watched the movie “The Big Short” will have seen. The clause does talk about the regulation of the credit rating agencies, so I wonder if the Minister could explain a bit more how they are regulated and how that would be altered by the clause.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I am happy to do my best. In terms of the changes and why they are not set out in the Bill, the changes that need to be made to the CRA regulations stem from “Basel III: Finalising post-crisis reforms”—the Basel document—which is part of the most recent Basel 3.1 package of reforms. Most of those have not been legislated for in the UK or the EU, and it makes sense to consider changes to the regulation as part of the wider implementation of the 3.1 package, which will be done through the future rules. They will be consulted on prior to the deadline.

The power to amend the regulation will be used solely to implement Basel 3.1. There are a number of minor amendments contained in that “Basel III: Finalising post-crisis reforms” document of December 2017. The two eligibility criteria that credit rating agencies need to satisfy are added. The power in clause 6 safeguards that intent as it requires the Treasury to have regard to the standards rather than making other amendments for unrelated reasons.

In terms of the other limited changes made in schedule 4 as part of the implementation of the UK regime equivalent to the EU’s second capital requirements regulation, they again relate to earlier Basel III standards. I do not think I can answer with enough specificity to do justice to the right hon. Gentleman, so I think I will need to write to him on this matter.

In what I have said, I hope that I have explained the confines and drivers of the reform; the powers that we are giving to the regulator; and the consistency with which they will be exercised to the Basel 3.1 proposal. I have previously spoken about accountability for that. I need to write to the right hon. Gentleman to give more clarity, and I am happy to address the issue at further stages in the Bill’s passage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.