UK as a Financial Services Hub — [Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 6th February 2019.

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Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 9:30 am, 6th February 2019

Without wanting to out-APPG my hon. Friend, I am chair of the all-party group on credit unions, and one of the main purposes of credit unions is to provide that face-to-face advice. Credit unions are often active in places that banks left long ago. Providing that personal information that helps people to build up their savings is important.

Credit unions in the 10 most deprived communities in Britain are lending heavily, and they consider loans that few other lenders would consider because of the applicants’ credit scores, while also charging considerably less than any other type of financial service. Credit unions in the UK currently have £860 million out on loan, and that lending is predominantly focused on those at the bottom end of the income scale. Evidence shows that once people in deprived communities are given a chance to access credit on affordable terms, they start to see patterns of improvement in their credit profiles. Over time, those people will no longer necessarily need specialist financial advice from credit unions, because they will be able to bank with and access the mainstream financial services sector. Will the Minister agree to work with me on two aspects of credit unions? First, will he consider amending secondary legislation to broaden credit union lending powers, so that they are able to service more people from that vulnerable group? Secondly, will he work with the Bank of England to review capital requirements for credit unions, so that the sector can serve more people more effectively?

In conclusion, I would like the Minister to respond to the following points. First, what is the Government’s approach to adapting bank lending rules to enable more investment in the new economy with more intangible assets? Secondly, what is the Government’s blueprint for improving Britain’s attractiveness to people and firms in FinTech? Thirdly, what is the Government’s current thinking about their regulatory approach as we embark on our negotiations on a future trade agreement with the European Union, bearing in mind our need to be the No. 1 financial services hub for financing Asian investments and investments from the emerging world? Fourthly, how will the Government seek to bring down the tax burden on our financial services sector, given that we need to be more competitive on tax policy in coming years to counteract the uncertainty and destabilisation in the market? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, how will the Government seek to improve the penetration of financial services into our most disadvantaged communities, especially by helping credit unions to professionalise and expand?