To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department is taking steps to ensure that customers of Azure Services Ltd who were impacted by the mis-selling of loans for timeshares at the Golden Sands Resort in Malta are able to access financial redress.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been established as an independent regulator responsible for the supervision and regulation of conduct in financial services. The FCA’s independence from Government does not mean it can act arbitrarily, rather it must operate within the framework of statutory duties and powers agreed by Parliament. As well as being required to operate within this framework, the FCA is fully accountable to Parliament for how it discharges its statutory functions.
This direct accountability to Parliament reflects the FCA’s statutory independence and the fact that it is solely responsible for everyday operational decisions without Government approval or direction, and so it is primarily accountable for them. The Government has no plans to support a cross-party parliamentary investigation into the FCA’s handling of issues relating to Azure Services Limited, as this would be a matter for Parliament. That notwithstanding, the Treasury plays an important role in holding the FCA accountable, including through engaging closely with the FCA across all levels of seniority.
The Government recognises the impact on consumers as a result of Azure Services’ business practices whilst it operated as a credit broker without the relevant Office of Fair Trading (OFT) licence and, later on, FCA authorisation. However, the Government notes the decision by Barclays Partner Finance to refund over £210m to customers who took out a loan following an introduction by Azure Services. Barclays Partner Finance is currently putting in place the necessary arrangements for this programme of remediation and has committed to contact impacted customers before the end of the year to set out the next steps.