Debates between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Fookes during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 22nd Jun 2021
Mon 8th Mar 2021
Tue 13th Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard)

Professional Qualifications Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Fookes
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, while I sought to amend Clause 9 in the last group of amendments to avoid unnecessary burdens resulting from it, I could not work out why it was needed. When I searched the documents accompanying the Bill, I could not find an explanation of why it is needed. It has not been needed, to date, for people who practise within the United Kingdom and I cannot conceive of the circumstances in which it would be needed going forward.

I ask my noble friend the Minister to explain specifically why Clause 9 is needed, rather than making generalisations such as, “If a regulator needs to have information, this facilitates the sharing of it”. What problem is Clause 9 trying to solve? That is what I am trying to get to the bottom of.

The impact statement relating to Clause 9 is pretty unsatisfactory. It seems to be based on one regulator alone answering a question, with some costs and benefits then being extrapolated from three or four regulators that answered a completely different question. This borders on the absurd, and I do not know how my noble friend the Minister managed to pluck up the courage to put his signature on the front page. If he can help me by explaining how he acquired the courage to sign off on the costs and benefits that accompany Clause 9, I am sure that that would be of value to the Committee.

Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Blake of Leeds, has been forced to withdraw, owing to a connection problem—I am sure that we can all sympathise with that—so I call the Minister to reply.

Financial Services Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Fookes
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Trenchard who, as usual, speaks good sense on this matter. While these are clearly probing amendments designed to get the Government to say how they see the future of various aspects of financial services, it seems to me that, as regards equivalence with the EU, they are rooted in the language of the past. It has been clear for a long time that the EU sees equivalence either as a route to dictate how the UK’s financial services sector is regulated or as a weapon to be used against the UK as a competitor. The Governor of the Bank of England has spoken strongly against the EU’s apparent positioning on equivalence. He said that either it was trying to say that our rules should never change, which he described as dangerous, or that our rules should change whenever the EU changed its rules, which was “not acceptable”.

There is no doubt that the EU sees the UK as a threat to its way of doing things. It no longer has a leading financial centre within the EU and will struggle to create one, especially if its only weapon is protectionism. We have long been one of the leading financial markets in the world and I hope that we get our number one slot back now that we are unshackled from the EU. That may well take us into new areas of financial services; it should certainly lead to the dismantling of some elements of the EU’s rules that we never liked. The alternative investment funds directive is one clear example; Solvency II and MiFID are others. They never reflected what we regarded as important, and introduced rules which we regarded as unnecessary and cumbersome.

It would have been very easy for the EU to have granted us equivalence at the end of the transition period; we were completely aligned. However, there is a misguided belief in the EU that they can create a rival to the UK and that the best way of doing that is to make it difficult for UK firms to operate in the EU. My own view is that we should abandon any interest in equivalence. Even if we were to get a favourable decision, the EU has retained the right to remove any such decision at short notice. We know that decisions on granting or removing equivalence will not be made on technical merit. They will be political decisions designed to advance the EU’s financial services industry at the expense of the UK. I do not believe that a UK-based financial services operator could ever build a viable business model on the shifting sands of equivalence as determined by a body—the EU—which does not wish us well.

In addition, I do not think that it matters very much. We may find that some areas of our financial services as currently operated will become less profitable—for example, if the EU cuts off its nose to spite its face and denies Euro-denominated derivatives the advantages of London’s liquidity via UK clearing exchanges. Many UK banks and other financial institutions have already set up EU-based subsidiaries to carry out the business that was previously carried out under passporting. That is now water under the bridge—those subsidiary structures will carry on while the business is profitable and cease if it is not.

For these reasons, I believe that the amendments in this group are looking in the rear-view mirror. Of much greater importance is what plans the Government have to support and promote the future—

Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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My Lords, there is a Division in the Chamber. The Committee stands adjourned for five minutes.

Trade Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Fookes
Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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Owing to an error in the listing, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, will speak later. Meanwhile, I call the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, like other noble Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his consistent support for oppressed people around the world. That is not in any doubt whatever; nor is the sincerity of the intent behind the amendment. I would, however, like to query whether it will achieve what the noble Lord thinks it might.

I will speak to the revised format of the amendment and concentrate on free trade agreements, not the GPA under subsection (1). The regulations under Section 2(1) apply only to continuity trade agreements. As I understand it, at the moment there is no agreement with either China or Myanmar that would qualify to be implemented by regulations under Clause 2 of this Bill, so I do not think that the amendment will achieve what noble Lords want it to. It would be quite difficult to repurpose the amendment to tackle future trade agreements because what the court could not do is revoke the trade agreement. The only thing that could be got at is some of the implementation legislation. It would be quite difficult to find a formulation that allowed the High Court to revoke, in effect, an international trade agreement. As I have suggested, I do not think that the mechanism of going to the implementation measures will actually work.

In addition, I believe that Parliament has a clear role when new free trade agreements are entered into. If Parliament does not like the counterparties or believes that they might be involved in either genocide or any other form of abuse—my noble friend Lord Forsyth spoke as much about human rights abuses as he did about genocide itself—it can decide not to ratify a free trade agreement and not to implement any legislation that is required to implement such an agreement. However, it is very difficult to go back and undo a free trade agreement once it has been made and ratified. I suggest to my noble friend that even if the courts were able to do that, I do not believe that they are the right place for what is essentially a political decision.

Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, has withdrawn so I call the noble Lord, Lord Judd.