All 11 Debates between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard

Thu 23rd Mar 2023
Tue 7th Mar 2023
Wed 1st Feb 2023
Wed 25th Jan 2023
Financial Services and Markets Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage & Committee stage
Wed 24th Mar 2021
Financial Services Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage
Mon 8th Mar 2021
Thu 15th Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard)
Tue 22nd Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 8th Apr 2019
European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I have put my name to two of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, in this group: Amendments 243A and 243B, which would require the super-affirmative procedure to be used. I have not added my name to Amendment 241G. I am in complete sympathy with the call for Parliament to be able to amend statutory instruments; I pay tribute to the work done by the committees chaired by my noble friends Lord Blencathra and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. They have highlighted the dangerous shift to skeleton legislation with the resultant reliance on secondary legislation, which has inflicted great harm on Parliament’s ability to scrutinise and hold the Executive to account.

On the other hand, I recognise that this is a large issue that needs to be taken forward at a high level within both Houses of Parliament, and also of course with the Government. I do not believe that this Bill is the right place to start that process, although I do believe that we need to find a way of progressing the dialogue to find a way forward. I am of course concerned about the parliamentary processes around the many statutory instruments that will come under the powers in this Bill. The super-affirmative procedure is certainly better than the ordinary affirmative procedure, which is why it has my support.

In adding my name to these amendments, I am in fact hitching a ride on them in order to raise some wider issues about the statutory instruments that will come forward once this Bill is made law. This is an issue that should probably have been debated earlier in Committee but I have only recently been made aware of it. I have given my noble friend the Minister only a very small amount of notice of the nature of my concerns; I accept that she may not be able fully to answer at the Dispatch Box today.

The amendments focus on parliamentary oversight of legislation being brought in by statutory instrument. What I think we have not focused on is whether there will be adequate consultation by the Treasury before the statutory instruments are laid in Parliament. Many of the statutory instruments will of course be uncontroversial in the sense that they will merely recreate the EU law in a UK-based framework for the rules that will then be made by regulators.

However, it is entirely possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, said, that the statutory instruments will contain significant changes from EU law. Clause 4, which allows the restatement of EU law, can be used to incorporate changes to the law within the huge range of possibilities that are allowed for by Clause 2(3). There is no requirement in Clause 4 for the Treasury to consult anyone at all before laying these statutory instruments. This is in stark contrast to the regulators, who have very clear statutory obligations to consult in respect of any rules they will be laying under the terms of the statutory instruments that give them the power.

In addition to Clause 4—this is the actual example that has come to my attention—the Treasury might choose to use the new designated activities power in Clause 8 to set up the replacement regulatory regime under UK law. As with Clause 4, the use of the Clause 8 power does not require the Treasury to consult anyone at all. The example that has been brought to my attention concerns the prospectus regime. I am indebted to the briefing provided to me by a partner in one of the Magic Circle law firms.

As part of the Edinburgh package, the Government published a policy note and a draft statutory instrument on how they intended to replace the EU prospectus rules. Put simply, the designated activities regime will be used to create the new prospectus regime when the existing EU law is repealed. The publication of the draft statutory instrument and the policy note was well received because it allowed those who specialise in this territory to get to grips with the proposed legal framework. Although the policy note was clear that the drafting was not final, it was not clear whether there would be a proper consultation on the new regime.

By way of background, there was a policy intent to deal with the issue of mini-bonds in the light of the London Capital & Finance scandal; that policy is, of course, uncontroversial. The Government were clear in their policy note that they intended to affect retail investors only and did not intend to cover things that were regulated elsewhere. It appears, however, that the chosen vehicle of relevant securities, as defined in the draft statutory instrument, also captures things with no likely impact on the retail market, including—somewhat incredibly—over-the-counter derivates and some loans, securities and financial transactions. I believe that this analysis has been made available to the Treasury via various players in the wholesale financial markets.

Although I understand that communications are constructive, there is a fundamental problem emerging: the so-called illustrative statutory instrument now seems to have morphed into a pre-final document on which no formal consultation will be held. This is important, given the significant widening of the reach of the proposals, well beyond the existing prospectus regime. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could set out how the Government see the next steps for the prospectus statutory instrument and whether formal consultation will occur. I hope that she will be able to respond not only on the particular issue of the prospectus statutory instrument but, more broadly, on the extent to which the Treasury will consult across the range of replacement EU law when it brings that law forward.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as stated in the register.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, on finding a way to amend statutory instruments. If it really is possible to change what noble Lords have always believed about SIs, that is welcome news indeed. As the noble Lord says, this procedure would be used only on the rare occasions when your Lordships’ House or another place considered it vital.

I support the noble Lord’s Amendments 243A and 243B, to which my noble friend Lady Noakes has added her name. These would create a super-affirmative category of approval process, introducing a higher bar but only after a resolution is made by either House of Parliament. I also agree with the points made by my noble friend on the prospectus directive and other matters. I support all these amendments.

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I have Amendments 179 and 190 in this group. I am not very enthusiastic at all about the provisions for cash access and distribution in the Bill. I am far from clear that a heavy-handed regulatory solution, which is what we have in the Bill, is necessary to preserve cash access and distribution, but, if we have to have it, I believe that the powers in the Bill should be time limited, which is what my Amendments 179 and 190 seek to achieve. Under these, the powers would expire in 10 years, unless the Treasury brought a statutory instrument giving a later date.

This is not a hard-nosed sunset clause, because we genuinely do not know what the future will be like. What we do know is that, before Covid, the use of cash was on a long-term downward trend and the use of debit cards had already overtaken cash. Covid then accelerated those trends so that, by 2019, debit card usage was 50% higher than the use of cash, and the latest data for 2021 shows that debit cards were used three times more often than cash. UK Finance forecasts that, by 2031, cash will account for only 6% of transactions while debit cards will account for more than half.

I do not deny that some people are more comfortable using cash than other payment options, and I accept that digital exclusion exists. It may well be a proportionate response to the current need for cash to protect its availability in the way that the Bill does, but I find it hard to see why we should set cash up on a pedestal as though it is some form of human right.

There is a large cost associated with cash provision. The Access to Cash Review found that it costs around £5 billion per annum. That is ultimately borne by all users of banking services, with the possible exception of holders of basic bank accounts, which do not cover their costs anyway and are already loading costs on to other users. As the use of cash continues to plummet, the cost will become disproportionately high because most of the costs involved are fixed.

I am certain that the future is digital, and the real need in the medium term is not to build shrines around cash points but to incentivise the financial services sector to make digital payment systems more accessible and inclusive. The best fintech brains should be put to work on this, and the banks need to see that it is in their interests to support innovation. This is where the regulators should be putting their efforts, rather than working out where cash points should be.

For this reason, I quite like the idea behind my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond’s Amendment 239, which calls for a review of access to digital financial services, although I am not sure that now is quite the right time. I am also not sure that a review should result in decisions made by government. We need to incentivise the providers of financial services to provide answers for this, rather than thinking that government can dictate how things will work in practice as society changes.

Some of the other amendments in this group, in particular those in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler of Enfield, seek to cling to an idea of high street banking that has already been overtaken by events. Bank branches closed because people stopped going to them; I predict that the new hubs will go the same way. The future is digital—that is what we should be trying to encourage. Making banks shoulder the costs of branches or hubs that are little used will simply increase the costs of the banking sector. This will end up harming consumers because costs will be passed on to them or, in some cases, providers may decide to withdraw from servicing particular sectors. In trying to preserve high street provision, the outcomes for consumers are not good.

I do not believe that it is responsible to legislate to preserve a version of the past unless there is clear evidence that the benefits outweigh the costs. I doubt that the cost-benefit case could, in truth, be made at the moment for maintaining branches or paying for the setting up of hubs, but I am absolutely certain that, when we look back in 10 or 20 years’ time, we will be amazed that we even thought that standing Canute-like against technological and societal change was the right thing to do in this area.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I recognise the good intentions of the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler of Enfield, in introducing her Amendment 176. However, the tide is running out for cash. We are not the most advanced country in this area. It is now almost impossible to use cash in Sweden. What does my noble friend the Minister know about how the authorities in countries such as Sweden, which have largely dispensed with cash in daily life and where retailers are not prohibited from refusing to accept cash, support those who have no bank account, debit card or credit card?

I sympathise with the aim of this amendment. I regret the disappearance of the bank manager, but I doubt that this is an area where the Government should be too prescriptive. Where there really is demand to meet a bank manager, surely the market will respond and one or more banks will locate a manager where he or she is needed.

I support Amendments 179 and 190, to which my noble friend Lady Noakes has already spoken so ably. Her amendments recognise the reality of the disappearing role of cash.

I have sympathy for the aims of Amendments 180 and 181 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, as I think it important that banks continue to provide in- person banking services where there is demand for them.

I sympathise with Amendments 238 and 239 in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond. The way the KYC rules are interpreted by banks and credit card providers is completely absurd and disproportionate. It really is ridiculous to have to prove one’s existence to an institution with which one has had an active business relationship for many decades. Can my noble friend the Minister tell the Committee whether she agrees that a review of the KYC rules is absolutely necessary?

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 58 in my name. The new competitiveness and growth objective, which I strongly support, is rather curiously drafted, as the FCA and the PRA are mandated to pursue competitiveness and growth

“subject to aligning with relevant international standards”.

My Amendments 47 and 58 remove this from the formulation for both the FCA and the PRA on a probing basis to try to understand what the Government mean by it.

International standards come in all shapes and sizes and it is far from necessary for the UK to adhere to everything which claims to be an international standard. The term is not defined in this Bill nor, I think, in FSMA. Part of what I am seeking is to understand what is a “relevant standard” and what kind of standards can in effect trump the competitiveness and growth objective. I hope that my noble friend will be able to explain this when she winds up.

The competitiveness and growth objective is already circumscribed by its status as a secondary objective. Using the PRA as an example, this means that it has to act only

“so far as reasonably possible”

in a way which advances its competitiveness and growth objective. Its primary objective—promoting the safety and soundness of PRA-authorised persons—will always trump a secondary objective. In this respect, I am not sure that Amendment 65 from the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is necessary. That is certainly the view of the PRA, which has been clear about the primacy of its prime objective.

Although some of us might have preferred competitiveness and growth to be a primary objective, which could then raise different issues, the Bill does not go that far and the secondary objective is therefore secondary to the primary objective. I completely understand if the PRA choses to follow international standards because it believes that this advances its primary objective, and that would trump the secondary objective. On that basis, there is no need to refer to international standards in relation to the competitiveness and growth objective because if the PRA thinks that they are necessary, they are already absorbed within its primary objective. However, if an international standard is not necessary for the primary objective, I do not understand why any such international standard should crowd out the competitiveness and growth objective.

There may well be a presumption that standards promulgated by bodies such as the Financial Stability Board or the BCBS will be followed, but that is accommodated within the primary objective. However, even in that context I think we have to remember that, for example, the Basel capital standards have not always been followed universally, most notably by the USA, which pursued its own course for a considerable period of time. International standards are not matters of international law. Their implementation is always a matter of judgment for the home regulators and therefore needs to be considered in the judgments they make on their primary objective.

I believe that the words

“subject to aligning with … international standards”

give too much weight to policies developed outside the UK and could damage our competitiveness and growth. The regulators should not be allowed to ignore the secondary objective on the grounds that they are following international standards if those standards are not core to their primary objective.

I look forward to hearing the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, on her Amendment 49, but my initial view is that it is right to keep the reference to financial services in the competitiveness and growth objective. Whether we like it or not, the financial services sector contributes around 12% to the UK economy and 7% of all UK jobs, according to the City of London Corporation. The regulators that can have the biggest impact on the financial services sector are clearly the financial services regulators: the PRA and the FCA. It seems to me only right to emphasise that their new secondary objective should specifically refer to the financial services sector. I beg to move.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I support Amendments 47 and 58 in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes, to which I have added my name. I also appreciate the support of my noble friend Lady Lawlor.

The FCA is influential in the formation and development of standards, and states on its website:

“We contribute to and implement international standards, and supervise and enforce rules based on them in the UK.”


The principal international standard-setting body for the industry is IOSCO. Will the Minister confirm that the UK is already using its enhanced influence in that body resulting from our having a seat at the table in our own right rather than through the EU? IOSCO’s key strategic goal is to be accepted as the recognised standard-setter for securities regulation. The International Association of Insurance Supervisors seeks to play the same role for the insurance industry. Its mission is to promote effective and globally consistent supervision of the insurance industry to develop and maintain fair, safe and stable insurance markets for the benefit and protection of policyholders and to contribute to global financial stability.

Nevertheless, international standards are a very subjective concept, and the introduction of this concept does not assist the need for clarity and predictability, besides the question of whether international standards will assist or impede the advancement of the competitiveness and growth objective. I am unable to support the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, to include sustainability in addition to relevant international standards because I think that sustainability is an even more subjective concept and that this amendment would reduce clarity and predictability.

I do not understand Amendments 49 and 59 from the noble Baroness; I think the financial regulators’ responsibility for financial services does not extend to different spheres of activity, although I, too, question why this limitation is included in the Bill anyway. The amendments in this group are really important because the Bill provides for rather limited supervision of regulators, and I believe it is necessary to improve parliamentary oversight.

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, as this is the first day of Committee, I declare my interests as recorded in the register, in particular that I hold shares in listed financial services companies. I will not comment on the government amendments in this group; I am taking those on trust.

I share the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, for Parliament to be involved in the new rules that will replace retained EU law, but this is part of the larger issue of how there will be parliamentary accountability of the regulators. A number of us have tabled amendments of slightly different varieties on how to achieve that in the Bill. I for one will not contribute to that issue in this debate, because it is better saved until the various mechanisms that some of us have proposed are debated later in Committee.

I have two amendments in this group: Amendments 244 and 245. At Second Reading I acknowledged that the replacement of retained EU law on financial services would take some time, but I felt that the process needed the discipline of a hard stop along the lines of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. I have not copied that Bill, with its deadline of the end of this year, but I have instead proposed one three years later: that is, on 31 December 2026.

That will doubtless disappoint some hardliners among my Brexiteer colleagues, but I see that as a pragmatic compromise between getting the issue fixed and letting the regulators do a proper job in turning EU rules into something that works for the UK or indeed, whenever possible, removing the rules entirely.

I am not convinced that, left to themselves, the FCA and the PRA will prioritise the task of dealing with the full corpus of retained EU law, especially once the first batch of relatively easy issues has been dealt with. A deadline is a simple device in order to incentivise them to get on with it or risk losing the related law entirely.

If my noble friend resists the notion of a statutory deadline, even though it is government policy for retained EU law generally, perhaps she will explain what sticks and carrots the Treasury has at its disposal to get the job done within a reasonable timeframe. I do not think it reasonable to have this large body of EU law left in limbo for any considerable period of time.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, to a large extent, but I agree with my noble friend Lady Noakes that the question of parliamentary scrutiny is better dealt with when we come to that part of the Bill to which her amendments are tabled.

I declare my interest as a director of two investment companies, as stated in the register. On the whole, I welcome the Government’s amendments in this group and look forward to hearing my noble friend the Minister explain them. Insofar as they increase the powers of the regulators, I welcome the improved clarity and transparency, but we need to improve the method of scrutiny and degree of regulators’ accountability to Parliament, as I have said.

I support my noble friend Lady Noakes in her Amendments 244 and 245. While the task of reviewing, revoking and replacing retained EU financial services law is monumental, it is important that there be a time limit to this process. Ideally, it should be completed this year, because more than four years have passed since the passage of the withdrawal Act and more than two years since the end of the transition period. We have not acted as fast as we should perhaps have done in moving to exploit the opportunities available to make bold moves away from the cumbersome, expensive and anti-competitive regulatory regime that has progressively constrained the competitiveness of the City of London and its innate ability to innovate. There has been some inbuilt resistance to making any changes, and I am glad that this Bill takes some significant steps in that direction.

I would have preferred the Bill to be more radical and to require that certain EU regulations automatically be repealed without replacement, such as the whole regime around the alternative investment fund managers directive and its subordinate legislation. That directive was opposed by the whole City establishment and has served merely to divert new and innovative fund managers wishing to launch new products for professional investors away from the City to other jurisdictions. However, too little work has yet been done, and I think that my noble friend’s suggested latest revocation date of 2026 is a reasonable compromise. I look forward to discussing that later, and I hope the Government will accept my noble friend’s two amendments.

Financial Services Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 4, I shall speak to the other two amendments in this group in my name. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, and the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, for adding their names to Amendment 6.

I spoke at length in Committee about the problems of tough legacy contracts, and I shall not repeat all of that. To summarise, when Libor ceases to be available at the end of this year there will be a number of contracts which reference Libor but which have not been renegotiated to substitute an alternative rate. We do not know exactly how many contracts are involved, but it is thought to be a significant number. It is not a niche problem; it arises in both the capital market and retail markets and in many different kinds of contract. While sustained efforts by financial services providers have reduced the scale of the problem, it cannot be fully resolved for various reasons, and I think that that has been accepted by all parties.

The Bill helpfully provides for the FCA to ensure that what is known as synthetic Libor will be available for use in those contracts which have not been renegotiated, but two problems remain. First, while the FCA has made synthetic Libor available for use, the FCA cannot change the contracts itself; it requires separate provision in law. Amendment 4 would provide for continuity of contract so that any contract, loan or security referencing Libor will be taken to reference synthetic Libor instead. Secondly, even if references to Libor are regarded as meaning synthetic Libor, there remains a risk of litigation if one or more parties object to the substitution of synthetic Libor and believes that some other fallback is more appropriate. Amendment 5 says that no claim or cause of action can arise due to the use of synthetic Libor. This is a safe harbour provision.

I recognise that the exact drafting of continuity of contract and safe harbour is not straightforward, though I emphasise that my amendments have been drafted with the help of lawyers who are specialists in capital markets, and that they mirror the draft legislation which has been drawn up for New York law by the Alternative Reference Rates Committee. Nevertheless, I have also tabled Amendment 6, which takes a slightly different approach by giving the Treasury the power to make regulations dealing with contract continuity and/ or safe harbour. It does not require the Treasury to do either or both of those things but offers a straightforward method of dealing with the problem in secondary legislation if, for some reason, the Government feel unable to legislate directly at this stage.

I tabled Amendments 4 and 5 in Committee and was met with the expected response that the Government had recently issued a consultation on contract continuity and safe harbour, and that the consultation period had not concluded. The Government would decide what to do once they had considered the consultation responses. The consultation has now concluded, so it is time for the Government to decide what to do. As I understand it, there were only a relatively small number of responses to the consultation, and they are overwhelmingly in favour of proceeding with continuity of contract and safe harbour. I hope that my noble friend the Minster will confirm that.

I had hoped that the Government would table amendments of their own on Report, but life is full of disappointments. The clock is counting down to 31 December this year and those areas of the financial services market which are impacted by tough legacy contracts desperately need some certainty about the way forward. I therefore call on the Government to either accept one of my amendment variants—Amendments 4 and 5 or, alternatively, Amendment 6—or commit to bringing their own amendment forward at Third Reading. If the opportunity of this Bill is missed, it is by no means clear whether there will be a later opportunity in time for the cessation of Libor, which is only nine months from now. I hope that the Government will want to avoid creating a long period of uncertainty and will not let this Bill pass into law without fully dealing with tough legacy contracts. I beg to move.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise for forgetting to declare my interest as a director of two financial services regulated companies.

I support Amendments 4, 5 and 6, ably moved by my noble friend Lady Noakes, whose long experience and mastery of the detail of financial markets and regulation is an invaluable asset to your Lordships’ House. As far as Amendments 4 and 5 are concerned, she presented the arguments very well in Committee and today. I was also impressed by the arguments deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, who quoted the FCA’s view that in cases where parties to contracts referencing Libor cannot reach agreement on how those contracts would operate in the event of Libor’s cessation, discontinuation could cause uncertainty, litigation, or loss of value because contracts no longer function as intended.

The Minister recognised that we must reduce contracts referencing Libor as much as possible by the end of this year. Given the vast number of outstanding contracts, clearly that will not be possible, and rightly the Government have initiated a consultation process on this subject. However, does he not agree that the risk of uncertainty and litigation is significant and that there is unlikely to be a better opportunity to legislate in time to mitigate such risks than that which this Bill provides?

In Amendment 6, my noble friend Lady Noakes, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, and the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, has offered an alternative method of mitigating these risks. As a rule, I do not like the trend towards taking excessive Henry VIII powers, which greatly reduce the transparency and accountability of the Government. However, if my noble friend the Minister cannot accept Amendments 4 and 5, the alternative—Amendment 6—would in that case be acceptable as being much better than the situation that will otherwise quite possibly evolve with great damage to market integrity and much expensive litigation.

I hope that the Minister has thought more about these issues since our last debate and I look forward to hearing how her thinking has evolved to meet the very sensible points that my noble friend’s amendments would address.

Financial Services Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con) [V]
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My Lords, all three amendments in this group would increase the importance of equivalence determinations, which might ultimately be counterproductive.

Amendment 90 seeks to prevent the Treasury making equivalence decisions for reciprocal reasons alone. I cannot see a shred of evidence that the Treasury might do that. When my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Katharine Braddick, director-general for financial services, gave evidence to the EU Services Sub-Committee, they made it very clear that, although they would have preferred a comprehensive set of equivalence determinations, the EU declined to grant any, besides two time-limited determinations for the central counterparties, such as LCH, which clear derivatives transactions. It is good news that the Government decided to make their equivalence determinations unilaterally, based on economics and efficiency of markets, and have no intention of making equivalence determinations for political or reciprocal reasons. I suggest that the noble Baroness’s amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment 100 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Tunnicliffe and Lord Eatwell, is clearly fighting yesterday’s battle. It presumes that the memorandum of understanding now under negotiation with the EU on future regulatory co-operation is likely to lead to the granting by the EU of a number of positive equivalence determinations. This would indeed provide much-needed clarity in the short term but would also make divergence more difficult. Furthermore, the EU has been unwilling to make equivalence determinations on the basis of equivalence of outcomes. Rather, it has made it clear that it expects the UK to copy its rules exactly, line by line, as the price for equivalence determinations.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, has said we will not become a “rule-taker” from the EU. He said that, just as we will not diverge for divergence’s sake, we will not align for alignment’s sake. It is unrealistic to think the EU will grant any significant equivalence assessments to the UK in areas where it thinks we may diverge from its cumbersome and expensive regulations. The majority of the financial services industry, rather than looking for equivalence determinations, which can be withdrawn unilaterally on 30 days’ notice, is now looking to the Government to adopt a new and different pro-innovation, pro-competition, common law-based regulatory regime. That is the way to retain and further enhance the position of our financial services industry and our leadership role in developing proportionate, sound regulation at the global level.

Furthermore, the explanatory notes prepared by the noble Lord are puzzling. The decision of the EU not to grant equivalence determinations to the UK has no effect on UK retail investors, because we have granted equivalence to EU firms in many areas to continue to offer their services and products in the UK. I can see that it may well disadvantage EU retail investors, who will be denied access to products and services produced by UK financial services firms, so I do not think this amendment is helpful under any circumstances.

Amendment 105 in the name of my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts would require a report on the progress towards agreeing the MoU with the EU on regulatory co-operation. This report will be due within two months of the passage of this Bill. However, the TCA requires this MoU to be entered into by the end of March. It seems unlikely that this Bill will even be enacted by then.

Can the Minister tell the Committee when he expects the MoU to be agreed, when a draft will be available and the Government’s expectations as to its content? I usually find common cause with my noble friend but, in relation to his amendment, I believe the retention of freedom to diverge from EU regulations in order to adopt a better regulatory regime in a particular area, ensuring or enhancing the city’s continuing leading role in that area, is more important than slavish alignment to EU rules to beg or ask for the grant of equivalence determinations which could be unilaterally withdrawn at any time. I therefore doubt whether his amendment is necessary but I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say about it.

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—

Trade Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I want to comment on three amendments in this group. First, on Amendment 81, I will echo some of what my noble friend Lord Lansley has said. As I understand it, the Board of Trade is composed only of privy counsellors, and I believe they are normally Cabinet Ministers. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, read out its full title, and I think embedded in there is “privy counsellor”. It would be wholly inappropriate for Parliament ever to be involved in the appointment of privy counsellors to a body.

As we have heard, particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, what people are really upset about is the appointment of Tony Abbott. But he is, of course, an adviser to the Board of Trade, and I do not think there is any precedent for Parliament to be involved in the appointment of advisors or for the normal public appointment processes to apply necessarily to advisers. So I would not support Amendment 81 at all.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, has said most of what I wanted to say in respect of Amendment 106. I would like to underscore that I do not think that boards of bodies such as the TRA should have representatives on them. The board is a place where the governance of the body is played out, which is why there is a majority, under the schedule, of non-executives. It is important to remember that it is not there to bring a particular point of view, but to make sure that the body is itself well managed and well governed. The issue about bringing stakeholder interests to bear should be covered either by committees —whether we need a special committee to be hard-wired into the schedule or the TRA can use its committee power in the schedule—or, more probably, by ensuring that there are proper mechanisms for consultation in the formulation of any policy. I do not believe we should be using the board in that way. I also note in passing that the representatives are to include each of the United Kingdom devolved Administrations, which leaves England out in the cold. There is no representation for England, which is often one of the failings of devolution—having representatives from the devolved Administrations but forgetting that England is also rather important.

Lastly, Amendment 107 would require the House of Commons, via its International Trade Committee, to consent to the appointment of non-executives to the body. Again, this is unprecedented. It is normal nowadays—although it used not to be—for the chairman to be put through a process, either pre or post-appointment, but I do not think that there is any precedent for the Commons to start approving individual members of public bodies. It is unnecessary and cumbersome to clog up committees by getting involved in the many kinds of individual appointments that are made to public bodies.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I have listened to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, and the other two proposers of Amendment 81, which seeks to restrict appointments to the Board of Trade. As my noble friend Lady Noakes has pointed out, I think that he intended his amendment to apply to advisers to the Board of Trade. It must be most discouraging for new appointees as advisers to the Board of Trade to hear the criticism of their suitability. I agree with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that the new Board of Trade should be well advised by experienced people who can make the case for free and fair trade across the UK and around the world. I am happy to see that Tony Abbott, Daniel Hannan and others have been appointed, and I disagree with those who say that people who hold different views on social issues unconnected with trade should not be appointed to such positions. There is, at the present time, great global insecurity as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than ever, the UK needs to be a strong voice for open markets and for reshaping global trading rules, together with countries such as Australia, with which we expect to soon agree on the terms of a new free trade agreement.

In response to the suggestion that appointments to the Board of Trade should be made subject to the Governance Code on Public Appointments, I would say that perhaps the governance code is too restrictive and generally leads to the selection of a particular type of person, excluding those who are able to think outside the box and suggest innovative solutions, rather than those who resist change to practices that will not work well for global Britain in future.

Amendment 83, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, seeks to increase the influence of trade unions over the trade advisory groups. This amendment is also unnecessarily prescriptive, especially as there are representatives of each of the four nations’ national farmers unions on the Trade and Agriculture Commission beside the representative of the Farmers’ Union of Wales. Besides, the further attack on the Government’s prerogative powers on treaty negotiations by exposing day-to-day salient developments in trade negotiations to public scrutiny would seriously detract from our negotiators’ ability to represent British interests successfully.

Amendment 106, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, also unreasonably seeks to restrict the Secretary of State’s ability to appoint the board of the Trade Remedies Authority. It is notable that the noble Lord does not think it so important to include people with experience of international trade disputes and business as he does representatives of his four chosen categories. I tend to agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, said in this regard. However, I suggest to the Minister that it would be better if the chief executive and both executive and non-executive directors were appointed by the chairman with the approval of the Secretary of State. This would result in better corporate governance and lead to smoother functioning of the board.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, that her Amendments 110 and 111 would be improvements to the Bill. I agree with the intention of her Amendment 112, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Lansley, in his Amendment 113, that the annual report should be as informative as appropriate. Perhaps the Minister could suggest some suitable amendments to that effect, even if he considers these particular amendments to be too prescriptive.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I declare again my interests as stated in the register. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Noakes for adding her name to mine on these amendments. I look forward to hearing her contribution and those of other noble Lords.

Like many noble Lords, I attended most of the seven days of Committee on the Bill. Although there were amendments that I thought would improve it, I felt that a large majority were either redundant or harmful. Many were proposed by noble Lords who have consistently opposed Brexit and, even if they now accept the decision of the people and the result of the general election of December 2019, still seek to align our rules and regulations as closely as they can with those of the EU, even in cases where the EU is a global outlier.

There is much that I like about Amendment 93 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, as I said in debate in Committee. It is right that any new trade agreements that we enter into should confirm the UK’s acceptance of its rights and obligations under the World Trade Organization’s sanitary and phytosanitary agreement. As we start to participate in the WTO as a new independent member, it is important that we do all that we can to strengthen its relevance and remit, which have been weakened by the ambiguous attitude towards it held by the present American Administration. The US has refused to nominate new members to the appellate body, which is hampering the hearing of appeals. The UK should become a leading advocate internationally for rules-based free and fair trade because that is the way to build a more prosperous world. Indeed, given the US disregard for the WTO, the UK as the fifth-largest economy will be able to take the lead in reviving support for international trade liberalisation, which has lacked a champion.

The problem with the noble Lord’s amendment is that there is a conflict between proposed new subsection (2)(a), which would require trade agreements to conform to the SPS agreement, and proposed new subsection (2)(b), which would require all food imports to conform to domestic standards, which means EU standards. EU standards conflict in some instances with the SPS agreement, which encourages Governments to adopt national SPS measures consistent with international standards, guidelines and recommendations. Most of the WTO’s member Governments participate in the development of these standards in three other international bodies: the Codex Alimentarius Commission, established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the World Health Organization; the World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE; and the International Plant Protection Convention.

The SPS agreement aims to ensure that measures are applied for no other purpose than that of ensuring food safety and animal and plant health. Such measures should be based as far as possible on the analysis and assessment of objective and accurate scientific data. As the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said, the SPS agreement permits countries to adopt standards higher than international standards if they think it appropriate but only if there is scientific justification, not if such standards are misused for protectionist purposes and not if they result in unnecessary barriers to international trade.

The EU is a global outlier in international food standards because it gives too much importance to the precautionary principle, which obstructs innovation and interferes with free and fair trade, thus driving prices higher than they need be. A case in point is the EU ban on hormone-treated beef, which the WTO ruled is not based on sound science and denies EU consumers access to US beef at affordable prices. I know there are noble Lords who might welcome the price of beef rising to such levels where economics will force people to change from a mixed diet, including a significant amount of meat, to a largely or all-vegetarian diet, but, besides interfering with the freedom of the consumer to choose what diet he or she wishes to eat at affordable prices, such restrictions will interfere with and limit the ability of British beef farmers to sell to new markets overseas at competitive prices.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said he thought I was seeking to prevent the Secretary of State setting UK standards and requiring him to conform exactly to international standards. I do not think I am trying to do that in any way. I believe that we import many products manufactured in countries with different labour laws, environmental standards and animal welfare rules. Of course we must set domestic standards at the high levels that we rightly wish to uphold.

The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said that chlorinated chicken was “bad food”. For a start, most chicken grown and reared in the United States is treated not with chlorine but with peracetic acid. Secondly, I do not believe that it is bad food; certainly, I have never found it bad when I have eaten rather good roast chicken on visits to the US. If people do not want to buy American food because they think American farmers’ standards are too low, they do not need to. However, we are not quite as good as we always think we are; there have been many articles in the newspapers recently about poor poultry food standards, pollution of rivers and so forth. Neither are the Americans anything like as bad as many noble Lords make them out to be; indeed, there is not much difference between American rules on poultry stocking densities and UK rules on the same thing.

If the UK adopts food standards compliant with the SPS agreement, no one will be forced to eat food produced in countries of whose animal welfare standards they disapprove. However, I have not heard any noble Lords on the other side of this argument call for clear food labelling to identify products such as chicken reared in Poland, Brazil or Thailand, where average stocking densities are higher than those permitted in the US or the EU. I understand that Poland does not yet comply with EU rules. It is also interesting that there is no criticism of animals killed in conformity with halal rules to conform with sharia law.

In common with most noble Lords, I applaud the fact that the UK has made a big contribution to the raising of animal welfare standards in the world and I sincerely hope that we will continue to do so. Our efforts in this regard should be made within the OIE, and not by trying to interfere with free markets in food by applying restrictions on imports which will drive up the cost of food, especially at a time when so many people’s livelihoods have been affected by Covid-19.

For decades, the time-honoured way of dealing with SPS and technical barriers to trade rules has been to rely on equivalence of standards and technical regulation. This is because an equivalence or recognition approach ensures that everyone’s overall approach to risk is the same—not that every country’s rules are identical. We are more likely to get better rules, and more pro-competitive ones, if we adopt an equivalence or recognition approach with regulatory competition. Pure harmonisation is unlikely to lead to the best result and tends to increase the regulatory burden on our farmers, making them globally uncompetitive. Moreover, this is the approach of most WTO members. The EU is seen as the outlier. Our trading partners are asking the question: will we truly be “global Britain” or will we be more protectionist than the French? In the former case, we will be welcomed into the community of trading nations; in the latter, we will not.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Trenchard; indeed, it was a pleasure to add my name to his Amendments 94, 95 and 96. This is the first time that I have spoken during the passage of this Bill. Until my husband retired, I sometimes described myself as a farmer’s wife—but I claim no special expertise in agriculture and, for the avoidance of doubt, I have no interests to declare. I do, however, have an interest in trade matters; that is what has enticed me into the Report stage of the Bill and these amendments.

I start from the position that the main amendments in this group are not necessary. The Government’s policy is clear: they are committed to high food and welfare standards. They have demonstrated that commitment in all the trade treaties negotiated to date—both the continuity ones and the latest jewel in our trade crown, the free trade agreement with Japan. I am sure that we will go over that ground all over again when we commence our scrutiny of the Trade Bill.

We do not need to write into law what the Government are committed to. I fully accept that Governments do that from time to time, but it is generally done when they have weak parliamentary majorities and need to appease their opponents. Writing into law what the Government will do anyway can be a cheap way out of a confrontation. Noble Lords will know that that is the background to the wording of the Trade Bill that was brought forward by the previous Administration. We are not in that position today. The Government have a solid majority in the other place, which has already rejected similar amendments—and if your Lordships’ House passes these amendments, I would expect a similar response.

There is another reason why these amendments are unnecessary. International treaties have to be ratified using the CRaG procedure, which gives the other place the power to refuse ratification. Amendment 93 contains the equivalent of the CRaG procedure, but I fail to see why we need, effectively, to duplicate CRaG solely for the purpose of agricultural and food imports. If the other place does not like what the Government have negotiated in a trade treaty in relation to food and agriculture, it is open to the other place to refuse to ratify the agreement. Parliament already has the power that it needs by virtue of CRaG. Nevertheless, I have added my name to my noble friend Lord Trenchard’s amendments because, as he has explained, without his amendments, Amendment 93 would not make sense.

Now that we have left the EU, the starting point for our international trade will be the World Trade Organization. I welcome Clauses 40 to 42, which give the Government the necessary powers in the area of agriculture. This means that we should be ensuring that our standards comply with WTO standards; at the moment they do not, because our standards are derived from the EU and are in some respects non-compliant.

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes
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My Lords, I shall not detain the House long. My amendment would ensure that this legislation ceases to have effect on exit day. It could be said that the amendment is there just for the avoidance of doubt because, clearly, there is nothing to be done with this Bill after exit day. However, I wanted to table the amendment because this is, by almost common consent, a pretty terrible Bill. One of the best things that has been said about it today is that it is a bit of a mess. During the brief passage through your Lordships’ House, it has been improved, which is what customarily happens when this House considers ill-thought-out Bills from the other place.

As I said at Second Reading, I have accepted that the will of the other place will prevail in the case of this Bill. Therefore, the powers that it creates to restrict the royal prerogative in this important area of international relations will come into force to the extent now drafted. I regret that, but I hope that we will return to the normal practice of leaving the royal prerogative for international relations and negotiations with the Government on an unfettered basis. I have tabled this amendment to make the point more forcefully that this should not be a permanent part of our statute book; we should write it out as soon as the purpose of those who have sought to make it the law of the land for this week comes to an end. I beg to move.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard
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My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Noakes on this amendment. As she explained so clearly on Thursday and in her speech today, the curtailment of prerogative powers envisaged in this Bill is significant. I agree with her that the powers available to the Government to negotiate international treaties are important and should not be curtailed.

My noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, who is acknowledged across your Lordships’ House as the most knowledgeable constitutional expert, explained that the changes sought by the Bill, and the practices by which it was passed in another place, are not small but highly significant. I consider it unfortunate that your Lordships’ House is likely to pass this Bill, but at least it would be better if its destructive elements could be made temporary. Surely even noble Lords who support the Bill would agree that, against the background of the views of the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on the matter, the restrictions on prerogative powers should be temporary. It would be unfortunate for the House to agree to a precedent created by such a rushed and controversial piece of legislation.

Financial Services Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Wednesday 25th July 2012

(11 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes
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My Lords, with the leave of the Committee and at the request of my noble friend Lord Northbrook, I rise to move Amendment 127ZA and also speak to Amendment 128AAA in his name. My noble friend is unable to be with us to speak to these amendments due to other commitments.

The new regulators will have many new powers to add to the formidable armoury of powers already held by the FSA. Consultation with practitioners in the industry about the practical aspects of policy, rules and practice is crucial. Amendment 127ZA concerns consultations carried out by the Bank of England in relation to the clearing and settlement systems that it will regulate in future, together with the role of the FCA in that. In general, the consultation arrangements in the Bill for the market areas covered by the FCA are welcomed by practitioners. In particular, the Bill, which mandates several panels to be used for consultation, includes a specific markets panel. However, there is concern in relation to the clearing and settlements systems, which are to be regulated by the Bank of England rather than the FCA. I understand the reasons that led to that decision, but it results in some fragmentation of regulation. Clearing and settlements systems will now be separate from the rest of markets regulation and practitioners are concerned that, in the absence of provisions in this Bill for consulting practitioners about clearing and settlement aspects, there could be problems.

Amendment 127ZA sets up a consultation requirement in this respect by requiring the Bank of England to consult the markets practitioner panel, which is set up under new Section 1P as part of the FCA’s consultation mechanisms. This amendment also allows the panel to request information from the Bank via the FCA in order that the panel can then advise the FCA on any related issues—for example, regulatory changes made by the Bank in relation to clearing and settlement systems, which may well have an impact on trading infrastructure, which the FCA itself will be regulating.

I thank the Minister’s officials for explaining to me how the Bank’s new powers will work legislatively and how the consultation provisions fit in. As I understand it, there will be a statutory requirement for the Bank to consult generally on the exercise of its new regulatory powers in relation to recognised clearing houses, but the consultation with practitioner panels or the FCA is not mandated. The Bill is silent in relation to settlement systems, and we have to wait to see what the eventual regulations will say.

Will the Minister explain how the Government intend consultation to work for settlement systems? Can he also say how the Government see proper co-ordination between the FCA and the Bank of England in this area? Is there, for example, any intention to involve the markets panel—and if not, why not? In respect of clearing houses, can the Minister explain why the requirements in respect of consultation by the Bank for clearing houses in Schedule 7, which applies the general PRA requirements for consultation on rules, specifically remove the requirement for the PRA to consult the FCA and has no requirement to consult panels?

Amendment 128AAA in this group tackles a rather broader issue. Under new Section 1R, the FCA must consider representations made to it by the panels and must publish responses to representations. The corresponding FiSMA requirements were for the FSA to respond in writing with reasons for disagreeing with a panel’s recommendations but this has been omitted from the Bill. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Northbrook reinstates that requirement.

Everybody understands that the FCA will not accept every single recommendation or view put to it, but it is not acceptable that the FCA can merely ignore any recommendations put to it by the panels and merely publish a response “from time to time”, which is all that new Section 1R requires. The FCA ought to be open to the possibility of dialogue with the panels. It is entirely possible, for example, that the FCA could misinterpret a comment or recommendation made to it. The Bill might make the FCA near-omnipotent, but it should not be predicated on the FCA being near-omniscient.

Both these amendments have been suggested by the existing financial services practitioner panel, which has done good work since the FSA was set up. It knows what it is talking about and if it is concerned, I believe that the Committee should be too. I do not claim that the drafting of my noble friend’s amendments is perfect but they are probing amendments. I beg to move.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard
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My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbrook and moved by my noble friend Lady Noakes. While I understand very well the reasoning behind splitting regulators into a multitude of new regulators, it nevertheless remains very necessary to make sure that regulation is well co-ordinated, not duplicated, and made as understandable as possible to practitioners and consumers alike. It is very sensible indeed that the regulation of trading infrastructure also be brought within the sphere of influence of the FCA. The requirement that,

“The bank must consult with the Markets Practitioner Panel on the regulation of clearing and settlement infrastructure”—

deals with that. I agree with my noble friend that the drafting is not yet perfect. In particular, I find somewhat confusing the second paragraph, which states:

“The Markets Practitioner Panel will be able to request information from the Bank via the FCA to enable them to provide appropriate advice to the FCA”.

However, in principle, this is a move in the right direction and I strongly support it.

One of the problems with regulation is that regulators, even if they have practical experience of banking, insurance or other financial services, very rapidly become out of date because markets change so rapidly. There are many very competent former bankers working for the FSA who are out of date with the way markets actually operate today. Therefore, I think it very necessary to have a practitioner panel for the PRA as well as for the FCA. However, that is the subject of a subsequent amendment.

Amendment 128AAA also deserves support for putting the requirement back on the FCA to give a statement in writing of its reasons if it disagrees with a view expressed by the practitioner panel. That is very sensible.

Financial Services Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Viscount Trenchard
Wednesday 25th July 2012

(11 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard
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My Lords, I also recognise the good intention of the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, in moving this amendment. However, I think that the FCA is best helped to help the consumer by having clear objectives and principles, or matters to which they must have regard in pursuing the objectives. I worry that this is becoming overcomplicated.

I also suggest that new Section 1E(2)(a), which states that the FCA must have regard to,

“the needs of different consumers who use or may use those services, including their need for information that enables them to make informed choices”,

overlaps substantially with the effect of the amendment. Furthermore, I am not sure whether it is a good idea to put in the Bill,

“services which are appropriate to their needs”,

and,

“represent good value for money”.

Those two concepts are not defined and may be interpreted in very different ways by different consumers. Who is to say what represents good value for money? The important thing, which has been much too lacking in recent years, is that we should have complete transparency. However, I would like to hear the Minister’s view on this.

I would also like to ask him whether the words,

“The matters to which the FCA may have regard in considering the effectiveness of competition”,

mean that the FCA is prohibited from having regard to other matters, or is this intended to restrict—or to broaden—the matters to which the FCA can have regard? If the provision is intended to broaden the matters, surely the best way is to leave it as simple as possible so that the FCA can use its own judgment in deciding to which matters it should have regard.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, has made a powerful case for her amendment. I think that it is widely acknowledged that the needs of consumers require greater emphasis in the financial services industry as it moves forward, and I believe that that is why the consumer is being placed at the heart of the FCA. However, I am puzzled that the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, has chosen to put her amendment within the competition objective for the FCA. It seems to me that what she was talking about is quintessentially part of the consumer protection objective, which is in new Section 1C. A number of things are already listed within that consumer protection objective, including,

“the general principle that those providing regulated financial services should be expected to provide consumers with a level of care that is appropriate having regard to the degree of risk involved … and the capabilities of the consumers in question”.

It seems to me that if proper regard was paid to that in the development of the FCA’s policies, that would meet almost all of what the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, seeks to address in her amendment.