All 2 Baroness Shafik contributions to the Financial Services Bill 2019-21

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Thu 28th Jan 2021
Financial Services Bill
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2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Wed 14th Apr 2021

Financial Services Bill Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

Financial Services Bill

Baroness Shafik Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 28th January 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Shafik Portrait Baroness Shafik (CB) (Maiden Speech) [V]
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My Lords, it is a great honour to make my maiden speech today and I begin by thanking your Lordships and the staff of the House, who have been so welcoming. I am particularly grateful to my sponsors: the noble Lord, Lord O’Donnell—Gus O’Donnell—who was both my mentor and manager in the Civil Service, and the noble Lord, Lord Stern—Nick Stern—who was my teacher and is now my colleague at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It has been a strange time to join this great House, but my induction has proceeded very capably through digital means and I thank Black Rod, the Garter and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for their guidance.

I was born in Alexandria in Egypt, although my connection to the UK began with my grandfather, who came on a scholarship to do his undergraduate and doctorate degrees at Imperial College in the 1920s. My father was born and raised in Notting Hill, before it was fashionable, and the family eventually returned to Egypt, where my grandfather retained a love of croquet and lawn bowling well into his 90s. My maternal grandfather studied in France and my mother was sent to a French Catholic school by her forward-thinking Muslim mother, who believed that everyone should learn about other people’s religions. I wish that they could all be here today.

My family’s prospects changed radically with the nationalisations in Egypt in the 1960s, when we lost most of our property and went from being well-off to being immigrants in the United States, where my father had studied. For my father, who had a PhD in Chemistry and little else, education was the only path to success. His mantra was, “They can take everything away from you except your education.” Those experiences —seeing how people’s fortunes could rise and fall because of economic shocks and the importance of education for social mobility—instilled in me a deep curiosity about the architecture of opportunity in a society. That curiosity led me to a career in economics that spanned the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development, the International Monetary Fund, the Bank of England and the London School of Economics.

While I spent 18 years in universities, most of my career has been in the trenches of policy-making in some of the poorest countries in the world and some of the richest. I have worked with politicians from across the political spectrum. In the UK I was a permanent secretary under both the Labour Government and the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. In my years at the World Bank, DfID and the IMF, I travelled to over 100 countries, working with politicians of every imaginable political stripe. I saw clearly the benefits of sharing experience across countries.

I have had jobs that are primarily about making good things happen—lifting people out of poverty at the World Bank and DfID and spreading education at LSE. I have also had jobs that are primarily about preventing bad things from happening—fighting international financial crises at the IMF and maintaining monetary and financial stability at the Bank of England. Making good things happen is often more fun and one’s colleagues tend to be more optimistic. Organisations that prevent bad things tend to be populated by people whose job is to worry and look for risks, but their work is vital because, as the pandemic has shown us, bad events can swiftly destroy decades of progress.

These experiences are why I have chosen the Financial Services Bill for my maiden speech. It is first and foremost intended to prevent bad things from happening, as well as to create opportunities for new good things. It is the first important step in defining a distinct UK regulatory framework after leaving the EU and restoring the regulatory philosophy embedded in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, with improvements based on the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis. That philosophy is based on legislation setting out the policy objectives and operationally independent expert regulators translating that into technical regulation and supervision.

It is reassuring that the Government remain committed to the highest standards of regulation to avoid future bad events. Robust standards are essential for the stability and fairness which make our financial markets attractive to global investors and ensure consumers are protected. Chasing competitive advantage through lower regulatory standards and financial services is a chimera.

At the IMF, we used to describe the UK’s financial sector as a global public good because of its systemic importance to the world economy. The success of the UK’s regulatory framework has far-reaching consequences, and maintaining active engagement in global standard-setting, such as through the Basel Committee and the Financial Stability Board, is the best way of remaining the most global financial centre in the world. For example, when I was at the Bank of England it worked with central banks around the world to shape the first global standard for the foreign exchange market—the largest financial market in the world with a turnover of $6.6 trillion every day, over 40% of which occurs in London.

There is a huge opportunity, as many noble Lords have said today, for the UK to set global standards on green finance, from mandatory disclosure and the development of green investment products to defining regulatory approaches to climate-related stress-testing, which will be done for the first time this year. The return of full independence in setting the regulatory framework for financial services to the UK also provides an opportunity to rethink the framework for accountability and scrutiny in a system that relies heavily on experts. I have to confess, I like experts. I know Members of this House fall comfortably into that category, and the expertise in this House adds enormous value to the legislative process. But as the noble Lord, Lord King, has said, experts must resist the pressure for an illusion of certainty. It is best to listen to many views and subject expert judgment to challenge.

I hope that I can add my voice to the well-informed and lively debates in this House and bring an especially global perspective to our deliberations. Hopefully, we can prevent many bad things happening as well as enable many good things to progress. I look forward to working with all of your Lordships in the future.

Financial Services Bill Debate

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Financial Services Bill

Baroness Shafik Excerpts
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I find I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendments in this group. Before I address them, what has concentrated my mind as to how I will vote is that I understand there is a business Motion to be considered tomorrow that Standing Order 44, that no two stages of a Bill be taken on one day, be dispensed with on Monday 19 April to allow the Financial Services Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day, and that therefore under Standing Order 47 we will not have the opportunity to amend on Third Reading. If that is the case, we have to decide today how we are going to deal with this group of amendments and will not have the opportunity to return to them at Third Reading. I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister, in summing up, can confirm that my understanding is correct in that regard.

I am always full of admiration for the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, and support the main thrust of her Amendments 18, 19 and 20. For once, I find myself in good company with my noble friend Lady Noakes; I hope this trend will continue. As yet I have not persuaded my noble friend Lord Trenchard to join us in this venture, but I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, has identified reasons for us to support this proposal. Of course it is right that the Government should consult industry, practitioners and consumers, but what is missing—it is the major omission addressed particularly by those amendments I am minded to support in this group—is any opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise what will be major changes to our law in this Bill.

I was most interested to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, ask at the end whether Ministers would attend committees when required. I always thought it was the case that they had to have a very good reason not to attend parliamentary committees, but I stand to be corrected when we hear the summing up.

I could not put it any better than my noble friend Lady Noakes as to why I cannot support my noble friend Lord Blackwell’s amendment: it appears to be looking through the rear-view mirror. If anything, we need the opportunity to look at these regulations and provisions before they come into effect. There was a full complement of signatures so I was not able to sign Amendment 45, but I have lent my signature to Amendment 48.

I believe that, whether we adopt Amendment 45 or 48, or Amendments 18 to 20, they have a great deal of merit. As I said earlier, it is an extraordinary omission for the Bill not to provide for advance parliamentary scrutiny and, in the words of my noble friend Lady Noakes, parliamentary accountability of very important regulators in this field. We need only to look back at the financial crisis and subsequent moves to see how important the role of financial services is in the whole economy.

I conclude by responding to my noble friend Lord Trenchard. I do not believe that it is a very good argument to say that we cannot scrutinise the role of regulators because committees do not have sufficient resources. If anything, that is an argument to have more members. Many of us are not able to serve on committees at this time because they do not have enough places, so, if anything, I would support his call for more resources for these committees to ensure that we can. Whichever amendment we adopt—I am sure that this a subject close to the heart of the Deputy Speaker—we must provide the resources and the time to perform a proper scrutiny role in this House. With those few remarks, I am tempted to support Amendments 45 and 48 or Amendments 18 to 20 this afternoon.

Baroness Shafik Portrait Baroness Shafik (CB) [V]
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and all the previous speakers, who have added a great deal of expertise and judgment to the debate so far. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this important group of amendments, which would make sure that there is sufficient parliamentary scrutiny of the regulators, who are the ultimate referees in determining whether financial markets are fair, effective and serve the public interest.

The key question is how to make sure the referees are doing a good job, and there were many excellent proposals put forward today on how to enhance scrutiny, including Amendments 18, 19 and 20 from the noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles and Lady Kramer, Amendment 37A from the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, and Amendments 45 and 48 from the noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles, Lady Noakes and Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell. Those amendments all focus on putting in place reporting requirements to Parliament. I want to focus on who is best placed to receive this reporting, given its highly specialised nature.

I realise that this is an issue not of legislation but of how Parliament chooses to organise its affairs. But what we put in legislation also depends on the institutional structures that are in place, and meaningful scrutiny needs to be adequately supported. I support the recommendations of the All-Party Group on Financial Markets and Services, which argues that to enable effective scrutiny of regulators there needs to be a new Joint Committee of parliamentarians from both Houses with a specific remit for financial services, supported by expert advice—something to which the noble Lords, Lord Blackwell and Lord Bruce, have also referred, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

I know from my time as Deputy Governor of the Bank of England how technical some of these regulatory issues are. A dedicated joint committee would be able to draw on independent advice and respond flexibly to issues that arise to ensure the public interest is well served. Such an institutional structure would be in the spirit of a principles-based regulatory regime, rather than relying on more detailed legislative approaches. It would also be consistent with the welcome letter sent today by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to the chief executives of both the FCA and the PRA seeking to have proper parliamentary oversight of financial services regulation in future.

One area where potential parliamentary scrutiny of the FCA and the PRA could be useful is around how their work supports UK competitiveness. I know this is an issue that has already been covered at some length and with great expertise by this House, and I know that many have argued for strengthening the competitiveness objectives for the FCA and the PRA.

I would prefer to stick to the current language for four reasons. First, in my many years of doing surveys of investors at the World Bank, I have never seen easier regulatory standards featuring as a factor that makes a country more competitive. Instead, macroeconomic and financial stability, a skilled workforce and good infrastructure were what mattered most across the world. Secondly, just as you do not want a weak referee in order to have a good game, markets operate best when they are fair to all players. Thirdly, we have been able to support innovation in areas such as fintech through the use of things such as regulatory sandboxes, which allow experimentation while containing risk. Finally, there are many others who do a very good job of promoting financial services in the UK, including Her Majesty’s Treasury, the lord mayor and the many industry associations.

I also suggest that, for the moment, climate change is an area where parliamentary scrutiny, rather than legislation, might be useful. Central banks and regulators around the world are moving quickly to address climate risks. We are in a moment of great innovation, with climate stress testing, improved disclosure requirements, scenario planning, looking at climate exposures on both sides of the balance sheet and enhancing accountability for senior managers. All of this is wonderful, and I especially welcome the move to setting regulatory requirements for all market participants based on agreed definitions and rules, rather than relying on voluntary approaches and inconsistent criteria.

For now, I am comfortable with requiring regulators to have regard to climate issues—the recent remit letters are a good example of this—with appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of how that is happening. However, we should definitely return to this issue as part of the future financial framework once we have more evidence and experience from current innovations, so that we can codify in legislation the best possible approaches to addressing climate risks. Here as well, having a Joint Committee with access to relevant expertise would only enhance the quality of scrutiny around issues of climate change.

In conclusion, I very much hope that the Minister will be able to further reassure the House of how expert parliamentary scrutiny will enable Parliament to play a key role in future oversight of the regulators.

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD)
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My Lords, I will pick up some of the comments that have been made during the course of this absolutely outstanding debate on this series of amendments.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said that she had never heard of Ministers not attending or coming before committees. I was on the Finance Bill Sub-Committee of the Economic Affairs Committee when we dealt with the loan charge, and, on several occasions, the Economic Secretary, Mel Stride, refused point blank to come and speak to the committee. We were then informed that committees have absolutely no power to summon Ministers; they come only at their own discretion. Mel Stride’s successor, John Glen, took a very different view and came before a combined committee of the Economic Affairs Committee and the Finance Bill Sub-Committee. I make it clear that there certainly are Ministers who very strongly take the view that they can be asked to come before the House but are not required in any way to say yes.

I also pick up a concern that the noble Baroness raised about whether we have to make an absolute decision today. If she looks at the Marshalled List, she may notice Amendment 37F, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Bowles, which will come up on Monday. In fact, it is deliberately placed to give us the opportunity to listen in full to the Minister and consider this issue but still have an opportunity to make a decision on it if we decide that the Minister’s contribution does not meet the needs of the House. As such, there is an opportunity, should we decide to do so; some may wish to act today, and others may decide that they are satisfied by what the Minister says.

I also pick up the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, and the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, on the advance parliamentary scrutiny of rules. I very much challenge what they said because, for many years, in the European Parliament and the European Council, parliamentarians had the opportunity to scrutinise both directives and the rules that would flow from them in a very thorough and extensive manner and with the support of a great deal of specialised expertise in the form of specialised and experienced staff.