Monday 26 April 2021
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Post Office Court of Appeal Judgment
This House is well aware of the issues with the Post Office Horizon IT System and the hugely negative impact it has had on the lives of affected postmasters. The Government welcomes the Court of Appeal’s decision last Friday, 23 April, to quash the convictions of 39 postmasters. This is in addition to six convictions quashed by the Crown Court in December 2020.
The Court’s decision is also another important step towards bringing resolution for these postmasters. The impact this ordeal has had on affected postmasters, their lives and livelihoods cannot be overstated. The Government will come back with a fuller oral statement tomorrow, 27 April, to update the House in more detail on these cases, owing to the scale of the miscarriage of justice we have seen here.
Kalifa Review of UK FinTech
Innovation is at the forefront of our vision for the future of UK financial services. The Government are committed to ensuring that the UK remains at the global cutting edge of technology and innovation in financial services. Creating the conditions needed for our FinTech businesses to grow and compete, both here and abroad, is central to delivering on this ambition. This is why, at Budget 2020, I asked Ron Kalifa OBE to carry out an independent review of the UK FinTech sector.
The Kalifa review of UK Fintech (the Review)  was published on 26 February 2021. It made a number of recommendations aimed at Government, regulators, and industry across five areas: policy and regulation, skills and talent, investment, international attractiveness and competitiveness, and national connectivity. At publication, HM Treasury welcomed the review and highlighted key recommendations including:
A Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology to strengthen national co-ordination across the FinTech ecosystem to boost growth.
A regulatory “scale-box” to provide additional support to growth stage FinTech.
Amendments to UK listings rules to make the UK a more attractive location for initial public offerings (IPOs).
Improvements to tech visas to attract global talent and boost the FinTech workforce.
Here we have set out the actions that Government and regulators are taking in response to the review’s recommendations.
Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology
The Government recognise the potential for a private sector-led Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) as an accelerator for FinTech sector growth. It can achieve this through research, thought leadership, and working with regional FinTech hubs and national FinTech bodies to identify and address barriers to growth to the benefit of the sector across the whole of the UK. I have confirmed that the Government support the creation of this centre and will work closely with the FinTech community to make it a reality.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also welcomed the Kalifa review and has set out steps it will be taking to deliver against the review’s idea for a “regulatory scale-box”, by enhancing its existing regulatory toolkit. These actions include:
Launching “Always Open” to make the regulatory sandbox available on a rolling basis.
Clarifying the scope of qualifying propositions for the regulatory sandbox to ensure as many firms as possible are able to access support.
Launching, in conjunction with the City of London Corporation, the second phase of the Digital Sandbox pilot, inviting applications to test proof of concepts to solve sustainability and climate change financial challenges.
Considering how to provide a “one-stop shop” for growth-stage firms to dock in and easily navigate what sources of FCA support are available to them.
Working with industry over coming months to identify further solutions for supporting firms manage the journey to scale.
The FCA has also announced plans to create a regulatory “nursery” for enhanced oversight of newly authorised firms, enabling an opportunity for additional support as firms become used to the requirements of regulatory compliance.
The Lord Hill Listings review, which was published at Budget 2021 and made recommendations to boost the UK as a destination for IPOs and optimise the capital raising process on UK markets, addresses a number of the Kalifa review’s recommendations for attracting more FinTech listings to the UK. The Government set out details of their response to Lord Hill’s review in a written ministerial statement on 19 April [HCWS919]. In parallel, the FCA plans to consult on issues raised by the Kalifa review including reducing the minimum “free float” a company must have when it lists, and whether premium listed companies can have dual share class structures.
The Government demonstrated their support for attracting international talent to the UK at Budget 2021 by announcing creation of a “scale-up visa stream”. The new stream will be created within a new elite points-based route that will allow employees with a job offer at the required skills level from a recognised UK scale up, including FinTechs, to qualify for a fast-track visa, without the need for sponsorship or third-party endorsement. The Government will set out further details by July and the new route will be implemented by March 2022.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) has announced it will create two new FinTech initiatives in response to the review. The first is a new FinTech cohort within DIT’s Export Academy initiative. This will provide bespoke, 1-2-1 advice to eligible UK FinTechs who are ready to scale into key markets such as North America, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Tailored advice will cover topics such as legal, tax, regulation, accounting, and market entry matters, all of which will support the international expansion ambitions of FinTechs on the programme. This is in addition to the wide range of existing DIT export support services currently available for UK businesses. DIT will also establish a FinTech champions scheme, comprising of leading UK FinTech advocates who are successfully exporting. DIT FinTech champions will fly the flag for UK FinTech overseas and support the next generation of UK FinTech in their growth journeys through mentoring and peer to peer learning. Both initiatives will enhance UK FinTech overseas, further elevating the UK’s status as a world leading FinTech hub.
Regulation for digital finance
The review also made recommendations more broadly for the Government to develop a regulatory framework for digitalisation and emerging technology in financial services. The Government are taking forward a number of initiatives in these areas:
Along with the Bank of England, HM Treasury has launched a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Taskforce to co-ordinate the exploration of a potential UK CBDC—the Government and the Bank of England have not yet made a decision on whether to introduce a CBDC in the UK. A CBDC would be a new form of money that would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them; the Government recognise that cash remains important to millions of people across the UK, and have committed to legislating to protect access to cash.
HM Treasury and the Bank of England are launching a CBDC Engagement Forum to gather strategic input on all non-technology aspects of CBDC.
The Bank of England is also launching a CBDC Technology Forum to gather input on all technology aspects of CBDC.
The Bank of England has launched a new account type that will allow access to central bank money by innovative financial market infrastructure providers to allow them to provide enhanced wholesale payment and settlement.
The Government have announced a financial market infrastructure (FMI) sandbox for firms exploring how to use technologies, such as distributed ledger technology (DLT), to innovate in the settlement of financial securities. This regime will aim to support firms, which are developing this new technology, with a more flexible and tailored approach to meeting requirements in current legislation, while appropriately balancing any risks to financial stability, market integrity and consumer protection. This new regime will be inspired by the FCA’s sandbox and HM Treasury will work together with the Bank of England and the FCA to deliver this.
In 2020 the Government committed to creating a framework of standards, governance, and legislation to enable a UK digital identity market. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) published a draft trust framework for consultation in February this year which sets out the Government’s vision for the rules governing the future use of digital identities. A next iteration is expected to be published this summer.
The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy is taking forward work on smart data and has committed to bringing forward legislation to better enable data sharing across sectors, including open finance. The FCA published a call for input on open finance in 2019 and published a feedback statement in March this year. This set out that the FCA will work closely with the Government as it takes forward the work on legislation as well as assessing the regulatory framework that would be needed to support open finance.
The review also highlighted the benefits of tax incentive schemes in supporting FinTech growth and at Budget 2021 the Government announced steps it is taking to ensure the schemes work as efficiently as possible, including:
A call for evidence on the enterprise management incentive scheme to seek views on whether the scheme is meeting its objectives, and examine whether more companies should be able to access the scheme.
A review of R&D tax reliefs which follows the consultation last year on expanding the qualifying expenditures to include cloud computing and data.
The Kalifa review also makes various recommendations that Government consider industry is best placed to take forward and I am grateful to Ron Kalifa for bringing these to my attention.
I would like to conclude by thanking Ron Kalifa and his team for their exceptional work in producing this seminal review. Ron has succeeded in producing insightful analysis, and garnering widespread support from industry for a suite of proposals that keep us on track for the continued success of UK FinTech.
I look forward to taking forward the steps I have outlined today.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Fan-Led Review of Football Governance
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced an independent fan-led review of football governance on 19 April. This will be chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch).
This manifesto commitment followed a number of high profile club collapses in recent years, including Bury Football Club which resulted in its expulsion from the English Football League. Football clubs are integral parts of our local communities and it is vital that they are protected. The European Super League proposals, which would have been detrimental to the entire football pyramid, demonstrated that now is the right time to launch the review.
The Government have now published the terms of reference for the review. It will seek to make recommendations on ways to improve the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in English football, building on the strengths of the football pyramid. This will include examining the owners and directors tests, exploring ownership models from other countries, and assessing the merits of an independent regulator.
Football begins and ends with fans and we have seen that passionately displayed over the past few days, with clubs being the beating heart of their communities. This review will help put football on a firmer footing for the future and ensure that supporters’ voices are heard.
A copy of the terms of reference will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2021-04-26/HCWS939/ .
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions
I have today laid before Parliament, under the powers of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regulations 2021.
The sanctions regime established by these regulations seeks to prevent and combat serious corruption around the world by allowing for asset freezes and travel bans to be imposed on individuals or organisations involved in serious corruption. It is a smart tool allowing the Government to target corrupt actors and their enablers. It will prevent those responsible from entering the UK or laundering their ill-gotten assets here. These sanctions will help to ensure that the UK is not a safe haven for those involved in serious corruption, including those who profit from it.
The global anti-corruption sanctions regime will stand alongside the global human rights sanctions regime and give the UK an additional, powerful device to prevent and combat serious corruption around the world.
Today, I will also give an oral statement to set out the new sanctions regime and publish the first persons to be designated under it.
Health and Social Care
Contingent Liabilities Notification: NIHR National Biosample Centre
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation (Lord Bethell of Romford) has today made the following written ministerial statement:
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) National Biosample Centre is a state-of-the-art bio-sample storage and processing facility. It was established in 2014 through a capital grant from the then Department of Health to the University of Oxford, with the aim of enhancing the nation’s capability and capacity to support medical, health and life sciences research into disease mechanisms, new diagnostics and treatments. The NIHR National Biosample Centre remains a key national asset in the context of the Government’s commitment to the life sciences and, since April 2020, it has also served as the Milton Keynes lighthouse lab for covid-19 testing.
To help ensure the long-term financial viability of the NIHR National Biosample Centre, and following consideration of several options, I have approved the transfer of the assets and leasing business from the University of Oxford to the Department of Health and Social Care; in return, the Department will pay £1 and provide the University of Oxford with two indemnities relating to its ownership.
I have today presented a departmental minute notifying Parliament of the two contingent liabilities arising from the provision of these indemnities. Details of the contingent liabilities are set out in the minute.