34 Baroness Neville-Rolfe debates involving the Leader of the House

Mon 28th Mar 2022
Elections Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 24th Feb 2022
Wed 26th Jan 2022
Tue 16th Nov 2021
Thu 13th May 2021
Wed 28th Apr 2021
Financial Services Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 19th Apr 2021
Financial Services Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & Report stage & 3rd reading
Wed 10th Mar 2021

Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, with his special—and much more youthful than some of ours—perspective. I rise to support the Motion in the name of my noble friend the Leader of the House, who made an excellent speech, and, as others have done, to congratulate Her Majesty the Queen on the 70th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said, it is a very joyful event for the people of our country and for those of the Commonwealth.

I have always been conscious that I was born in the year of Her Majesty’s Coronation, so I am a coronation baby and still the proud owner of a commemorative coin given to me to mark the occasion. I collected stamps from an early age and grew to love that handsome sideways head on increasingly decorative stamps from across the globe. For the brief period that I was the Minister responsible for recommending the design of new postage stamps to the Queen, I discovered that she also has a very fine collection. Later, I was responsible for the Royal Mint in Wales when we issued the new 12-sided, bimetallic, counterfeit-resistant £1 coin, which bore the unmistakable portrait of the Queen. I should add that in my early years as a civil servant, I had a wonderful black leather briefcase with “E II R” stamped on it in gold, which I carried with great pride. I am not a new or late supporter of the Queen.

Throughout my life, the Queen has been someone I have admired. She is probably the most famous woman in the world, and a supreme professional to make every career woman amazed by her composure, her work ethic, her charm, her humour and her judgment. She has also been a loving wife, mother and grandmother at the same time—how much she must miss her rock, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, after their many years together. That was a tragic loss during Covid, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman of Darlington, described so well.

I met Her Majesty for the first time in my Tesco days at a Red Cross reception to meet those of us involved in helping after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand. She spoke with much obvious affection for Princes William and Harry, who had been working with us, packing relief parcels for some of the unfortunate victims.

Finally, I should mention Her Majesty’s passion for racing and for breeding racehorses, so well described by my noble friend Lord de Mauley, the Master of the Horse, that there is nothing to add. I just wanted to say that, sadly, she does not have a horse in the Derby next week, but I will be cheering to the rooftops if—as I am sure and I hope she will—she wins at Royal Ascot.

It is a great honour to speak today. Like others, I offer my thanks for Her Majesty’s duty, fortitude and sacrifice, and my warmest congratulations on her unrivalled, record-breaking Platinum Jubilee.

Elections Bill

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage
Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Elections Act 2022 View all Elections Act 2022 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 96-VI Sixth marshalled list for Committee - (24 Mar 2022)
Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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I shall come to that; this is the beginning of a lecture that will take some time.

When I arrived here, I was the holder of an Indian passport. India had become a republic in 1950. Just as we recently saw in the exercise of persuading the Jamaicans not to become a republic, becoming a republic takes a Commonwealth country out of the reciprocity relationship because the country can then choose whether to give reciprocal rights. That is Jamaica’s choice, not ours.

We have to be aware that our original right to vote was as subjects—we are still subjects—of the Crown, and the whole notion that we are citizens is an entirely European import. We became citizens only when we joined the EU; we ceased to be citizens when we left. The notion of citizenship is not relevant. We are not a democracy: the Crown in Parliament is sovereign; people are not sovereign. That is the constitutional position. Noble Lords can challenge me if they wish.

I am not disputing the principle of what the noble Lord is proposing, because he has explained very clearly and patiently that there ought to be reciprocity or symmetry. The Commonwealth itself is an anomaly because it is not a symmetrical association of equal states. Her Majesty the Queen heads the Commonwealth because of her position as the Crown and she has asked the Commonwealth Heads of Government to agree that His Royal Highness Prince Charles will head the Commonwealth when he succeeds her. So the Head of the Commonwealth will always be the British monarch. The Commonwealth is not a society of equal nations; there is an asymmetry there.

We are not French; we are British. We do not believe in logic; we believe in convention, tradition and evolution, and therefore there is an anomaly. If the Government want to have a logical structure, let them bring a Bill that in the first clause defines who has the right to vote in this country and why, and who does not have the right to vote, despite being a resident, taxpayer or whatever. That exercise has not been carried out, and so we have an anomalous position. That is the beauty of the constitution—it is not a logical construct.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I was sorry not to be able to speak at Second Reading. It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Desai. Logic, clarity and lack of reciprocity call for Amendment 154, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Green, to be taken seriously and for the questions he has raised to be answered. I look forward to hearing positively from my noble friend the Deputy Leader. I will not delay the House.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I have some sympathy with the points made, but I wish this amendment could have been debated in the group of amendments we had on the entitlement to vote, because I do not really want to move away from the principle I articulated before. Not everyone wants to lose the status of their nationality. For example, my husband does not want to give up his Spanish citizenship, which he may have to do. A number of European countries have started to change but they did not allow dual nationality. A lot of people could lie about that, but he does not want to give it up. I certainly do not want to give up my nationality.

When we were in the EU, we were in the comfortable position of being, as we used to describe ourselves, EU citizens; we could locate and meet our families in our respective countries with ease. Now that has changed and we accept that, but I do not quite understand why we do not accept that there is a settled status, where someone has lived in the country for 27 years, paid tax, national insurance and everything else—they have taken the responsibility of a citizenship—but for one reason or another do not want to take formal citizenship, and why that should preclude them from having the right to vote.

It is crazy that, as I mentioned, an Australian student who comes over for their OE can immediately apply for the right to vote. I would rather the debate focused on what entitles somebody to vote. We have talked about taxation, we have talked about responsibility, and I say that clear levels of residence should establish some basic rights, so that we treat people who live here equally, and when they contribute to the success of our country we should acknowledge that.

I come back to what the noble Lord, Lord Green, said. One of the issues his amendment ought to probe and cause us to think about is: what is a British citizen? He says that British nationals (overseas) are not included. We can make commitments suddenly; for example, we made a commitment to Hong Kong citizens who are BNOs because of the breach of an international agreement. I have no doubt that in future, as we have done in the past, we will want to protect our legacy. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, spoke about the legacy of British Empire, which of course we cannot ignore, and things have changed.

I welcome the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Green, has tabled this amendment but we need to consider it in the light of all the amendments we have had on the right to vote and what the qualifications are. I do not think we should ignore residency.

Business of the House

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Thursday 17th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con)
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My Lords, before my noble friend replies, may I ask her to reflect on the fact that this is a self-regulating House, and a self-regulating House requires a degree of self-restraint—in the number of amendments tabled, the number degrouped, and the length of the speeches made in pursuit of them?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I share the concern about issues of major importance being debated in the middle of the night. Last night the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, moved a very important amendment. I was not able to speak, because there was not enough time, and we could not get answers about the implications of her proposal, because it was a late amendment. Where we have something fairly major like that, it is important that we do not just debate it in the middle of the night.

Ukraine

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Thursday 24th February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate and all the faith leaders he mentioned for the action they are taking. We stand united in the face of this Russian aggression and, once again, it is fantastic to have leadership from across all our communities standing together. I set out to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, a number of things that we are doing in relation to the humanitarian effort—in particular working through the UN, which we will continue to do. Of course, we will assess the situation and discuss with international partners other things that we may be able to do to help if we see a refugee crisis unfold within what is happening in Ukraine.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Leader for taking the time to make this Statement and have a full Front Bench, as well as for finding time tomorrow for a proper debate. I want to return to the economic crime area and ask whether resources will be made available to Companies House for enforcement, because that is of course important and reform there is overdue. Also, will similar measures be taken in other countries? That would level the playing field, act as an incentive for good behaviour and reduce corruption in other countries.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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As I have set out in our general discussion—obviously, there was also the G7 call today—we are working with our global partners on a range of issues. I am sure that discussions around the international rules have been part of that. As I said in the Statement, we will set out before Easter further detail on the policies that we intend to bring in, including reforms to Companies House, so my noble friend should not have too much longer to wait for that.

Ukraine

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Wednesday 26th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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In answer to questions at the beginning, I set out a whole range of things that we have done, and are doing, to tackle money-laundering and economic crime. We will continue with that work.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of Crown Agents, which supplies Covid vaccine to Ukraine. I think a further debate on Ukraine would be useful, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, suggested. I am interested in the position of Germany and France, which were, of course, involved in the Minsk protocol, signed after the 2014 Ukraine crisis. How far are they aligned with UK thinking at present—especially Germany, given its particular trading interests across eastern Europe?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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We are working very closely with our allies. I am sure my noble friend will be aware that, today, there is a political advisers meeting taking place in Paris of the Normandy Format—France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. Although we were not part of that process because we are not within that group, we actively support France and Germany’s efforts, and are working very closely with them.

COP 26

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord. I knew that he would probably ask me this question, so I have an answer for him about the United States, which he asked about last week. It intends by 2024 to further double its annual public climate finance to developing countries to around £11.4 billion, including around £3 billion to support adaptation efforts. He might be pleased to know that we have indeed published such a document, COP26 Presidency Compilation of 2021-2025 Climate Finance Commitments, which lists the commitments made in this area and which he might be interested to read.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I would like to acknowledge the unexpected progress that was made at COP, for example on rainforests, which I do not think anybody has mentioned. On the move to change the energy mix, I think it is at least as important for the Government that they keep the lights on as it is to take measures to save the planet. In that context, does my noble friend agree that the move to intermittent renewables needs to be balanced, and indeed balanced now, by a substantial investment in the British nuclear industry, another source of zero-carbon energy? Does she further agree that the neglect of the nuclear industry since the mid-90s has been a disgrace?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I am sure my noble friend is aware that we have a Bill in the House of Commons looking at this area which will be coming to your Lordships’ House soon so we can discuss these issues. We are certainly looking to reinvigorate that sector. I will also just say that last year was the first year in which renewables were the primary source of the UK’s electricity and we have quadrupled the percentage of our electricity that comes from renewables but, of course, we need a mix in order to make sure that we have security of supply.

Covid-19 Update

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Thursday 13th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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Decisions as to whether the inquiry will comprise a panel in addition to a chair will be made in due course, but I can certainly confirm that we want to learn the lessons of the pandemic as four nations together, just as we recover together. That is why, as I say, we have already begun discussions with the devolved Administrations, because we want this to be a UK-wide inquiry. We have gone through this together and we want to come out of it together.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I congratulate the Government both on the vaccine rollout and on getting ahead with plans for an independent inquiry. I am, however, concerned by the Covid-related delays in medical treatment, both by GPs and in hospitals, with more people probably dying early or living in pain than actually dying from Covid. Will the Government ensure that the NHS returns to normal rapidly, that energetic efforts are made to reduce the backlog of operations and that all medical practitioners return to offering face-to-face consultations immediately?

Financial Services Bill

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall) (Lab)
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My Lords, we have a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I join others in congratulating my noble friend the Deputy Leader of the House and other Members of the Front Bench on the way they have dealt with the Bill and got us to this final stage. I just have a question about the consultation on the duty of care, and it stems from my experience in other areas of regulation—that is, health and safety and food safety. I have found that, where a duty of care is introduced, it is sometimes possible to change adjacent rules and regulations in a regulatory area and reduce the bureaucracy that can be a problem for both consumers and operators in the field. I would be interested to know whether that sort of work is likely to be envisaged by the Economic Secretary.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, I do not have an answer for my noble friend, but her point is extremely helpful and I shall ensure that it is fed into the thinking that will be wrapped around the consultation process as it goes forward.

Financial Services Bill

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Moved by
28: After Clause 40, insert the following new Clause—
“Digital identification in the UK financial system
(1) The Treasury may by regulations establish a scheme for the use of a distributed digital identification for individuals and corporate entities operating in the UK financial system.(2) Regulations under this section are subject to the affirmative procedure.(3) In this section, “the UK financial system” has the same meaning as in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (see section 1I of that Act).”
Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 28 and 29 in my name on digital identification, and I thank my noble friends Lady Mcintosh of Pickering and Lord Holmes of Richmond for their support. I take a substantial interest in facilitating the provision of digital ID and have done so for several years. It is the sort of thing where the UK, with its early adoption of digital and skills in matters of security, should be ahead of the curve. Perfectly good systems exist in a number of areas and have been rolled out in other European countries and Asia but, unfortunately, not here.

I tabled amendments in the same sense during the passage of Covid legislation last year. I did not press the matter because I was promised progress and I had good meetings with my noble friend Lady Williams and with the Digital Minister, Matt Warman MP, who published proposals for the UK digital identity and attributes trust framework on 11 February. Last week, my noble friend Lord Holmes and I had another constructive meeting, this time with my noble friend Lady Penn—currently on the Front Bench—and civil servants in DCMS and the Treasury.

I am perhaps a little too impatient for the Civil Service or, indeed, for the Front Bench, which is no doubt why I am better suited to these Benches, but I warn noble Lords that I will continue to press this matter until we introduce a reliable system of online ID—not a consultation and not a plan, but a government-approved system. But I am very reasonable, so let us start in financial services—the subject of today’s Bill. So much progress has been made already that it ought to be possible to capture this in regulation now. As we discussed in Committee, this could be helpful in reducing fraud, which has mushroomed in financial services.

Likewise, we should be able to introduce digital ID for sales of alcohol; the supermarkets already use such methods for preventing the sale of knives to those aged under 18. We should also allow a trial in a pub chain or two, and we could use digital ID in the property sector, where the ID checks for domestic house sales are needlessly bureaucratic and repetitive. We do not need to get into the question of domestic vaccine passports, of which I strongly disapprove, or of ID cards, but evolutionary progress on digital ID—starting in financial services and honed to appropriate use—is overdue.

I have tabled two alternative amendments. Amendment 28 is an enabling power allowing the Treasury to press ahead, subject to a parliamentary debate, as soon as it has sorted out a system of digital ID—whether on a trial basis or when it has a definitive solution for the sector, which should be soon. We do not want to wait for the online harms Bill or another legislative vehicle. Amendment 29 provides for a review by 1 September this year. My own experience as a Minister and a civil servant is that such reviews and a clear date can be effective where there is a political will to get something done, as I believe there is here. I beg to move.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe; in doing so, I declare my financial services interests as set out in the register.

My noble friend and I came into the House in the same autumn and, since 2013, we have both talked very much about distributed digital ID. It was pressing in 2013, so it certainly is in 2021. I will speak to all the amendments in this group briefly. I had pleasure in adding my name to my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe’s amendments; they are clear, succinct, short and to the point, and do the job. Does my noble friend the Minister agree?

My Amendment 30 merely seeks to flesh out some of the elements which must be considered if we are to have a successful distributed digital ID—the issues around scalability, flexibility and, crucially, inclusion. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that not only are these three issues vital to any distributed digital ID but that any ID should be predicated on the 12 principles set out in self-sovereign identity? Does she also agree that, because of the nature of this issue—as my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe pointed out—including issues around ID cards and Covid passports, there is a pressing need not only to move forward with this work but to have a public engagement to enable people to understand the issues and really get to grips with a system that can work for all?

My Amendment 31 seeks only to push the opportunity for the UK around open finance. We have seen the advantages open banking has brought; does my noble friend the Minister agree that open finance could be a boon for the UK, and could she set out the Government’s plans to enable this? I brought Amendment 32 forward in Committee so I will not dwell on it, except to seek a specific answer on subsection (2)(a) of the proposed new clause. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that we need to seriously consider the dematerialisation of UK securities at least at the same speed as that proposed in the EU? This is a competitive market; it is a race.

Finally, my Amendment 37E was brought forward simply to push the need for a review of access to digital payments. Digital payments are the future, accelerated by Covid, but, crucially, huge swathes of the population rightly rely—and must be allowed to rely—on cash. Does my noble friend agree that we urgently need a review of access to digital payments?

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I hope that I have demonstrated the Government’s commitment to this important area, and that noble Lords will therefore feel able to not press their amendments.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all who have spoken in this short but wide-ranging debate. Time is passing, and we live in a digital age, as my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering said—a revolution indeed, in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral reminded us that the withdrawal of cash halved during the pandemic, with some cruel consequences. LINK does great work; I remember that from my time at Tesco. We need a network to endure as normality returns. I thank the Minister for updating us on the Chancellor’s statement on fintech and open finance today.

It may not surprise noble Lords that I remain disappointed at the pace of change on digital ID. The Minister is right to emphasise what has been done in recent months, and I strongly support this. However, years are passing, our leadership in digital is eroding, and we can no longer blame the EU. We must solve this problem for the industries, services and, above all, consumers involved. Of course there must be public engagement, but this must not be used as an excuse for undue delay. I will be back, but for today, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 28 withdrawn.
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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak on Amendment 33 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, having studied the comments made in Committee and repeated today. I can understand his frustration with history in this area. In particular, I would highlight the long delay and prevarication by Lloyds and the then regulator in dealing with the HBOS scam, which led to the demise of a number of small businesses banking with HBOS’s corporate division in Reading. Maybe more transparency would have helped there but it was actually a failure by the bank itself and by the regulator, which I very much hope would not happen again today. I am still not entirely sure what eventually happened; I know that there were some high-profile convictions. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister could update us on that sorry tale. I share everyone’s wish to see a system where it could never happen again.

However, I always worry that bad cases make bad law. The cases being quoted are generally old, while the FCA’s powers have been strengthened over the years and the culture has changed so that it is now very pro-consumer. Moreover, as my noble friend the Deputy Leader of the House explained on 10 March, the FCA is an independent body and the power of Ministers to intervene is very circumscribed. I suspect we will come back to these issues in the next financial services Bill, so I would like to make two points today.

First, reports from the United States have to be treated with some care. It is a sad fact that, unlike our own regulatory authorities, the US ones are more than a little protectionist. They come down harder on foreign entities than their domestic ones and like to levy huge fines whenever they can. It is not a level playing field, unlike the UK, which is of course one of the reasons why investors like it here. Secondly, in the sort of cases we are talking about, Ministers—I speak from experience, first as a civil servant and secondly as a Minister at BEIS, DCMS and HM Treasury—act on advice, not as free-talking politicians. If they make a direction in an investigation, it will reflect a public policy need and that could be a confidential matter, such as security or a government interest. Once that is made public it might be difficult for those being investigated to get a fair hearing, which is unfortunate in itself and likely to lead to aborted prosecutions. Whichever party is in power, this would not be in the public interest. For all these reasons, I encourage those involved to withdraw their amendment today.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, I will be brief in my support for this amendment. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for speaking at great length. I therefore do not need to add a huge amount more, not least as I intend to go into a bit more detail on my concerns about transparency when speaking in support of Amendment 34, which touches on similar issues of accountability.

I am a little puzzled why the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, thinks that this is a case of bad cases making bad laws. It seems to me that there have been very considerable concerns in the past. Surely those ought to be investigated.

We are facing a real crisis of trust in public bodies at the moment, and I believe that this amendment will be a beneficial addition to this Financial Services Bill. In making provisions for an additional layer of transparency, it will act as an incentive against any possible interference; whether done formally or informally, it will still have that effect. The truth is that we do not know whether ministerial interference in FCA investigations has occurred, and positively stating either way is speculative.

Although I was not privy to the written response from the noble Earl, Lord Howe, which he promised to send to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, confirming whether there were provisions within the Ministerial Code to allow for interventions in FCA investigations, the assumption in Committee was that any attempt to steer an FCA investigation would constitute a breach of the Ministerial Code. That would require breaches of the Ministerial Code or other offences to be taken seriously, and not treated lightly or even dismissed. Last year, an inquiry found evidence that the Home Secretary had breached the Ministerial Code, yet the consequences extended little further than an apology. In February, it was revealed that the Health Secretary had acted unlawfully when his department failed to reveal details of contracts signed during the Covid-19 period. Just before Easter, we all started reading about allegations surrounding conflicts of interest in a former Prime Minister’s dealings with the financial services firm Greensill, and there have been concerns about the current Prime Minister’s dealings during his time at City Hall. It is vital that, if we are to rely on breaches of the Ministerial Code, they are given some teeth and have some effect.

I have no evidence, but it may be that no Minister has ever interfered in any FCA investigation, in any way. I sincerely hope that that is the case, but we cannot rule it out. If interferences have occurred, it would be doubtful to assume that investigations are always steered in the interests of consumers. Although provisions are in place to prevent misconduct, they should not discount the contribution that this important amendment can make in strengthening those rules and further disincentivising any possible ministerial interferences in FCA investigations. If Her Majesty’s Government have concerns about small parts of the wording here, I hope they come back with some improvements to ensure that the levels of transparency are clear to everybody, in every part of the system.

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Some may claim that the supervisory boards would increase the cost of regulation. That cost would be miniscule—certainly far less than the cost of the last banking crash, the possible shadow banking crisis or the pain suffered by stakeholders in LCF, Blackmore Bond, the Woodford fund and many other headline scandals. I do not intend to divide the House on this amendment, but I believe that we can find a solution together to the capture of the regulators, which is a most pressing issue facing us. I beg to move.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I start by sharing the powerful words of my noble friend the Deputy Leader on the sudden loss of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who contributed so very recently to this Bill and whom I remember well as an effective Minister of State at the FCO when I was a young civil servant. His death is a great loss.

As I understand it, Amendment 34 is designed to improve the culture of the financial services sector—a sentiment that I empathise with—although it would do so by adding an extra layer of regulation through a stakeholder supervisory board. I am against this for the FCA, the PRA and other regulators. I have substantial experience of regulation from my Civil Service past, as an executive and a non-executive of non-financial companies, as a Minister and, currently, as a non-executive of a small bank. In my judgment, adding an extra layer of board members without practical experience could have a perverse and negative effect.

For good outcomes, one needs clear, simple and outcome-based regulation, and company directors who take their responsibilities seriously and promote a good culture, with a focus on customers and protection, on risk and the good use of capital, on fraud and cyber, on the people who operate the business—from the top right down to the bottom—and on innovation and cost control. Above all, one needs directors who will challenge, get into the detail and be listened to.

I have been a non-exec for over 20 years and, until recently, there has not been enough attention paid to, or appreciation of, the challenge function and directors who challenge. Cases such as the HBOS scam, which we have been concerned about today, are the result. This needs to change, in terms of the selection of non-executives and with strong internal challenge in the executive structure of companies. This applies to financial services companies and more broadly.

An extra layer in the form of a supervisory board will not solve the problems of culture that have been highlighted. It risks introducing a further confusion of responsibility. To my mind it is, I am afraid, a bad idea.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, will not be surprised to find that I do not support his Amendment 34. In particular, as a former director of a supervised bank, I do not recognise the regulatory capture that he majored on in Committee and again today. In my experience, the relationships are always challenging and, sometimes, worse than that.

I have two main reasons for opposing the amendment. First, a supervisory board sitting over the top of the existing regulators undermines a fundamental characteristic of regulation in the UK—namely, that regulators are independent. That means that they are independent of government, certainly, and of Parliament and anyone else who thinks that they might have an interest in what they do. They are certainly accountable for delivering against their objectives and expect to be scrutinised by Parliament, but they are autonomous bodies. This amendment runs against that.

Secondly, the regulators already have governance structures that oversee the work that the executives undertake. In the FCA, it is the FCA’s own board, which has a chairman and a majority of non-executive directors. I believe that the only executive on the FCA board is, in fact, its chief executive. In the case of the PRA, there is a Prudential Regulation Committee, which has Bank of England executives and outside members, and is chaired by the Governor of the Bank of England. More importantly, in governance terms, as the PRA is part of the Bank of England it is overseen by the Court of the Bank of England, which, again, is a largely non-executive body chaired by a non-executive, although it does have the governor and the deputy governors, including the head of the PRA.

Governance of the regulators is carried out in the way in which governance in the UK is normally done. It covers the very things mentioned in proposed new subsection (8), which is therefore duplicative. If there are concerns, they should be dealt with within the organisations concerned, without writing reports to Parliament. I believe in transparency, but there is a point at which transparency becomes counterproductive, and I am sure that this amendment is way beyond that point.

Accountability to Parliament takes many forms, a key one being the annual reports that are laid before Parliament, setting out the regulators’ performance against their objectives, which is required by existing statute. It really is difficult to see what added value this amendment would create.

The amendment is also deficient in a number of respects. Perhaps the most glaring is the reference to the “Executive Board” of the PRA and of the FCA. As far as I am aware, there is no such thing specified in legislation or the governance arrangements of either body. I believe that each regulator has an executive committee or equivalent, but they do not have an “Executive Board”, with a capital “E” and a capital “B”.

The amendment would require the exclusion from the supervisory board of anyone who might actually understand what the PRA and the FCA actually do. Proposed new subsection (5) would disqualify “current and past employees” not just of the FCA and the PRA but of any organisation that they supervise. I have never thought that ignorance was a good qualification to be a member of a board.

Proposed new subsection (10) talks about “open meetings” but does not explain what that means in practice. Proposed new subsection (11) says that all the supervisory boards papers must “be made publicly available”, but it seems to pay no heed to the need for confidentiality or data protection. I could go on. These are unnecessary and ill-thought-out proposals, and I hope that my noble friend the Minister will not accept them.

Financial Services Bill

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Excerpts
Moved by
103: After Clause 40, insert the following new Clause—
“Impact assessments
(1) Regulations made under this Act, and under any regulation-making powers inserted by this Act into any other Act, may not come into force until the Secretary of State has laid an impact assessment of each regulation before each House of Parliament.(2) Rules made by the FCA or the PRA under rule-making powers given to the FCA or the PRA by this Act, and under any rule-making powers inserted by this Act into any other Act, must be published on the website of the FCA or PRA (as appropriate) at least 30 days before they are due to take effect, together with an impact assessment of the rules.(3) In this section, “impact assessment” means an analysis of the costs and benefits of the proposed change, compared to the existing position and other options considered, including the expected impact on UK businesses and the UK economy.”
Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendments 103 on impact assessments and 104 on reporting. I have been like a long-playing record on the importance of cost-benefit analysis of legislation, regulations and new rules in the form of an impact assessment. I return to the charge today with renewed vigour, as we are transferring very substantial powers from Brussels to Britain. I know that the process of preparing a cost benefit and the sunlight of transparency help enormously in avoiding difficulties and disasters. By the way, I thank my noble friend the Minister for producing an impact assessment on this Bill—always one of the most useful Bill documents, even if in this case it is shortish on numbers.

Amendment 103 is in two parts. First, it requires the Secretary of State—in this case, usually Treasury Ministers—to lay an impact assessment of each SI or regulation that they make before it comes into force. I know from my time as a Minister that having to put my own name to such an impact assessment made me look much more effectively at any instrument I was signing and thus avoid cock-ups—which do unfortunately happen from time to time, even in the Treasury! Secondly, as so much of EU power is being transferred to the FCA and PRA, it requires them to publish their proposed new rules on their respective websites for public scrutiny and to add an impact assessment of the rules. By impact assessment I mean an analysis of the costs and benefits of the proposed change, compared with the existing position and other policy options, including the expected impact on UK businesses and the economy. All I seek is a simple way of ensuring that the authors of new rules always consider the economic impact of their proposals in the interests of good government.

So far, so good. But—and I accept it is a big but —in part these provisions seem to be required already by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, as subsequently amended. I have been through the relevant explanations and websites and am still not completely sure whether that is the case. Perhaps the Minister can kindly explain the position and give us some encouraging words as to the present and future position on this important matter. If my proposed provision is genuinely unnecessary, I am of course happy to withdraw it.

Amendment 104 follows on from Amendment 103. However, it is distinct and could be adopted alone. It requires the Secretary of State to publish an annual report on the impact of measures taken by the FCA, the PRA or the Government to regulate financial services with a particular focus on small business, innovation and competitiveness. While there has been a great deal of excellent discussion in this Committee on holding financial service operators to account and improving enforcement, we can lose sight of the value of smaller operators, including those based outside London. Moreover, innovation can bring huge value to consumers—online banking, easy money transfer overseas and share trading on mobile phones are good examples—and our strained economy will benefit from the competitiveness and attractiveness of the UK’s financial sector.

I know from my experience in the intellectual property area, which I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, will remember as well, how valuable an annual report of this type can be in focusing staff attention. Writing the report is a complement to the usual in-tray—the focus on risk and the avoidance of banana skins that exercises public servants, sometimes to the detriment of more strategic thinking. I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister on how we might best take some of these matters forward. I believe that they could encourage the intelligent scrutiny of new rules and their early dissemination and publication, and that a strategic look once a year will help the sector to stay ahead in the new world. I beg to move.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
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My Lords, for the purposes of today’s debates I again remind Grand Committee of my financial services interests as in the register.

I have signed Amendments 103 and 104 and agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, so I will not repeat what has already been said. It is a subject that the noble Baroness pursues with diligence, and it is right to do so, even if at times—at least as far as I am concerned—the scope and content of impact assessments are a little disappointing. The amendment relates to the final impact assessments as rules are coming into effect, although, of course, to be useful, impact assessments are needed at each stage. Indeed, if proportionality is to be properly taken into account, that is surely a prerequisite for the regulator.

But returning again to the FiSMA theme, where much of the proportionality, flexibility—call it what you will—will be done on an institution-by-institution basis, so the rules will enable that but not demonstrate how it is to be carried out, I am not sure how that will be properly assessed in an impact assessment based only on the rules. Therefore, it will also be important to be able to capture what actually happens after the rules have come into operation. That might be by way of a retrospective impact assessment after a period of time, and would seem to be another matter that Parliament will need to investigate.

Included in that, it should be relevant to capture the effects of frequency of rule change, which is presently greatly emphasised by regulators and the Government as part of the reasoning behind the Bill, yet somehow I doubt that rule churning was what industry felt it was signing up for by supporting FiSMA. It will be important to understand the scale and nature of that rule tweaking. Amendment 104 gets in part to that with the Government producing a report, but perhaps it should be part of the annual report or an annual impact assessment from the regulators, so that it can be further queried and those regulated can be interviewed by the relevant parliamentary committee. So perhaps the Minister can confirm how this frequency of tweaking will be tracked, what is the Government’s planned part in it and would they support Amendment 104 in particular as part of the way to do that?

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Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
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I am sorry to intervene again, but I feel I must correct what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said—or at least remind him that the unbundling of the analysts’ report was an invention of the FSA that the UK then sold to the EU, and now the EU is blamed for what the UK did through the EU. There are many other examples of that, although I can confirm that AIFMD was definitely not one of those. It would be nice if sometimes the Minister could intervene to at least have the record straight.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, for her thoughts and for raising the ante to talk about a slightly more dynamic form of impact assessment.

I thank my noble friend Lord Trenchard for the very example that is now the subject of debate. I think the point that he was making, which I would support, is that impact assessments can reduce the perverse effects of such measures. We know—it is a matter of record, I think—that the number of analysts, especially small analysts, has gone down as a result of the MiFID legislation. An impact assessment on how it was enforced, whether its origin was in the brain of the UK or of the EU, could have been helpful. Of course, that is what my amendment is all about.

I was glad to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for working up a decent impact assessment model. I share his tribute to public servants, having been one a long time ago, and the work of bodies that produce evidence for things, such as the Low Pay Commission and social trends, and the MPC in our own sector of financial services. Better scrutiny would take place with better impact assessment. It is why, regarding proposed new subsection (3) which Amendment 103 would insert, I talked about both the existing position and other options, because I agree with the noble Lord that it is much better if you can look at several options when developing difficult policies. I agree that pre-legislative scrutiny can sometimes be very useful.

My noble friend Lady Noakes reminded us, rightly, of the lack of impact assessment on the various Covid measures. I thank her particularly for the suggestion that the quality of consultation by the FCA, the PRA or the Government and of impact assessment should be added to any review.

I was glad to hear noble Lords build on what an impact assessment system should look like, including the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer—I echo her concerns about accountability—and the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell. There is a feeling that it is important to have a decent system.

My noble friend the Deputy Leader explained, as I had already anticipated in my own remarks, that a system does exist: both for government regulation and regulation by the two regulators, and for cost-benefit analysis to be produced. What I am not clear about is whether that is fit for purpose. It is very difficult to find out what the requirements are and to read all the various bits of paper. This is why I tabled the amendment, so that we could have an intelligent debate. Even if noble Lords do not want to go along with Amendment 103, we should make an effort, with the dissemination of the Bill, to ensure that the requirements are better understood.

That means that Amendment 104 is perhaps more important, because it asks that we review regularly what is being done in the way of cost-benefit and impact assessment, and how the objectives set out are achieved. I suggested some objectives in Amendment 104; others will no doubt be concerned about other objectives of the regulators. As we have said on earlier amendments, competition is not really the same as competitiveness. I was also keen to throw in small business—for reasons that my noble friend knows very well—and innovation, because of their value.

With this Bill, we need to satisfy ourselves that the new framework satisfactorily replaces, indeed, improves on, what went before. I take the point—the Chancellor is right—that we now have the chance to do the right thing in the UK, and to do it better than was done under the auspices of the EU. I may come back to this on Report, because a simple well-understood system of impact assessment, and of annual review in some form, would boost scrutiny and transparency, which has been a key theme of the Bill, as well as the governance of our largest and most important economic sector. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 103 withdrawn.
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Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Faulkner of Worcester) (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, was inadvertently left off the list of speakers, and I call her now.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friends Lord Holmes of Richmond and Lady McIntosh of Pickering for tabling these amendments and I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Holmes on the scale of the transformation that will be driven by fintech. It is more important to the sector, in my view, than Brexit, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s question is therefore a good one.

I rise to speak on Amendment 115 on digital identification. I have taken a substantial interest in facilitating the provision of digital ID for several years. It is the sort of thing where the UK, with its early digital adoption and its skill in matters of security, should be ahead of the curve. Some good systems exist and have been rolled out in other European countries, but not here. This is probably because we have been waiting for the banking sector to make a decisive move.

I tabled amendments on digital identification during the passage of the Covid legislation, with support from some noble Lords here today. I did not press the matter because I was promised progress, and I had good meetings with my noble friend Lady Williams and the Digital Minister, Matt Warman MP, who published proposals for the UK digital identity and attributes trust framework on 11 February, with comments on it due from us all by tomorrow.

I thought that I would get another chance to press my case when our Covid laws were renewed but there is no sign of any such opportunity. I noted, however, that on 4 March my noble friend Lord Bethell, the Health Minister, told us that digital certificates, not physical ones, are being used for vaccines to avoid fraud, underlining the need to make progress in the financial area. The fraudulent attempt to trick my noble friend Lord Holmes in relation to his driving licence underlines exactly the scale of fraud in everyday life, an issue that is calling for digital ID.

I am disappointed about the pace of change on digital ID and although I support Amendment 115, it needs to be stronger. Waiting yet another six months for a plan is too slow. Why can we not get a grip of this important area, as we have done in the much greater challenge of vaccines? Give the job to Matt Warman with a remit to bring in digital ID for those who need it by 1 September. That would be novel provision but we need to accelerate this change.

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD)
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My Lords, after all those excellent speeches, I shall try to be brief but I need to declare my interests in the register because they apply to this group of amendments.

Fintech is an extraordinary success story in the UK. In 2011, shortly after having the privilege of being appointed to this House, I sought out and invited the chief executive of every fintech in the UK that I could find to come to a meeting. We needed only a small conference room over in Millbank House. Today, the QEII Centre would not be adequate. That alone speaks to the extraordinary success of the industry, much helped by an enlightened view from the Financial Conduct Authority, which had to be dragged kicking and screaming into looking benevolently upon the industry and understanding that it required appropriate regulation to grow. However, once it got there, the FCA has been incredibly positive and powerful.

I want to plead against complacency, which is a rather British weakness. In the days before Brexit, many of our fintechs chose to expand into continental Europe, using passporting and the e-commerce directive. They also attempted to go into the United States but few have been successful, partly because of the competition there and the difference in structure. The European market is incredibly important for expansion. We also know that it has been important for recruitment, which raises many issues around visas. A single person is perhaps not so hard to attract but someone whose wife or husband is unable to work may not be so cheered in taking up a visa to come to the UK. That is an underlying problem that we face for entrepreneurs and skills.

Many issues have been raised in this debate, including AI and fintech: the two merge over some significant territory. The issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, are important and will, I hope, be a prod to make sure that we continue to deal with them at pace and to understand that there is no easy time. Berlin has, frankly, become a centre for tech within Europe and it would not be so very difficult to swivel that around and begin to absorb fintech. We do not want to put ourselves into that situation.

I wanted quickly to make two other points, picking up on points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. Digital fiat currency is now the issue of the moment. We have a relatively small window in which to decide whether we want to play in that area in such a way as to make us a significant player. One could say that sterling is not a natural global currency and we therefore need to be first mover. Picking up on the noble Lord’s point, I hope that we will look more at that area.

AI obviously brings with it extraordinary complexities and question marks but they are issues that can all be worked through if we focus on them. They will not become easier over time; they are just as difficult now as in the future, so one might as well deal with them as is. The issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, deserve a proper debate on the Floor of the House and I am sure will draw in many more people than those who focus on financial services issues alone. I very much look forward to that opportunity as well as listening to the Minister’s response.