Clause 28 - Treasury power in relation to rules

Financial Services and Markets Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 27 October 2022.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 2:00, 27 October 2022

I beg to move amendment 48, in clause 28, page 40, line 39, at end insert—

“3RF Requirement to publish specified information

(1) The Treasury may at any time, by notice in writing, direct a regulator to measure its performance against specified metrics and to publish such information if—

(a) the regulator does not already publish such information, or

(b) the Treasury consider the information published is insufficient for the purposes of holding the regulator to account.

(2) A direction under subsection (1) may—

(a) specify the element of the regulator’s performance to be measured;

(b) specify the appropriate metrics to be used;

(c) specify the period for which performance must be measured; and

(d) specify the date by which the performance information must be published.

(3) As soon as practicable after giving the direction under subsection (1) the Treasury must—

(a) lay before Parliament a copy of the direction, and

(b) publish the direction in such manner as the Treasury considers appropriate.

(4) A direction under subsection (1) may be varied or revoked by the giving of a further direction.”

I again guide the Committee to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Clause 28 amends the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. It gives the Treasury the power to make or to direct rules. A key element of our discussions has been transparency and accountability, and the amendment is designed to make things a little clearer by ensuring that regulators report regularly and transparently on key metrics. The regulators are already mandated to report to His Majesty’s Treasury in their annual reports, which have to contain some performance metrics; the issue is that those metrics are selected by the regulator themselves. At the moment, an oversight body has the power to send for “persons, papers and records”, but it does not have the power to mandate regulators to report on specific performance metrics over time. I think that that leaves a hole in terms of both accountability to Parliament and transparency of regulators.

I accept the evidence that Martin Taylor gave the Committee that Parliament and the Government have a huge amount of influence. Equally, though, the chief executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority, when asked elsewhere for his thoughts on the competitiveness objective, described a lot of it as a “red herring”. When asked how he would report on the competitiveness objective, he said that he had “no convincing answer”. It is important that there is a convincing answer, and that is, in effect, what my proposed new section 3RF of the 2000 Act would provide.

As I have stated quite clearly, I do not believe that this is about a race to the bottom. We need a well-regulated, tough regulated, transparently regulated jurisdiction. Regular accountability on performance is in no way an infringement of a regulator’s independence; I think that it would enhance the regulator’s reputation. The amendment therefore sets out a number of metrics on which a regulator might be asked to report. That could work relatively easily. For instance, the Treasury could use its powers to set out more clearly the elements on which the regulator should measure and report its performance. It could also set out definitions that are relevant to the measures themselves. I think that the direction potentially should be able to be scrutinised by the public, and particularly by Parliament and the Treasury Committee, and that the information should be published, and published more frequently.

My amendment is designed to ensure that the regulator not only has the objective, but has to report on it on a very clear set of metrics, which would then allow us in Parliament and the public to ensure that it is meeting the objective.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I thank the hon. Member for tabling the amendment. In principle, Opposition Members are supportive of providing regulators with clearly defined metrics to assess their performance. We would need further information about how it would work in practice before we could lend our support to the amendment, but in principle we are in agreement with the views that the hon. Member has outlined.

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon for raising this important issue, and I note the potential, in-principle support of the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn, speaking for the Opposition.

The Government agree that it is vital to have appropriate public metrics for holding regulators to account on their performance. FSMA already requires regulators to report annually on how they have discharged their functions, advanced their objectives and complied with their other duties. In addition, schedules 1ZA and 1ZB to FSMA provide that the Treasury may direct a regulator to include such other matters as it deems appropriate in the regulator’s annual report.

As part of their annual reports, both the Financial Conduct Authority and the PRA publish data on operational performance. The FCA annually publishes operating service metrics relating to authorisations, timeliness of responses to stakeholders, and regulatory permission requests, among other things. In April 2022, the FCA also published a comprehensive set of outcomes and metrics that it will use to measure and publicly report on its performance. The PRA annually publishes data on its performance of authorisation processes.

Amendment 48 seeks to allow the Treasury, in addition, to determine what metrics the FCA and the PRA should use to measure their performance and over what period, and other technical aspects of the measurement and publication of metrics. Let me reassure my hon. Friend of the importance that I attach to the matter he has raised. I have discussed it with the CEOs of the PRA and the FCA since taking up my role, and I will continue to do so. I am open to discussing the matter with my hon. Friend outside the Committee to see what further reassurance the Government could give, or what further measures we could take. I therefore ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

I thank the Minister for his response, and I thank the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn for hers. Clearly, there is a willingness across the House to look at this matter again, so I am going to take the Minister at his word—as I always do—and accept his kind reassurance. Perhaps he might ask the hon. Lady to join us in that discussion, because it would be beneficial. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Clause 28 enhances FSMA by enabling the Treasury to place an obligation on the FCA or the PRA to make rules in a certain area of regulation. Equivalent provision for the Bank of England and the Payment Systems Regulator is made in clause 44 and in paragraph 7 of schedule 7.

FSMA requires that regulators advance their objectives when they make rules, set technical standards and issue guidance. The regulators must also take into account eight regulatory principles when discharging their functions. It is generally up to the regulators to determine what rules are necessary, but as set out in the future regulatory framework review consultation in November last year, that approach may not always be sufficient. There must be a means for the Government and Parliament to require the regulators to make rules covering certain matters, in order to ensure that important wider public policy concerns are addressed. That approach has already been established in legislation through the Financial Services Act 2021, which required the FCA to make rules that applied to FCA-regulated investment firms.

Clause 28 enables the Treasury to make similar regulations and place an obligation on the regulators to make rules in a certain area. The clause aims to strike a balance between the responsibilities of the regulator, the Treasury and Parliament now that we are outside the EU. It does not enable the Government to tell a regulator what its rules should be; it simply enables the Government, with the agreement of Parliament, to say that there must be rules relating to a particular area. The FCA and the PRA must continue to act to advance their objectives and take into account their regulatory principles when complying with the requirements set under this power. The Treasury cannot require the regulators to make rules that they would not otherwise have the ability to make.

I assure the Committee that this power will always be subject to the affirmative procedure. That is the most appropriate procedure, as it means that Parliament will be able to consider and debate any requirements set in this way. It also ensures that the Government are able to act to ensure that these requirements stay up to date with changing markets, rather than setting them out in primary legislation, where they could quickly become out of date. The clause enhances the FSMA model, enabling the Treasury to ensure that key areas of financial services continue to be regulated following the repeal of retained EU law and in the future. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 28 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.