All 1 Baroness Sater contributions to the Dormant Assets Act 2022

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Wed 26th May 2021
Dormant Assets Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading

Dormant Assets Bill [HL]

Baroness Sater Excerpts
2nd reading
Wednesday 26th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con) [V]
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My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Polak. I thank my noble friend the Minister for bringing forward this Bill, which will enhance and continue to support so many good causes. I pay tribute to her and her colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for all the work they are doing to support the charity sector, particularly in these challenging times. I also add my welcome to my noble friend Lady Fleet and congratulate her on her excellent maiden speech.

We know that, in addition to the unprecedented £750 million package of support specifically for charities, a further £150 million from dormant bank and building society accounts has already been unlocked to help charities, social enterprises and individuals in vulnerable financial circumstances during the coronavirus outbreak. Expanding the scheme through the Bill means that even more people will reconnect with their assets. At the same time, it will provide more money for good causes, helping us to build back stronger in the years to come—a clear win-win.

The dormant assets scheme, established in 2008 and administered by the Reclaim Fund, has distributed assets from bank and building society accounts to good causes, while ensuring that sufficient funds are retained to meet any future claims on them. It has been a great success to date, and has unlocked and contributed more than £800 million for social and environmental causes in the UK. It operates, as we know, on three main principles, which remain unchanged in this expansion: reunification, full restoration and voluntary participation.

We are told that expanding the scheme through this Bill has the potential to unlock a further £880 million over the coming years through enabling additional types of dormant assets, including investments, insurance and pensions. This proposed expansion has also gone through a lengthy consultation, with each of these new types of assets having their own appropriately tailored definition of dormancy. Importantly, the Bill enables the social and environmental focus of the English allocation of the funds to be set through secondary legislation, in line with the model used in the devolved Administrations, which allows the scheme to consult on, and in turn be flexible to, the changing environmental and social needs in England into the future.

I welcome the additional measures in the Bill, which include making reference to the requirement for firms participating in the scheme to make attempts to reunite assets with their owners. It also makes necessary changes to reflect the Reclaim Fund’s recent establishment as a non-departmental public body of Her Majesty’s Treasury.

I am pleased to see through the consultation that there is consensus that tracing, verification and reunification —TVR—should continue to be a cornerstone of the scheme. We know that the evidence demonstrates that TVR has improved over time under the existing scheme. However, I would be grateful to hear more from my noble friend the Minister about the plans to enhance it even further. While we recognise the value of delivering funds to good causes, it is also crucial that more people are reunited with their assets.

We know there is much more to be done to help individuals and good causes across the country, particularly as we recover from the pandemic. This funding is already changing lives for the better, and expanding it further will help more vulnerable people to benefit. Instead of gathering dust, this money, if it cannot be reunited with its rightful owner in the first instance, is, among other good causes, being invested to help our young people into employment and to tackle problem debt. I support the Bill and I hope it obtains a very swift and successful passage through this Parliament.