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Written Question
Finance
3 Aug 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the report by Christians Against Poverty Shipshape or sinking ship?, published on 21 July, what plans they have to annually assess levels of financial wellbeing across the UK.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Government recognises that the full impact of COVID-19 on people’s personal finances is still unfolding, and that some are struggling with their finances during these challenging times. The Government is committed to helping people improve their financial wellbeing, and is working with stakeholders from the public, private and third sectors on these issues.

In 2020, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), an arms-length body of Government, published the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, which sets out five goals to improve financial wellbeing in the UK by 2030. These include increasing the number of children and young people receiving a meaningful financial education, encouraging saving, decreasing the number of people often using credit for food and bills, increasing the number of people accessing debt advice, and helping people plan for later life. It also includes cross-cutting workstreams focusing on gender, mental health, and wellbeing in the workplace.

The Government also works closely with Fair4All Finance, an independent body which was founded in 2019 to improve the financial wellbeing of those who are financially vulnerable through fair and affordable financial products and services. Since 2019, the Government has provided £96 million of dormant asset funding towards financial inclusion, which are being distributed by Fair4All Finance.

The Government has close and regular engagement with the financial services regulators on issues which contribute to financial wellbeing. For example, in February 2021, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published its finalised guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. The Government is supportive of recent FCA work on vulnerable customers.

In addition, at Budget 2021, the government announced up to £3.8m for a pilot No-Interest Loans Scheme to support vulnerable consumers who would benefit from affordable credit to meet unexpected costs as an alternative to relying on high-cost credit.

Finally, the Government considers financial inclusion and capability as key determinants of financial wellbeing. The Government reports annually on progress made on financial inclusion through the Financial Inclusion Report. Furthermore, MaPS monitors levels of financial capability in the UK through the Financial Capability Survey, a nationally representative survey of adults living in the UK.


Written Question
Equitable Life Assurance Society: Compensation
28 Jun 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to assess the methodology used to calculate the money owed to Equitable Life policyholders as part of the compensation scheme established under the Equitable Life (Payments) Act 2010, and (2) the accuracy of the figures produced by that methodology.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The methodology for calculating payments to Equitable Life policyholders was published in 2011.

The Equitable Life Payment Scheme closed to claims in 2015 and there are no plans to reopen the Payment Scheme or review the £1.5 billion funding allocation previously made to it.


Written Question
Equitable Life Assurance Society: Compensation
28 Jun 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent consideration they have given to ensuring that there is (1) compensation, and (2) support, available to those affected by the collapse of Equitable Life.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The methodology for calculating payments to Equitable Life policyholders was published in 2011.

The Equitable Life Payment Scheme closed to claims in 2015 and there are no plans to reopen the Payment Scheme or review the £1.5 billion funding allocation previously made to it.


Written Question
Multinational Companies: Taxation
23 Jun 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the recent G7 global taxation agreement, what plans they have to require (1) public country-by-country reporting for UK based multinationals, and (2) enhanced tax reporting, to increase transparency and better ascertain the tax liabilities of UK multinationals.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Government is delighted to have secured G7 backing for the two-pillar solution being developed by the OECD to reform the international tax framework and the Government’s focus is on reaching final agreement with the G20 and OECD Inclusive Framework. A final agreement, when implemented, would help deal with the root of concerns about the taxation of multinationals, both as to where these corporations are taxed and as to the level at which they pay tax.

As part of the Finance Act 2016, large corporations and multinational enterprises are already required to publish a tax strategy document, which outlines the company’s attitude towards tax planning and its approach towards its dealings with HMRC.

The Government has also led on implementing international standards in tax transparency, including the Common Reporting Standard and Country-by-Country Reporting, which ensure tax authorities have the information they need to identify and challenge avoidance.

The Government considers that public country-by-country reporting needs to be implemented on a broad multilateral basis with wide international support if it is to be effective. Implementing it without wide international support would distort decisions on where companies decide to locate.


Written Question
Debts: Advisory Services
20 May 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the findings in the Christian’s Against Poverty’s Our Story, Client Report 2021, published in April, that 45 per cent of clients did not initially know where to access help to manage their debts, what plans they have to better (1) signpost, and (2) raise awareness of, debt advice services as part of the recovery from COVID-19.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Government recognises that some people are struggling with their personal finances as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold. The Government is committed to helping people access the support they need to get their finances back on track. This is why it has agreed to maintain record levels of debt advice funding for the Money and Pension Service (MaPS) in 2021/22, bringing the budget for free debt advice in England to £94.6 million, an increase of over 70% compared to 2019/20 levels.

Support from MaPS is available to all online, and the website includes a debt advice locator tool to help people find local free advice services. MaPS also launched a Money Navigator Tool last year, promoted via various channels, which helps people navigate their finances during the pandemic and avoid financial issues worsening in future.

To ensure that people are signposted to the help they need, MaPS services are referenced in the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) guidance, which is issued to all financial services lenders regulated by the FCA. Further, MaPS-funded free-to-client debt advice service providers have been pro-actively reaching out to customers during the pandemic, including by using video-calls and webchat to offer broader ways for clients to engage.

In addition, the MaPS-led Pilot of Adviser Capacity and Efficiency (PACE) was launched in March 2019, offering a new route into debt advice. This pro-actively engages people by working closely with creditors, who introduce those who are missing payments to the service and promote the benefits of seeking help. In addition to creditor referrals, MaPS launched a self-referral route into PACE in November 2019 to engage with customers directly. The pilot’s evaluation is ongoing, and MaPS will move successful elements of the work to full-scale from this Autumn.


Written Question
Fly-tipping
17 Mar 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the landfill tax on the level of illegal waste disposals.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimates the difference between expected revenues and the tax that is actually paid in the annual publication, Measuring Tax Gaps.[1]

Measuring Tax Gaps 2020 edition estimated the total Landfill Tax gap for 2018-19 at £275 million.

As part of that total, HMRC estimates that £185.4 million of Landfill Tax was not paid in 2018-19 due to waste disposals at unauthorised waste sites.

Landfill Tax is one of a range of government policies in the waste sector designed to discourage landfill and encourage more sustainable waste management. It is not possible to separate the impact of one policy on illegal disposals.

[1] Measuring tax gaps - GOV.UK


Written Question
Tax Avoidance
25 Feb 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effectiveness in deterring tax avoidance of the policies of (1) France, (2) Denmark, (3) Belgium and (4) Poland, which exclude companies (a) registered in, or (b) linked to, offshore tax havens from accessing taxpayer funded relief programmes.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Government does not have access to information about how these other countries’ policies have been applied or the impact they have had on businesses’ behaviour, and cannot therefore comment on the policies’ effectiveness.

The Government has introduced a substantial support package, designed to be targeted at the businesses and individuals who most need support, while ensuring measures are simple, certain and introduced in a timely manner to protect livelihoods.

The Government expects everyone to act responsibly by only claiming and using support as intended and is keeping measures under regular review.

The Government continues to be at the forefront of global action to tackle tax avoidance, with a series of robust measures in place to tackle profit shifting arrangements.

Since 2010, the Government has introduced over 100 new ways to tackle tax avoidance, protecting over £200 billion that would have otherwise gone unpaid. That has included adopting many of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project’s recommendations including the Corporate Interest Restriction rules, effective from April 2017, which raise approximately £1 billion a year and the Hybrid mismatch rules, effective from January 2017, which are expected to raise £900 million between 2016/17 and 2020/21.

The Government has also led on implementing international standards in tax transparency, including the Common Reporting Standard and Country-by-Country Reporting (‘CbCR’), which ensure tax authorities have the information they need to identify and challenge avoidance.

As part of the Finance Act 2016, large corporations and multinational enterprises are already required to publish a tax strategy document, which (amongst other things) outlines the company’s attitude towards tax planning and its approach towards its dealings with HMRC.


Written Question
Financial Markets
15 Feb 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the (1) benefits to institutional finance firms, and (2) costs to retail traders, of the decision by some retail stock brokerages to prevent traders from taking long positions on specific stocks on 28 January.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the UK’s financial markets conduct regulator and is responsible for protecting consumers, ensuring market integrity and promoting effective competition. As set out in the FCA’s statement of 29 January, broking firms are not obliged to offer trading facilities to clients and may withdraw or suspend services if it is necessary or prudent to do so. The FCA’s statement also said that they would take appropriate action wherever they see evidence of UK firms or individuals causing harm to UK consumers or markets.

The Government recognises that the pace and creativity of innovation in UK financial services creates new opportunities for businesses and consumers to participate in markets through technologies such as app-based platforms. However, investors should be aware that investing in securities comes with risks. The FCA’s statement of 29 January warned consumers that any losses that result from such investments are unlikely to be covered under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.


Written Question
Financial Markets
15 Feb 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the actions of some retail stock brokerages preventing retail traders from purchasing specific stocks on 28 January; and what plans the Financial Conduct Authority has to investigate the matter.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the UK’s financial markets conduct regulator and is responsible for protecting consumers, ensuring market integrity and promoting effective competition. As set out in the FCA’s statement of 29 January, broking firms are not obliged to offer trading facilities to clients and may withdraw or suspend services if it is necessary or prudent to do so. The FCA’s statement also said that they would take appropriate action wherever they see evidence of UK firms or individuals causing harm to UK consumers or markets.

The Government recognises that the pace and creativity of innovation in UK financial services creates new opportunities for businesses and consumers to participate in markets through technologies such as app-based platforms. However, investors should be aware that investing in securities comes with risks. The FCA’s statement of 29 January warned consumers that any losses that result from such investments are unlikely to be covered under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.


Written Question
Cars: Loans
21 Dec 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the report by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Our work on motor finance—final findings, published on 1 March 2019, and the decision by the FCA announced on 28 July to ban discretionary commission models of car finance, what assessment they have made of whether personal contract purchase finance has been mis-sold; and what plans they have to introduce a compensation scheme for any consumers affected.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

This question has been passed on to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA will reply directly to the Lord Bishop by letter. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library of the House.


Written Question
Monetary Policy
21 Dec 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Agnew of Oulton on 3 December (HL10488) and the exchange of letters between the Bank of England and HM Treasury on the Asset Purchase Facility on 29 January 2009, what assessment they have made of the implications of the confirmation in these letters that the financing of the Asset Purchase Facility by central bank money would require HM Treasury consent for the question of whether it is appropriate for the Government to comment on the effectiveness of quantitative easing; and what assessment they have made of the effects of quantitative easing on the increase in house prices compared to increases in wages.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Bank of England’s Asset Purchase Facility is indemnified by HM Treasury. Due to this indemnity any decision to increase the limit of purchases to be financed through the issuance of central bank reserves requires Chancellor authorisation. However, the judgement of what size and composition of the Asset Purchase Facility is warranted is for the independent Monetary Policy Committee. The separation of fiscal and monetary policy is a key feature of the UK’s economic framework, and the Government does not comment on the conduct and effectiveness of monetary policy.


Written Question
Monetary Policy
21 Dec 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Agnew of Oulton on 3 December (HL10488) and the exchange of letters between the Bank of England and HM Treasury on the Asset Purchase Facility on 29 January 2009, whether the Monetary Policy Committee still requires the consent of HM Treasury to engage in quantitative easing through the Asset Purchase Facility.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Bank of England’s Asset Purchase Facility is indemnified by HM Treasury. Due to this indemnity any decision to increase the limit of purchases to be financed through the issuance of central bank reserves requires Chancellor authorisation. However, the judgement of what size and composition of the Asset Purchase Facility is warranted is for the independent Monetary Policy Committee. The separation of fiscal and monetary policy is a key feature of the UK’s economic framework, and the Government does not comment on the conduct and effectiveness of monetary policy.


Written Question
Monetary Policy
3 Dec 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effects of quantitative easing on the increase in house prices compared to increases in wages.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

Monetary policy, including decisions on quantitative easing, is the responsibility of the independent Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England.

The separation of fiscal and monetary policy is a key feature of the UK’s economic framework, and essential for the effective delivery of monetary policy, so the Government does not comment on the conduct or effectiveness of monetary policy.

Detail on the impact of monetary policy, including quantitative easing, can be found in the Bank’s working paper: "The distributional impact of monetary policy easing in the UK between 2008 and 2014."


Written Question
Infrastructure: Rural Areas
12 Nov 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to their decision to launch a one-year Spending Review, whether their multi-year capital allocation for priority infrastructure projects includes projects in rural areas, in particular (1) the Community Housing Fund, especially for rural affordable housing schemes, and (2) the Village Hall Improvement Grant Fund.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

While it would not be appropriate to respond in detail on plans for the Comprehensive Spending Review at this time, the Government recognises that village halls provide vital hubs for communities to connect, collaborate and celebrate, and that the community-led housing sector offers significant potential for helping to meet housing need across England in rural and urban areas.


Written Question
Broadband: Finance
3 Nov 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the announcement that the long-term spending review will be replaced by a one-year spending review, whether plans to service the UK with fibre broadband by 2025 will be included as a multi-year capital allocation priority infrastructure project.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The Spending Review, which will be delivered on 25 November, will set out the government’s spending plans.

The government recognises the importance of connectivity both to the economy and to people’s lives. We are committed to nationwide gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible, and are taking a number of steps to achieve this. The March Budget this year committed £5 billion to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the hardest to reach areas.