Clause 44 - Bank of England: rule-making powers

Financial Services and Markets Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 27th October 2022.

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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 44 closely relates to clauses 27 and 28, which the Committee has already considered. As we have discussed, clause 27 covers requirements for regulators to review their rules so that they remain fit for purpose, while clause 28 enables the Government to place an obligation on the regulators to make rules in certain areas. Clause 44 applies these same mechanisms to the Bank of England, in respect of its regulation of central counterparties and central securities depositories.

The clause introduces a new section of FSMA, which places a requirement on the Bank to ensure that the rules are reviewed regularly after implementation, to confirm that they remain appropriate and continue to have the desired effect. New section 300J of FSMA, which the clause will introduce, requires the Bank to publish a statement of policy for how it conducts rule reviews.

As the Bank takes on increased responsibility, there may be occasions when the Treasury considers that it is in the public interest for the Bank to review its rules, in the same way that we discussed earlier in relation to the PRA and FCA. Therefore, the clause introduces new section 300K of FSMA, which provides a mechanism for the Treasury to direct the Bank to review its rules. New section 300L of FSMA requires the Bank to report the outcome of the review and requires the Treasury to lay this report in Parliament. As with the corresponding measures for the PRA and the FCA, the Government consider that this offers a new avenue for challenge of the Bank’s rule making where required, while maintaining its operational independence. The clause 44 also places conditions on the Treasury’s exercise of the power, so that it will direct the Bank to review its rules only where it considers it to be in the public interest.

As discussed when the Committee considered clause 28, it is right that, in the context of increased responsibilities, the Treasury should have the ability to require the making of rules in certain areas of financial services regulation. This is equally true of the Bank in regard to its regulation of CCPs and CSDs. The clause therefore introduces new section 300M of FSMA, which enables the Treasury to place an obligation on the Bank to make rules in a certain area. The use of this power will be subject to the affirmative procedure in Parliament. The power does not enable the Government to tell the Bank what its rules should be; it simply enables the Government to say that there should be rules, with the agreement of Parliament.

The clause ensures that the same enhancements to the FSMA model that we have discussed will apply to the Bank as it regulates CCPs and CSDs. These are important tools to ensure that the Bank’s rules are relevant and appropriate. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

We support the clause, which will empower the Treasury to require the Bank of England to carry out a review of a specific rule, but let me ask the Minister again: does he not agree that such a mechanism is sufficient to highlight to the Bank of England where the Treasury believes a rule may not be working in the public interest and therefore requires a rethink? Surely the provisions under clause 44, and elsewhere in the Bill, provide the Treasury with sufficient powers to hold the Bank of England, the PRA and the FCA to account. Why is an intervention power necessary?

Numerous City stakeholders have written to us to warn of the dangers of such a measure. For example, Barclays stated in its written evidence that

“historically the UK has benefited from a global reputation for having a strong, stable and predictable regulatory framework, developed by effective institutions with clear roles and responsibilities. It is critical to ensure any new intervention powers do not risk or undermine this reputation.”

The Minister was there when Martin Taylor told us that the proposed intervention power had a “bad smell”. The Bank of England has warned that it could diminish the independence of our regulators in the eyes of the global markets. If the financial services sector is sceptical of an intervention power, and experts at the Bank of England have given powerful warnings of the risks of introducing such a power, why is the Minister even contemplating such a provision?

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

I do not wish to detain the Committee further with a repetition of these points. The hon. Lady makes her points in a lucid fashion, but the Government simply disagree. It is appropriate for us to have laid out in statute the relevant responsibilities, both for the Treasury and for regulators. We are giving the regulators, including the Bank of England in this respect, vast areas of additional responsibility. There were previously intervention powers, which sat at the Brussels level. We are now repatriating those to create a rulebook that is appropriate for the United Kingdom.

The hon. Lady cites selectively, if I may say so, from the evidence that the Committee heard. If she engages widely with industry—as I know she does—she will hear other voices that talk about the need for us to have an agile and flexible system. As part of that, it is sometimes appropriate for us to direct.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I will not detain the Committee too long. The Minister keeps referring to the industry, which he seems to suggest is supportive of the intervention power, but no one has seen it. Has he consulted the industry? Everyone I have spoken to has said that they have not seen the details of the intervention power, so how does he know they support it?

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

The hon. Lady makes a very good point, but how does she know that she opposes it? I suggest we come back to this debate another day, when I hope to fulfil my commitment to bring the intervention power in front of the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 44 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Joy Morrissey.)

Adjourned till Tuesday 1 November at twenty-five minutes past Nine o’clock.

Written evidence reported to the House

FSMB43 UK Finance

FSMB44 Financial Services Consumer Panel