Financial Services and Markets Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 1st November 2022.
With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 53 to 59 stand part.
The clauses contain a mix of substantive and technical amendments to FSMA, which lists the functions and responsibilities of the FCA and the PRA and requires them to perform them in line with their statutory objectives and principles. Clause 52 adds to that list the responsibilities conferred on the PRA and FCA by the Bill and any functions conferred on them by future regulations made under the Bill.
On clause 53, currently, except in a few specific circumstances, the FCA and the PRA cannot use their disciplinary powers against firms that committed misconduct when they were authorised if they cease to be authorised. That means that if a firm has committed misconduct while authorised, and that comes to light only once the firm has ceased to be authorised, the regulators cannot take disciplinary action. It also means that when an authorised firm is under investigation for misconduct, the regulators must sometimes choose to maintain the firm’s authorisation to preserve the ability to sanction it following the conclusion of the investigation. To address that, the clause will enable the FCA and the PRA to take action against unauthorised firms in relation to misconduct that occurred while they were authorised.
Clause 54 enables the regulators to impose conditions on new controllers of financial services firms when to do so would advance their statutory objectives. That fills a gap in the regime identified by the PRA and the Treasury Committee in its Greensill inquiry. It will give the regulators more flexibility to manage changes of control in a way that they consider appropriate with reference to their statutory objectives.
Clause 55 makes two minor technical changes to the legal framework governing the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The Office for National Statistics reclassified the FSCS as a public financial auxiliary in 2020. To reflect that change and bring the FSCS in line with other public financial auxiliaries, clause 55 removes both the requirement for the FSCS to have an accounting officer and the Treasury’s power to require certain information in connection with accounts.
Clauses 56 and 57 are necessary to reflect the regulators’ additional rule-making responsibilities when retained EU law is repealed. Under the comprehensive FSMA model of regulation that the Bill enables, the direct regulatory requirements that apply to firms will generally be in regulators’ rulebooks rather than set out in legislation.
Clause 56 inserts proposed new section 141B to FSMA, giving the Treasury the power to make consequential changes to legislation to reflect changes to regulator rules. At the moment, domestic and EU legislation sometimes makes reference to regulator rules; the power will ensure that the legislative framework remains up to date and consistent if those rules change. It is a consequential power only.
Clause 57 enables the Treasury and regulators to make ambulatory references to regulator rules and domestic legislation respectively. That means that when the Treasury references regulator rules in secondary legislation, it can do so in such a way that the references will automatically update to refer to the current version of the rules whenever the regulator updates them, thereby ensuring that the regulator rulebooks and the legislation will remain consistent over time, without the need for constant amendments in response to respective changes.
Clause 58 allows the Treasury to amend and repeal provisions in part 9C of FSMA that were introduced by the Financial Services Act 2021, which dealt with the immediate post-Brexit priorities for financial services, including by implementing the latest Basel standards, while the wider approach to regulation was considered as part of the Government’s future regulatory framework review.
Sections 143C and 143D of FSMA create duties for the FCA to establish the investment firm’s prudential regime, and section 143G requires the FCA to have regard to certain matters when making rules as part of that regime. Those provisions will be replaced by the general approach to obligations and “have regards” that the Bill introduces, which the Committee has already considered. Clause 58 enables those sections to be amended to avoid duplication.
Clause 59 introduces small technical amendments to two provisions of FSMA that cover transitional arrangements. The amendments ensure that an existing power to make transitional arrangements under sections 426 and 427 of FSMA is updated to correctly refer to the current regulators—the FCA and the PRA—and is available to the Bank of England when it is acting as a FSMA regulator. I recommend that the clauses stand part of the Bill.
We welcome this series of technical clauses, but I have two questions for the Minister. First, will he set out what disciplinary action regulators could take under clause 53 against firms that are no longer authorised? Secondly, on clause 55, the Transparency Task Force has recommended the creation of a financial regulators’ supervisory council, which would have a number of roles, including appointing and overseeing the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, to ensure greater independence. If the Minister is aware of that proposal, what assessment has he made of it? If he is not, I would be happy to hear his thoughts about it after the sitting.
I thank the hon. Lady for those points. The powers that the regulators will have in relation to formerly authorised firms will mirror those that they have in relation to authorised firms: they will have the full range of powers to seek information and to impose sanctions, remedies and conduct. The substantive purpose of the measures is to ensure that those powers are not extinguished at the moment a firm becomes unauthorised.
I am not familiar with the detail of the proposal for a financial supervisory board that the hon. Lady mentioned, but we have a good framework for the supervision of financial regulators. I and the Government will always be interested in any practical suggestions to enhance that without duplication and unnecessary obfuscation about where true responsibilities lie.