I shall certainly be brief, Mr Owen, as I, too, look forward to the Minister’s speech about cleaning up the mess of financial scandals that arose long before he took office. I am not alone; it is worth reiterating that we have heard this morning from MPs from six political parties, and 5% of all MPs have turned up for a debate lasting only 90 minutes, knowing full well that barely a fifth of them would get to make speeches. My first point to Capita and all the bodies involved is that there is a lot of interest in this House and that their reputation in all parts of the United Kingdom is therefore at stake. I hope that they do not wish their companies to become the household names that others have in disputes that this House has unfortunately had to deal with.
Officials in the building across the road will have urged the Minister to bat questions away to the Financial Services Authority, and will have suggested that he speak of the FSA’s independence and of how this matter is for that authority and not for the Government.
Our collective presence here this morning will have made it clear to him that the public interest is too strong to accept that. In addition to the complaints about the companies involved, many of our constituents are asking: who regulates the regulators? They do not trust the regulators’ handling of the matter. This morning, we have come here with reasonable questions that have not been answered in our correspondence with the FSA on constituents’ behalf. How did the FSA authorise the fund in the first place? Why did it not respond sooner to the informed criticism of experienced fund managers? Does the scope of the FSA’s investigation extend to questions about its own conduct, and does the review team have the independence to do that effectively? Even clearer are our constituents’ concerns about how the payment deal is being agreed, and about how the FSA is able to bind the Financial Ombudsman Service so securely to Capita’s proposals.
When such questions are being raised about the regulator, it falls to the Minister to reassure Members that he is totally on top of their concerns. I hope that he addresses the plea for a full inquiry that has been made across the House this morning, and I look forward to him throwing his weight behind the demands for a section 14 inquiry.