Debates between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds

There have been 14 exchanges between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds

1 Mon 16th March 2020 Budget Resolutions
HM Treasury
2 interactions (2,686 words)
2 Wed 12th June 2019 Local Bank Closures
HM Treasury
2 interactions (1,675 words)
3 Tue 26th February 2019 Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)
HM Treasury
5 interactions (1,665 words)
4 Mon 25th February 2019 Exiting the EU (Financial Services)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (2,686 words)
5 Mon 18th February 2019 Exiting the European Union (Financial Services)
HM Treasury
4 interactions (3,264 words)
6 Wed 13th February 2019 Securitisation Regulations 2018
HM Treasury
9 interactions (1,885 words)
7 Mon 11th February 2019 Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [Lords]
HM Treasury
2 interactions (438 words)
8 Tue 1st May 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords]
HM Treasury
2 interactions (685 words)
9 Tue 6th March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting)
HM Treasury
3 interactions (216 words)
10 Tue 6th March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Sixth sitting)
HM Treasury
27 interactions (7,799 words)
11 Thu 1st March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] (Fourth sitting)
HM Treasury
19 interactions (3,875 words)
12 Tue 27th February 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (417 words)
13 Tue 16th January 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
HM Treasury
3 interactions (140 words)
14 Mon 15th January 2018 Childcare Vouchers
HM Treasury
2 interactions (1,412 words)

Budget Resolutions

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Monday 16th March 2020

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
16 Mar 2020, 9:44 p.m.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker—that was slightly unexpected, but I am sure it reflected this wide-ranging and well-subscribed debate. We have heard some excellent maiden speeches. I wish I could praise them more fully, but it was wonderful to hear from the new hon. Members for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham), for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), and for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici). I wish them every success in this place.

As my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) said, this was a Budget of two halves—a response both to coronavirus and to longer-term issues—but we needed an emergency Budget even before coronavirus came along. I am afraid I cannot agree with the rosy description the Minister gave of our economy at the start of the debate. Sadly, before the current crisis began, our economy was flatlining. We had three months of 0% growth up to January, we have had the lengthiest squeeze on living standards in this country since Napoleonic times, and we have had the slowest recovery from an economic crisis for 100 years.

We needed an emergency response in this Budget for the long term as well as the short term. I will talk about where there are some questions about the short-term response, but we broadly agree with the direction of travel and will work with the Government on those issues. However, we really need to see the long-term response. I hope we will have more detailed discussions about that, particularly once the present crisis has passed.

There has been much debate in the last few hours about public services. A number of Members talked about the new investment coming in, but a number also mentioned confusion about testing. We got more clarity during the course of the afternoon, but I make this plea to the Government: it is critical to have transparency. It was clear, at least in what I heard from the Health Secretary, that policy has been driven to an extent by the availability of testing. If that had just been made clearer earlier, we would have avoided much unnecessary confusion. We also learned today that the NHS will be required to identify and contact individuals who will need to self-isolate. I know many GP surgeries are doing that already, but we must recognise the hours that that mammoth task will take up.

Surely we also need more detail on international action. We heard the Health Secretary say today that every effort is rightly being made to bring on new ventilator capacity, for example. Can we have more detail about what work is being undertaken with other countries so we do not have an unseemly scramble for resources that are so desperately necessary in our country and others?

There was much discussion, too, about social care. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) rightly said, we are in a difficult situation already when it comes to our social care services, with 500,000 fewer people receiving publicly funded care now than back in 2010. We did not have specific information about how social care organisations—not necessarily the small and medium-sized enterprises, which might be covered by other schemes—will be supported. A number of those bodies are already in financial difficulties. How will they be supported? We need that information.

On business support, the Health Secretary said he had his “eyes wide open” to the economic consequences of this crisis. His eyes are wide open, but he needs to take more action, given the dawning realisation of the potential impacts, which were described eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi). Many of us share her concerns—including, it appears, Paul Johnson from the IFS, who stated today that the support so far is insufficient. We need answers to questions such as, what will be the role of the British Business Bank? What will be the precise co-ordination between banks? We know the Government are working with them, but what exactly will be done?

Critically, we also need answers about insurance. I was pleased to hear that the Economic Secretary is talking to the insurance industry but, first, we really need to understand when and if the Government will state explicitly that it is necessary to close facilities such as pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities. We know that, lacking footfall, they will practically close, but they will not be covered by insurance. Please—we need more information about that. As the hon. Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) said, please can we ensure that this coronavirus is recognised for insurance purposes and push the companies to do that?

Then, of course, there are questions about support for individuals. There is a debate about sick pay tomorrow, when I am sure many Members will mention, as others did today, the need for short-working arrangements. That was mentioned by the right hon. Members for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) and for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell), my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). He is not a man with whom I am always in perfect agreement, but he was absolutely right to point out the need for those arrangements. Germany is looking at introducing them again, as it did during the financial crisis, and Ireland is already shifting towards a similar position. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) said, we seem to be a bit behind the curve when it comes to the international response in that regard, particularly in comparison with France.

There are also many questions about social security, which is essential in a situation where, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) said, so many people are a payday away from poverty. We heard many questions about help for the self-employed, which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan). Simply saying that people can go on to universal credit or employment and support allowance, with all the issues we know they have, just is not good enough. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) said, unless we deal with income maintenance now, we will make the economic contraction even sharper than it needs to be.

There was much discussion today about housing. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) pointed out the dire impact of overcrowding in trying to deal with this crisis. I understand discussions about mortgages are going on and that there will be guidance on rough sleeping, but we need clarity on exactly what is going to change. Are the Government going to work with courts on evictions, foreclosures and so on?

Questions were raised about support for older people and whether the free TV licence would be provided for over-75s. What exactly is the action on free school meals going to be? It is good that the Government are talking among themselves—the Education Secretary talking to the Health team and so on—about free school meals, but what action will be taken? When will our devolved Governments know exactly which funds will be available? Just always saying, “We’ll get that information later” is not good enough.

The same situation applies to local government. As mentioned so many times, including by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous), there is no clarity yet about when public health allocations will become clear. We heard in the debate that local authorities will have even more responsibilities, for example, for burials in some aspects. Their rent will be diminished through the housing revenue account. It was telling that the Secretary of State said that help for charities would need to come from clinical commissioning groups, not local authorities. That perhaps reflects how hollowed our local authorities are, but how will the national volunteer effort, which we heard about again today, be delivered if it is not with the support of local authorities?

The Minister said at the start of the debate that we should be fighting this war while we are planning the peace. Then let us learn the lessons. We need to recognise how our response is being made harder because of changes that have occurred over recent years. My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) listed the many sad, historic NHS waiting list records we have recently reached. We did not have any reference, in introductory speeches, to the health inequalities data that have come out recently, and we did not have reference to the crises in mental health and other areas. We needed a long-term plan for social care before this crisis. We needed the 100,000 staff we are missing from our NHS before this crisis. We are asking those staff to make extraordinary efforts. They have a sense of grim determination, passion and commitment to do the right thing, but we should never, ever again be asking them to do the right thing with so few resources after 10 years.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
16 Mar 2020, 9:52 p.m.

It is a pleasure to speak at the end of this long but very interesting debate, with 34 contributions by Back-Bench Members from across the House. Before I attempt to respond to many of the questions, I would first like to extend my very best wishes to the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) on her birthday today. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

We have been fortunate in this debate to hear three excellent maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham) said that he is the first Conservative to be elected in Burnley since 1910. He spoke about his passion to end hospital car parking charges. It is great that the Budget has moved us forward in that regard, with the changes beginning in April.

We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), who, very movingly, told the story of Tommy in two different scenarios, speaking very much to the aspirations of the Government in terms of investment in life opportunities. He also spoke very openly and bravely about his Christian faith.

We also heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici), who, supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), made the case for a free port in her constituency. The Government will take very seriously the representations she made.

I recognise that the debate was punctuated by a very important statement from the Secretary of State for Health. I also recognise that the hon. Member for Oxford East raised a number of questions, some of which I will be able to respond to. I am sure my colleagues across Government will be making further statements in coming days to clarify some of those points. The Government are committed to supporting our world-class public services with the investment they need: investment in the here and now, with a £30 billion package for the country to tackle covid-19, including a £5 billion Cobra response fund for the NHS and other public services; and investment for the future. She is right that there has been a material development as a consequence of today’s announcement, and there are matters that we in the Treasury will reflect on carefully, but a support package for business was set out last week and we will look at that in terms of what we say later this week.

In last year’s spending round, the Government pledged an additional £34 billion for the NHS by the end of this Parliament, together with 20,000 more police and an additional £14 billion for education over the next three years. That was only the beginning of our ambition, however. We are determined to deliver for the people who put their trust in us. We are ready to take the big decisions necessary to transform our country. The Budget is proof of that commitment.

By the end of this Parliament, day-to-day spending on public services will be £100 billion more in cash terms than when we came into government a decade ago. Nowhere is our commitment more evident than in the national health service. In 2018, the Government agreed a historic multi-year funding settlement and committed to spend an additional £34 billion by 2024. Through the Budget, the Government will commit a further £6 billion.

Together, that provides the financial security and certainty that the health service needs to prepare for the future at a time when it is under unprecedented pressure to once again step up and go beyond the call of duty. It means that we can proceed with delivering 50,000 more nurses. It will fund the creation of 50 million more GP surgery appointments a year and it will enable work to start on 40 new hospitals. Crucially, we will also invest in the future health and wellbeing of our society, with £1 billion extra for adult social care every year of this Parliament, and nearly £650 million to help rough sleepers into permanent accommodation.

The Government’s most important task is to keep the public safe. Thanks to the £750 million we made available at the spending round, the first of 20,000 additional police officers are now being recruited. Last week’s Budget confirmed that we will make available an additional £114 million in support of counter-terrorism efforts. Ultimately, a safe and secure society rests on a firm but humane justice system that can reform and rehabilitate offenders back into society, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) said. We will improve conditions for those living and working in our prison system, which my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) raised, while increasing the number of offenders required to wear electronic tags and expanding the number of hours offenders can spend doing unpaid work.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor made it clear that this was a Budget for businesses. If we are to unleash the potential of businesses across the country, we need to equip people with the skills to match our ambition. Last year’s spending round provided schools with a three-year settlement, so that per pupil funding can rise at least in line with inflation, which was welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Laura Farris) in her thoughtful contribution.

In this Budget, the Government will invest a further £95 million to support the roll-out of T-levels, and we will fund 11 maths schools across every region of the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, £1.5 billion will be made available for capital spending in the further education sector and we will bring together employers and educators to open eight new institutes of technology. Those measures will help to ensure that our country has the skills it needs to prosper, not just today, but into the 2030s, 2040s and beyond.

Alongside our increased investment in public services, we will redouble our efforts to clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion. The vast majority of taxpayers in this country—businesses and individuals alike—pay their correct taxes on time and expect others to do the same. For that reason, the Government will give Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs more funding to tackle non-compliance and secure an extra £4.4 billion of revenue that is not currently obtained. Every penny that HMRC can recover will mean more money for frontline public services.

Now that we have left the European Union, our future is in our hands. The Government are determined to seize the opportunity to create a country that is not only stronger and more prosperous, but safer, fairer and healthier too.

This Budget will ensure that our police have the resources that they need to keep our streets safe. We will ensure that the NHS has the doctors, nurses and other professionals that it needs to continue delivering world-class healthcare, free to every man, woman and child, for decades to come. The Budget will also help our schools, colleges and universities to equip young people to thrive in life, and our economy to access the talent and skills that it needs to grow. I urge Members in all parts of the House to support the Budget tomorrow evening.

Local Bank Closures

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Wednesday 12th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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HM Treasury
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
12 Jun 2019, 2:31 p.m.

It is a pleasure to speak with you in the Chair, Ms Ryan, in this interesting and well-informed debate, and to sit across from the Minister. I was starting to get withdrawal symptoms because there have not been many statutory instruments recently, although I am sure the Government will rectify that.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) on securing this debate, as I know that the issue has seriously affected many of his constituents and local businesses. For those without an intimate knowledge of north-east Scotland, let me underline that the communities we are talking about are often far apart. They either have next to no public transport, or it is of poor quality and very expensive. Local facilities are therefore incredibly important.

As the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows) rightly said, we had a debate on a similar topic just a few days ago. It was mentioned that in certain circumstances an ATM might close on a high street that still has a number of different facilities. We are not talking about that in this debate; we are talking about situations where few facilities are available. This is not about duplication; it is often about the last services moving away. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, this is about social and rural isolation.

High street banks are an essential part of our financial infrastructure and they help to support local economies and communities. The bank branch network has been shrinking at an accelerating pace. Many statistics have already been given, but the UK has lost nearly two-thirds of its bank and building society branches over the past 30 years. In 2018 and 2019, banks and building societies will have closed, or planned to close, a total of 1,080 branches, and 3,318 branches have shut in the past four years. Banks have been closing at a rate of nearly 70 a month. Overall, a fifth of the population lives more than two miles from their nearest branch—and a good deal further away in some of the situations that have been mentioned.

The debate has focused particularly on Scotland, where there have been a large number of closures, with RBS alone closing more than 200 branches—a 70% reduction in just five years. There have been similar developments across the country. In the north-west, 425 bank branches have closed since 2015, and even in the south-east—I represent a south-east constituency—more than 410 branches have closed since 2015, including one in Headington in my constituency. Such closures occur everywhere, and they often have a particularly significant impact on the most disadvantaged people.

The recent debate on the Treasury Committee’s report on consumer access to financial services emphasised the importance of local banks at a time when many people are not able to access basic financial services. That disenfranchises them from many different activities.

Research shows that in 2006-07, more than 1 million people had no access to a bank account in their household. Although that fell to 660,000 in 2012-13, it increased to 730,000 in 2013-14. We are going in the wrong direction in terms of access to basic financial services. We need to be clear that in many cases the process is leading to people who are already digitally excluded being financially excluded. That point was very well underlined by the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont).

There are also impacts for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. A YouGov poll showed that more than 68% of SME customers said that a branch was important, and 66% said they needed the bank branch because of the need to discuss issues face to face. The Federation of Small Businesses has done some interesting work on this. The situation in Lossiemouth when the town ran out of cash has happened in other places as well—it is not the only instance of that occurring. As the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) said, bank branch closures put a burden on businesses and organisations. Sports clubs were mentioned. They might be collecting a large amount of cash and want to be able to get rid of that cash to a bank branch, but they are not able to.

Worryingly, the situation is also leading to issues with SME lending. For example, the British Bankers Association pointed out that bank branch closures dampen SME lending growth by 63% on average in postcodes that lose a bank branch. That figure rises to more than 100% when an area loses its last bank in town. This is not just about inconvenience. It is a much bigger issue for many businesses, and is arguably part of the reason why we have not seen investment come back to the level we want.

The Opposition acknowledge the importance of dealing with this issue and have set out plans for a radical shake-up of the UK banking system, which needs a change to the law so that banks cannot close a branch where there is a clear local need. We believe that the duties of the Financial Conduct Authority need to be broadened, and that amendments are needed to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000—particularly part 4A, which authorises banks to carry on regulated activity: the banking licence.

We would seek to amend the process substantively. I was pleased to hear a number of Members mention that, including the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr). I will not go through all the details on how it should be amended, as others need to speak, but it is important that we see meaningful consultation. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) also rightly underlined the fact that local authorities are often not part of the process, but they need to be.

The hon. Member for Moray and many other Members referred to the role of the post office network. There are strong grounds for believing that that role can be boosted, but not simply through it becoming the default option for offering services without any extra support. That is simply not sustainable. The Labour party has commissioned research to look at how a proper postbank network could be set up, how it could be financed and how it could operate. I hope the Government will look at that. The current approach is just not working, and we cannot rely on sub-postmasters who are already overburdened to deliver the services. A big part of the answer has to be to boost credit unions, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant). I know the Minister is interested in that, but we need to do more.

As the debate has highlighted, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to take action to deal with the shrinking bank branch network. The Government need to do more to invest in our communities and to support local high streets. Strengthening their approach to bank branch closures would be a straightforward way to deal with a number of issues. We need to take immediate action to preserve and build on our banking infrastructure to create a system that works and that serves a diverse range of customers and communities.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
12 Jun 2019, 3:44 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) on securing this important debate. I acknowledge the contributions of all who have spoken this afternoon. I have listened carefully to the speeches, and it is good to have seven of my hon. Friends from north of the border here. I will endeavour to answer the points substantively.

I gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee this morning on this very issue. Straight after this debate, I hope to make a speech at the Which? cash summit, where I will set out the work being done by industry, the Government and regulators to ensure that access to cash is safeguarded. I recognise that this is a very important issue for many of our constituents. In my own constituency of Salisbury, I have seen bank branches close and I understand how difficult that is for communities. We have heard some specific examples this afternoon of the distress that can be caused when the process does not go smoothly. I recognise there are different opinions across the House about how the challenge should be met, and I will address those shortly.

Undoubtedly, the fact that the retail financial landscape is changing rapidly, as more consumers and businesses opt for the convenience, security and speed of digital payments and digital banking, is a significant factor. Ten years ago, cash accounted for more than three fifths of all payments in the UK; today, the figure is less than three in 10—and that is anticipated to fall to less than one in 10 in nine years, by 2028. In 2017, debit cards overtook cash for the first time as the most frequently used payment method in the UK.

I am very sensitive to the point made by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) that debit cards are not everyone’s choice; it is really important that we keep in focus the need to maintain access to cash. In 2018, two thirds of UK adults used contactless payments, 72% of UK adults used online banking and 48% used mobile banking. How we use financial services is changing and consumers have more choice than ever. It is an exciting time, but it is also a disruptive and potentially confusing time for our constituents.

Closing a branch is never an easy decision, but the decision will ultimately be a commercial one for the bank. The Government have been clear that we do not intervene in those decisions because industry is best placed to know what works best for its customers. I recognise that branch closures can be very disappointing for customers and the impact on communities must be understood, considered and mitigated where possible. I will therefore set out some of the ongoing work in this area—in particular, access to the banking standard and how it might be enhanced.

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

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Tuesday 26th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 10:17 a.m.

I rise to support the Opposition’s new clause 2, which is similar in intent to the SNP’s amendment 10. I would like to associate myself with many of the comments by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central. It is a pleasure to follow her in this debate. Labour’s new clause 2 is broader in scope than amendment 10, but it pushes in the same direction.

Our new clause would require the Treasury, prior to making any regulations under this Bill, to publish a report on the impact of the provisions of those regulations. In particular, we specify that the report should cover the following aspects: first, the impact of the provisions on households at different levels of income; secondly, the impact of provisions on people with protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010, with which I am sure we are all familiar; thirdly, the impact of the provisions on the Treasury’s compliance with the public sector equality duty with which I am sure, again, Members are familiar; and finally, the impact of the provisions on equality in different parts of the UK and different regions of England. The new clause underlines the pressing need for a greater understanding of the impact of legislation such as this on the real economy and on the people who work within it and are impacted by it.

Throughout this process, the Opposition have been concerned about the lack of impact assessments being provided for different pieces of legislation, yet even when they have been provided to us, they have often been highly restricted in scope as well as often arriving late in the day. Often, the main element receiving consideration within the impact assessments has been the familiarisation costs to business of the different measures. That has rightly been criticised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), and indeed last night by the Chair of the Treasury Committee. They both pointed out that the formula for calculating even familiarisation costs is highly mechanistic, relying solely on an assessment of the time spent reading each word of the new regulations, rather than a proper consideration of the level of impact of new regulations on different business practices, for example. Indeed, the Chair of the Treasury Committee has suggested that a better approach might be to ask firms for an assessment of what their adjustment costs will be, then produce a proxy based on that assessment. That could be a sensible way forward. I appreciate that the formula is currently set across Government, rather than just by the Treasury, but surely the area needs to be considered in a much broader context. We have tried to broaden the debate by specifying the elements that need to be taken into account in assessing the Bill’s impact, in line with our general approach to economic decision making.

Financial regulations often come across as a very rarefied area, but we all know that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley pointed out, the consequences of getting them wrong can be enormous, especially for specific groups. Whether or not we agree—personally I do not—that cuts to social security were necessary to reduce the deficit that had been created by measures that followed the financial crisis, the burden of those cuts has clearly had an uneven impact on different groups.

The areas of regulation covered in the Bill could have highly disparate impacts. Arguably, the process of financialisation and the intensification of investment banking compared with relationship banking—boring banking, as we might call it—have helped to fuel the imbalance in lending. Over recent years, there has been an enormous move in the UK banking system away from loans to small and medium-sized enterprises and towards loans for real estate. That process has been much more marked outside London and the south-east—it has had a regional impact. The Bill covers some of the instruments that were involved in that process. Capital requirements also have an impact on the structure of banking and its regional distribution, so it is very important that we consider the issues properly.

Finally, I have a question for the Minister about his understanding of the impact of the better regulation provisions. I had assumed all along, as I am sure many other hon. Members did, that those provisions would not apply to this process, given the Government’s stated intention not to water down regulations. As hon. Members will be aware, the better regulation approach specifies “one in, three out”: for every new regulation introduced, three regulations must go. The same issue came up in a debate last night on a very different subject, albeit one that also related to no deal: the REACH etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, the no-deal provisions on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—another incredibly complex body of legislation.

We do not have a clear answer from the Minister on the matter, so I would appreciate his assurance that the better regulation provisions will not apply to the process. If they did, it would counteract any claims made in this Committee or elsewhere that there would be no watering down. The issue is particularly relevant to new clause 2, because the better regulation process focuses only on the costs to business; it does not consider the costs, from a regional perspective, of not regulating, or the potential countervailing benefits to other groups. I have been informed that the better regulation provisions will not be applied to Grenfell-related fire safety regulations. Will the Minister confirm that they will not apply to this process, either?

If we suddenly find that the “one in, three out” provisions apply in this case, we will be in very different territory. There will be even more need for a proper impact assessment, because to an extent it will counteract some of the mechanistic impacts of the “one in, three out” process.

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.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

The schedule contains a list of financial services files that are essential for ensuring the continued competitiveness and functionality of UK markets. Those files consist of 13 EU legislative proposals that are currently in negotiation and may enter into the EU Official Journal up to two years post EU-exit.

It is not an exhaustive list of all in-flight EU financial services legislation. In order to bring before both Houses a Bill that was as narrow in scope as possible, a triage process was undertaken to settle on files deemed essential to the ongoing functionality, reputation and international competitiveness of our financial sector in the crucial period following a no deal. Some in-flight legislation, for example, relates solely to the eurozone, so it would be inappropriate to include it in the Bill. I extend my thanks once more to the Lords, who suggested expanding the list to include the remaining two sustainable finance files, which was a suggestion that we were happy to accept.

In short, the files in the schedule are those that we believe will be most important for market functioning and UK competitiveness in a no-deal scenario. I recommend that the schedule be the schedule to the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule accordingly agreed to.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard

I beg your pardon, Sir Edward, but I would like to ask for the Chair’s clarification if I may. We wish to clarify whether it is the case that as clause 1 was ordered to stand part of the Bill, new clause 1 falls, and that that is why we have not had a vote on it. Is that the case?

Exiting the EU (Financial Services)

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Monday 25th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Feb 2019, 5:44 p.m.

I beg to move,

That the draft Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which were laid before this House on 31 January, be approved.

The Treasury has been undertaking a programme of legislation to ensure that, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period, there continues to be a functioning legislative and regulatory regime for financial services in the UK. The statutory instrument being debated today will fix deficiencies in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, commonly referred to as FSMA, and subordinate legislation made under FSMA, which are an important part of the UK’s regulatory framework for financial services.

A key function of this legislation is to define the “regulatory perimeter” that sets out the activities and financial institutions that are in scope of UK financial services regulation. In a no-deal scenario, the UK would be outside the EU’s supervisory and regulatory framework, resulting in deficiencies in the existing legislation. Specifically, many provisions in the legislation set the scope of regulated activities based on firms being authorised and operating across the single market, or by referring to definitions in EU law, which will no longer be workable after exit.

As Members will be aware, the EEA Passport Rights (Amendment, etc., and Transitional Provisions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018, which Parliament has approved, begin the process of removing legislative provisions that facilitate passporting in the UK, as well as providing for a temporary permissions regime allowing EEA firms to continue their activities for a limited period after exit day, giving them time to become UK-authorised.

While the SI being debated today does not alter the underlying policy of the UK’s legislative framework for financial services, many of the proposed changes in it are necessary to complete the task of removing passporting-related provisions and to define the UK’s regulatory perimeter as a regime operating outside the EU. Many of the definitions of regulated activities in FSMA, and in the Regulated Activities Order 2001 made under FSMA, include the EEA in their scope and rely on definitions in EU law to operate. To reflect the UK’s new position outside the EU, the SI will amend the territorial scope of those definitions where needed, so that they apply only to the UK after exit.

As well as setting the general regulatory perimeter, FSMA and subordinate legislation contain some specific provisions that are important to the UK’s regulatory regime. For example, provisions in FSMA specify certain important functions for which authorised firms must obtain approval from the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority, under either the approved persons regime or the senior managers and certification regime. FSMA currently exempts EEA firms from elements of those UK conduct regimes, which would no longer be safe or appropriate once the UK is outside the EU’s single market. The SI therefore removes this exemption for EEA firms.

Some of the changes proposed in this SI are also necessary to ensure that UK regulators can continue to carry out their statutory functions. As I have mentioned, this SI will complete the process of removing passporting-related provisions. This will mean that some firms and fund managers may face new requirements as result of these necessary changes. The SI therefore creates some transitional arrangements to mitigate disruption to those EEA firms and their consumers. For example, some of these transitional provisions relate to certain financial instruments, financial documents or contracts that have been issued or entered into pre-exit, ensuring that they continue to operate effectively after exit for an appropriate period.

Even with the specific transitional arrangements we are making in this and other onshoring SIs, firms will still be faced with a large volume of regulatory changes that they will need to adapt to in a no-deal scenario. This could cause significant disruption to the financial services sector and consumers immediately after exit, and firms will need more time to adjust to these new requirements. To prepare for this scenario, this SI creates a temporary transitional power that allows the UK regulators to defer or modify changed requirements for firms.

This temporary power is designed to replicate the adjustment time that firms would have if the implementation period in the proposed withdrawal agreement were ratified. For that reason, the temporary transitional power would be available for two years from exit day. Any directions made under the transitional power would therefore expire at the end of that two-year period, after which firms would have to comply with all new requirements in legislation. The UK regulators are best placed to decide how to phase in onshoring regulatory changes, working with the firms they supervise and using their supervisory judgment. I am particularly grateful to the members of the Treasury Committee, who took the time to scrutinise this temporary transitional power in the recent hearing that took place on 29 January. I am pleased that the Committee acknowledged the need for the temporary power, with the Chair concluding that

“although this is unprecedented, these powers are needed in order to make sure our financial services sector works, whatever might happen”.

The Treasury has been working closely with the regulators in the drafting of this SI. It has also engaged industry on the SI through a cross-sectoral working group with representatives of the financial services sector. That group is chaired by TheCityUK and has representation from a number of different trade associations and law firms. Industry has expressed support for the provisions in this SI and welcomed the proposed transitional arrangements as prudent and pragmatic.

Before I conclude, I would like to draw the House’s attention to two minor mistakes that have been discovered in the SI and the explanatory memorandum that accompanied it. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen from time to time, and where they are found it is important that an explanation is put on the record. Shortly after the SI was laid, a small typographical error was discovered in regulation 202(2)(a); it refers to the “Prudential Regulatory Authority”, whereas of course it should read the “Prudential Regulation Authority”. A correction slip will shortly be made to put that right.

In preparation for this debate, a minor inaccuracy was discovered in paragraph 2.55 of the explanatory memorandum. This SI removes the exemption from the requirement for a financial prospectus to be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority if it has been approved in another European economic area state. This amendment is correctly explained in paragraph 2.55, but the paragraph also says that the SI makes transitional provision for prospectuses approved by an EEA regulator before exit day. Although there will be such a transitional provision, it is not made in this SI; it is made in the Official Listing of Securities, Prospectus and Transparency (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which were debated in the other place on 18 February and in this House on 19 February. I apologise for the mistake, but hope the House will agree that this is a very minor mistake that does not alter the substance of the explanation provided in the explanatory memorandum. However, I will be re-laying the explanatory memorandum to ensure that the mistake is corrected.

In summary, the Government believe that the proposed legislation is necessary to ensure that there is a functioning legislative framework for financial services regulation in the UK after exit.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Feb 2019, 4:28 p.m.

It is a pleasure to be here today and to have the opportunity to speak on these important provisions. Of course this is not the first time that I have sat across from the Minister—mainly in Committee Rooms—to discuss delegated legislation relating to no-deal provisions for financial instruments, but I am pleased that at least this debate is taking place in the Chamber.

I am grateful to Chair of the Treasury Committee, the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), for writing to the Leader of the House and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to help secure this debate. It will not come as a surprise to Members that I robustly agree with the points she made in her letter about why this instrument merits a debate on the Floor of the House, given, as she says,

“the wide-reaching scope of powers that are being provided to the regulators.”

The Opposition made the same point in their request for a debate on the Floor of the House on the markets in financial instruments directive—MiFID—SI back in November. MiFID is a cornerstone of the regulatory architecture of UK capital markets, numbering tens of thousands of pages and enshrining important retail market protections. Yet that request was denied, and the Opposition made very clear at the time their objections and their concerns about the democratic implications of that. So although I am pleased that we now have the opportunity to participate in a wider debate about another significant item of regulation, it is not before time, and I wish that the Government had heeded our calls earlier.

We are now three months on from that MiFID SI and, thus, significantly closer to the potential reality that these items of legislation may end up on the statute book. We are now barely one month away from 29 March, yet we are still without a ratified EU exit deal. Therefore it is more important than ever that this legislation is properly scrutinised, as, unfortunately, the likelihood that it might be used increases. Tomorrow, myself and a number of colleagues currently in the Chamber will discuss the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill in the Public Bill Committee. That Bill handles the EU regulations currently in train that will be implemented over the next two years. It worries the Opposition deeply that we are entering into a patchwork of regulation on financial services. We have debated dozens of SIs that allocate new powers to different institutions, including the FCA, the PRA, the Bank of England and the Treasury, yet we have no central means of assessing those new powers and what they look like in the round. Instead, they must be pieced together across different items of legislation, which is extremely challenging from a scrutiny perspective and risks clashes and inconsistencies. Should we crash out without a deal, it will be even more difficult, given the overall context, to keep track of which body was empowered to do what and for how long.

That is especially relevant when it comes to the instrument we are discussing today. The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, like MiFID, is a sprawling piece of financial regulation that touches on many different areas of the market. It therefore impacts significantly on the powers that regulators will need to take on functions from the EU. It also interacts in several different ways with the overall programme of no-deal secondary legislation, most notably with the temporary permissions regime, as the Minister acknowledged. So, first, may I ask him to clarify why this instrument has been scheduled quite so late in the process, when we are just a month away from exit? What financial institutions require at this point more than anything is certainty. Leaving such a linchpin of UK markets until the eleventh hour seems as though it will place unnecessary stress on UK financial services firms, given that policies such as the temporary permissions regime were determined earlier in the process, in recognition of the time they would need to be implemented. The Treasury’s own estimate, in its impact assessment, of the number of firms that will need to familiarise themselves with this instrument, is 59,200. So this is significant pressure to place on a large number of firms so close to exit day, especially as the instrument outlines conditions that must be met by exit day.

For example, the instrument stipulates new rules for firms that are already in the process of making a part 7 insurance transfer between UK and EEA entities, with onshoring legislation introducing a savings provisions in relation to insurance business transfer schemes. But for it to be available in the two years following exit—as the Minister rightly said, to shadow the approach that would have been taken if we had a proper implementation period—an independent expert required for the transfer must have been appointed by exit day and a transaction fee must have been paid to the PRA. Can the Minister confidently say that firms that are impacted are aware of this and will have sufficient time to carry it out, given how close we are to exit day?

The Opposition’s other concern is the sweeping bestowing of yet more powers on to the regulator, without sufficient checks and balances. We have repeated our issues with that on numerous occasions in Committee. Although we have been told by the Government that these instruments do not represent policy judgments, in our view deciding where to allocate powers, along with their extent and duration, is intrinsically a policy judgment. Simply substituting the FCA for the European Securities and Markets Authority, and the Treasury for the European Commission, is not a straight swap. The two European institutions interact in a different way from the FCA and Treasury, with different checks and balances. These issues need proper discussion and scrutiny.

The impact assessment provided by the Treasury for this Bill maps out how regulators will be able to execute these new powers. It states that

“to apply the power, the relevant regulator will need to make a ‘direction’ which should be brought to the attention of the affected firm or group of firms. Before making a direction, the regulator will need to consult other regulators where the other regulator’s functions may be affected by the direction. The regulator will also need to consult HM Treasury. Directions will be published by the regulators unless doing so would adversely affect their statutory objectives.”

So we have here a mapping out of the intra-regulatory consultation, but where is the wider consultation that will take place with the affected firms and other stakeholders before proceeding? We are informed about this being “brought to the attention” of these bodies, not about a consultation. The Minister’s comments on that were slightly vague. He was talking about the whole package of financial services legislation, rather than about this specific aspect. Our concern is that this sounds like a power to make regulations simply via public notice, with limited accountability and recourse.

I am grateful for the time the Minister and his team have taken to brief me throughout this process. Nevertheless, we would be failing in our duty as the Opposition if we did not highlight our serious concerns about the use of the SI process to prepare us in this way. Some colleagues here today will have heard us list those objections in Committee previously, but to reiterate: we believe the magnitude and volume of changes proposed should have been consolidated into one piece of primary legislation that could have been better scrutinised. Indeed, at the session last week in the other place on subordinate legislation transparency and accountability, the Conservative peer Lord Lexden voiced the Committee’s concerns about the number of drafting errors in instruments. That is surely an indication that the scale of this project was too large. I must praise the Minister’s candour in acknowledging that there were drafting mistakes in this SI. As he knows—he has kindly taken on board this fact—I have identified a drafting error in one of the SIs that was presented to us. I do not believe this is the Minister’s fault, nor do I believe it is the fault of his civil servants, who are working enormously hard on this package of legislation. It is, however, an indicator of the fact that those who believe that preparations for no deal can be simple are kidding themselves and do not understand the magnitude of the task. We simply do not understand what issues we may be storing up for the future, especially as the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, in which this legislation would be used, are so hard to predict. I can only hope that we do not find out. The Opposition will do everything in our power to prevent a no-deal outcome, despite the Prime Minister’s reckless running down of the clock by postponing the meaningful vote yet again just yesterday.

Exiting the European Union (Financial Services)

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Monday 18th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Feb 2019, 6:48 p.m.

I will examine that and, if I may, I will come back to it and seek to clarify it when I wind up this debate.

Both the Government and UK regulators attach very high priority to putting these agreements in place, and I am pleased to report that UK and EU regulators are making good progress in their discussions to finalise these agreements. The Treasury has been working very closely with the Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority in the drafting of this instrument, and there has also been engagement with the financial services industry, including the publication of this instrument in draft, along with an explanatory policy note on 9 January. In summary, the Government believe that the proposed deficiency fixes are necessary to ensure that the UK has a clearly defined and operable set of rules for the disclosure of confidential information.

I turn now to the Money Market Funds (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which relate to the establishment, management, and marketing of money market funds. Such funds invest in highly liquid instruments, and provide a short-term, stable cash-management function to financial institutions, corporations and local governments. They are commonly used by investors as an alternative to bank deposits. The regulations formed part of the response to the 2008 global financial crash to preserve the integrity and stability of the EU market, and to ensure that money market funds are a resilient financial instrument. They do so by ensuring uniform rules on prudential requirements, governance and transparency for managers of these funds.

Money market funds can either be structured as Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities—UCITS—or as an alternative investment fund. Therefore, they are regulated as UCITS or as an alternative investment fund, in addition to being regulated as a money market fund. The regimes for UCITS and alternative investment fund managers have been separately amended to reflect the UK leaving the EU by the Collective Investment Schemes (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and Alternative Investment Fund Managers (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018, which were taken through Committee, where I believe I was joined by the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), and have now been approved in both Houses and will be made shortly. In a no-deal scenario, the UK would be outside the EEA, and outside the EU’s legal, supervisory and financial regulatory framework. EEA money market funds, which currently provide the majority of money market services in the UK, would not be able to continue to service UK clients. The money market funds regulation therefore needs to be updated to reflect this and ensure that the provisions work properly in a no-deal scenario.

First, these draft regulations remove references to the Union which are no longer appropriate and to EU legislation which will not form part of retained EU law. These references will be replaced by references to the UK and to relevant domestic and retained EU legislation. Secondly, in line with the general approach taken to the onshoring of EU legislation, the SI will transfer functions currently within the remit of EU authorities; from the European Securities and Markets Authority, to the FCA, and from the European Commission to Her Majesty’s Treasury.

As the UK’s regulator for investment funds and the current national competent authority for money market funds, the FCA has extensive experience in the asset management sector, and it is therefore the most appropriate domestic institution to take on these functions from the European Securities and Markets Authority. This statutory instrument transfers all powers exercised by ESMA to the FCA. The FCA will become responsible for technical standards on how funds should stress test their funds, and it will gain two operational powers to establish a register and reporting template for money market funds.

This statutory instrument transfers any power currently exercised by the Commission to the Treasury, in line with the other statutory instruments that we have taken through. Those powers all relate to creating rules concerning standards for money market funds, such as their liquidity and quantification of credit risk.

As I have mentioned, EU money market funds are structured and further regulated as UCITS or alternative investment funds. This statutory instrument makes provision to ensure that EU money market funds can use the temporary marketing permissions regime, as legislated for in the Collective Investment Schemes (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018. Following an assessment by the FCA and the submission of a written statement to both Houses, the Treasury will be able to extend that by a maximum of 12 months at a time. It will also allow for EU money market funds that are currently marketing into the UK, and any subsequent UCITS sub-funds, to continue to market into the UK for up to three years after exit day.

This statutory instrument amends the scope of the regulation to apply to the UK only, with the effect of only allowing the marketing of UK-authorised MMFs or MMFs managed by UK fund managers. However, further amendments maintain the eligibility of EEA MMFs with temporary permissions to continue to market in the UK at the end of the temporary marketing permissions regime if they gain the required permissions to market as a third-country fund under the UK domestic framework.

Money market funds that are UCITS will be required to gain authorisation under section 272 of FSMA, while the managers of money market funds that are alternative investment funds will need to notify under the national private placements regime. The UK currently has a very small domestic market that relies heavily on EEA money market funds, so these provisions address the cliff-edge risks that could arise as a consequence of defaulting to a UK-only market. That will ensure that local governments, businesses and other UK investors can continue to access their investments and have a choice of money market funds to use for cash management.

As with the previous statutory instrument, the Treasury has been working very closely with the FCA in the drafting of this statutory instrument and engaging with the financial services industry. I would like to put on record my gratitude to TheCityUK for convening appropriate representative bodies throughout the process. In November the Treasury published the statutory instrument in draft, along with an explanatory policy note, to maximise transparency to Parliament and industry.

In summary, the Government believe that the proposed legislation is necessary to ensure that the framework for money market funds continues effectively, and that the legislation continues to function appropriately if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period. I hope colleagues will join me in supporting the regulations.

I would like to respond to the point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman). Parliament will amend the regulations as necessary for a deal scenario. If we have a deal, an amendment process would apply to all the regulations that we have taken through. Most of them would need to be repealed, but we would do so according to the terms of the deal. I have nothing more to say at this point, and I commend these regulations to the House.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
18 Feb 2019, 4:48 p.m.

First, may I associate myself with the heartfelt tributes that have been paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), and I express my sympathies to his family?

We are here to discuss two no-deal statutory instruments appertaining to financial services. Members will be aware that the Conservative Government refused to allow a debate on the Floor of the House about arguably the most significant such SI—the one concerning the markets in financial instruments directive, which was sufficiently complex to require a Keeling schedule. The Government did agree to a recent debate on an SI concerning securitisation, but of course that was not a no-deal SI, and the debate only happened when the Opposition prayed against the SI. Members may be forgiven for scratching their heads about why the Conservative Government have adopted such a different tactic this time; I am sure Members can come to their own conclusions on why this debate is taking place on the Floor of the House today.

These statutory instruments make provision for a regulatory framework after Brexit in the event that we crash out without a deal. The volume of such legislation is deeply concerning for accountability and proper scrutiny. The Government have assured the Opposition that no policy decisions are being taken as part of the no-deal process. However, establishing a new regulatory framework inevitably involves matters of judgment and raises questions about resourcing and capacity. Secondary legislation ought to be used only for technical, non-partisan and non-controversial changes, because of the limited accountability it normally allows; instead, the Government continue to push through far-reaching financial legislation via this vehicle.

As legislators, we have to get this right. The regulations could represent real and substantive changes to the statute book, and as such, they need proper and in-depth scrutiny. I am slightly surprised to see some Government Members shaking their heads at the idea that we need appropriate scrutiny. It is incredibly important, and in the light of that, the Opposition would like to put on record our deepest concerns that the process regarding regulations in the event of no deal is not as accessible and transparent as it should be.

The rationale for these SIs is preparation for a no-deal Brexit—something that continues to be retained on the table by the Conservative Government despite clear evidence of the harm that that is doing to our economy. Last week in this Chamber, I mentioned the concerning slowdown in growth rates and the shift into recession of our manufacturing sector. The financial sector has not been immune; quite the opposite. As many Members will know, Ernst and Young has created what it calls a Brexit tracker, which monitors the public statements of more than 200 of the biggest financial services companies operating in the UK. As of January this year, the tracker showed that more than a third of the financial services companies that were tracked indicated that they are considering moving or have confirmed that they will move some of their staff or operations outside the UK. As we consider these two financial services SIs, we must reflect on why the current Government continue to retain the so-called option of no deal, especially given that the House has emphatically shown its opposition to such an outcome.

The first SI appears to cobble together three sets of legislative changes to a variety of parent legislation. The Minister, as he always does, made a valiant attempt to present a coherent case, but we are talking about three different sets of changes. As with other SIs that the Opposition have contested, the parent legislation includes primary legislation, not least, as the Minister acknowledged, FSMA. Yet again, we see here the operation of Henry VIII powers.

In connection with that, I note that as of last Thursday, 288 changes have been made to FSMA as part of the preparation for no deal. That is an enormous number of changes to primary legislation, and it has been delivered in a completely piecemeal manner. We have no indication of when Government will present us with a finalised and integrated version of the new no-deal legislation, coupled with the primary legislation that it amends. Perhaps the Minister, in his concluding remarks, can tell us whether his Department has such an overview and, if so, whether it would be willing to share it with the House and the public so that we can better understand what the financial services regulatory system would look like in the event of no deal.

The explanatory notes for the regulations were truly a masterpiece of the kind we have come to know well from no-deal SIs. I note that Her Majesty’s Treasury uses the crystal mark on some of its documents. I am sorry to speak so bluntly, but HMT would perhaps have done well to use the crystal mark’s drivel detector—its words, not mine—on the explanatory notes. All they did was to list the bits of legislation that were being changed. In no case did they explain why, aside from maintaining that doing so was necessary to address deficiencies. Yet again, we find questionable decisions being taken with no explanation.

Not all the changes in the regulations appear even to relate to the EU. For example, there are changes relating to disclosure requirements and to the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers—in regulation 2—but there is no indication why those changes have been made. Again, definitions are changed, such as that for short selling regulation information, but it is not clear whether that definition will be replaced elsewhere or, indeed, why it had to change in the first place.

Perhaps most worryingly, we see yet again a shift away from EU requirements, which suggests that these measures are potentially going beyond direct transposition and instead diluting existing provisions. For example, the wording of one article of the EU regulation on short selling and certain aspects of credit default swaps—sorry, that is not a lovely name to pronounce—is amended from “shall, where possible” to “may”. From my reading, the amended provisions relate to the obligation to liaise with third countries concerning the identification of where shares are traded, but it is not clear why that obligation should be watered down. There is a similar change to the 2014 market abuse regulation, where “shall, where necessary” is altered to “may”. It appears that the UK’s co-ordination with non-EU countries and its relations with the EU27 are being altered through these measures. The withdrawal Act does not provide the authority to do that.

The Minister appeared to suggest that this was to do with the exchange of confidential information and that we needed to have a different process. Surely, however, there are different ways of responding to the issue; there could have been measures in this legislation to deal with the problems and to ensure that information was appropriately guarded against anybody who might use it in an inappropriate way. However, we do not have that; instead, we have these provisions, with no explanation why.

Relatedly, there is no clear indication of the process to be used to determine which countries might be chosen for the conclusion of disclosure agreements mentioned by the Minister, or of the process required for those agreements. I absolutely agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman). Obviously, she was referring to the overall import of these regulations, but there are other ambiguities about timing. When it comes to the conclusion of disclosure agreements, does the process have to be completed by exit day? If it does, has that process started? If it has started, on whose authority has it started? Presumably, it is not the authority of this House. In addition, it would be helpful to understand why the Government have decided to follow a bilateral approach, rather than one that might have been integrated, with an integrated disclosure agreement that could have been signed with the European Securities and Markets Authority.

Finally, we are again informed that an impact assessment has not been conducted on this instrument, even though the explanatory memorandum states that there has been engagement with relevant stakeholders concerning the SI. It would be helpful if the Minister provided further details about that engagement.

Let me move now to the Money Market Funds (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019—I will just talk about MMFs from now on. Obviously, the regulations are intended to implement the EU’s MMF regulation of 2018. As described by the Minister, that regulation was intended to make money market funds more resilient against disturbances in the financial markets, reduce the risks of runs in the markets, limit cross-border contagion and improve investor protection. That regulation immediately applied to new MMFs, from July of last year, but it came into practice for existing MMFs very recently—just last month. I will not go into all the details of the use of MMFs, but I would just add charities to the list the Minister talked about—there are a number of different bodies that use these funds.

The process of creating the regulation was led by a UK Labour MEP in the European Parliament, Neena Gill. As many Members may be aware, the process was controversial; it was not entirely straightforward, and there was huge debate about whether the UK should exactly follow the US approach or not. There was a lot of scepticism about whether the system of MMFs, in and of itself, should be encouraged. Many have described it as a system of shadow banking, because of its relative lack of transparency.

As with other SIs tabled by the Government, there are a number of problems with this legislation. First, it provides a new definition of money market funds that is arguably circular. It describes them as

“instruments normally dealt in on the money market which…satisfy…Article 2a(1)”

of the regulation. That is quite a different approach from the one taken by the EU, even back in the days of the Committee of European Securities Regulators. Before ESMA was created, there was an inclusive list of activities that would lead to classification as an MMF. A different approach is taken here.

Secondly, again as with other pieces of no-deal financial services legislation, there is no indication why and how the FCA, in particular, is meant to adopt the regulatory approach suggested in this SI. Regulation 6 provides it with the power to regulate MMFs, but without explaining how that will impact on its existing activities. The Minister intimated the different kinds of activities that the FCA will have to take on as part of this process, but they are very onerous. Just in relation to reporting templates, ESMA produced a 135-page report after consultation with stakeholders about what should go into those templates. I assume that similar levels of detail might be required for the FCA. This will not be a light-touch area to move into. Again, there is a lack of clarity about the extent of industry consultation on this SI.

As has often been the case with these SIs, we have had some rather strange throwaway comments in relation to this SI. The guidance accompanying it states that it does not include provisions that may be necessary to ensure Gibraltarian financial services firms can have continued access to UK markets in line with the UK Government’s statement in March 2018 and other provisions dealing with Gibraltar more generally. It also says that, where necessary, provisions covering Gibraltar will be included in future SIs. Does that mean that provisions for Gibraltar should have been covered but that there just was not time to consider them properly, or is there a procedural reason why they are not covered here? Again, will we need an omnibus SI at some point covering regulatory arrangements for Gibraltarian financial services?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard

indicated assent.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am really pleased to see the Minister nodding, and I look forward to his explanation of why this has been an issue.

Above all, we see secondary legislation being used expansively here, with no overall indication of how it will interact with other pieces of secondary legislation and, indeed, primary legislation. There appears to be no rhyme or reason why the Conservative Government wish certain SIs to be taken on the Floor of the House and others to be taken in Committee—aside, that is, from a desire to fill the timetable for this week, after their mismanagement of the Brexit process. Issues of such importance as our nation’s financial stability and resilience surely deserve better than this.

Securitisation Regulations 2018

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Wednesday 13th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
13 Feb 2019, 3:35 p.m.

I beg to move,

That the Securitisation Regulations 2018 (S.I., 2018, No. 1288), dated 3 December 2018, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4 December 2018, be revoked.

These regulations are not labelled as no-deal preparatory regulations, but they are being pushed through via a statutory instrument in the middle of a series of about 70 Brexit-related statutory instruments relating to financial services, including one relating specifically to the operation of the securitisation regime. The matters raised by this instrument require more debate and scrutiny than they have been afforded. It is for that reason that we asked for this debate on the Floor of the House.

As the Minister will be aware, the official Opposition also requested a debate on the Floor of the House about the transposition of the markets in financial instruments directive no-deal regulations via an SI. Those regulations were so complex that they required the production of a Keeling schedule, yet they were pushed through as a negative SI without any broader debate. This SI may be less wide-ranging than the other one but, like it, it is focused on the aspects of the financial system that precipitated and amplified the 2008 financial crisis.

Securitisation refers to the pooling of different kinds of loans or debts and their repackaging into a single financial product that is sold to investors. The use of complex, opaque securitisations—particularly those linked to the US sub-prime housing market—has been viewed as a key element in transporting the negative impact of the credit crunch through the financial system into the heart of major financial institutions. It is therefore essential that any legislation proposing changes to the regulation of securities be carefully reviewed.

The regulations have three main causes of concern. First, schedule 1 amends primary regulation—the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. Schedule 1(8) nullifies the effect of section 399 of the Financial Services and Markets Act and disapplies section 402. Delegated legislation generally should not be used to amend primary legislation. Otherwise, it would allow the exercise of what lawyers and judges have disparagingly described as Henry VIII clauses. Put simply, primary legislation that has been drafted and reviewed by Parliament as a whole should not generally be revoked through statutory instruments. It might be argued that these regulations are part of a broader package of delegated legislation bringing in a new regime, but any regime of financial regulation is best set out in primary legislation. The Opposition made that point only two days ago in the debate on the transposition of so-called in-flight EU financial services legislation.

The EU securitisation regulations are wide-ranging. For example, they impose a number of requirements on institutional investors to carry out due diligence before investing in a securitisation position. They relate not only to individual decisions about specified positions, but to the creation of new procedures for monitoring compliance and stress-testing. They also introduce numerous requirements for transparency for securitisation, requiring the originator, the sponsor and the securitisation special purpose entity to designate one of their number to provide details of the securitisation, either to a repository or on a website. Finally, they provide preferential treatment to so-called simple, transparent and standardised securitisations, enabling them to be discounted for the purpose of allocating credit margins.

A core element of STS securitisation is the retention by originators, sponsors and original lenders of a 5% stake in the securitisation, described colloquially as “skin in the game”. Those involved must also follow certain transparency and due diligence requirements. As such, although the regulation does to an extent consolidate existing legislation, it also significantly loosens the burden of capital retention for banks using STS securitisations compared with the previous situation. Some stakeholders felt that reigniting the use of securitisation through this legislation would help to promote liquidity and boost economic activity, given that it, in effect, allows higher levels of borrowing by the economic actors whose debt is repackaged in the securitisation. However, many others point to the potential dangers this poses for financial stability if unsafe, non-transparent and overly complex securitisations are allowed to fall within the STS bracket. This is especially the case given the reduced capital requirements to balance off the default risk from STS securitisations. I hardly need to remind this House of the problems caused to the sustainability of financial institutions and the subsequent calls made on the taxpayer due to insufficient margin being held by the banks against the risks they held.

Secondly, these provisions amending primary legislation affect the criminal offences that are on the statute book. The legislation permits the use of sanctions for cases of negligence and intentional infringement, for example, fraudulent reporting of STS status. In addition, however, the provisions alter existing offences. The regulations appear to say that section 399 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, which establishes an offences of misleading the Competition and Markets Authority, does not apply. In addition, paragraph 8 of schedule 1 prevents the FCA from instituting proceedings for money laundering and insider dealing. It is not clear why, on the basis of this statutory instrument alone, this needs to follow from the parent legislation. Why, if we are reading this complex statutory instrument right, does it abolish the offence of misleading the CMA and prevent the FCA from instituting proceedings for money laundering and insider dealing? What problem are these provisions addressing? Why are these changes being achieved through this piece of secondary legislation? We hope that we can receive some clarification on these points. If we cannot, these provisions would appear to be troubling. Because of the impact on people’s liberties and the overall balance of offences on the statute book, which surely should be as public and accessible as possible, criminal offences should not be altered by delegated legislation in this manner.

Thirdly, and finally, these regulations transfer significant powers to the FCA to supervise compliance. It might be said that the FCA is the orthodox body to develop financial regulation and to ensure compliance with it, but there is a need for full debate about the allocation of responsibility for supervision and compliance. The original EU regulation provides no obligation for the FCA to be designated as the competent authority, so this is a political choice. It is also not clear, on the basis of this statutory instrument, whether the FCA has sufficient resourcing and capacity to carry out these tasks. It is not optimal or desirable for these powers to be transferred via a statutory instrument.

These powers are, of course, complicated by the interaction of this SI with the no-deal SI related to securitisation, which transfers the responsibility of the European Systemic Risk Board, for assessing and mitigating systemic risk, to the “competent authorities”. The latter are, as I understand it, here designated as the Prudential Regulation Authority, the FCA and the Bank, with systemic risk here identified as

“a material risk to the financial stability of a financial institution or to the financial system as a whole”.

Under this approach, the FCA would also be able to permit re-securitisation for specified legitimate purposes, an important exception to the general ban imposed from this legislation on re-securitisation. The general ban prevents the underlying assets of a securitisation from being themselves already securitised assets—this is one of many activities that produced the highly complex and opaque securitisations linked to contagion during the financial crisis. As part of these regulations, the FCA would be responsible for ensuring that those engaged in a securitisation complied with the relevant transparency requirements. It is especially important that these kinds of regulatory developments receive scrutiny, given the content around elements of the securitisation package and, in particular, whether it is sufficiently stringent. What became known as “skin in the game” was set in the regulation at 5% of risk to be retained across each mode of risk retention, despite calls for a higher level from many quarters. Indeed, many actors within the EU questioned whether securitisation should be encouraged in the first place through the creation of the STS designation. Given that the resultant regulations were a balance between very polarised positions on this subject, it is essential that we properly scrutinise the transposition of these measures into UK law. For that reason, we have prayed against these measures being transferred purely through an SI process.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Feb 2019, 3:40 p.m.

As part of our obligations while the UK remains a member of the EU, it is our responsibility to ensure that domestic law is compatible with EU legislation. That includes this statutory instrument, which will, as the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) said, ensure that the EU securitisation regulation is effective and enforceable in the UK. It is not an EU-exit statutory instrument through which functions are transferred from an EU authority to domestic authorities. The instrument that does that—the Securitisation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019—was laid on 23 January and will be debated in due course.

It might be helpful if I gave the House some background information. The securitisation market’s slow recovery after the financial crisis reflects concerns among investors and prudential supervisors about risks associated with the securitisation process itself. The EU responded by proposing in 2015 legislative measures to promote a transparent and liquid market for securitisation. There were 120 responses to the 2015 consultation that gave rise to the regulations, which evolved over two years of EU discussions. They were then scrutinised in Parliament and were approved by the House of Lords scrutiny Committees in July 2017 and by the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee in February 2017.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Feb 2019, 4:07 p.m.

There are two or three things going on. There are 53 financial services SIs going through Committee in connection with no-deal preparations, which is certainly an additional burden on the FCA, and it has had the resources for that. The hon Lady asked about the Government’s holistic view of the role of the FCA. It is subject to a periodic review, having been formed under the legislation of five or six years ago, and that will happen in due course. We hope there will be more financial services legislation in future Sessions.

This instrument is necessary to enable the regulations to take effect. I hope that the House has found this afternoon’s debate on this matter informative and will be able to join me in opposing the motion.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Feb 2019, 4:07 p.m.

If I may, I will start my remarks with a brief observation. Far too often in this House, I have heard hon. Members suggest that the financial crisis was somehow the result of the then Government’s policies. I am very pleased to have heard the opposite from the Minister today. In fact, it was the correct interpretation of what precipitated the global financial crisis, which did indeed, as he intimated, begin with the sub-prime mortgage collapses in the United States and then spread through the financial system, particularly through the use of complex financial instruments.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
13 Feb 2019, 4:08 p.m.

rose—

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
13 Feb 2019, 4:08 p.m.

I am very happy for the Minister to agree with what I am saying.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
13 Feb 2019, 4:08 p.m.

I am very happy to draw the hon. Lady’s attention to the fact that the default rate for triple A rated bonds in the EU was 0.6%, while in the US it was 16%. The key point that the Conservatives have always wished to stress is that the spending profile from 2002 and 2007 massively compounded the difficulties we found ourselves in.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard

The Minister—[Interruption.]

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 Anneliese Dodds
Monday 11th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 7:06 p.m.

It is my understanding that there was significant challenge from my party in the other place, and in fact changes were made, including for example a clearer indication of the circumstances under which those adjustments could be made by the Government. Initially that was very open-ended, but we supported and pushed for much more clarity on that. We would have liked to have seen change in other areas, and perhaps clarification in additional areas. We have not had that, however, which is why it is necessary to oppose the Bill at this stage.

Finally, this legislation is of course only required because of the Conservative Government’s recklessness in persisting with a commitment to keep no deal on the table, as rightly underlined by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss). We have seen very clearly today from the preliminary estimates of GDP growth for the final quarter of last year how this determination to prioritise ideology over national interest is harming our country. The contribution to GDP from business investment was negative for the fourth quarter in a row; that is a clear sign that uncertainty surrounding the Government’s Brexit strategy is acting as a real drag on the economy. The construction sector actually contracted this quarter, and after two consecutive quarters of negative growth, the UK manufacturing sector sadly is now officially in recession. So 2018 had the worst annual GDP out-turn since the then Chancellor’s disastrous 2012, and economists are forecasting that even worse could well come.

The flight into the buffers that would be represented by a no-deal Brexit is still being countenanced. Any responsible Government would take that plane off the runway once and for all.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 7:09 p.m.

I thank all Members for their contributions to the debate. As my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury set out earlier, the Government do not want a no-deal scenario, but our job as a responsible Government is to prepare for all possible outcomes, including reaching 29 March without a deal. The Bill forms an important part of those preparations. In a no-deal scenario, it would ensure that we could maintain the UK’s reputation as a global leader and that the competitiveness of our financial services industry would be maintained. The UK has in many cases played a leading role in shaping these proposals over a number of years, and they will bring benefits to UK consumers and businesses once they have been implemented. I want to talk about the four or five themes that have been raised in the debate, after which I will address the points made by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh).

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords]

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
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, 5:07 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.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
1 May 2018, 5:09 p.m.

I shall speak to amendment 21 and new clauses 8 and 13. I will try to be disciplined, as the Minister was, by keeping my remarks as brief as possible, but I would state that while many of us feel that we have seen some progress in terms of transparency for overseas territories, we need a much broader programme of reform so that we stamp out dirty money from the British financial system.

While the Minister referred to amendment 21, he failed to grasp its significance and intention. As with other Brexit-related Bills, the Opposition have many concerns about the wide-ranging powers that this Bill gives to Ministers, and in particular the way in which it gives Ministers the ability to amend, repeal or revoke legislation through regulations without appropriate scrutiny. We frequently cited Lord Judge in Committee, but it is appropriate that I do so one last time in this Chamber. He was very clear about the dangers of this power. As he said, it gives Ministers

“‘regulation-making powers for this, that and the other’”.

He is a very learned person and, as he put it,

“the secondary will override the primary.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17 January 2018; Vol. 788, c. 718-19.]

I do not think that many Government Members could disagree with that. Clearly this is an excessive power. It is not justified by the need for speed, for reasons that were well rehearsed in Committee.

The Government have yet again today maintained that these powers are for the sole purpose of combating money laundering and maintaining a sanctions regime, but we heard just a few moments ago that these issues can be highly contentious. There can be different points of view within our parliamentary system on these matters, and that must be reflected in an appropriately inclusive parliamentary procedure.

The Committee advocated by Her Majesty’s Opposition is necessary precisely because the European Scrutiny Committee will not be operating in its same form after we leave the EU, and our sanctions policy will not be derived from the EU once we have left. That is surely the whole point, so we will need another body that can conduct that scrutiny. We will not want Members turning up on an ad hoc basis to a secondary legislation Committee ill briefed, ill prepared and not expert about the topics at hand. That is why we are making our call, and the arguments for such a body are self-explanatory.

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

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
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.

I am grateful for that challenge. As I set out, the Government would only amend the definition when necessary to meet UN obligations to further the prevention of terrorism. The clause is designed just to give the scope to amend the definition of terrorist financing.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 9:47 a.m.

It is good to be here with you in the Chair, Mr McCabe. My reading of the Government amendment—maybe I have interpreted something wrong—is that it says,

“or a purpose related to the prevention of terrorism.”

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.

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

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
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, 2:51 p.m.

I will come on to explain the history of this and why we are where we are. I am happy for the hon. Gentleman to intervene if he does not feel satisfied at the end of that.

Mindful that the eyes of the world are on us, hon. Members should recognise that this legislation would be a world first. Successful delivery raises significant challenges and it is right that the Government achieve the right balance in an effective regime with robust enforcement that does not have a negative impact on land registration processes across the UK. I acknowledge that some have accused the Government—and we have also been accused this afternoon—of not acting swiftly enough to implement this policy. Let me address those concerns.

We have committed to publishing a draft Bill before the summer to introduce the Bill early in the second Session and for the register to be operational in 2021. Publishing a Bill in draft is the right approach. As I said before, this register will be the first of its kind in the world, and it will affect people’s property rights, including not just new purchasers but existing owners. This is a sensitive and delicate area. Getting it wrong would have significant adverse consequences.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 2:52 p.m.

The Minister is being generous. He has kindly set out for us a three-year timetable, adding on a couple of years before that when Government committed to this. Is he aware of the Private Eye map, which has been in existence for some time? Through civil society and journalistic activity, Land Registry and Companies House data were put together and a map produced. That appears to have been done quite quickly.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 2:54 p.m.

I am not familiar with that particular map but I would be very happy to examine it. For clarity, and addressing the hon. Lady’s previous point, the register will capture the details of beneficial owners of all non-UK companies—including those in the overseas territories—that own UK property. This will be a world first, so we are moving as fast as possible, while ensuring that the register is as comprehensive as possible.

As the Government set out in last year’s call for evidence, for the register to be effective the sanctions to be applied for non-compliance must be a meaningful deterrent. Enforcement must be energetic. Simple criminal sanctions may not be sufficient in isolation. The draft Bill will include enforcement through land registration law. Where an overseas entity buys property, it will never be able to obtain legal title to that property without having complied with the register’s requirements. Similarly, a restriction on the title register for property owned by an overseas entity will signal to third parties that the overseas entity must comply with the regime before selling the property, creating a long lease or legal charge. Those are significant steps on which it is right to consult.

Hon. Members will recognise that there are separate Land Registries in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as the Land Registry for England and Wales. The approaches taken to land registration and overseas entities by each of those Land Registries have been different until now. That too will need be streamlined. Delivery of an holistic outcome that complements all three land registration regimes is an exercise touching multiple teams across Government and the Land Registries. Put simply, it is an exercise that will take time to get right and a further demonstration of why publishing the legislation in draft is the appropriate next step if we are to get it right. Although I appreciate that the motive underlying the new clause supports the policy as a whole and demonstrates a desire for early delivery and implementation, it does not take account of the complexities that I have set out or the challenges of delivery and implementation.

The register will further demonstrate the Government’s commitment to combating money laundering through the property market. Hon. Members will have seen recent press reports—the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland drew our attention to the splash on 3 February—that two unexplained wealth orders have been obtained by the National Crime Agency in connection with two properties worth £22 million.

Those are the first orders obtained under the relevant powers conferred by the Criminal Finances Act 2017, which commenced at the end of January. They were obtained only a few days after it came into effect. As the Minister for Security and Economic Crime has said, the orders are an important addition to the UK’s ability to tackle illicit finance, and it is great to see them already in use.

The Government will continue to take action. BEIS’s response to last year’s call for evidence will be published shortly, and it will set out the Government’s approach to areas of particular complexity. BEIS has already made significant progress in preparing draft legislation; the work with the office of the parliamentary counsel to draft the Bill is under way.

Separately, BEIS is working to quantify the impact of the legislation on the UK. The impact assessment will quantify the register’s potential impact on the property market and investment flows, around which foreign direct investment is very specific, to pick up on the point made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland. The register will rightly make the UK more hostile to illicit flows of money, but we must understand the potential impact on legitimate inward investment.

All those issues were considered in last year’s call for evidence. Scrutiny of the draft Bill will further stress-test whether it will be effective. I hope that that process demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to enact the policy, and our commitment to get it right. For those reasons, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the new clause.

Break in Debate

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 3:19 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl, and in rather warmer circumstances than the last time. New clause 9 seeks to create an offence if a relevant body failed to put in place adequate procedures to prevent a person associated with it from carrying out a money laundering facilitation offence. New clause 15 creates a process for disqualification for those at the top level who have failed to prevent money laundering.

I will deal with each new clause in turn and then speak briefly about the overall regulatory context, which creates a necessity for these new approaches. First, on new clause 9 and the failure to prevent the facilitation of money laundering, there are many problems with the existing system. The FCA has found weaknesses in governance and long-standing and significant under-investment in resourcing for control systems, even in the sector that is actually regulated for money laundering. I will talk about some of the problems there later on.

Many of those who investigate in this area find that rules are intermittently enforced, penalties are low and senior executives face few personal, financial or reputational consequences. It is constructive to compare some of the penalties that have been levied in the UK with those levied in the US. As I understand, the largest fine levied in the UK for anti-money laundering or sanctions offences—the Minister may contradict me if I am wrong—was levied against Coutts & Co for £8.75 million. That is six hundred times less than the penalty that was levied by the United States on BNP Paribas for sanctions-related offences.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 3:21 p.m.

I am very happy to confirm that in fact Deutsche Bank was fined £163 million in January 2017, and Barclays had a fine of £72 million in November 2015. I do not think that comparison is correct.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 3:21 p.m.

It would be helpful to know under which pieces of legislation those fines were levied, because I am uncertain whether they were directly under money laundering legislation. I will come back to that, particularly in relation to some of the outcomes of some parliamentary questions that I have asked to try to dig into this and find out what prosecutions have been enabled by existing legislation.

I am grateful for the information that the Economic Secretary has provided; however, there is still a lot of concern about banks’ and others’ ability to root out money laundering and the facilitating of money laundering. The FCA found—admittedly, in 2014—that there was

“significant and widespread weaknesses in most banks’ anti-money laundering systems and controls”.

That is revealed in the case of HSBC. Many members of the Committee will know that it was involved in a money laundering scandal that led to the US fining it £1.2 billion. There was a large investigation into that matter in the United States Senate, where it was said that our UK-based bank had been a conduit for

“drug kingpins and rogue nations”,

including Mexican drug cartels and North Korea. In fact, that case has been referred to already in this Committee.

Particularly worryingly, a congressional report found that George Osborne and the Financial Services Authority—now the FCA—corresponded on numerous occasions with their US counterparts about the case; in fact, they urged a less aggressive judicial approach on the US side. Apparently, the congressional report said that the UK interventions played a significant role in ultimately persuading the US Department of Justice not to prosecute HSBC. I find it quite concerning that the UK actually argued against measures being taken by other countries to try to deal with this problem.

We were hoping to have some change; the Serious Fraud Office has called for the broadening of existing economic offences to cover a kind of umbrella approach, also to cover failure to prevent. It thinks that that would be helpful to hold large companies to account criminally across the board. At the moment, we have the ability to prosecute the failure to prevent bribery and corruption, but those activities are rarely committed in isolation from instances of money laundering by corporate entities. Therefore, it seems to make sense to try to extend corporate liability to money laundering. That would push in the same direction as existing pieces of legislation. Of course, the Bribery Act 2010 created a new offence of corporate failure to prevent. I believe that Act was put in place because of the same kind of repeated criticism of the UK regime that we have seen in relation to money laundering. We also now have the offence of failure to prevent criminal tax evasion in the Criminal Finances Act 2017. Surely there is now a strong case for an explicit reference to failure to prevent money laundering.

Many of us thought that we were not going to have to push for a separate offence of money laundering because we were to have an umbrella approach. In May 2016, the Government committed to consult on a broad offence of failure to prevent economic crime, which would cover fraud, false accounting and money laundering. In January 2017, the Government downgraded that commitment and instead published a call for evidence on whether there was a case for economic crime corporate liability law reform.

As I understand it, the call for evidence closed in March 2017. I have not yet seen the results of that call for evidence. It would be helpful for the Minister to let us know the outcome of that call for evidence, the main findings and how the Government have decided to act on them. Will they introduce the umbrella offence or create a discrete offence, as we are asking for? Because we think we need action now. That is new clause 19.

Break in Debate

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.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 3:45 p.m.

I am grateful to the Economic Secretary for those helpful explanations and clarifications. Despite his useful response, however, there are a number of areas where I am unclear. First, I appreciate that he has probably anticipated this question, but the Committee may ask why it has taken Government a whole year to assess the responses from their consultation on economic crime. Government frequently work at a far faster pace than that. He said that we will have the analysis of those consultation responses in due course. It would be helpful to know more about why it is taking so long for Government to analyse them.

Secondly, the Economic Secretary spoke about the requirement for all regulated firms to ensure that their policies, controls and procedures are appropriate to prevent money laundering, but there is a question about who assesses that and whose responsibility that is. That takes us back to the issue about there being myriad professional bodies, which all operate subtly different approaches towards regulation in this area. As I said, I appreciate that OPBAS has been created to try to draw them together, but I do not think we heard exactly what the status of that office is—I was trying to concentrate on what the Economic Secretary was saying. I have seen different descriptions of it as a team, an office and an organisation. It would be helpful to have a clearer indication, particularly because those professional bodies are, as I understand it, required to contribute financially to OPBAS, so a number of them are keen to understand what is happening with it. Furthermore, HMRC is not a member of it, as I said before, so the concern about a lack of regulatory co-ordination persists.

Finally, the Economic Secretary referred approvingly to the senior managers regime that has been brought in since the financial crisis, which looks like a positive step initially—of course, the HSBC problems occurred following that. In any case, as I understand it, the actual operation of this new regime and its extension are quite different from, for example, what was recommended by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. Under this approach, the burden to show that senior managers failed to take appropriate steps will be on the regulator, rather than the senior managers themselves.

That is different from the approach taken in many other areas, including road traffic, health and safety at work, the Bribery Act 2010—which the Minister referred to—terrorist legislation, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and so on. It would be helpful to understand why, with the extension of this regime, the burden of proof has essentially now been placed on the shoulders of the regulator, rather than the shoulders of the managers.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Break in Debate

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.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard

I am grateful to the Economic Secretary for those clarifications. He made several helpful points, but some concerns remain. He mentioned the FATF process, which the Committee has discussed previously, and seemed to suggest that we should not make alterations in this area of anti-money laundering activity because of the ongoing FATF assessment. Of course, that argument could stop action in any other area, because the FATF is looking at anti-money laundering and anti-corruption provisions across the board, so it is not clear that it is completely convincing. Furthermore, I understand that representations have been made to the FATF as part of its review that change is needed in this area, which suggests that the argument is the other way round. The Economic Secretary also suggested that there would be a much higher cost for those that want to incorporate through a TCSP. In practice, as I understand it, the cost may not be substantial—only a couple of pounds more in many cases.

Break in Debate

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:28 p.m.

We tabled the new clause because ineffective anti-money laundering supervision has a clear and obvious link with inadequate compliance and with low and poor-quality reporting of suspicious activity to the National Crime Agency. Research by a number of non-governmental organisations, particularly Transparency International, has indicated serious failings in the current framework for supervising money laundering compliance in the UK, especially with respect to trust and company service providers.

Under the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, only TCSPs carrying on business in the UK—that is their formulation in the legislation—have to register with an anti-money laundering supervisor and comply with MLR 2017. That means of course that TCSPs with no UK presence can incorporate UK companies without any oversight from an AML supervisor. They do not have to comply with UK standards for money laundering checks. We have seen a number of clear examples—I will talk about some in a moment—where that has allowed non-UK TCSPs to incorporate UK companies that have subsequently been used in large-scale money laundering schemes. I think many of the concerns raised a moment ago around undercutting existing legislation and the lack of a fair playing field for UK TCSPs come up again in this regard.

In 2012 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed how a number of UK individuals offering company services had moved their base of operations outside our country but continued to form, and act as nominee directors for, UK companies. There are two examples that are particularly important. The first is Jesse Grant Hester, who was originally from the UK and who moved to Cyprus to form Atlas Corporate Services Ltd before moving to Dubai and, finally, Mauritius—he is somebody who has been lucky enough to travel much in life. Those jurisdictions have all been identified as presenting high money laundering risks. Mauritius in particular is very concerning: it scored 5.92 out of 10 on the Basel Institute on Governance money laundering risk index. Ten is the highest level of money laundering risk and zero is the least, so it is well up there. Jesse Grant Hester appeared on numerous occasions as a nominee director for companies embroiled in corruption scandals. In the Moldovan bank theft that we talked about earlier, he signed fake promissory notes using an alias on behalf of a UK firm, Goldbridge Trading Ltd, allowing £444 million to be stolen. Atlas Corporate Services is associated with eight people who, between them, have held directorships of 3,613 UK companies. Again, that is a staggering number of companies to be held by just eight people. As we discussed, that scandal caused enormous problems for the country of Moldova.

Another UK resident who became internationally renowned, although not in a positive way, for his company formation activities is Ian Taylor. That is not the famous social policy academic, who I had the pleasure of working with, but another Ian Taylor. He also moved around a lot: he moved to Vanuatu.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:28 p.m.

There was also a Tory MP of that name.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard

Oh, there was a Tory MP as well. Goodness—the name is frequently used. He moved to Vanuatu after he was banned from being a corporate director, first in New Zealand in 2011 and then in the UK in 2015, as a result of his companies’ involvement in numerous scandals, including a land banking scam in Somerset. Vanuatu’s self-assessment on money laundering risk found that its TCSP sector was among the most vulnerable to such activity. In 2015 the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering found serious deficiencies in Vanuatu’s AML system. Despite being banned in the UK, Taylor seems to have retained a UK presence. Various investigations have identified the circle of nominee directors that he works with. One of them is a Vanuatu resident who is a director of more than 61 companies. He took over from Taylor as a director of 20 of them on the same date.

Those examples show that physically moving out of the UK does not result in a lack of activity in the UK. Networks of associates make it difficult to stop the formation of UK companies by individuals who have already been disqualified here. Such individuals, who have been shown to have engaged in money laundering activities or have otherwise been disqualified or viewed as not competent in this arena, can function in other countries and create companies. The checking that should go on does not happen, and there is inadequate anti-money laundering supervision. We do not have a means of dealing with that, because we do not have a regulatory system for TCSPs that are not based in countries with appropriate anti-money laundering provisions. That is not currently illegal, which is why we want to change the legal situation.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:40 p.m.

I cannot comment on the specific cases that the hon. Lady mentions, because I have not seen or studied them. I imagine that there is a degree of variability in the effectiveness of regimes, but I am trying to set out the Government’s rationale for what we have in place. I do not suggest that it is perfect, but some of the developments have occurred in response to shortcomings that have been identified.

The individual anti-money laundering supervisors are under a duty to identify and assess international and domestic risks, including the money laundering and terrorism risk, which ensures that the most intensive supervision is applied where the highest risks of money laundering exist. The establishment of OPBAS will assist with the consistent identification of such risks across the TCSP sector. Our national risk assessment makes it clear that the Government are aware of the money laundering risks connected with TCSPs, and further reform in the area should take account of the conclusions of the ongoing FATF review. I assure Opposition Members that the regime is a searching and exacting one. I know from ministerial meetings concerning preparations for it that the evaluation will be exacting. We expect the observations to be meaningful, and we will need to respond carefully to them. However, until we receive the outcome of that review of the UK’s anti-money laundering regime and of the experience of OPBAS as its role develops, it would not be appropriate to adopt the amendment.

Hon. Members should be mindful of the fact that anti-money laundering supervision around the world follows a territorial model. Simply requiring non-UK TCSPs to have a UK supervisor when they set up UK companies will not address the challenges of extra-territorial supervision. Effective anti-money laundering supervision depends on measures that include supervisory on-site visits and close engagement with higher-risk firms. Requiring a UK supervisor to do that in relation to a non-UK firm will not, in and of itself, address the issue that hon. Members have identified.

As was noted in the other place, the most effective means of combating international money laundering is cross-border co-operation to drive up the standards of overseas supervision and enforcement. For those reasons, we have imposed a duty on each UK anti-money laundering supervisor to take such steps as they consider appropriate to co-operate with overseas authorities. That is the agenda we pursue through the global FATF process. I therefore respectfully ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the new clause.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:40 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for those remarks and clarifications. They have been genuinely helpful, but I regret that some areas are still rather unclear to me; perhaps they are not to other Committee members. He stated that the highest-risk TCSPs are assessed to be UK ones, but it has not been spelled out why. Perhaps he could write to me about that.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:40 p.m.

I would be happy to write to the hon. Lady to spell that out. My understanding is that UK-based TCSPs typically offer a wider range of services and there are vulnerabilities in the additional services, but I will investigate and write to her as quickly as I can.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:40 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for offering to look into that. We must always be wary of talking about a general pattern of activity as necessarily reflecting the risk profile of that overall activity. Among those TCPS, there could be overseas ones that are not appropriately regulated and that also offer a wide range of services, in the same way as some UK TCSPs do.

I am also a bit confused about the professional regulators. As the Minister said, there are about 22 of them, and then on top of that we stick Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Financial Conduct Authority and so on. As I understand it, the professional regulators do not have members based in other countries; they cover only UK residents. We are talking about, for example, the Law Society of Scotland and the Law Society of England and Wales—professional bodies dealing with UK individuals. We are not talking about professional associations covering professionals in other countries.

The Minister seemed to talk about a process of liaison between these organisations and their counterparts in other countries. I am sure we all want to encourage that, because it sounds like a very good idea. Information sharing is wonderful, but information sharing is not the same as having an appropriate process of regulation to ensure that there is compliance with anti-money laundering requirements.

The Minister said that the approach was an extraterritorial one, because it affects bodies in other countries. That is absolutely right, but those bodies then interact with our company formation procedure. That is the reason why we, as a country, have a stake in this process—a rather large one, given the reputational damage that seems to be being caused by the activities of some unregulated or inappropriately regulated TCSPs. I will be pressing the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:47 p.m.

I just want to clarify that, while I would not profess to be an expert on Pakistan’s compliance with the FATF, the concerns raised about its recent greylisting were around the specific handling of various banned terrorist organisations. I would not wish to cast any wider doubt over its intentions to improve the provision of services.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:47 p.m.

I thank the Minister for that helpful clarification. It is helpful to know the exact locus of FATF activity or the concerns about Pakistan that were focused on terrorist financing. That is not the area we are focused on now, but such financing and money laundering often go hand in hand.

Given the potential effects of such a ruling—we have talked about that in relation to Pakistan—we think it necessary that Ministers should have the flexibility to ensure that FATF standards can be implemented as soon as possible in our country in order to be on top of new international standards. That is particularly important because the UK was a founding member of the FATF, so we need to show that we are at the cutting edge of implementing its requirements.

As I mentioned, we also need to be able to identify or revoke high-risk countries quickly, taking account of the FATF’s standards and given the effect that it can have on the countries themselves and also on our reputation. If we are viewed as not following FATF recommendations, that prevents the co-ordinated approach that the FATF was set up to promote in the first place.

Finally on this amendment, we hope that Ministers will take account of aligning the designations with our EU partners. We have talked consistently in our deliberations about the need for co-ordination, which of course makes all the mechanisms much more effective. When they are not co-ordinated, there can be loopholes. In that regard, it is important to mention the case of Russia. In 2014, the Arms Export Controls Committees—we talked about their composition when we talked about scrutiny arrangements—reported that more than 200 licences to sell British weapons to Russia, including missile-launching equipment, were still in place, despite David Cameron’s claim that the Government had imposed an absolute arms embargo against Russia in alignment with the rest of the EU. We really need to make sure that that alignment is genuine in practice, not just on the surface and rhetorical.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:54 p.m.

New clause 16 would limit amendments to the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 to those that would implement standards published by the Financial Action Task Force, or those whose purpose was identifying or revoking a designation of a high-risk third country. The 2017 regulations transpose the fourth EU anti-money laundering directive, which was in turn derived from the most recent major updates to the FATF standards, which were made in 2012. As the hon. Lady acknowledged, the UK is a founder member of the FATF and is committed to playing a leading role in its continuing work. It is right for the Government to have the power to update the UK regime when such standards change.

There are, however, several areas where the UK’s anti-money laundering regime already goes beyond those standards. Our recently established register of trusts generating tax consequences, for example, goes beyond the standards set by the FATF. Similarly, the UK announced at the time of the 2015 Budget that we intended to regulate virtual currency exchanges for AML purposes—an objective that was accomplished through negotiation of the fifth EU anti-money laundering directive—but that was not required by the FATF. So although we will remain aligned with the FATF standards after the UK ceases to be a member of the EU, our anti-money laundering regime exceeds those standards in certain areas.

The Government are determined to ensure that our defences against misuse of a financial system remain ahead of global standards rather than solely reflecting them. That is reflected in our commitment to the establishment of a public register of the beneficial ownership of non-UK companies that own UK property, which the Committee debated earlier, even if we did not agree on the timeline for it. The new clause would reduce our ability to do so. Under the power in question, the UK’s anti-money laundering regime could not go further in areas where we would otherwise want to.

As I said previously, in debating amendment 7, and as my right hon. Friend the Minister said about new clause 3, we do not believe that a bar on new offences is the right way to address the concerns raised by Lord Judge and others. We have instead tabled amendments to ensure that the power is used only where it is needed, and that Ministers are properly accountable to Parliament for it.

Ensuring that we can make regulations to prevent, or to enable or facilitate the detection or investigation of, money laundering or terrorist financing, as well as to implement the standards of the FATF, is the most certain method of placing future changes to our anti-money laundering system on a sound legal basis. The new clause would limit our ability to do so in the future, and I am sure that is not the intention behind it. I respectfully suggest that the hon. Lady might withdraw it.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
6 Mar 2018, 4:55 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. It may be the fact that we have been in this room for a few hours, but I am struggling a little with, in particular, the suggestion that new clause 16 would somehow tie the UK’s hands in implementing additional requirements beyond the FATF standards.

The Minister referred to the public register of property owned by non-UK entities. We had a discussion about that, but he is right: it would arguably be an innovation in the UK. Of course it is one that we need more than other countries, because of the use of our property market in many such cases, and the exponential rise in house prices. He could have talked—although he did not—about the register of beneficial ownership of companies being an innovation as well, but countries such as the Netherlands and Norway are putting those into practice anyway, so perhaps we are not quite as far-reaching in what we are doing as we might suggest. Particularly in relation to the charges and fines levied against those found guilty of money laundering offences, we seem to be in a different position from that of our North American counterparts, for example, as we have discussed. None the less, it is not clear how the new clause would stop us going further than those other jurisdictions where we wished to do so. It says that we would take account of the

“best international practice including EU sanctions regimes”,

not that we would be led by it.

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

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Thursday 1st March 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 2:47 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland for not seeking to embarrass me again.

Amendment 36 requires the Government to provide quarterly reports on the impact of all sanction regimes, including the number and value of suspected breaches of sanctions. In considering the sorts of scenario that are in play here, hon. Members will remember that sanctions breaches are highly complex and involve multiple parties across various time periods. Sometimes they take place across borders and in different jurisdictions. The complexity of most sanctions breaches means that the investigation process from initial report to action often takes significant time and resources. There is also often a time lag between the breach taking place and being reported. The Government therefore continually adjust their figures as new information comes to light. Hence, it is very challenging to make the process fully accurate. It would be extremely difficult for the Government to report accurately on the number of breaches suspected or found at any one time. That would render the information published in the quarterly reports of little practical value.

The amendment would also place a significant burden on businesses. Currently, the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation collects information on the value of funds frozen annually, which is onerous on businesses but important for compliance purposes.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

I understand that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control routinely releases details of licences and other information. It believes it has achieved an appropriate balance between commercial confidentiality and public accountability, and it does not appear to be overly onerous in the US context. I wonder why we view it as being overly onerous in the UK context.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 2:50 p.m.

It is not about the reporting, but the frequency of the reporting. The point I am making is that to increase it to quarterly would add unnecessary compliance cost to industry, when that cost is already considerable if necessary. It would also result in an administrative burden for Government to produce figures that may not be of much practical use. We do not think that is the best way to spend the limited resource of public money.

Providing quarterly reporting regime by regime may also risk breaking other laws. At the moment we only provide regime figures for the largest regimes. For the small regimes there may only be a small number of designated persons with frozen funds in the UK so providing that specific information, which can easily be traced back to them, may risk breaching data protection laws.

The Government have already committed to being transparent where appropriate. As part of the monetary penalty guidance published last year by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, the Government committed to publishing details of breaches and criminal prosecutions. That is a matter of public record.

For those reasons, I urge the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland to withdraw the amendment.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

The issue is really about the effectiveness of the regime. As I said, it is matter of what BEIS determines it needs to do to address the problem. Clearly, questions can be asked about the plans that will be put in place when they are forthcoming.

As clause 43 already gives the Government the power to make provision for the purposes of combating money laundering by Scottish limited partnerships, I ask the hon. Member for Oxford East to withdraw the amendment.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:50 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. I know that he is a very sincere and engaged Minister, but I am concerned that the direct questions that we levelled have not been answered. We asked for an indication of exactly how many of these SLPs had provided that beneficial ownership information. We asked for an update on that, but we have not had it. I also asked for an indication of how many of these SLPs have been prosecuted; I did not receive that, either. I did not receive an indication of how many have been fined under this new regime, which was set up last June. Surely we have had a number of months of operation of that new regime in order to adjudge whether it is truly effective.

I appreciate what the Minister said about BEIS conducting a review, but if the existing system is not working correctly, or if we have doubts about its operation, given the huge damage that these structures already seem to have inflicted, surely we need to have a reference to them in the Bill? We need to show that we are taking this matter seriously, and particularly that the Westminster Government are taking it seriously, in the light of comments from Government figures in other nations and their concerns about the use of SLPs.

I give the Minister one last chance to answer those questions and give that information: the number of prosecutions, the number of fines, and the number of SLPs indicating beneficial ownership information. If we do not get that information, we will have no choice but to press our amendment to a vote.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:51 p.m.

I am very sorry but I cannot give those precise details at this point. I undertake to write to the hon. Lady, as soon as I can with that information, but I can do nothing from this place at this moment to provide it.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:51 p.m.

I wish to press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 3:53 p.m.

I beg to move Government amendment 7, in clause 43, page 33, line 13, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment removes the provision that prevents contraventions of regulations under Clause 43 (money laundering and terrorist financing etc) from being enforceable by criminal proceedings.

In moving this amendment, I acknowledge the recognition that this House has given to the importance of a rigorous anti-money laundering regime. To ensure the robustness of future anti-money laundering regulations, corresponding powers to create criminal offences are necessary. At the same time, I recognise that Lord Judge and others in the other place expressed significant concerns about the scope of criminal offence powers in the Bill upon its introduction. It is important to note that those concerns were not about the existence of offences for breaching anti-money laundering regimes; instead, they were concerns about the unchecked ability of Ministers to create offences.

The amendment reinstates the power to create criminal offences, while the package of amendments as a whole directly addresses those concerns through additional safeguards, which narrow the scope of and the ability to use these powers. I shall elaborate upon these safeguards, which the Government have discussed with Lord Judge since the passage of this Bill through the other place, and then I will turn to amendments 10, 11 and 12. Before I do so, however, it would be useful to consider how anti-money laundering regulations have operated with criminal offence powers in the past.

In accordance with standard practice, when implementing EU directives on money laundering, criminal offences in this area have been created by Ministers in secondary legislation made under the powers in the European Communities Act 1972. That was done under the negative procedure, with no prior consultation with Parliament and no need to seek Parliament’s consent. That position will be improved for future money laundering regulations made under the Bill. They will now be made under the draft affirmative procedure, so Parliament will consider and vote on them before they come into force. Using the affirmative procedure is a direct response to the concerns raised, to ensure that where changes need to be made, they will be properly scrutinised.

Criminal offences were created by both the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 and their predecessors, the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, which were brought into force by the then Labour Government. As hon. Members can see, the approach has been supported on a cross-party basis in the past. The detailed provisions in such regulations set standards and procedures for regulated businesses. They are designed to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing and to help law enforcement authorities to investigate those crimes, and should also be seen in the context of a separate penalty regime for the key substantive money laundering offences. Such offences are established under part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which provides for more punitive prison sentences of up to 14 years, for example for those guilty of directly laundering the proceeds of crime. Money launderers are typically prosecuted through those offences as they allow for longer sentences.

Without the power to create new criminal offences in secondary legislation, the enforceability of new regulations would be seriously weakened. That would dramatically lower the effectiveness of the UK’s anti-money laundering regime. More generally, it is not unusual for requirements to be set in delegated legislation that can be enforced using criminal penalties, In the area of financial services, for example, the regulated activities order, made under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, specifies which activities are or are not regulated. Carrying on such activities without permission from the regulator is a criminal offence. It remains the position of the Government that it is neither unusual nor improper for Parliament to confer powers of that type to Ministers.

Break in Debate

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 4:01 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for his clarification. I do not want to go around the houses again, as we did at some length on Tuesday. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland for explaining why we are concerned about the lack of accountability in general for measures imposing criminal sanctions throughout the Bill. I recognise what the Minister said about this being a separate regime; it is obviously not the same one as is applied in the case of sanctions. The offences that can be applied are lesser in their extent—for example, we are talking about shorter prison sentences in the Bill—but we still have many of the same concerns that we expressed previously.

There has been some shift on the part of the Government, but I suppose it is difficult for any of us to judge whether the spirit of Lord Judge has been complied with, or whether there has merely been some kind of interpretation of a clutch of some of his words. Certainly we will look at what is written on the tin, but to us it does not appear to constitute recognition of the concerns expressed or the kind of meaningful engagement that we need. We are doing something very significant in the Bill, which in effect creates de novo a sanctions and anti- money laundering regime. Much stronger accountability is needed than is in the Bill, even as amended by the Government. We have the same concerns as we expressed previously, so we will resist the amendment.

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

I acknowledge the outstanding concerns. I think I have set out clearly the rationale, why we need the provisions and how they respond suitably to Lord Judge’s concerns. I acknowledge the genuine difference of opinion, but I have set out the Government’s position and it is now for the Opposition to do as they wish.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 4:06 p.m.

Amendment 10 is a consequence of the proposed new paragraph 20A, which will be inserted by amendment 11. Paragraph 20A(1) refers to offences created for the purposes of the enforcement of requirements imposed by or under regulations under clause 43.

The amendment further narrows the powers for future regulations to make provision for new criminal offences, as I referred to in the discussion on the previous amendment, as compared with the Bill when it was first introduced in the other place. It would make the powers subject to the requirement for a report to Parliament, along the same lines as amendments to part 1 of the Bill. That report would identify the offences created and their respective penalties, and would confirm that the Minister has considered that there are good reasons for creating those offences and setting the penalties at the levels at which they have been set. It would ensure that the Minister does not use the power lightly and is fully accountable to Parliament for doing so.

I take the opportunity to remind hon. Members that these safeguards are contained in Government amendment 11, to which I will turn shortly. These amendments are part of the wider package that inserts safeguards on the use of this power, and have been designed to directly address the concerns raised by Lord Judge and others in the other place.

The amendment restricts the scope of the power to create future offences to offences created for the purposes of enforcing future anti-money laundering regulations. Amendment 12 ensures that references made to regulations made under clause 43, with respect to paragraph 15 of schedule 2, and requirements imposed by regulations made under clause 43, with respect to paragraph 20A of schedule 2, also include reference to, or requirements imposed by, the Money Laundering Regulations 2017. That ensures that the safeguards proposed by Government amendment 11 will also apply to possible future changes made to the 2017 regulations.

The amendment ensures that it is possible for new money laundering offences to be created by amending the 2017 regulations. It will therefore enable the Government to create new offences in order to respond to, for example, emerging risks identified by the national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing, which was published in October 2017, or in response to the ongoing review of the financial action taskforce of the UK’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist finance regime. When the Government do so, using the powers contained in clause 43, the enhanced procedural protections set out in the amendment will apply.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 4:09 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. First, in relation to Government amendments 10 and 11, the Opposition would like the accountability provisions to be much more extensive than they are. However, given that the Government just won the last vote on an amendment, it would be rather self-defeating for us to oppose these amendments at this stage.

I have a question on Government amendment 12; perhaps the Minister can enlighten us a little bit. I understood that the whole Bill, when it comes to its money laundering provisions, amends the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. I am therefore slightly confused about the timing and scheduling. Why are the Government bringing those regulations into the Bill when they were not there in the first place? I wonder whether the Minister can enlighten us.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

This is an enabling measure that allows us to take the action necessary. I am not sure I quite grasped the hon. Lady’s point. I think I will need to write to her to clarify that so that I do not say anything that misrepresents the Government’s position.

Amendment 10 agreed to.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 4:11 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 11, in schedule 2, page 54, line 11 at end insert—

“20A (1) In this paragraph ‘relevant regulations’ means regulations under section 43 which create any offence for the purposes of the enforcement of any requirements imposed by or under regulations under section 43.

(2) The appropriate Minister making any relevant regulations (‘the Minister’) must at the required time lay before Parliament a report which—

(a) specifies the offences created by the regulations, indicating the requirements to which those offences relate,

(b) states that the Minister considers that there are good reasons for those requirements to be enforceable by criminal proceedings and explains why the Minister is of that opinion, and

(c) in the case of any of those offences which are punishable with imprisonment—

(i) states the maximum terms of imprisonment that apply to those offences,

(ii) states that the Minister considers that there are good reasons for those maximum terms, and

(iii) explains why the Minister is of that opinion.

(3) Sub-paragraph (4) applies where an offence created by the regulations relates to particular requirements and the Minister considers that a good reason—

(a) for those requirements to be enforceable by criminal proceedings, or

(b) for a particular maximum term of imprisonment to apply to that offence,

is consistency with another enactment relating to the enforcement of similar requirements.

(4) The report must identify that other enactment.

(5) In sub-paragraph (3) ‘another enactment’ means any provision of or made under an Act, other than a provision of the regulations to which the report relates.

(6) In sub-paragraph (2) ‘the required time’ means the same time as the draft of the statutory instrument containing the regulations is laid before Parliament.

(7) This paragraph applies to regulations which amend other regulations under section 43 so as to create an offence as it applies to regulations which otherwise create an offence.”

This amendment requires that where regulations under Clause 43 are made which include offences, a report specifying the offences and giving reasons for any terms of imprisonment that apply to them must be laid before Parliament.

As I said earlier, amendment 11 provides for an important safeguard that will apply when powers are used to create criminal offences. It will require the Government to lay a report before Parliament explaining the Minister’s reasons for using the powers—amendments 10, 11 and 12 are really a package—whenever a criminal offence is created in new or amended anti-money laundering regulations under clause 43.

The amendment requires such a report to be laid at the same time as the draft statutory instrument containing the relevant regulations. Regulations under clause 43 will of course be made using the draft affirmative procedure, unless they update the UK’s list of high-risk jurisdictions in connection with which enhanced due diligence measures are required. The report will therefore facilitate effective parliamentary scrutiny of changes to the UK’s AML regime and will go further than the status quo in enabling Parliament to scrutinise the creation of criminal offences through money laundering regulations.

The amendment specifies that the following elements should be included in the report: the offences that have been created and the requirements to which they refer; the good reasons why those requirements need criminal offences; the maximum prison terms for any offences created that are punishable by imprisonment; the good reasons for setting the maximum prison terms at the levels at which they have been set; and, where the creation of an offence is justified by reference to an existing offence in another enactment, reference to that other enactment.

The requirement for the Minister to demonstrate that they have good reasons for using the power ensures that it cannot be used lightly. I hope hon. Members agree that such reports will provide increased transparency about the reasons for creating criminal offences and give Members a solid basis for holding the Government to account when debating anti-money laundering regulations made under the Bill.

Nevertheless, the Government remain very aware that creating criminal offences and setting penalties in regulations is a serious matter that is not to be undertaken lightly. I am therefore happy to repeat reassurances and existing safeguards that the Government introduced in the other place. As it stands, a criminal offence can be established under clause 43 only if regulations provide either a mental element necessary for the commission of the offence or a defence to it, or both. That will maintain the existing policy position under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 and preserve the deterrent effect established by criminalising breaches of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations.

The amendment is an additional safeguard to the changes the Government have already introduced in response to concerns raised in the other place by Lord Judge and others. We listened to those concerns, and the amendment addresses them. It will ensure that Ministers cannot create criminal offences or set penalties —up to a maximum of two years’ imprisonment—without good reasons, and that Parliament has all the information it needs to hold Ministers to account.

That contrasts starkly with current practice, in which new criminal offences are created through statutory instruments made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 under the negative procedure, without any need to state reasons, with no information about such reasons being provided to Parliament, and with no requirement for a vote in Parliament to approve them. The measure is, therefore, a better way of ensuring that proper safeguards are placed in the Bill with respect to offences, rather than removing the ability to create them, and so weakening the UK’s anti-money laundering regime.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 4:02 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. I shall not dwell on the matter, because we have already talked about the amendment to an extent in a previous debate. I repeat our concern that the regime is not sufficiently accountable. Reference to the previous regime may be inappropriate, because the framework in that case was set at EU level, and it was a question of implementing it in the UK. Surely with the brave new dawn that some see coming as we leave the EU, we should be aiming at a system that is as accountable as possible.

In our previous discussions about offences in relation to sanctions, Ministers suggested that there could be a need for speed in the creation of new regimes or new types of criminal offence, because, for example, a human rights challenge could arise suddenly, or there could be gross violations of human rights in a particular country, and we might need to respond quickly. Surely such a situation does not apply to money laundering. It is peculiar that the same almost fast-track, post hoc style of system should be applied to criminal offences to do with money laundering. It would be helpful to have more information about why the Government believe that in the relevant category of criminal offence, there cannot be the same—or at least movement towards the same—degree of scrutiny as there would be in other contexts, when the question of speed surely does not apply. In fact, the Minister did not mention speed.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I take the hon. Lady’s concerns seriously. As my right hon. Friend the Minister said earlier, when we were discussing similar matters on Tuesday, we should be happy for hon. Members to meet officials to discuss outstanding concerns. I have set out in the amendments a clear affirmative process for laying a statutory instrument before the House, in a situation where Parliament will be able to discuss the requirement and its extent, the underlying rationale, and a mechanism for reporting to Parliament. If there are particular issues and specific cases that the hon. Lady wants to raise, I suggest that we convene a conversation with officials to deal with them. As we move forward, I am keen to secure the widest possible support and consensus about the Bill.

Amendment 11 agreed to.

Amendment made: 12, in schedule 2, page 54, line 39, at end insert—

‘( ) In paragraph 15 (offences), any reference to regulations under section 43 includes the Money Laundering Regulations 2017.

( ) In paragraph 20A (report in respect of offences)—

(a) the reference in sub-paragraph (1) to requirements imposed by or under regulations under section 43 includes requirements imposed by or under the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, and

(b) the reference in sub-paragraph (7) to other regulations under section 43 includes the Money Laundering Regulations 2017.”—(John Glen.)

This amendment has the effect that, while the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 remain in force, offences may be created by regulations under Clause 43 for the purposes of enforcing requirements in the 2017 regulations.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Mike Freer.)

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

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Tuesday 27th February 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
27 Feb 2018, 10:32 a.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I shall speak briefly on a couple of points.

First, the Minister helpfully stated that the Government do support NGO operations in countries subject to conflict. Will he be more explicit and state that the Government support NGO operations in countries subject to sanctions? That is exactly what we are talking about now. The concern for many in the development community is that the balance is currently towards a presumption against activities occurring in countries where there are sanctions, rather than that being feasible for those organisations when fulfilling international obligations, as we would expect.

Secondly, on amendment 18 on the fast-track process, I was encouraged by some of what the Minister said but was slightly concerned by the reference to the Government continuing current processes, with the suggestion that those are adequate. I have certainly received information, as I am sure other colleagues have—the hon. Member for Glasgow Central referred to some of this—on the impact of fuel sanctions. I understand that delays in getting appropriate licences and exemptions in relation to sanctions on fuel in Syria have led to farcical situations in which, for example, a hospital was destroyed before it was possible to get the fuel that would serve that hospital. The current system is not working at the moment. I wonder whether we may have more of a focus on not following existing practices, which clearly are not operating adequately.

The Minister suggested that the fast-track process would lead to some kind of inappropriate, one-size-fits-all system where, for example, a need for medicine in one situation could be trumped by humanitarian concerns. Surely medical needs could come under humanitarian concerns? What we are really talking about is the need for a fast-track approach to humanitarian peace-building action that will be interpreted sensitively and intelligently, but which could get away from the current impediments for NGOs.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
27 Feb 2018, 10:35 a.m.

I am happy to address those points. I can of course confirm that NGOs in countries subject to sanctions are still able to access these provisions. On the hon. Lady’s point on the fast-tracking process, and the point on fuel sanctions, I said what I said in response to the amendments, but we are obviously living in a very imperfect situation, with highly challenging environments. It will not be possible to get things right every time, but I think the provisions in this legislation give us the best opportunity to do so. I think I have set out the Government’s position clearly.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Tuesday 16th January 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 11:56 a.m.

My hon. Friend is right. The Government do not take anything for granted and will look very closely at what is happening with the poorest in our society.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 11:56 a.m.

Does the Minister acknowledge that the reasons why a quarter of people on low incomes are currently experiencing significant problems with arrears or debt repayment include, first, his Government not taking on board Labour’s programme to rein in credit card debt and, secondly, the fact that their changes to the tax threshold have been outweighed for the poorest people by alterations to social security?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 11:56 a.m.

The hon. Lady needs to acknowledge the transformation that the national living wage has brought to so many people and this Government’s willingness to increase it above inflation. It is also worth noting that interest payments as a proportion of income are currently at the lowest on record.

Childcare Vouchers

Debate between John Glen and Anneliese Dodds
Monday 15th January 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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HM Treasury
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds - Hansard
15 Jan 2018, 5:55 p.m.

I absolutely share those concerns and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that fact. There is a worrying combination of technical glitches, many of which seem to be ongoing and many of which have lost parents thousands of pounds—we are not talking about small amounts of money. Those parents are so frustrated; they have continually contacted helplines and different team managers, who have just said, “I’m very sorry; there are technical problems that we have been raising with those more senior.”

As well as that side of the issue, as we have heard from other colleagues, many parents do not have access to the kind of internet service that they need for the application every three months. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North and my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian underlined, people need a secure, reliable and high-speed internet connection every three months to make this application. Parents I have talked to have told me that this is not a one-shot application, because of the numerous technical glitches that people have experienced.

Can the Minister offer us an iron-clad guarantee that no parent will be locked out of access to tax-free childcare, either because of IT glitches or because of a lack of access to safe, secure and permanent internet services? I would be grateful if he let us know what precisely he has done or will do, given he has just got his feet under the table, to push Atos in particular to speedily resolve these very concerning technical issues. I have no doubt that these kinds of technical problems, as well as many of the others that were referred to by colleagues, offer part of the reason for the low take-up of tax-free childcare.

There are nearly 800,000 families using childcare vouchers, as my colleagues mentioned, and the vouchers are provided by more than 60,000 businesses and employers, including every Government Department. Occasionally, the Government maintain that there is a low proportion of employers offering vouchers. That is the case for one-man and one-woman bands, but if we take them and very small businesses out of the equation, there is a much higher proportion of businesses that offer those childcare voucher schemes. There is an enormous gulf between the usership rate of childcare vouchers and that of tax-free childcare, even with existing restrictions.

Colleagues mentioned that the OBR report before the Budget indicated that the Government would pay out only £37 million this year for tax-free childcare, despite setting aside £800 million for it. There is also a strange issue of exactly how many people actually benefit from tax-free childcare. I am slightly confused, as are colleagues, about today’s announcement and what the figure of 170,000 referred to. In her statement, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, maintained that 170,000 people have opened an account for tax-free childcare. I am interested to know whether those are live accounts—whether those accounts have paid anything out—because I understand that, as of November, only 30,000 accounts were actually live: a tiny proportion of the people who could have accessed the scheme have done so.

I am also concerned that the parents of disabled children may be considerably under-claiming. I was pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) mentioned that, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North. I was surprised to hear in the response to a parliamentary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen that there are only 1,187 tax-free childcare accounts registered for disabled children. Of course, tax-free childcare is already fully rolled out for disabled children, so it would be helpful to hear the Minister’s assessment of the number of parents of disabled children who used tax-free childcare, compared with those who used vouchers, and why there is a disparity, as I expect there will be. I would also be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about the disincentive effect of the design of the tax-free childcare system. As many colleagues mentioned, parents need to pay around £10,000 into their account before they can receive the headline £2,000 per year. That enormous sum is simply impossible for the vast majority of parents to afford. It does not reflect their working patterns or their wages.

[Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

For that and other reasons, tax-free childcare will benefit people on large incomes who consume large amounts of childcare the most. As many colleagues said, the new scheme will generally leave people on lower incomes worse off. Indeed, the charity Employers for Childcare calculated that approximately 70% of the parents who approach it for help would be better off with childcare vouchers, tax credits or universal credit, or with a combination of those things, than with tax-free childcare. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) rightly mentioned that the new system may negatively impact low-income single parents in particular.

Further calculations indicate that people in lower paid areas and people on lower wages generally are more likely to lose out as a result of losing access to childcare vouchers following the adoption of tax-free childcare. That is because—we might have discussed this issue more—tax-free childcare does not incorporate the progressive elements of the voucher scheme, which enables basic rate taxpayers to save more than higher rate taxpayers, who may in turn save more than additional rate taxpayers. In her insightful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak pointed out some of the disbenefits of tax-free childcare for low-income parents compared with people on low incomes who are already in the voucher scheme.

I would be grateful if the Minister indicated whether any impact assessment has been undertaken of how the closure of the childcare vouchers scheme will affect people who spend an average amount—not the very high amounts in Government projections—on childcare. It would also help to hear how the Minister expects the new system to affect people on lower incomes, who will largely see the support they receive proportionately reduced by these changes. That assessment should take into account the impact on employees’ ability to progress to higher paid jobs that require them to be more flexible with their working hours, which my hon. Friend rightly mentioned.

I would also be grateful if the Minister explained how the Government are promoting activity by employers to support employees who are parents. A number of colleagues made the point that childcare vouchers start a conversation about employers’ responsibility to consider their employees’ childcare responsibilities. Along with other benefits for working parents, vouchers often play a key part in recruitment and retention. Given that we will lose the vouchers scheme, will the Minister indicate what other measures the Government are putting in place?

We also need a response to the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North asked: why is there a tighter age restriction for tax-free childcare than for childcare vouchers? Have the Government considered the impact of that on parents who want to ensure that their children are properly cared for when they are not at school? My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak ably underlined that point—his speech was very important in that regard.

Given the low take-up of tax-free childcare, the extensive technical problems with its roll-out, its regressive impact and the apparent problems that parents with disabled children are having with accessing it, will the Minister see sense and keep the vouchers scheme open, as the petitioners request?

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
15 Jan 2018, 6:05 p.m.

I am pleased to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I thank everyone who signed the petition and made their views heard. I understand that the petition has attracted more than 115,000 signatures, which goes to show the importance of the Government’s support for childcare costs. This is a key issue, and we have had a thorough debate. Seven Members made very full and thoughtful contributions, and I will respond to as many of their points as I can.

For many parents, being able to afford good-quality childcare is essential to working and supporting their families, so it is right that we have this debate. I am responding to the debate rather than the Minister with responsibility for childcare because tax-free childcare and childcare vouchers operate through the tax system. The Government have introduced tax-free childcare, which will benefit more than 1 million working households and mean that parents are eligible for up to £2,000 per child per year to help towards childcare costs.