Clause 64 - Reinsurance for acts of terrorism

Financial Services and Markets Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 1 November 2022.

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

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

This clause is targeted to support the effective management and oversight of money on the public accounts. It confers on the Treasury a power to issue a direction in order to oblige public sector bodies extended a guarantee under the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 to comply with the necessary controls so that money on the public accounts is managed appropriately.

The power will be a safeguard to ensure that public sector bodies within scope comply with the requirements expected of a public sector body, in line with Government policy and the expectations of Parliament. The clause also confers a specific power to direct such bodies to appoint an accounting officer.

Ultimately, ensuring compliance with these requirements will provide value for money, probity, regularity and propriety in the public sector bodies within scope. The ability to issue a direction is a backstop power that will only be used if the relevant body does not comply with the requirements expected of a public sector body.

The new power is similar to powers the Treasury already has to issue directions to central Government Departments in relation to their estimates and accounts. For transparency and accountability, the clause also requires the Treasury to publish and lay any given direction before Parliament.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle

As well as my campaign for financial inclusion, I am sure Members will have heard me talk about flooding. I have not tabled an amendment to the clause, but I might be minded to in order to have a further conversation in future.

The clause addresses reinsurance for acts of terrorism. Has the Minister explored looking at reinsurance for acts of flooding? We have the Flood Re scheme, as I am sure he is aware, but that only applied up to 2007 and properties built after that are not included, nor does it apply to businesses. With this welcome move to consider reinsurance for acts of terrorism, has the Minister thought about other aspects, specifically flooding?

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

We welcome clause 64. I support the principle of the Treasury guaranteeing support for reinsurance in the event of a terrorist attack, but how will the provisions in the clause ensure that the taxpayer is adequately protected from such risks? How will the Treasury hold any public sector body to account regarding the requirements in the clause? Will the Minister provide some detail on the role of the accounting officer, in terms of ensuring that public sector bodies have sufficient oversight of the requirements of the clause?

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

On the point about flooding, that is simply outwith the scope of the Bill. The Flood Re scheme is the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and it is not something that falls under this Bill or the Acts I have mentioned.

The role of the accounting officer is the same as colloquially accepted in any public body—the person responsible for maintaining financial records and owning that liability. The governance remains with the board of directors of the relevant body and the duty to the taxpayer is exactly the same as it would be. The clause effectively gives step-in rights or the power to direct in particular circumstances. It does not alter where the core cost and liability start and should remain.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 64 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.