All 1 Baroness Watkins of Tavistock contributions to the Financial Services Bill 2019-21

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Wed 24th Mar 2021
Financial Services Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage

Financial Services Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Financial Services Bill

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, thank you for a very good debate. It has been a fine example of the way in which Report brings together the arguments made in Committee and allows the House to come to a collective view about the issue in question.

In her customary way, the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, gave a full and considered response, and I thank her for that. She focused more on what she called the strength of feeling in the House and did not really engage with the strength of the argument. I hope that when she reflects on that, she may recognise that that is a bit of a weakness. The arguments are not to be ignored simply because they are expressed strongly. They are to be looked at seriously, because they are trying to attack a pernicious problem that is causing huge consumer detriment, as exemplified in the many speeches we have heard today, particularly from those who have worked in the industry for a number of years. The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, and others gave examples that were redolent of the experience of trying to make the system work.

I think the Minister also accepted in her speech that the Government want regulatory structure to protect consumers and said that the level of harm was perhaps too high. In explaining how the FCA’s three objectives are expected to operate—which must be a logical mess, when you analyse them—she illustrated why my noble friend Lord Eatwell and others wish that we had a better, principle-based and less list-based structure for the way in which the regulators carry out their work. As the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, put it—he could not have put it more simply—FiSMA does not protect consumers, malfeasance is flourishing and may even be encouraged by the current structure, and redress is patchy, lengthy and not really available to those who need it most.

The issue before the House, therefore, is whether the existing process and procedures, the existing wording which sets them out and the existing objectives, which are constraining what the FCA can and cannot do, are the best we can get to. The arguments that have been made, particularly the devastating figures from the ombudsman’s service, suggest that we are not in a good place on this. This was picked up by many speakers, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Tyler and Lady Kramer.

In the context of the need for better financial well-being as we recover from the pandemic and the chance to do things better, are we really saying that the best we can come up with is to wait for another consultation, which will probably just be another exercise in playing catch-up and result in a longer list of rules and requirements? Why do we not just set a very high tide mark for what we expect our regulators to do and, if the consultation proves the case, reduce the requirements where that is proportionate and appropriate?

I do not understand why the Minister felt unable to take the issue away, talk about it and come back at Third Reading. She challenged us to put our views to the House. I would therefore like to test the opinion of the House in this matter.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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I shall now put the Question. We have heard a Member taking part remotely say that they wish to divide the House in support of this amendment, and I will take that into account. The Question is that Amendment 1 be agreed to.

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Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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We now move to the group consisting of Amendment 2. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Amendment 2

Moved by