Debates between John Glen and Alison Thewliss

There have been 10 exchanges between John Glen and Alison Thewliss

1 Tue 5th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
HM Treasury
4 interactions (267 words)
2 Tue 26th February 2019 Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)
HM Treasury
22 interactions (4,708 words)
3 Mon 25th February 2019 Exiting the EU (Financial Services)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (3,123 words)
4 Mon 11th February 2019 Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [Lords]
HM Treasury
3 interactions (1,200 words)
5 Tue 1st May 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords]
HM Treasury
3 interactions (1,159 words)
6 Thu 26th April 2018 Financial Services
HM Treasury
7 interactions (3,630 words)
7 Tue 6th March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (265 words)
8 Tue 6th March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Sixth sitting)
HM Treasury
5 interactions (3,329 words)
9 Thu 1st March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] (Fourth sitting)
HM Treasury
11 interactions (1,278 words)
10 Tue 27th February 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)
HM Treasury
7 interactions (2,257 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Tuesday 5th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard

2. What recent steps he has taken to tackle money laundering. [909573]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
5 Mar 2019, 11:38 a.m.

The Government have made a very strong commitment to tackling money laundering. Recent initiatives include the creation of the economic crime strategic board and the National Economic Crime Centre. We have also strengthened anti-money laundering supervision through the creation of the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision, and we are reforming suspicious activity reports and tackling the abuse of Scottish limited partnerships.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Mar 2019, 11:38 a.m.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury knows better than most of us about the nefarious impact of Russia, and I send my best wishes to his constituency, to the Skripals and, most of all, to the family and friends of Dawn Sturgess, one year after the Salisbury attack.

Yesterday, Prince Charles ended up being drawn into the troika laundromat scandal, with money linked via a maze of shell companies back to the Magnitsky case. Criminal and legitimate money is sloshing around together in our banking system. What are the Government doing to close the loopholes and stop legitimising the proceeds of kleptocracy?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Mar 2019, 11:39 a.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks about my constituency. I am familiar with the reports that appeared in The Guardian yesterday evening about the case to which she has referred. Following the response by the Financial Action Task Force to a two-year review of our standards in the United Kingdom, the Government recognise that we are world leaders in this regard, but there are some outstanding concerns about reports of suspicious activity in the banking sector. Work is ongoing, and I will take a close interest in it.

Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Tuesday 26th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 9:26 a.m.

I beg to move,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 26 February) meet—

(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 26 February;

(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 28 February;

(2) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 28 February.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, and I am sure that of Mr Austin too. I look forward to the scrutiny of the Bill and to our debate in Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(John Glen.)

Clause 1

Power in respect of EU financial services legislation with pre-exit origins

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard

I beg to move amendment 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 2, leave out “may” and insert—

“, in respect of a piece of specified EU financial services legislation, within six months of that legislation being implemented in the European Union, or immediately if more than six months has passed before this section coming into force, must”.

This amendment would require regulations to be made to apply specified EU financial services legislation in domestic law within six months of that legislation being implemented in the European Union.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 9:26 a.m.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Edward. I shall keep this relatively brief. I am pretty sure that the Government know the concerns of the Scottish National party and other Opposition Members about the scope and powers of the Bill.

The amendment would require the UK Government to change regulations in line with European Union standards, as opposed to merely allowing them to make such changes. The UK is reliant on the EU for trade in services, and has become increasingly so since the referendum, according to Office for National Statistics figures for trade, which show that the EU makes up almost half of the UK’s service exports. Brexit risks displacing thousands of jobs in the vital financial services industry, despite institutions drawing up and triggering contingency plans to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The more that UK regulations differ from those of the EU single market for services, the harder it will be to continue to work alongside our friends in Europe. The UK Government are consistently trying to remove democratic control over the Brexit process—they had to be taken to court to give Parliament a role, they introduce statutory instruments at the last minute before adequate scrutiny can take place and they threaten us all with a no-deal Brexit in a dangerous game of Brexit Russian roulette. The amendment would therefore limit the powers given to the Treasury under the legislation to diverge from EU standards.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 9:28 a.m.

I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow Central for that contribution. I will respond to amendments 2 and 3 together. As she pointed out, they relate to the Treasury’s discretion to domesticate specified EU financial services legislation and the limitations on implementing said provisions.

Amendment 2 was tabled by the hon. Lady and by the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East and would require the relevant EU legislation to be implemented in the UK within six months of that legislation being implemented in the European Union. The amendment would limit the Government’s discretion unnecessarily and in a way that might have an adverse impact on the UK’s financial services sector.

As the Committee will appreciate, the purpose of the Bill is to give the Government the necessary powers to implement certain pieces of in-flight EU legislation in a timely manner. Mandating implementation within a certain time limit, however, is simply an unnecessary constraint. That is particularly the case given the uncertainty about a no-deal scenario. There might be files that, as it unfolds, are no longer suitable for UK markets, so mandating the UK to implement legislation that in its final form may be unsuitable for or damaging to the UK financial services is inappropriate, in particular as we will not be able to influence the final form of the files in the schedule, which are still in negotiation.

The power to adjust under the Bill is limited; it will not allow the Treasury to alter substantially the intent of files. I do not think it appropriate for the Bill to compel the implementation of legislation that has not yet been drafted and will not have UK input in its final stages.

Amendment 3 seeks to restrict the Government to implementing only corresponding EU provisions, as opposed to corresponding or similar provisions. As was discussed at length in the Lords Bill Committee, “corresponding” is taken to mean

“‘identical in all essentials or respects’. The term ‘similar’ means ‘having a resemblance in appearance, character, or quantity without being identical’. In practice, of course, the legal interpretation of the two terms can vary, with some judging that ‘corresponding’ affords a wider latitude…on the basis of the current drafting…it will be possible to exercise the power only to achieve the aim of the original EU legislation, with an option to make adjustments to account for the specificities of UK markets, rightly reflecting the fact that we will no longer be a member of the EU. It will not, therefore, allow for wholesale changes to the character and intent of the current legislation.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 January 2019; Vol. 794, c. 2138.]

I reassure the Committee that the formulation “corresponding, or similar” is well established and has been used, to provide recent examples, in the Pension Schemes Act 2015 and the Recall of MPs Act 2015. I hope that that will reassure the Committee regarding the limitations that will apply in the formulation “corresponding, or similar”, for which there are precedents. In short, the current wording is already intended to ensure that the powers under the Bill cannot be used to create substantively new policy outside the bounds of the original EU legislation. Without that discretion to implement files in a corresponding or similar way to original EU legislation, the Bill’s power is essentially unworkable. I hope that, in light of those reassurances, hon. Members will withdraw amendments 2 and 3.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard

I would like to press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 9:34 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 4, in clause 1, page 1, line 9, leave out “the Treasury consider appropriate” and insert

“the Treasury and the House of Commons consider appropriate as defined in sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii)—

(i) any proposed adjustments must be approved by a motion of the House of Commons prior to regulations being laid in draft in accordance with subsection (8)(a), and

(ii) if the House of Commons agrees a motion that certain adjustments be made, the Treasury shall consider that to be an expression of agreement by the House that those adjustments are appropriate.”

This amendment would only permit adjustments to be made that have been pre-approved by the House of Commons.

This amendment also addresses the extra powers that the Bill gives to the Treasury. Clause 1(1)(b) talks about the Treasury considering things “appropriate”. We think that a wider definition of “appropriate” is needed, because the drafting gives the Treasury a good deal more power. The amendment asks for a bit more information on that and for more powers to be given to the House of Commons, with a motion being needed for any adjustments to be made.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 9:36 a.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for the amendment. It requires adjustments to files under the Bill to be pre-approved by the House of Commons before the Government introduce the relevant statutory instrument. The Government recognise the importance of parliamentary scrutiny surrounding any adjustments that might be made to the relevant EU legislation covered by the powers within the Bill, but any proposed adjustment to files under the Bill will undergo robust parliamentary scrutiny.

First, each statutory instrument will need to be approved by both Houses under the affirmative procedure. That would require laying the relevant statutory instrument before Parliament and then an accompanying explanatory memorandum, setting out the policy intent, before the debate on the SI, and well ahead of implementation. This is the established process for scrutinising such statutory instruments and that is why it is the model we have chosen to follow.

Secondly, the Government have made a clear commitment to consult on each of the SIs laid under the Bill, as appropriate, as stated by the Cabinet Office guide to consultation. Thirdly, the Government publish impact assessments for statutory instruments as a matter of course, and those tabled under the provisions in this Bill will be no different. That will include analysis of economic impacts and equalities considerations, where relevant.

Finally, the additional reporting mechanisms in the Bill will require the Treasury to publish a report at least one month ahead of laying any SI, outlining any adjustments or omissions and the reasons that any adjustments are considered to be appropriate, alongside a draft of the SI. That will allow Parliament, including any interested Select Committees, to scrutinise and report on the proposed content.

In the Government’s view these reporting requirements, alongside the use of the affirmative procedure with each SI laid, afford sufficient and appropriate parliamentary scrutiny for the proposed adjustments to files in the Bill. I remind the Committee that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments will be scrutinising all SIs produced under this Bill, as part of the usual procedure. The JCSI’s role is to ensure that a Minister’s powers are being used in accordance with the provisions of the enabling Act. It reports to the House any instance where the authority of the Act has been exceeded or any that reveal unusual or unexpected use of the powers, where the instrument might require further explanation, or where it has been drafted defectively. It is vital that the Government retain the latitude to make these adjustments to files in a timely way, given that without this power the utility of the Bill is seriously compromised.

In consideration of the strengthened reporting requirements and scrutiny procedures in the Bill and the importance of making adjustments to files in a timely way, I hope that the hon. Lady will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 10:03 a.m.

I thank the Opposition spokespeople for their contributions. I also thank the hon. Member for Colne Valley for her maiden Bill Committee speech. I did not agree with much of what she said, but I will address the substantive points that were made.

Amendment 5 seeks to remove the ability under the Bill for regulations to make any provision that could be made by an Act of Parliament. Amendment 14 is more targeted, seeking to remove only the power to effect changes to primary legislation when implementing the EU files in question. An amendment with a similar effect to amendment 5 was moved and then withdrawn by those on the Labour Front Bench in Committee in the Lords.

I appreciate that there are many concerns across the House about Henry VIII powers, as the hon. Member for Oxford East set out. It is clear that, where they are proposed, their necessity must be well evidenced. In the case of the financial services legislation to which the power in the Bill will apply, I feel that such a power is necessary.

An inability to amend existing primary legislation—the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, for example—would make it impossible for the UK to implement the relevant EU legislation. Therefore, both these amendments would render the Bill completely ineffective. Furthermore, as Committee members will be aware, the exercise of many functions under financial services legislation is carried out by the independent regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England. That was always intended. The capacity and expertise of the financial regulators will be crucial in the effective implementation, where appropriate, of that legislation.

Amendment 5 would remove the ability to delegate to the regulators, because as a general rule, a power to make secondary legislation does not include a power to sub-delegate. An inability effectively to delegate powers to the regulators would completely undermine the value of transposing the relevant EU legislation into UK law.

I acknowledge the wider points made about the undesirability of no deal, but this is a contingency arrangement and I believe that the Government have set out clearly the rationale for use of these powers and how they will be used in the circumstance of no deal, which would be wholly different from anything that we are familiar with. Given this context, I hope that the hon. Members will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard

I would like to press my amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 10:13 a.m.

The amendment would increase the frequency with which the UK Government must report on the use of these powers, which would be a step forward for transparency about the new powers taken by the Treasury. The Lords raised various issues in Committee, and the Government took those on board on Report by accepting amendments that require more detailed and frequent reporting from the Treasury about its proposals and use of powers, and on extending those reports and requirements to financial regulators, the Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority, and the Financial Conduct Authority, where powers are sub-delegated to them. Our amendment seeks to build on work done by the Lords to try to hold this centralising Government to account for the Henry VIII powers that they are taking.

The timeline for when these pieces of EU legislation will be introduced and how they will be implemented is not clear. Regular reporting will enhance that transparency, allowing us to keep track of the measures as they come through, and an eye on the implications of the legislation for financial services in the UK.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her explanation of amendment 6. The Government clearly recognise the importance of parliamentary scrutiny and our reporting obligations under the Bill, as evidenced through concessionary amendments made in the other place. The Bill commits the Treasury to the following reporting and scrutiny obligations, which include obligations to,

“publish a report at least one month ahead of laying any SI, outlining any adjustments or omissions and the reasons any adjustments are considered appropriate, alongside a draft of the SI…to publish six-monthly reports on the exercise of the powers provided by the Bill”.

That will reflect on how powers have been exercised in the previous reporting period. We will also state how the Treasury intends to use those powers in the upcoming reporting period, and

“require the regulators (the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority) to report on their use of any powers sub-delegated to them using the powers in this Bill”.

That will be every 12 months.

The significant bolstering of reporting requirements in the other place reflects the Government’s commitment to the transparent use of the powers in the Bill. To intensify further the reporting requirements as requested by the amendment would result in the Treasury’s being required to produce up to 25 separate reports in two years, in order to domesticate up to 17 pieces of EU legislation. The Government believe that that is completely unnecessary.

The six-month reporting period for the Bill has been accepted in the Lords, and it would bring no real benefit to add further unnecessary reporting requirements. I appreciate the commitment to proper scrutiny across the Committee, but given the strengthening of the Bill’s reporting requirements that has already taken place, I suggest that the hon. Lady withdraw her amendment.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 10:15 a.m.

On the basis of what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 10:24 a.m.

I thank the hon. Members for Glasgow Central and for Oxford East for speaking to amendment 10 and new clause 2. I shall discuss them together, because although they differ in key aspects—the former looks backwards at the impact of regulations, while the latter looks forward—we have a similar response to both. The intentions behind them are sound, because it is only right that the Government make regulations with an understanding of their expected impact, but I suggest that they are both unnecessary in the context of the Bill.

As hon. Members know, the Government publish impact assessments for statutory instruments as a matter of course, and it will be no different for those introduced under the powers in the Bill. The impact assessments will include analyses of economic impacts and equalities considerations where relevant.

I acknowledge the challenges of publishing impact assessments for the SIs closely associated with the Bill. I have explained on several occasions in Delegated Legislation Committees, and I reiterate now, that we have done this in a compressed timeframe. Every SI that has gone through the Regulatory Policy Committee—I think there have been five of them—has been registered green. I note the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Oxford East and last night by my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) about the mechanism for evaluating the familiarisation costs. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Oxford East today acknowledged that this is a cross-Whitehall provision.

I will reflect on the points that the hon. Lady has made about the application of the better regulation “one in, three out” rule in respect of this process. I confess that I am not able to give her a definitive statement this morning; I will need to write to her. We have done what we can, and the Treasury is committed to meeting our obligations on impact assessments to enable parliamentary scrutiny. In line with the duties under the Equality Act 2010, and with Cabinet Office guidance, regulations will be made with the equality duty in mind, and any impacts identified will be included in the relevant impact assessments in the usual way.

I remind the Committee that the Government are required in legislation to produce reports ahead of and looking back at the publication of SIs under the Bill. Such reports will of course include, where relevant, the expected and realised impacts of the legislation that is introduced. I hope that, in the light of those assurances, the amendment will be withdrawn and the new clause will not be pressed.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard

I would still like to press amendment 10 to a vote, because we need to understand better the impact that divergence will have. It is one thing to say, “This is the impact of this bit of legislation,” but we need to know the wider impact of divergence for particular industries.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 10:32 a.m.

We support new clause 1, which helps us hugely to move forward to a point of clarity. It makes sure that when we take on new pieces of legislation for the different regulatory bodies, we try to get rid of any loopholes and inconsistencies, and that everybody knows exactly what the landscape looks like. It is important that the Government lay out where they intend to go with it. A draft consolidated financial services piece of legislation would be useful, to give everyone the clarity that they require.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 10:33 a.m.

Clause 1 comprises the core substantive content of the Bill. In a no-deal scenario, the Bill gives the Government the power to implement, in whole or in part, a specified list of EU legislative proposals or in-flight files. In many cases, the UK has strongly supported the proposals throughout their negotiations and has played a leading role in shaping them over a number of years.

The files fall into two categories. The first relates to the pieces of legislation that have been agreed while we have been a member of the European Union, but that will not have come into force prior to the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March. Those files are listed in clause 1(3)(a), (b), (c), (d) and (f). In a no-deal scenario, there would be no way to implement them in a timely manner, as each would require primary legislation. Clause 1 gives the Government the power to domesticate those files, in whole or in part, via affirmative statutory instruments. Furthermore, as was clarified following concerns expressed in the House of Lords about the breadth of powers, the Government have the power to fix deficiencies.

The second category of files relates to those still in negotiation. The UK has played a leading role in shaping them so far and they could bring significant benefits to UK consumers and businesses when they are implemented. Those files are set out in subsections (3)(e) and (g), incorporating the schedule. Clause 1 also gives the Government the power to domesticate those files, in whole or in part, via affirmative statutory instruments. The UK will not be at the negotiating table when the files are finalised, however, so we will not be able to advocate for the interests of the specific nature of the UK’s financial services sector as negotiations are concluded. The Bill, therefore, provides the Government with the ability to fix deficiencies within the files and to make adjustments to them that go beyond the deficiency-fixing power.

Again, following concerns raised in the other place, the Government have clarified the nature of those adjustments and have stated that they cannot depart in a major way from the original EU legislation. However, the Government will have some flexibility to make adjustments to take account of the UK’s new position outside of the EU. It is only right that the UK retains the latitude to ensure that pieces of legislation finalised after we have left the EU reflect the interests of the UK’s financial services industry, and this Bill must tread the line between giving sufficient powers to enable the Government to effectively implement the legislation and imposing appropriate restraints to reassure Members that safeguards are sufficient.

I put on record my thanks for the collegiate way in which Opposition Front Benchers in the Lords worked with us to arrive at the present drafting and set of safeguards without division. Those safeguards are set out in subsections (7) to (10) of clause 1, and include a two-year sunset clause; a requirement for the affirmative procedure in every instance in which the power is used; strong reporting requirements on Government, including a requirement to publish a draft SI alongside a report detailing omissions and adjustments at least one month before laying it before the House; and a further requirement to publish a report twice a year setting out how the power has been exercised in the previous six months, and how the Treasury intends to exercise it in future.

I should note at this stage one issue to which we may return on Report. Members will note that subsection (3)(e) is not included among those files deemed settled. The Commission was required under the prospectus regulation to adopt delegated acts in January of this year; that has not yet happened, and as such, we do not yet know the content of that delegated legislation. Should the Commission adopt those acts prior to Report, we will seek to amend the Bill accordingly, limiting any adjustments that may be made to the fixing of deficiencies.

Clause 1 is the heart of this short Bill. It is the duty of responsible Government to prepare for all outcomes, and the Bill will provide us with the critical ability to implement legislation that maintains the functionality, reputation and international competitiveness of our financial sector. It is a key part of our no-deal preparations, and without this clause, I am afraid that there would be no Bill to take forward. I recommend that the clause stand part of the Bill.

I will now turn to new clause 1, which is suggested, essentially, as an alternative. The Government believe that the new version of clause 1 tabled by the Opposition is inappropriate as an alternative to the current version, as it does not as drafted provide the Government with any means of domesticating legislation through the Bill. As has been set out a number of times over the course of this and other debates on the Bill, there exists a body of in-flight EU legislation that the UK will want the ability to implement in a timely manner in the period following EU exit, in order to maintain the functionality, reputation and international competitiveness of our financial sector.

New clause 1 does not include any powers to domesticate EU legislation. It compels the Treasury to bring a motion before the House to debate a document stating what EU legislation it proposes to domesticate, but it does not include the necessary mechanism through which those measures can be implemented subsequent to the House’s approval. As such, the Bill would become a hindrance rather than a help—a means for debate without the necessary powers—and the Treasury would be left, having sought the approval of the House of Commons on those pieces of EU legislation it wishes to domesticate, needing to again seek approval by introducing primary legislation or, indeed, another version of this Bill. That would undermine the purpose of the Bill by not enabling the UK to implement important EU legislation in a timely manner when necessary. It would leave the UK lagging behind international counterparts on the issue of financial services regulation—something that I am sure Opposition Front Benchers would not wish to happen—and our financial services industry would then be at a competitive disadvantage at a crucial period in our country’s history.

Even if new clause 1 were amended to include a power to implement the legislation, I suggest that it is an unsuitable alternative to the current procedure. It requires the Treasury to collate into a single document the legislation it wishes to implement, alongside any adjustments it wishes to make and explanations of why those adjustments are necessary. That document would then be debated by the House through the aforementioned motion.

My objections to that extra layer of procedure are, in part, identical to those rehearsed earlier in my objections to amendment 4. Under the Bill as drafted, there will be extensive opportunity for scrutiny of the legislation before it is implemented. During the Bill’s passage through the Lords, we inserted the requirement to publish a draft SI alongside a report detailing any adjustments and the justification for those adjustments one month prior to laying it before the House. The publication of those draft SIs will allow Members to seek a debate on the proposed content, should they so wish. Indeed, the draft SI and the accompanying report seem essentially similar in function to the document that this new clause would require the Treasury to produce. I should also note that publication of those draft SIs will allow Parliament, including any interested Select Committees, to scrutinise the proposed content.

I sympathise with what I suspect is the intention behind the new clause. I imagine, and perhaps the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde will confirm this, that the consolidated document is an attempt to make sense of all the pieces of financial legislation that form part of this essential Brexit planning for a no deal. This Bill addresses a specific issue; it is vital for the UK’s financial services industry that these 17 key pieces of legislation can be domesticated in a timely manner in a no-deal scenario. It will not be possible for the Treasury to set out in a single consolidated document its intentions for all these pieces of legislation prior to their final publication.

We simply do not know what the final version of each file will look like. It would mean the Treasury’s having to wait until all legislation in the Bill was finalised at EU level before producing this document. That would potentially lead to intolerable delays and to the UK financial services sector’s lagging behind its international competitors during this crucial period.

That is why, in the current draft of the Bill, the Treasury has committed to six-monthly reports that will set out how we have used the powers under this Bill in the preceding six months, as well as how we intend to use them in the subsequent six months. That should provide a clear and timely overview of how the Government are using the powers provided for in this Bill. In light of that, I ask that the hon. Members refrain from pressing the new clause as an alternative.

Exiting the EU (Financial Services)

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Monday 25th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Feb 2019, 6:05 p.m.

I thank the Minister for all his work on these financial services SIs. I have debated some of them and the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) has debated some, but he has had to debate almost all of them. That is a terrible burden for one man to have to bear, and it illustrates that this process is hugely time consuming. It is eating up massive amounts of all our time. We might hope that we will not need to use these statutory instruments, but as we head towards Brexit, and with the Prime Minister’s announcements over the past 24 hours, it feels as though things are getting more and more perilous the closer we get.

In many cases it feels very much like we are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, because we are less than five weeks from exit day and the Government are quite clearly running down the clock. We should be under no illusions that while a no deal is an absolute catastrophe, the deal being proposed is not good enough either. There are no merits to a no-deal Brexit plan for financial services, but whatever deal can be cobbled together, it will be nowhere near as good for financial services as what we have at the moment. Removing passporting, which is part of what this legislation is all about, will have a huge impact on financial services and how they operate.

It is no secret that I have very different opinions from many on the UK Government Benches, but this is no longer a question of differing opinions. The reality is that no competent Government would have let things get to this stage. We should not be coming here at the very last minute to discuss such legislation. The Minister was up front in saying that there were errors in the legislation, but that smacks of a process that is not good enough. Some things have been picked up as incorrect, but there may be other things, because this is a substantial SI. We have got it pretty late in the day, and it is incredibly detailed and complex.

I would like the Prime Minister to recognise the urgency of the situation and extend article 50, taking no deal off the table, to give us more time on all this. Ideally, I would like us to stay in the single market and the customs union, because that would make things hugely simpler, certainly for financial services and for everybody else in other sectors of the economy too.

The Scottish Government have been doing their best, preparing as best they can, but they cannot mitigate everything. We do not yet have the Treasury’s full analysis of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, despite this House having voted on it twice. Last week the Scottish Government invested in their own analysis, which was published last week in a report by our chief economist. The results were damning. It said that Scotland could see a fall in GDP by 7% in the first two years after Brexit. That would be an enormous blow to our industries and jobs and to the household incomes of the people of Scotland. To put things in context, the 2008 recession saw Scotland’s GDP fall by 5.7%. This shambolic UK Government, in hock to the most extreme elements on their Benches, are doing this on purpose.

The analysis looked at only the first two years after Brexit, but the long-term effects could be sustained and long lasting. The Fraser of Allander Institute in my constituency has conducted one of the most comprehensive studies to date of the effects of migration on the UK economy. Migration is a huge issue for the financial services sector, which has much talent from around the world that needs to be able to move backwards and forwards without any difficulties. The effect of reduced migration after Brexit will lower Scotland’s GDP by 9% over the next 20 years. Reduced migration is very much the intention of the Prime Minister’s deal—it proposes to slash immigration by 80%. That will have a massive impact. [Interruption.] Government Members may sigh, but this will have a huge impact on our financial services—on the skills and talents of people coming to live and work in Scotland. The London bubble may well be fine, but as we get further away from that bubble, the impact will be greater—on Edinburgh, on Aberdeen and on Glasgow. It will mean fewer of the working-age population contributing to the economy and enriching our lives. It is an unforgiveable, ideological obsession, which has no evidence to support it.

The impact of no deal is very serious indeed, and many businesses in my constituency are gravely concerned about their futures. This SI, as the Minister says, is intended to offer consistency for businesses in the event of a no-deal cliff edge. However, relying on transitional provisions such as the temporary permissions regimes offers very little in the way of reassurance for businesses. We are being encouraged to rush through significant pieces of legislation, right, left and centre, without proper scrutiny for those businesses to engage with, and the effects will be felt by nearly 60,000 businesses. It is just not possible for each of those businesses—small and large businesses and businesses of varying different types and of varying different sectors—to have their say on this to explain exactly how it will affect them. The effects will impact them, yet they will not have the opportunity to fully engage in the process.

The hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) said that the temporary permissions regimes allows companies to provide services in the UK for up to three years after 29 March. I agree very much with what she and the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) said about the consistency of this process. We are seeing so many different pieces of legislation and so many different SIs, and that is causing inconsistency, which is a worry. Some firms may find that, for one part of their business there is one date, but for another part there is another date. That will cause additional confusion.

Furthermore, businesses may well infer from these stopgap measures that the Government are expecting chaos after Brexit, and that is a position I would find it difficult to disagree with. It is no wonder that, in this context, we are seeing investment in UK businesses grinding to a halt. Ernst & Young noted that £800 billion of assets have been moved from the UK to Europe since 2016, which is absolutely terrifying.

This SI also deals with mortgages. It talks about covering contracts after Brexit, but only if they are secured on residential property in the UK. There are different measures for properties outside the UK, which means yet more complication for people to deal with. The instrument also deals with investment firms and insurance. The impact assessment says that branches of EEA banks authorised in the UK will be treated in the same way as third country branches are treated now. That is yet more red tape and more paperwork. The SI deals with consumer credit, which is, of course, hugely important to all of our constituents in their daily lives. Those are just some of the highlights of this very complex SI, and they illustrate just how much more difficult things will be than they are at the moment.

The hon. Member for Oxford East mentioned scrutiny. Part 8 of the SI covers the setting of fees by the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. In effect, we are saying to those organisations, “Right, you go ahead and set your fees.” We will lose any idea of scrutiny over this. I am sure that those organisations will set reasonable fees, but can we be certain about that? We are giving that power to them. We are taking that power away from ourselves. There are no Brexiteers here saying, “Oh, we talked about taking back control.” Actually, we are not taking back control; we are losing any sense of control over this because we are delegating it all to those organisations. They may well have to report back, but we are still losing direct control.

The issue of familiarisation costs has been mentioned. A total of £1,900 per firm does not sound huge, but, as was mentioned earlier, it is affecting 59,200 firms, which is hugely significant. We should consider the fact that this is costing industry £110 million. This is money that industry should not have to be thinking about. Should we get to this Brexit cliff edge that the Prime Minister appears to be leading us towards, they will be spending this huge amount of money when they could have been investing it in other things, such as staff and research and development. This money is just being sucked up by Brexit, and we will be left all the poorer.

Let me return now to this idea of transitional provisions. As the provisions are transitional, it means that, at some point, we will have to come back to them. All of these SIs and pieces of legislation that we have been working on and divvying up will have to be revisited. That does not fill me with any great joy; I am sure that it does not fill the Minister with any great joy. As other Members have said, we need to see the UK Government’s wider plans. Where is the White Paper on financial services that will cover all of these things comprehensively, that will set out our direction of travel, and that will set out the principles of our financial services? It is hugely important to have these principles in place. In 2008, at the time of the crash, financial services lost their way. As part of the EU, we put these principles in place to get us back on track. We cannot see any dilution of those principles as we go forward, because we will end up in exactly the same disastrous place. I question the process and the legislation, but I remind the House that it is in the Prime Minister’s gift to withdraw the option of a no-deal Brexit. If she did that, it would render everything that we are talking about today completely useless, but we would be in a better place.

On the substantive content of the Bill, I have a point to which I would like to draw the House’s attention. In a letter to the Treasury, the Financial Markets Law Committee highlighted an area of legal uncertainty arising from the textual content of the SI. Section 137R(4) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 grants the FCA the power to make rules applying to authorised persons in relation to communications by or approved by them if it considers that such rules are required to ensure compliance with certain “listed requirements”. The legislation goes on to explain that “listed requirements” means requirements under the law of the UK that appear to the FCA to correspond to the requirements of various EU legislation.

This definition leaves considerable scope for interpretation. I have raised in this House and in Committee my concerns about the nature of the withdrawal Act and the erosion of parliamentary scrutiny that it brings. It does appear that we are handing an awful lot of latitude to a public body in this example cited by the FMLC. It recommends that a more specific list, such as that included in the original drafting, would be more useful, albeit altered to reflect UK legislation. If we are to be in this position facing a no-deal Brexit, despite all evidence showing the damage that that will cause, we need to have more robust and more detailed plans in place.

Fundamentally, everybody in this House knows the position of the Scottish National party. In Scotland, we voted to remain in the EU. We have worked very hard on building up our financial services sector in Scotland. It is an important, high-skill and high-pay sector, which drives many of our towns and cities. To face the prospect of crashing out without a deal is an absolutely appalling situation. Everybody working in this sector deserves better than the plans that the Prime Minister has put forward and they certainly deserve better than a no deal, and she should take that off the table.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Feb 2019, 6:18 p.m.

It is a pleasure to respond to the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) and the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss). By the end of this process, we will have discussed 53 SIs for the financial services in 30 discrete debates. In each one of them, there are some common themes to the remarks. I appreciate that this is not a desirable process to go through, but it is a unique process. It is a process that we have responsibility for at this time, but I hope that we will not need to use or to rely on its outcomes. None the less, this SI is needed to ensure that we do have a robust and functioning legislative framework for financial services regulation after exit. I am determined that I will, to the best of my ability as a junior Treasury Minister, deliver this programme of SIs.

Hon. Members have raised a number of specific points, which I will now address. The hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) asked why we have chosen to transfer powers to the FCA. This is consistent with our overall approach to onshoring. Only existing EU functions are being transferred to UK regulators, apart from the temporary transitional tool. I have written to the hon. Lady with a full explanation of the consolidated text, and I will send that explanation to her shortly in addition to the other replies that I have given to her.

In response to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), in practice there is a logistical challenge in putting everything together, conducting multiple streams of consultations simultaneously and delivering in each discrete area what is required as a fix for the undesirable outcome of no deal. Despite the enormous effort by my officials in the Treasury to get this right, it would have been very challenging to set out the architecture proactively from the outset. This FSMA SI makes many consequential amendments that were needed to follow on from previous SIs, which is why it was set out late. How the FCA will use these powers will be set out later this week, providing a lot more clarity on that matter.

The hon. Member for Oxford East asked about insurance business transfer. We consulted the insurance sector on these business transfer transitionals, and it confirmed that this was the right approach and helped to develop the provisions. We have worked collaboratively with different industry sector representatives throughout.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) raised a specific legal point—a dispute about the wording. I will have to look at the matter and write to her. In the round, we have used TheCityUK as a convening trade association to bring relevant bodies together, and it has been very thorough in its work. The regulators are already consulting the industry, and firms have responded positively. The regulators, including the Prudential Regulation Authority, will shortly be setting out the outcome of those consultations. I think that I have covered the point raised about the consolidated Bill.

I acknowledge that FSMA is an important part of the UK’s framework for financial services regulation, but amending FSMA using secondary legislation is standard and happens several times a year. I accept the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow Central concerning the unusual nature of this—it is necessarily so because of what we are trying to do to prepare for a no-deal situation—but EU directives have been implemented using secondary legislation since the UK joined the EU. For financial services, that has often involved amending FSMA. Parliament approved the secondary legislation powers in FSMA itself to task the Treasury with keeping the FSMA regime up to date, such as the power to amend the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001.

Let me turn to the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough, who chairs the Treasury Committee. I welcome the opportunity to be scrutinised many times by her Select Committee. Regarding the methodology for calculating the familiarisation costs, there is a cross-governmental set of guidance from the Cabinet Office, but I will write to my right hon. Friend with specific details. Clearly, the cost per word varies but we have a method for describing that across Government, and we have used that method. We have drawn on the better regulation guidance and we have consulted on the impact assessment across Government.

My right hon. Friend asked whether the Government will provide regulators with powers to make the commencement of cliff-edge risks consistent. This is exactly what the temporary transitional power is for: the regulators will be able to phase in the vast majority of changes consistently. I said before the Select Committee that it would be important to lay any directions in the House of Commons Library and the House of Lords Library, and that I would ensure that the Treasury Committee was notified.

The hon. Member for Oxford East mentioned the point made by Lord Lexden. Lord Lexden used to work with me at the Conservative Research Department, and he was always very good at picking out errors. I shall look carefully at his remarks and see whether there is an appropriate response.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central raised the issue of charging fees and the powers given to the regulator. The fee-setting powers and controls in this instrument reflect the existing powers that the regulators have in legislation. There is no meaningful change in the powers; the extension is consistent with the current role of the regulators. The hon. Lady also asked why the House has not been given enough time properly to scrutinise this legislation. I respectfully say that we have done as much as we can in the time available. We have engaged constructively with firms and we published these SIs well in advance of laying them before the House. It has been a significant iterative process. I do not describe it as a perfect process, but it has been quite thorough.

Overall, this SI will ensure that we have the necessary functions and powers in the Treasury and in our regulators in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period. This has been a tough process. I pay tribute to my opposite numbers on the Opposition Front Benches.

Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
(Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons)
Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Monday 11th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 7:09 p.m.

I am happy to respond to my hon. Friend’s intervention. I acknowledge his expertise in this area and his excellent article in the Investors Chronicle this week. I would point out that, just last summer, the FCA issued a call for input and sought industry views on the next steps for packaged retail investment and insurance products—PRIIPs. That consultation closed on 28 September and the FCA is reviewing the responses carefully. It will publish a statement in the first quarter of this year. When I next see the chief executive of the FCA, I will challenge him on that publication date.

Let me turn to the substantive thrust of the concerns raised in the debate. The first relates to the desirability of no deal. As I have said, we do not want a no-deal scenario, but we need to be responsible and to plan for all eventualities. Our priority remains getting approval for the deal that we have negotiated with our European partners, which will deliver on the democratic choice of the British people.

Turning to the other preparations, we have now laid 50 statutory instruments before Parliament. The allegation from the hon. Members for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) and for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) was that there had been no coherence to the Government’s work, but as the hon. Lady will know, we will have had 53 statutory instruments. We have more debates tomorrow and on Wednesday, and I think several more next week. We are addressing the deficiencies in all the major EU files and the relevant domestic legislation. This will ensure that we have a functioning financial services regime at the point where we leave the EU in a no-deal scenario. Our aim throughout this work has been consistently to minimise disruption for firms and their customers and to provide a smooth transition when we leave the EU.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) made a point about the breadth of the power in this legislation. We have worked hard to ensure that this is a clearly defined power and that changes cannot be made such that the implemented files depart in a major way from the original legislation. However, the Government will retain some flexibility to make adjustments to take account of the UK’s new position outside the European Union. The amendments proposed by the Government require the Treasury to publish draft SIs at least one month in advance of laying, as well as a report detailing where there have been omissions and changes and giving the justification for those changes. We believe that the report will allow parliamentarians to scrutinise the changes before the SIs are laid. If the UK were forced to take on EU legislation either in whole or not at all, it is likely that we would be able to domesticate very few of these files in good time, so even the positive aspects of the reforms would be delayed. This is a pragmatic measure to deal with the reality of a very undesirable situation, and our approach has been endorsed by the industry, with which we have engaged in the preparation of the Bill.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 7:09 p.m.

The Minister talks in his letter about how things are deemed to be beneficial for the UK, but he and I will have very different opinions on what would be beneficial for the UK, or indeed on whether Scotland should be part of the UK, so how can he say that that is not a policy decision?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 7:09 p.m.

We are talking about a no-deal scenario, which we cannot fully anticipate or set out in legislation. However, there would be a full discussion and additional legislation in those circumstances.

For the benefit of the House, I want to clarify the industry engagement that has been undertaken on this Bill. The Treasury engaged with industry ahead of the introduction of the Bill, and the financial services industry has been expecting many of the files for some time. For example, the industry will be generally supportive of the changes that will be implemented with the European market infrastructure regulation regulatory fitness and performance programme—EMIR REFIT—file, which introduces changes to regulations for clearing and reporting requirements, to make them more proportionate and to provide further clarifications. We have been engaging to deliver what the industry expects.

With respect to accepting EU laws after exit, the Bill is not about accepting such laws wholesale. We will be able to implement only those pieces of legislation that are beneficial to the UK, because we will be able to choose the files, or specific provisions within those files, that we are going to implement. For those files that we have already agreed at EU level but not yet implemented, we will be able to fix deficiencies similar to what was done in relation to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. For those files on which negotiations will be ongoing at the point of exit, we will be able to make some adjustments to them to take account of the fact that we will not be around the negotiating table when they will be finalised.

Moving on to the model for financial services regulation more generally, the Government of course recognise that this legislation should apply only for an interim period while we consider a sustainable, longer-term approach that balances the need to ensure appropriate parliamentary oversight of financial services legislation after leaving the EU with the need to maintain the flexibility and competitiveness of our regulatory regime. That is why the model in the Bill would apply only for a temporary, non-extendable two-year period post exit, specifically in a no-deal scenario, and to specified EU files only. The Government will take forward our approach for a sustainable long-term model in due course.

Turning to the points made by the hon. Member for Wakefield, the UK has publicly led on the development of sustainable finance, as she set out, and the Government are committed to the sustainable finance agenda and are a leader in green finance. That is why we have included these files in the Bill. We recognise that the files form part of the EU’s response to the Paris climate change agreement and the UN sustainable development goals. The Government support the aims of the files and do not consider them harmful to industry at their current stage of development. As such, we were pleased to add them to the schedule to the Bill, and we thank the noble Lords who recommended their inclusion.

I stress again that this legislation involves a temporary measure, with the delegated power limited by a two-year sunset clause and subject to the affirmative procedure in each and every instance of its use. Following constructive engagement in the other place, the Bill is clearer about the power contained within it and has much stronger reporting requirements than at its introduction.

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions to this debate. I am sure that we can agree on the importance of continuing to support the UK’s world-leading financial services industry in any future scenario. I look forward to discussing the Bill further in Committee, and I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords]

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Tuesday 1st May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 May 2018, 5:01 p.m.

I am happy to be corrected, and I apologise to the hon. Lady.

Amendment 29 relates to the procedure by which individuals or entities apply for licences and exceptions to be included in the regulations. Retaining the application procedures in guidance will give the Government the flexibility to update them as needed and to respond to stakeholder feedback.

The Government have tabled new clause 4 because we recognise the concern raised by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and the Joint Committee on Human Rights that the repeal of part 1 of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 would remove the independent reviewer’s oversight of domestic counter-terrorism asset freezes. Government new clauses 15 to 17 and amendments 23 to 26 will provide the UK Government with the powers necessary to enforce UK sanctions regulations against ships in international and foreign waters. These powers will ensure adherence to the standards set out in relevant UN Security Council resolutions and provide protection against the transportation of dangerous and harmful goods in international waters. These provisions contain important safeguards on the use of these powers, including a requirement to have reasonable grounds to suspect that sanctions are being flouted before enforcement action can be taken as well as flag state and foreign state consent where relevant.

New clause 20, tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central—I hope I have got that one right—would oblige the Secretary of State to lay a report before Parliament each year on the exercise of the powers in the Bill. We have a range of reporting requirements in the Bill already, including an annual report on the sanctions regulations in force, and further reports when sanctions are imposed or amended. In addition, new clause 3 sets out reporting requirements for regulations made under the human rights purpose. We consider it unnecessary, therefore, to add an additional report on top of these, given that the issues that would be addressed in the report would be mirrored by those already required in the Bill.

Amendments 3 to 6, also tabled by the hon. Lady, would require that every sanctions designation be comprehensively re-examined annually. We agree that sanctions should only be in place for as long as there are good reasons for them to be so, and the Bill contains a range of procedures to ensure that all our sanctions are subject to regular scrutiny and review. We believe that three-year comprehensive reviews, combined with a robust package of procedural safeguards in the Bill, will ensure that these standards are at least maintained, so we would ask that she consider not pressing her amendments.

New clause 10, tabled by the hon. Members for Bishop Auckland and for Oxford East, would require statutory instruments that are to be considered under the draft affirmative procedure to receive a positive recommendation from a House of Commons Committee before being laid. All secondary legislation to which it would apply requires affirmative votes before coming into force, and we believe that that negates the need for additional parliamentary scrutiny. Sanctions are a manifestation of the UK’s foreign policy. They are not stand-alone or independent initiatives. Indeed, a number of existing parliamentary Committees have considered, or are planning to consider, sanctions issues, including the House of Lords EU Committee and the House of Commons Treasury Committee. It is not clear why further layers of scrutiny are necessary or desirable.

Amendment 22 would remove the requirement for Ministers to publish a written statement of explanation if they did not comply with a reporting provision. I should make it clear that this provision does not in any way displace the statutory duty to report; Ministers who fail to comply with that duty must face the consequences, regardless of whether an explanation is given.

Amendment 1, tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, would mean that sanctions regulations could be created only when that was deemed “necessary” for the purposes of the Bill, rather than when it was deemed “appropriate”. For many years the use of sanctions has been an essential part of international diplomacy, to respond to threats such as terrorism or to change unacceptable or threatening behaviour. It is important for the Government of the day to have the flexibility to impose sanctions or not to do so, after a thorough review of the prevailing political situation. Changing “appropriate” to “necessary” would mean that the Government could consider sanctions only as the last resort.

Amendment 9 would require the legislative consent of the devolved Administrations for any sanctions regulation made under section 1, if that regulation included a consequential repeal of, revocation of, or amendment to any law created by those Administrations. The power to create sanctions regulations falls under matters that are reserved to Westminster, and that includes modifications consequential on those regulations. Under the UK’s constitutional settlement, foreign policy is a reserved matter. The Bill gives the Government the power to impose sanctions as a foreign policy and national security tool.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
1 May 2018, 5:07 p.m.

I have already made this point to the Minister. I agree that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to impose sanctions, but why do the UK Government want to say that we cannot do so when it is already clear that we cannot? Why should the Government revoke something that we cannot actually do?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 May 2018, 5:07 p.m.

We contend that the amendment would change this part of the devolution settlement, and we have received no representations from the Scottish Government on it.

Amendment 21 would remove Ministers’ power to make consequential amendments, related to sanctions and anti-money laundering regulations, to existing primary and secondary legislation. That would remove the ability to ensure that the statute book works after sanctions have been imposed. The power is not unusual, and is confined to modifications that arise solely as a result of sanctions or anti-money laundering provision. In any case, regulations making such modifications of the statute book would be dealt with by the draft affirmative procedure, so both Houses would need to approve them before they could come into force. I ask the House to preserve that important power.

Let me make it clear that the Government support the principle of amendment 2, tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, which is to help prevent organised crime and human trafficking. Those are serious issues that we are strongly committed to tackling. However, as we have explained before, we do not think it necessary to state that sanctions regulations could be created for these purposes in the Bill, because it already provides the powers to impose sanctions in these cases.

Government new clause 5 is technical. It simply seeks to clarify the interaction of the powers in this Bill with the provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. This Bill contains powers that enable the Government to amend retained EU law to impose or lift sanctions. The new clause simply makes it clear that restrictions in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill do not prevent those powers from being exercised in the way that was intended.

Financial Services

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Thursday 26th April 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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HM Treasury
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard
26 Apr 2018, 2:19 p.m.

I am glad to be able to speak for the Scottish National party in this debate.

I am sure the Brexiteers will accuse me of not being optimistic enough, but having looked the issues for financial services in the UK post-Brexit, I cannot help but have some apprehension. I understand that a lot of people in the industry are apprehensive as well. The challenges are huge and significant.

We have the best possible set-up in financial services with the EU, whether with regard to co-operation, influence or regulation. We are part of the decision-making process and have been key players in the set-up of financial services across the EU. There is no doubt that we will not be able to replicate the influence we have, because that influence is born from being part of the EU and a member of the single market and the customs union. The UK Government must seriously consider that reckless approach. The financial services sector provides a good illustration of why remaining in the single market and the customs union is the least-damaging option for the UK’s and Scotland’s economy. Brexit is a key risk to that sector.

The financial services industry is huge—the figures were mentioned by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford)—and, as she said, Scotland is a key part of it. Many financial services jobs are outside London. Edinburgh has 49,800 employees in the industry—a significant number—but Glasgow has 36,300 employees or thereabouts. Nearly 60% of employment in financial and related professional services in Scotland is concentrated in those cities. Edinburgh has an important international financial centre and a strong presence in banking, life insurance and investment management activities, and Glasgow has strengths in insurance, legal services and accountancy, but Aberdeen and Fife employ a large number of people in the industry.

As the Member for Glasgow Central, it would be remiss of me not to talk about Glasgow which, since 2001, has developed its international financial services district. That has rejuvenated an area in the city that had been left behind by old industries, with warehouses and neglected areas near the Broomielaw. It has been redeveloped into a hugely vibrant sector of the city. Many large companies based there employ people in high-value jobs. Those companies were able to get buildings, set up to work and employ people locally.

The IFSD has attracted £1 billion of investment to the area, so it is no small project. It has brought in more than 15,500 new jobs through investment and expansion by working in partnership with the city council, Scottish Development International, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland, to name a few.

It worries me greatly that Glasgow, which is recognised in the global financial centres index as the 14th most competitive financial centre in Europe, would lose out as a result of the reckless move towards leaving the EU, the customs union and the single market. It concerns me because when jobs go in London, London may be able to absorb it, but the economies of Edinburgh and Glasgow are more peripheral in the UK set-up. The UK has a London-focused economy. Without any great control in the Scottish Parliament over such things, I am concerned that we will not be able to put the mechanisms in place to protect those industries as we would like to do. We are at the whim of what the UK Government decide to do.

I hope the Minister can tell us more about the White Paper that the Government were due to publish last summer on the approach to Brexit and financial services. As I understand, that has not yet been brought forward. I asked the Library for an update on its report from July on financial services and Brexit, and although it could give me an update, it could not give me much progress, because not much has been made—certainly not anything visible or tangible. That concerns me and the sector greatly because of the uncertainty. We should be in no doubt that the sector has to plan and make decisions. The more uncertainty there is, the greater the risk of losing jobs.

Predictably, the European Banking Authority has decided to move to Paris. There are moves afoot from France to build up its sector and to regain what it feels it has lost to the UK in terms of financial services expertise. There is a risk, and other countries are looking to step into the void that we are leaving. The transition agreement merely extends the deadline to reach a deal to the end of 2020. The financial services industry needs and deserves more certainty so it can plan for that.

Not only will we lose financial institutions and companies, but those companies will not have the automatic access to EU markets that they currently have. That loss of influence is significant for the companies that base themselves here, for the decisions and investments that they make and for the jobs they create.

We will also lose influence in Government and between Governments. We will not be in those decision-making rooms where the regulations are being drawn up. We will not have the early influence that we have through EU institutions. We have set a lot of the rules, but in future, at most, we will be able to take rules, which is a huge difference.

The Minister has acknowledged that in an article, where he wrote:

“We know how important it is to the financial services industry that they have continued market access”.

I am sure he will tell us more about what he intends to do about that. Market access is not the same as being part of a market or a component in that market. Market access is second best. The Tories are delusional if they think we will get a better deal than we have at the moment.

Remaining in the European Economic Area could enable financial passporting to continue. That is crucial, because equivalence is nowhere near as uniform and comprehensive as passporting. It does not cover the full range of services currently sold by UK-based firms into the EU, or the full range of clients. As I understand it, banking services could not be offered under an equivalence regime.

Many are deeply concerned about what would happen if there was policy divergence between us and the EU in future, because that could result in the Commission revoking access to those markets with only 30 days’ notice. If a regulatory change that we disagreed with was agreed by the EU, such as a cap on bankers’ bonuses, that could be enough to trigger that denial of services. Switzerland’s referendum to limit immigration from the EU triggered such a response from the EU.

That is worrying given the Government’s attitude to immigration and how they want to treat immigration from all parts of the world—not just the Windrush generation, but EU nationals. Many constituents who come to my surgeries are in highly skilled jobs and have come here as highly skilled migrants. They have found that, because they made a minor change to their tax returns many years ago, the Government deem them a threat to national security under paragraph 322.5 of the immigration rules. If that is how they treat the highly skilled migrants who come to this country to contribute, work and generate wealth, I have little confidence that they will do anything to improve the situation. That is how people are being treated now. How will they treat EU nationals who have come to work in the finance sector?

Some 9,000 EU nationals work in the financial and business services sector in Scotland. Each of those people brings wealth to this country, pays their taxes, has a family, works here and has settled here. They have no great certainty about their future status, how their employers will employ them and whether they will have the right to work as they do now, which is a huge worry.

Those individuals are making decisions as to whether they want to stay here on the basis of what they hear and see. The mood music around immigration has not been very welcoming. Those narratives are almost certainly causing many of them to give up and leave. The Minister is sighing somewhat at that, but that is the reality—that is what I get at my surgeries.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
26 Apr 2018, 2:28 p.m.

I am not. I am listening very carefully.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
26 Apr 2018, 2:28 p.m.

People are not sure what will happen, and they need to have more certainty before they make their decisions. Just as people in the financial sector are making decisions about where their businesses will go, individual employees are deciding as well.

My husband works as an IT professional in Glasgow and knows many people in the sector. They are highly sought-after, highly skilled and well-paid jobs, but they are tied to financial institutions in the city such as J.P. Morgan and Barclays. If those financial institutions contract, those IT jobs, which are highly skilled, will contract too. We need to think carefully about the full pipeline of people. It is not just about bankers in suits sitting in offices; it is the full ecosystem. Those bankers buy lunch, commute into towns and take public transport.

Glasgow has a long and distinguished history in banking. The Bank of Scotland opened its doors in 1695. The Royal Bank of Scotland has its global headquarters in Edinburgh, the Clydesdale Bank has its European headquarters in Glasgow and there are lots of other banking operations in Scotland. I have mentioned Barclays, but HSBC and others also have a presence within Scotland.

Scotland’s general insurance, life insurance and pensions sectors also have a strong reputation and an enviable history of success, with their origins dating back to the early 1700s, when the increase in international trade led to a requirement for marine insurance, and Scotland continues to be a major centre for that sector.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford mentioned the insurance industry. The Association of British Insurers is deeply concerned about the current uncertainty. It has contracts that run for 10 years and pension contracts that run for more than 30 years, and has pointed out that

“these contracts cannot be transferred safely and quickly to a new EU location. Special arrangements would be needed to transfer the contracts, covering both legal form and regulatory responsibility…If nothing is fixed, insurers will be left in an impossible position and face an unacceptable choice: break their promise to customers or risk breaking the law.”

That is deeply serious and I hope the Government are looking at it. It is a huge concern for the sector, which relies on confidence and its reputation.

Fund management in Scotland encompasses a broad mix of large institutional companies and smaller boutique firms that provide investment services to institutional and personal clients around the world. The quality of investment management expertise in Scotland has led to a robust growth in boutique firms and new business start-ups. We have also become a major European centre for asset servicing.

Looking forward, Scottish Government analysis shows that a hard Brexit threatens to cost our economy £12.7 billion—£2,300 per person—a year by 2030, compared with what would happen if we remained in the EU. The UK Government’s analysis is that reverting to World Trade Organisation rules could reduce growth by 8%; that a free trade agreement with the EU would reduce growth by 5%; and that membership of the European Economic Area would reduce growth by 2%.

The EU is the largest single market for Scotland’s international exports—in 2016, Scottish exports to the EU were worth £12.7 billion. The Fraser of Allander Institute estimates that 134,000 Scottish jobs are supported by EU trade. Last week, a report for Citibase, a service provider to small and medium-sized enterprises, found that 63% of Scotland’s SMEs would like to reverse the Brexit process and remain in the single market. That report also found that just 14% of Scotland’s SMEs trusted the UK Government to get a good deal on Brexit. Steve Jude, the chief executive officer of Citibase, has said:

“The message is clear. Scottish confidence in the Westminster Government to secure a good deal for them is at an all-time low, with most SMEs wanting to press the reset button on the entire process.”

The Government should take on board those concerns, because we do not have to leave the EU. Yes, the EU referendum produced a UK-wide result, but there was no mandate for leaving the customs union and the single market, and we must think very carefully about the potential damage that leaving the EU would do to our economy, which would hurt all of us and all of our constituents.

The hon. Members for Chelmsford and for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley) mentioned bank closures, which are of huge concern to our constituents right across the country. That is particularly true for RBS, in which the Government have the leading share. We own RBS and we should be telling it that it is unacceptable to renege on the trust we have put in it—we helped it to get back on its feet—by whipping away services to our communities. We have heard Members from across this House—not just Scottish National party Members but Conservative Members—criticising RBS for saying that it would provide banking services and send its vans around before pulling back on that as well. RBS has reneged not once but twice. RBS has provided a limited service, which are the bank vans it sends around. Those vans do not have disabled access, which has led to people being served in car parks in the wind, rain and all weathers. That is a ridiculous situation and the Government should do more to put pressure on RBS.

The hon. Member for North East Derbyshire mentioned the idea, which has a lot of merit, of a shared service point for bank branches. Banks should come together to see what they can do collaboratively so that their customers are not left with nothing. I know people from other parties have mentioned that idea. It definitely has merit.

Hon. Members have mentioned on the record dirty money, the importance of clamping down on money laundering and the SNP position on the scandal of Scottish limited partnerships being used for money laundering. I hope there will be progress on tackling SLPs and addressing their lack of accountability. We have tabled amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill to that end, but if the Government are not going to take them on board, as I had hoped they would, I hope they will bring something else forward soon so that we can deal with that.

The major issue that prevents a clampdown on money laundering is the Companies House loophole. I have mentioned that to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury before—he has heard my views on it. Just recently, we had the strange case of the businessman Kevin Brewer, who fully admitted what he was trying to do in testing the Companies House loophole. However, he was fined and found guilty of crimes related to money laundering when all he was trying to do was to prove that the system was absolutely defunct and open to all kinds of corruption.

The Government have hailed the prosecution of Kevin Brewer, but all they have done in this case is to shoot the messenger. This man was deliberately trying to do something—he told the people he involved in this activity exactly what he was going to do. There has been a clampdown on this person but there is no clampdown on the many hundreds of people—at least—who abuse the Companies House loophole by paying their £12 to register a company with no checks whatsoever by Companies House as to the veracity of that person.

If someone applies for any other Government service such as a passport or a form to do their tax returns, they have to go through the Government’s Verify system. This situation is allowing people to set up companies with no checks on them whatsoever. It is wide open to money laundering and corruption. The Government need to take heed of that and take action.

The hon. Member for North East Derbyshire said the EU was “playing politics”. I found that comment slightly bizarre, because it is playing politics that has got us into this situation in the first place. A weak Tory Government, pandering to its Back Benchers, led us into the EU referendum and to the calamitous situation we are in. If anyone is playing politics, it is the Conservative party, and we need to get a lot more serious than playing politics because there is so much at stake.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned innovation within financial services. That is an area where the UK has taken a great lead. I was on holiday in the US recently, over the Easter period. I found it astonishing that US companies do not even have chip and pin, never mind contactless payment, for their financial transactions. In this building and in other buildings in the UK, we are used to being able just to tap our cards to make a payment, so I found it bizarre to be given a slip of paper to sign. US companies find our position unusual, whereby we can just tap something and pay with our phone or a card. There is an interesting contrast between where we are and where they are in terms of technology—there are huge advances coming along in financial technology and other areas.

Hopefully, if we get any kind of Brexit deal right, FinTech will continue to blossom. Staying within the single market and the customs union gives us the best possible chance of using and developing our expertise and making it sellable to the rest of the world through the EU, which of course has a huge customer base.

I will close my remarks by saying that the problems within the financial sector are clear with regard to the EU and Brexit. The sector has made clear the difficulties that are arising, and the impact that those difficulties will have on jobs and on our economy, but we are coming up very close to the date when we will leave the EU, and the solutions are not there. The transition period will give only a little extra time for that process and does not give the reassurance required.

We need solutions from this Government and we need them soon. We need a White Paper and solutions that will make a difference to companies and give them reassurance before they decide that they will just take flight, and take with them so many jobs and so much else that they give to the UK economy.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
26 Apr 2018, 3:13 p.m.

UK Finance and the Post Office have come to a new understanding about how the Post Office’s services are made available if the last bank leaves a town or community. In 99% of cases, the services that an individual non-business customer would wish to use are accessible in post offices. There are some limits—this needs to be checked, but I am pretty sure it is £2,000 in cash—but alternative arrangements can be made if necessary. Although I accept that in some cases there is a cultural barrier to the widespread use of post offices, there is no functional reason why they cannot provide the vast majority—99%—of the services that most consumers and 95% of small businesses want. I urge my hon. Friend to look into those options and make that clear to her constituents.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
26 Apr 2018, 3:13 p.m.

On business customers, does the Minister agree that the closure of bank branches in rural areas means that staff have to cover longer distances, in some cases carrying large sums of cash backwards and forwards? Has he raised with banks the concern that carrying money around in that way can put people at risk?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
26 Apr 2018, 3:16 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for that point. I do not believe I have made that point to the head of a bank yet, but it is certainly something I would be happy to take up, particularly given the rurality of some communities.

Let me move back to my script. The industry in the UK has matured and developed in the UK as a creator of wealth for a broad spectrum of people across the world. Firms based in the UK do business with and have exposure to jurisdictions across the globe. We need to ensure that investors and banks from across the world can continue to come together to meet and transact, which means embracing the exciting commercial opportunities that will define international capital markets over the coming decades. The UK already has world-leading positions in the markets of the future, including FinTech, for which we have developed what we call FinTech bridges to other jurisdictions—most recently Australia. We are world leaders in green and sustainable finance, and in rupee and renminbi products, and we are committed to strengthening that position further. That also means expanding our bilateral relationships with key partners around the globe, which includes our economic and financial dialogues with China, India, Brazil, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. There are enormous growth opportunities for the future.

Our new financial regulatory working group with the US, launched last week, cemented the already strong and deep relationship between the UK and US regulators. All of that will increase our financial co-operation with priority overseas markets and further establish the UK as the partner of choice for financial services.

As has been made clear, the significance of financial services to this country’s economy cannot be understated. It has propelled the UK to greater heights and its people to greater prosperity. I thank all hon. Members who have contributed to this very useful discussion, which has highlighted to me what a privilege it is to represent these interests in Government. Beyond Brexit, the Government are committed to creating the right environment so that this industry can continue to thrive.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting)

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Tuesday 6th March 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 9:47 a.m.

As I was about to say, the Government will be allowed to amend the definition only if it is necessary to continue to meet our new UN obligations or if it would further the prevention of terrorism in the UK or elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland asked me to speculate on potential uses. That is difficult to do, by the very nature of these things, but, for example, we are seeing the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It may be that there is potential risk associated with that and there may be a need to include that, but I am making a speculative observation. It would depend on the circumstances, and what other jurisdictions and the UN were bringing forward.

Amendment 8 agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr McCabe.

I would like to reiterate the concerns that I raised on Second Reading about the overruling of any Acts made by the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. I have a solution to this, to some degree, in amendment 37. That is coming up, so I will speak about it more then. However, I am deeply concerned that UK Ministers are being empowered in this Bill to make changes to devolved legislation without the involvement or the permission of the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliament. That is deeply concerning. If not this Government, it makes future Governments capable of amending Acts of another Parliament and I remain deeply concerned about that.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Sixth sitting)

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Tuesday 6th March 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 3:33 p.m.

I do not want to add a huge amount, but I very much welcome the new clause. As the hon. Member for Oxford East said, there is a big issue of incentive and authority for organisations, particularly for those that facilitate the formation and operation of Scottish limited partnerships in the private fund sector.

There has to be an effort to ensure that compliance with the rules is extended as far as possible. For example, a legal firm may be asked to register an SLP to get it up and going, and operating, but if no buck stops with it, there is no punishment for not ensuring that the SLPs are operating as we would want them to. For example, if a firm asks its client to register a person of significant control, and the client does not do so, where is the incentive for that firm to remove that client altogether? The firm has to decide for itself whether the cost of reputational damage from being named in the press is enough. That is the balance that it has at the moment. It is not obliged not to have that SLP within its client base. There is no comeback and no consequence.

There needs to be some means by which the firm is forced to do something to put that right. If the SLPs under its umbrella do not register a person of significant control, and continue not to register them, there is no fine to that legal firm, as I understand it. The SLP may face a fine—I am trying to get to the bottom of how many fines have been issued to those who have not registered a person of significant control—but there is no comeback to the legal firm, other than potential reputational damage.

The Government need to think about where the buck really stops in these arrangements , and this type of new clause would put some emphasis on the firm to do something about failing to prevent money laundering, rather than allowing things to continue as they are. As I understand it, there is no comeback at the moment to the legal firm that is protecting the SLPs underneath its umbrella.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 3:44 p.m.

I undertake to address the points raised by the hon. Member for Oxford East. I will come to the point about the directors’ responsibility in my scripted remarks and also to the issue of what provision the fines were imposed under.

On the specific question the hon. Lady asked, the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence considered a wide range of reforms to the law relating to corporate liability for economic crime. That is against a backdrop of already significant reform in this area in recent years, including the Bribery Act 2010, the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and the introduction of deferred prosecution agreements, which the Government would contend have strengthened the UK’s defences against corporate criminality. The Ministry of Justice is carefully considering the responses received to the call for evidence and is analysing the impacts of the Government’s range of recent reforms in this area. It will respond to its call for evidence in due course. I do not have a specific timetable, but that is the best information I can give the hon. Lady.

New clauses 9 and 15 seek to create a corporate criminal offence of failure to prevent money laundering, with an obligation on the Secretary of State to submit a disqualification order to the court against directors of a company found guilty of such an offence without having adequate anti-money laundering procedures in place. New clause 9 provides that a company or partnership is guilty of a criminal offence where the company’s employee, agent or other service provider commits one of the substantive money laundering offences in part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The relevant company would have a defence if it could prove that it had adequate procedures in place to prevent its employees or agents from committing such an offence.

The offence is not necessary in view of the extensive reforms to the UK’s anti-money laundering regime that the Government have put in place. The proposed offence is substantively applied to firms that are regulated for anti-money laundering purposes by part 2 of the Money Laundering Regulations 2017. Those require that regulated firms have policies, controls and procedures to mitigate and manage risks of money laundering and terrorist financing. The Government have legislated to require that these policies, controls and procedures are proportionate with regard to the size and nature of the firm’s business and proved by the firm’s senior management. Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence in itself.

The Financial Conduct Authority and other supervisors are additionally able to take action against firms if their measures to counter money laundering are deficient. As was touched on in our exchange earlier, recent regulatory penalties related to firms’ anti-money laundering weaknesses include fines of £163 million for Deutsche Bank in January 2017 and £72 million for Barclays Bank in November 2015. They were a consequence of failures in anti-money laundering measures under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

The new clause also seeks to address challenges that have arisen in apportioning responsibility for corporate failings. Within the financial services sector, that has been addressed through the senior managers regime, which was introduced after the financial crisis. Banks are now required to ensure that a named senior manager has unequivocal responsibility for overseeing the firm’s efforts to counter financial crime. That ensures that firms and individuals can be held to account for failing to put proper systems in place to prevent financial crime. If a relevant firm breaches its anti-money laundering obligations, the FCA can take action against a senior manager if it can prove that they did not take such steps as a person in their position can reasonably have been expected to take to avoid the breach occurring. The enforcement action includes fines and disbarment from undertaking regulated activities. The Government have legislated to extend the senior managers regime to apply across all financial services firms. That will be implemented in due course, and will further the Government’s reform programme. All those requirements are additional to the substantive money laundering offences in the Proceeds of Crime Act, such as entering into arrangements that facilitate the use of criminal property, which apply to any individual or company.

As hon. Members know, the Government have previously introduced two similar offences: the failure to prevent bribery, in 2010, and the failure to prevent the facilitation of UK and foreign tax evasion, in 2017. They are structured in a similar way to the proposed new clause, but they were introduced following clear evidence of gaps in the relevant legal frameworks that were limiting the bringing of effective and dissuasive enforcement proceedings. It is right that the offences that we have already established apply to legal entities, regardless of whether they operate in the regulated sector.

The situation in relation to money laundering is very different. The international standard is set by the Financial Action Task Force, which has been referred to numerous times in the Committee’s discussions. The UK’s money laundering regulations apply to banks, financial institutions, certain professional services firms and other types of entity, and act as gatekeepers to the financial system. As I have said, such firms are already required to have policies and procedures in place to prevent their services from being misused for money laundering.

Subsection (6) of new clause 9 would require all companies, regardless of whether they are incorporated, to have procedures in place to prevent persons connected to them from laundering money. The Government do not believe that that would be appropriate. It would risk making non-regulated firms liable for the actions of their regulated professional advisers. Instead, responsibility for anti-money laundering compliance should rest in the regulated sector, as is currently the case. The new clause would not go beyond the existing regulatory framework in that area, and it would blur where responsibility should lie for anti-money laundering compliance. Therefore, I respectfully ask the hon. Member for Oxford East to withdraw the new clause.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4 p.m.

I support the new clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Oxford East. They flag up a huge loophole in the anti-money laundering regime, which is the inability of Companies House to do anything about what comes through its door. By not acting on information, and expecting company formation agents to behave in a different way from the way the Government’s own agency behaves, the Government become complicit in the money laundering that is clearly going on through companies that are registered for only £12.

The situation is curious. Last week I sat on a delegated legislation Committee that discussed passport fees and the need for full cost recovery of those fees by the Government because the Passport Agency wants to ensure that it is not making a loss. There is an argument about whether passports are too expensive, which I think they are, but it costs £12 for the registration of a company. If Companies House is not getting full-cost recovery for that, and that is the reason for not carrying out the due diligence that ought to be done on anti-money laundering, that is an argument to find a reasonable cost of registration that would allow Companies House to operate, make money and have sufficient funds to carry out the due diligence it ought to. If there is an incentive not to play by the rules, and the Government are incentivising that through the operation of their own agency, that is nonsense. That is highlighted in Global Witness’s “The Idiot’s Guide to Money Laundering”:

“Step 4: open your company direct with the corporate registry—they don’t do any checks on you!”

It seems ludicrous that the Government are going to encourage agents who want to set up companies for people to do that and go through the anti-money laundering things that they have to do, but the Government are not enforcing that. That seems absolutely ludicrous. I cannot for the life of me think how the Government will defend that unjustifiable loophole.

Transparency International reported that in the UK last year, 251,628 companies were created with no checks being made on the person setting up the company or their source of wealth. It is a scandal that these companies can be set up, facilitated by the Government, because Companies House has to accept their documents in good faith without doing due diligence checks that we would expect of other agents. If they are not going to support the new clauses, I urge the Government to propose a measure themselves, because this simply cannot continue.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:04 p.m.

The new clauses are broadly similar in purpose and intention. Each would expand the role that Companies House plays in relation to anti-money laundering checks, whether by conducting due diligence directly, confirming that due diligence has been carried out, or confirming that a company seeking to be incorporated has a UK bank account.

I will turn to the practical difficulties of these proposals in a moment, but the first point to make in connection with each is that the UK’s anti-money laundering regime is undergoing an assessment by the Financial Action Task Force. The FATF is the international standard setter in this area and will report publicly later this year on its findings. The report will consider matters, including the effectiveness of how the UK prevents the misuse of legal persons, such as companies, for money laundering purposes. Hon. Members will appreciate that this report will greatly inform the future of the UK’s anti-money laundering regime, including in relation to how we can best prevent the misuse of legal entities, some of which have been described in the course of this debate.

Once the FATF has reported, the Government will actively consider its conclusions, including those in relation to any areas in which the UK’s anti-money laundering framework can be improved. These new clauses pre-empt the review process already under way. It would be more sensible to allow the review to identify specific areas where action is necessary before making further changes to our AML regime.

New clause 10 would require anti-money laundering checks to be undertaken before any UK company can be incorporated by preventing the registrar of companies from registering a company unless she is satisfied that such checks have been carried out. It then says that the registrar is entitled to accept the anti-money laundering registration number of the UK body that has submitted the application as evidence that such checks have taken place. The effect would be to require all incorporations to be made through a UK body regulated for anti-money laundering purposes. This would prevent people from applying directly to Companies House to register and set up their own business; any person seeking to set up a business would be required to use the services of a professional agent that is also regulated for anti-money laundering purposes, and pay for those services, which will in turn increase the cost of setting up businesses.

The proposed new clause assumes that all bad companies are set up directly with Companies House, and that only companies set up through the agency of a regulated professional can be trusted. That is simply not true. Only the simplest companies—those using standard-form constitutions—can be set up directly with Companies House online in the way described by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central. Typically they are self-standing, family-run and family-operated businesses. More complex corporate structures will, in contrast, frequently be established through trust or company service providers. The UK’s national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing noted last year that

“While companies can be registered directly with Companies House, criminals continue to make use of third party TCSPs, to establish the structures within which illegitimate activity subsequently takes place.”

The fact that TCSPs are legally required to conduct customer due diligence does not in and of itself solve the problem. The new clause would therefore impose an across-the-board administrative burden on individuals seeking to establish companies, without adding any significant new obstacles to money laundering. Companies incorporated directly through Companies House are overwhelmingly likely to interact with the UK regulated sector, and so face anti-money laundering checks either by having a UK bank account or through having a UK accountant.

We discussed in the previous debate the 22 different regimes, and this speaks to the necessity for some degree of complexity to minimise the risks as far as possible. New clauses 11 and 12 are similar in outcome to new clause 10: they would require company formation agents—defined for these purposes as including the UK registrar of companies at Companies House—to conduct customer due diligence to establish the identity and risk profile of all beneficial owners of such companies registered at Companies House. The key difference is the reclassification of Companies House, which would now be required to deliver its statutory duties as if it were a private sector business. The accompanying explanatory statement suggests that these clauses will identify the beneficial owners of a company and make information held at Companies House more accurate. Although similar to the proposed new clause 10, these new clauses would go further in imposing expansive new obligations upon Companies House, requiring significant changes to the UK company law system.

Given the overlap with the lead new clause in the group, I will focus on the most novel element: the proposal that Companies House be treated as a company formation agent. Since the registrar of companies was first created, it has been required to accept any application that is validly and correctly submitted, and to duly incorporate the company as requested. Companies House does not help customers through this process, and is responsible solely for conducting the process of company incorporation. Company formation agents, known as TCSPs, are entirely distinct from Companies House. They are already subject to due diligence obligations through the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, and these extend to being required to terminate any existing business relationship when they are unable to meet their due diligence obligations. In contrast, Companies House has no legal right to refuse or decline a request to incorporate a company if the application is valid, and therefore it does not have the ability to decline a business relationship in the way that TCSPs must when they cannot discharge their due diligence obligations. If accepted, these amendments would essentially require fundamental reform of the Companies Act 2006.

To emphasise the scale of that proposed reform, 3.9 million companies are currently registered at Companies House and approximately 600,000 new companies register each year. The impact on resource to carry out due diligence on that number of companies would be considerable. The burdens and cost would fall on those 3.9 million companies, and specifically on the vast majority of legitimate companies, many of which are very small businesses. They would be forced to pay to duplicate the cost of due diligence checks that are already conducted by banks and other regulated professionals. The overall cost to the UK economy could run into hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

New clause 13 would amend part 24 of the Companies Act so as to require UK companies to establish a UK bank account and evidence that to Companies House on an annual basis or pay a fee or financial penalty. As with other new clauses in this group, new clause 13 will not achieve its stated intention. The wider purpose behind that part of the Act is to provide a simple mechanism for companies to confirm that corporate information registered with Companies House, as required under other obligations, is accurate and up to date in relation to company share capital, business activities and the address of a company’s registered office.

That is not to say that the new clause’s underlying principle does not merit further consideration. Evidence of a UK bank account is intended to demonstrate that a company has been through proper money laundering checks by a UK supervising body related to the financial activities of that company. However, the practical implications need careful consideration. To make the proposal operational, Companies House would require new systems with access to UK and international banking information. The costs associated with the development and operation of such systems would inevitably be large and would need to be recovered from UK businesses. Once again, that would necessarily establish a new reporting burden that would essentially target the overwhelming majority of law-abiding UK businesses.

The new clause suggests that companies that cannot provide evidence that they have a UK bank account would be liable to a fee, although that could better be characterised as a penalty—its purpose is not specified. If it is intended to incentivise companies that are established to launder money to open a UK bank account, it would need to be set sufficiently high to achieve that objective, which would be disproportionate to the notional offence of not providing evidence of a UK bank account.

The Government are already active in that sphere. Under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, regulated bodies such as banks are obliged to carry out CDD checks on their customers on an ongoing basis. That is a rich field of data, and the regulated sector is already closely engaged with UK law enforcement to identify and report suspicious behaviour. In parallel, Companies House has an extensive outreach programme to the regulated sector to promote use of its data and encourage bodies to report possible errors back to it.

To sum up, a simple demonstration of a bank account is a blunt instrument. As drafted, the new clause simply adds a burden to UK companies to report more information. We should not proceed down that path without being much clearer that the information we require them to disclose is valuable, that it is necessary and that it cannot be achieved by other less burdensome means. On that basis, I ask the hon. Member for Oxford East to withdraw the amendment.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] (Fourth sitting)

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Thursday 1st March 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:13 p.m.

I am concerned about the use of the word “may” in the clause, which states that the guidance “may include guidance” about certain things. I am concerned that that is not sufficiently well developed. I very much support the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland’s amendments, which would add a wee bit more clarity, detail and guidance. The clause is worth while, but the Government would do well to listen to the detail that she laid out.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:14 p.m.

I am grateful for those questions. I am a little confused, because both hon. Members referred to clause 36, which states, “An appropriate Minister may,” but I thought these amendments were pursuant to clause 37, which states in subsection (1) that

“the appropriate Minister who made the regulations must issue guidance”.

I acknowledge that these amendments are about guidance. We have just agreed clause 36, which states, in subsection (1),

“An appropriate Minister may make regulations”.

The two amendments as tabled by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland are on clause 37, subsection (1) of which states

“the regulations must issue guidance”.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:15 p.m.

We seem to be at cross purposes. The amendment is about the line further to that; subsection (2) states, further to “regulations must issue guidance”, that

“guidance may include guidance about”.

It is about the expansion of what that guidance may be.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:16 p.m.

I am very grateful for that clarification. I hope that I will be able to address that in my remarks and give sufficient reassurance about the Government’s plan.

I should make clear from the outset that the Government are in favour of good guidance and we intend to produce it. It is in the Government’s interest to produce thorough guidance, to improve sanctions implementation and to ensure that sanctions can be enforced robustly. It was clearly set out that amendment 27 would require Government to provide guidance on the definition of ownership and control on the face of the Bill.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I will address those points in my remarks, and I will be happy for the hon. Lady to come back if she is not content at the end.

Amendment 28 would broaden the scope of guidance to areas such as providing best practice on compliance with financial sanctions and establishing effective banking and payment corridors. As I said at the start, the Government are committed to producing clear and accessible guidance on sanctions implementation and enforcement. Clause 37 requires Ministers to issue guidance about any prohibitions and requirements imposed by sanctions regulations. There is already a mandatory requirement to provide comprehensive guidance for all those affected by sanctions and implementation.

The Government have been consulting extensively; across Whitehall, they have been meeting with NGOs and financial institutions that have asked for this guidance. I can reassure the Committee that we will give them what they have asked for. The Government do not believe that further amendments to clause 37 are needed to provide the type of guidance sought on “owned” and “controlled” in amendment 27. Where sanctions regulations contain prohibitions or requirements about entities that are owned and controlled by a designated person, we are already under a duty to issue guidance. I can reassure hon. Members that the Government already provide guidance on ownership and control and will continue doing so.

The additional guidance sought in amendment 28 would greatly extend the scope of the guidance to specific areas such as mechanisms to limit the impact of prohibitions and requirements on civilian and humanitarian activity, and establishing effective banking and payment corridors. Although I can understand the concerns of NGOs that lie behind this amendment, some of them clearly are beyond the remit of the Government to provide. For example, the Government do not have the powers to require banks to make payments on behalf of particular customer or to open new payment channels. Although I appreciate the spirit of the amendments, the Bill already caters for them in so far as it addresses matters within the Government’s control. Adding extra text to the Bill will only create confusion.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:19 p.m.

Does the Minister not agree that it is in the public interest for the Government to support payment channels being created? If, for example, there is a Disasters Emergency Committee emergency appeal and the NGOs gather lots of funds, but those funds cannot reach the beneficiaries because there is no appropriate payment channel that gives everybody reassurance, surely it is in the Government’s interest to make that happen.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:20 p.m.

I acknowledge what the hon. Lady says, but this is a non-exhaustive list. We intend to issue guidance on those issues listed in the Bill and more, as new issues evolve. We may also not need guidance in some areas that the sanctions do not cover. Where we are at cross purposes here is that people think the list is exhaustive when it is enabling and allows the Government to give the necessary guidance as required and as circumstances evolve.

We understand the concerns behind the amendments and have worked closely with NGOs to understand their needs, and we will continue to do so.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:42 p.m.

The hon. Lady has already said much of what I was going to say, so I am sure that, if that I am a bit briefer, that will be okay with everyone. We have serious concern about SLPs, and the Bill provides an opportunity to do something about it. When we know there is a problem and an opportunity to put it right, it would be negligent of us as parliamentarians to look the other way.

I understand that, even in the new regime where people with significant control should be registered, up to December 127 or so SLPs had registered via law firms, but 489 had registered via anonymous mailbox addresses, which means that the people with significant control are not there, are barely identifiable and are very hard to trace. We know from recurring stories in The Herald worked on hard by David Leask and the researcher and expert in this field, Richard Smith, that such companies keep the issues, scandals and money laundering behind the scenes, and that it keeps going on. We therefore need to do everything we can in every area to tackle these problems.

There is the broader issue of SLP non-compliance and the inadequacies of Companies House, which we may speak about later in our proceedings. Not having a postcode when registering a company should be a pretty simple compliance issue—the process could be stopped at that point, never mind going into the more technical detail. We therefore need to look at this issue carefully. Never mind all the overseas territories; we are allowing it to happen here, in this country, behind mailboxes in Scotland. Frankly, that is unacceptable. We need to do something about it. If we continue to let it go, the problem will not go away.

We can talk about how we might go ahead with this issue in terms of enforcement, because other countries have tackled it. My colleague Roger Mullin and others have worked on it for many years, and we should take the opportunity to look at it here and now. If the Government are not willing to accept any of the amendments, I urge them to table their own and not to let the opportunity pass.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:44 p.m.

I am grateful to both Front-Bench spokespeople for their speeches, and I will try to address the detail of the points they raised. The essence of the case made by the hon. Member for Oxford East was about whether the Bill covers SLPs. First, I draw attention to clause 9(5), which confirms that “person” includes individuals, corporate bodies, unincorporated bodies, organisations and

“any association or combination of persons.”

The Bill therefore does include SLPs, and we can make anti-money laundering provisions for them.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)

Debate between John Glen and Alison Thewliss
Tuesday 27th February 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
27 Feb 2018, 10:19 a.m.

I agree very much with the amendments and support the hon. Lady in what she has said. I share the concerns that she has conveyed from both the NGO sector and the banking sector, where we seem to be caught between admirable public policy objectives—providing humanitarian aid—and the practicalities of sanctions compliance, which seems to be hindering the delivery of that aid in many different ways.

The amendments sensibly seek to expand a particularly narrow EU definition of humanitarian aid. That would give a wee bit more certainty and clarity to agencies working on the ground. It also gives us an opportunity to figure out how we ensure that money reaches those who need it and reaches them quickly. I understand that, at the moment, organisations can often wait up to six to nine months to get licences and agreements in place. Frankly, people on the ground in many of the countries involved do not have six to nine months to wait. They need money and aid almost immediately, so we need to find a way of fast-tracking the money in; we need to figure out what a viable financial route to get money from us here in the UK through to the frontlines in Yemen and Syria to ensure that people can survive looks like.

In Yemen particularly, there is a shortage of physical cash in the country. Hospitals in which people are working are often supported by the likes of Médecins Sans Frontières. MSF is paying those staff, but it needs to get the money into Yemen to pay them, so that they can turn up to work and feed their families, and provide vital assistance to people facing bombardment from the air. We need to find a way of getting the money in and doing that quickly.

There are practicalities involved in asking humanitarian agencies to go and carry out this work. Let us say that people are providing humanitarian aid on the ground; to move things around the country they need fuel. If they are in a country in which they have to choose between buying their fuel from Islamic State fighters or Assad, that is not actually a choice they can make, because both options would place them in breach of sanctions, so there needs to be a way of getting money to people and doing that quickly, so that organisations can do their work. If financial assistance has been granted to humanitarian organisations specifically for the purpose of buying fuel and then they cannot practically do that, that is a real problem and makes the delivery of much-needed aid extremely difficult.

There is an argument for granting up-front licences for infrastructure. If we know what is to be built—put in place—and it is a bridge that will allow people to cross it and move humanitarian aid around the country, or if it is a hospital or other facility that will provide aid, why cannot the licences be granted fast and up front, so that there is no delay in procuring the purchase of things to make that happen?

I agree very much with the points made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland about mutual recognition of licences. If we see fit to issue licences, that should be good enough for other countries as well. If we have gone through a due diligence regime, that should be good enough for other people to accept and would help speed up the process, and would prevent organisations from falling foul of someone else’s regulations. There should be agreement on that, whether in a treaty or some other form. It would be a hugely sensible way of speeding up the process.

I very much agree with the points that have been made on new clause 5. I understand that the United States has a huge amount of transparency around the exemptions and licensing regime. It is possible to see not only what has been licensed and how but the backlog to the licences, which is critically important because we can see delays in the process.

We need to understand why those delays are there and what we can do to overcome them. Frankly, people in different parts of the world cannot wait for us to go through a laborious process to issue licences. We cannot have those organisations spend huge amounts of money on lawyers. We just need to get the aid to where it needs to be with the best practicable due diligence.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
27 Feb 2018, 10:21 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I have listened carefully to the respective Front-Bench speakers and studied the three amendments and the new clause: amendment 18 on fast-track exceptions; amendment 19 on consulting on exceptions to disapply; amendment 20 on an exception for humanitarian or peace-building purposes; and new clause 5, which would require the preparation of an annual report on humanitarian and non-humanitarian exemptions.

I will speak to each in turn. Like my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and the Americas, I acknowledge the spirit in which they were tabled, but I will set out the Government’s position on why they are not necessary.

I will address the point about FATF immediately, because I have had some contact with it. FATF was set up by 16 countries after the 1989 G7 summit. It is not an incorporated or treaty body. It does not create binding obligations on the UK. The UK is a founder member and plays a leading role. I would reinforce that with this point. I recently received the Pakistani Home Secretary, who was seeking to persuade the Government to resist the greylisting of Pakistan for not making sufficient progress. That was clearly taken very seriously by the Pakistanis. I also acknowledge the work that is going on across Government in the UK to deal with the considerable challenge of the current evaluation of our own compliance with FATF standards. This is a robust, internationally recognised set of obligations that have real meaning and authority.

Many of the amendments have been debated in the other place and lobbied for by UK Finance and a number of NGOs, as the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland set out. I can assure the Committee that the Government remain a steadfast supporter of NGOs working in conflict areas. The Government engaged with them while the Bill was in the other place, and we will continue to do so. We recognise that it is important to ensure that this work continues, where possible, in sanctioned countries.

It is equally vital, however, that we have appropriate safeguards in place that preserve our foreign policy priorities, by ensuring compliance with sanctions, but also serve to protect the NGOs and help prevent the sector from becoming attractive to criminals looking to circumvent our laws.

Amendment 18 calls on the Government to establish a fast-track process for dealing with requests for exceptions and licences for humanitarian purposes. I can assure hon. Members that the Government make every effort to prioritise urgent and humanitarian cases, where there is a risk of harm or a threat to life, and will continue to do so. However, we believe that any prioritisation criteria for considering licences and exceptions must remain as flexible as possible, to ensure that the Government can consistently prioritise the most important cases, including humanitarian cases where appropriate.

The process for considering licences is best done administratively and on a case-by-case basis. Government Departments will, of course, continue to reach out to the NGO sector to ensure that NGOs understand how that process works for humanitarian licence applications. Given the number of Departments involved—typically four: the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the Department for International Trade and the Department for International Development—and the many rightly differing derogations, exceptions and grounds for licensing that are involved, it would not be straightforward to operate a fast-track process as suggested by the amendment. To get each application right demands a tailored approach, because the facts differ greatly from case to case. Therefore the Government believe that it would not be prudent to establish a single fast-track process, which may impede the Government’s ability to assess cases accurately, and will be unwieldy to operate given the different ways in which the various types of sanctions work.

A fast-track process might also create perverse results—such as where an urgent request for a licence to allow a designated person access to medicine would have to come second to a routine application in respect of humanitarian activity that only involves changing the details of bank accounts. For all these reasons, we do not consider that a new and administratively burdensome requirement ought to be added to sanctions regulations.

Amendment 19 suggests that a consultation be undertaken for an overarching framework for exceptions and licences. The NGOs and UK Finance have called for that, as the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said.

It must be said that we have carried out a consultation on our White Paper, including roundtables with banks and NGOs. We are still talking to them and have set up a working group with them. We intend to use the opportunity to improve licences—such as general licences for humanitarian activity—and we will issue guidance. We have been clear that we will do that, and because of that consultation we do not feel that the amendment is necessary. We have listened to the comments of all respondents and we intend to design a post-Brexit licensing framework that is fully informed by those comments. That is an ongoing process and one in which we are enthusiastically engaged.

Comprehensive regulations that will be laid before Parliament and debated will include detailed information on the exceptions and licences that are appropriate for each regime. We also intend to continue to consult with industry to ensure that the framework allows us to be flexible and has the minimum possible effect on industry whilst having the maximum effect on the intended targets of the sanctions. An overarching framework for licences will not allow us the flexibility that we need for each regime. For example, the licensing grounds for a proliferation regime should be different from those of a misappropriation or counterterrorism regime. Furthermore, the timetable for conducting such a consultation after the commencement of the Bill makes little sense. By then, we expect that the relevant sanctions regulations—with the appropriate exceptions and licensing arrangements for each regime currently existing in EU law—will already have been made and debated by Parliament. We fear that a further consultation would add confusion at a time when we would be working hard to ensure a smooth transition.

The Government have committed in the Bill—clause 37 —to issuing guidance about sanctions regulations. As the guidance is developed, we will engage with stakeholders, as we already do for guidance that is published on the implementation of sanctions.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
27 Feb 2018, 10:28 a.m.

Could the Economic Secretary give more clarity on the timescale? We have the Bill just now; how soon will the guidance appear? The current guidance is not really useful in terms of how the sanctions landscape works.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
27 Feb 2018, 10:28 a.m.

I cannot give a precise timetable. I will consult officials and write to the Committee to give clarification on that as soon as I can.

Amendment 20 would make it plain on the face of the Bill that exceptions to sanctions can be made for humanitarian development, reconstruction and peace-building activities. Broadening such exceptions to cover such a broad group of organisations and activities goes much further than the Government intended and is incompatible with both the policy intent and our obligations under UN and EU regimes. The Government are currently able to issue specific licences on application from humanitarian and other agencies. The licensing provision is read across and extended in clauses 15(2)(b) and 14(3)(a) to allow Ministers to issue both general and specific licences. It is the Government’s intention to use the power to issue general licences where appropriate. One key area in which it is foreseen that general licences could be written is for the purpose of delivering humanitarian aid. We should also be wary of the confusion caused by listing these activities but not others, such as denuclearisation activities. To add one would imply that the other was outside the scope of the Bill.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard

I echo that. We are also very worried by this amendment, and by the return of something that was clearly and definitively rejected. As far as we are concerned, it is dangerous and an affront to democracy. The Government should accept that they were wrong, and withdraw the amendment. I point out that the Lords Constitution Committee said:

“We consider that such regulation-making powers are constitutionally unacceptable and should not remain part of the Bill.”

The Government should take heed.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
27 Feb 2018, 9 a.m.

I am grateful for the dialogue with hon. Members on the Front Bench, and I will respond to some of the points that have been made. On the question of whether there is some sort of secret plot to hide any conversations with Lord Judge, Government lawyers have had a number of meetings. No letters have been exchanged, so there is no material to share. The vote was lost by 192 votes to 209; I concede that it was lost, but the thrust of the remarks by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland concerns the notion that behind the measure is some kind of power grab by the Government. I see it as the Government needing to be accountable for how these powers create new offences and how they are used. New clause 3 will require the Government to lay a report before Parliament, setting out what criminal offences are included in any new sanctions regulations.