Thursday 3 March 2022
MiFID and Prospectus Regime Reform
In 2021, the Government published two consultations on reforms to our capital markets regime: the wholesale markets review—which reviews the markets in financial instrument directive (MiFID) regime—and the prospectus regime review. These consultations form part of the Chancellor’s broader vision to improve the competitiveness of the UK’s financial services sector and take advantage of our new freedoms in financial services following our withdrawal from the EU. On 1 March, I announced the next steps we intend to take to reform UK capital markets.
Wholesale markets review/MiFID reform
Deep and liquid wholesale capital markets are at the heart of the UK’s prosperity as an international financial centre. With the development of the EU’s single market, much of our regulatory approach was set in Brussels. Now that we have left the EU, we can use our newfound freedoms to reform these rules to ensure they work for UK markets. I do not intend to make changes for the sake of it, but in many areas of our capital markets regime, it is clear we can improve standards and make regulation more proportionate, cutting costs for firms while improving market integrity. In 2021, we consulted on a number of changes to the MiFID framework, which underpins our regulatory regime for wholesale markets.
The consultation closed in September 2021 and HM Treasury received 78 responses. Respondents from across the financial services sector strongly welcomed the objectives of the review and proposals for reform. In the light of this, I have announced the Government’s intention to bring forward legislative changes when parliamentary time allows, to take forward the most important measures that received the strongest support. These include amendments to five key areas of the regulatory framework:
Trading venues and systematic internalisers (Sis): we will remove unnecessary restrictions on where and how trading can happen, to allow firms to get the best price for investors.
Equity markets: we will legislate to simplify how and when firms need to make trading information public before they trade, to reduce costs and burdens for firms.
Fixed income and derivatives markets: we will reform the transparency regime to reduce costs and increase effectiveness, and the derivatives trading obligation to ease burdens for firms when managing risk and prevent market fragmentation.
Commodity derivatives: we will streamline the position limits regime to make it more effective, proportionate and less burdensome to comply with.
Market data: we will bring forward legislation to enable a consolidated tape which would collate and disseminate real time trading data, to reduce data costs and improve quality.
Where changes can be made to the parts of the regime that are already set out in regulatory rules and guidance, the FCA has committed to progress these in line with its normal processes. Where legislative changes are needed but in future would better sit in regulator rules and are not urgent, the Government will wait until the outcomes of the future regulatory framework (FRF) review have been implemented to bring them forward. The Government believe that this step-by-step approach will ensure that the most burdensome and unnecessary regulatory requirements are removed as soon as possible.
The consultation response document is available at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/uk-wholesale-markets-review-a-consultation.
Prospectus regime review
In November 2020, the Chancellor asked Lord Hill of Oareford CBE to lead an independent review of the UK listing regime. Lord Hill made a series of recommendations to help attract the most innovative and successful companies to UK markets and help them access the finance they need to grow. Of particular importance was his recommendation to undertake a fundamental review of the UK’s prospectus regime, which is based on the EU prospectus regulation, now part of retained EU law. This is the regulation which underpins the documents firms must publish when they seek admission to a stock market or raise fresh capital.
Having received widespread support for our proposals from across the sector, I have announced that we will take full advantage of our new regulatory freedoms by repealing the prospectus regulation and replacing it with a regime better tailored to the UK’s position as a global financial centre, when parliamentary time allows.
Our reforms will achieve the following objectives:
The changes will facilitate wider participation in the ownership of public companies, and remove the disincentives that currently exist for the issuance of securities to wide groups of investors—including retail investors.
The changes will simplify the regulation of prospectuses and remove unnecessary duplications, without lowering regulatory standards.
The changes will improve the quality of information investors receive under the prospectus regime, giving them more confidence to make their investment decisions.
The changes will ensure that the regulation of prospectuses is more agile and dynamic, meaning that, in future, the regulation of prospectuses will be better able to respond to innovation and change.
Both of these reforms are core parts of the Government’s commitment to make the most of our new freedoms in financial services. By doing so, we will enhance the functioning and competitiveness of the UK’s capital markets, and ensure they are continuing to help create jobs, support businesses, and power growth across all regions and nations of the UK.
The consultation response document is available at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/uk-prospectus-regime-a-consultation.
Transparency Report: Disruptive Powers 2020
I have today laid before both Houses the fifth iteration of the Government transparency report on the use of disruptive powers (CP 621). Copies of the report will be made available in the Vote Office and online on gov.uk.
The Government remain committed to increasing the transparency of the work of our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and this next iteration of the transparency report is a key part of that commitment.
Publishing this report ensures that the public are able to access a guide to the range of powers used to combat threats to the security of the United Kingdom, the extent of their use and the safeguards and oversight in place to ensure they are used properly.
The Prime Minister has made two new appointments to his trade envoy programme.
The new appointments will extend the total number of trade envoys to 36 parliamentarians, covering 76 markets. The role of a Prime Minister’s trade envoy is unpaid and voluntary, with cross-party membership from both Houses. The role supports the UK’s ambitious trade and investment agenda by championing global Britain and promoting the UK as a destination of choice for inward investment. They also support the UK’s economic recovery through the levelling-up agenda, by helping business take advantage of the opportunities arising in export markets.
The new appointments are:
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Angola and Zambia.
The hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Tunisia and Libya.
Court Recovery Update
I am today setting out an update on the use of Nightingale court venues.
Since the start of the pandemic, the priority of the Government, working closely with the judiciary and others, has been to ensure the justice system continues to perform its vital role while keeping court and tribunal users safe, in line with public health guidelines.
Hotels, former courts and conference centres were rapidly transformed into courtrooms, known as Nightingale courts, during the pandemic to provide more space when social distancing was in place. These venues have provided our court estate with vital additional capacity as part of our continued efforts to recover from the impact of covid-19.
Combined with other measures—such as removing the cap on court sitting days, the use of remote hearings, and increasing magistrates’ sentencing powers—we are beginning to see the levels of outstanding cases in our courts falling. The latest figures show that in December 2021 the Crown court backlog was under 59,000. This is a fall of over 2,000 cases since its peak in June 2021. Meanwhile, in the magistrates courts, the outstanding criminal caseload has dropped by almost 70,000 cases since its peak in July 2021.
The relaxation of covid-19 restrictions means that courtroom capacity has returned to pre-pandemic levels. But continuing to use some of our Nightingale courts will now help drive court recovery further, tackling the backlog and ultimately helping to secure speedier justice for victims.
So today this Government have confirmed arrangements to extend 13 Nightingale courts from March 2022. This equates to 30 extra courtrooms, mainly dealing with criminal work, but also some civil and family cases.
The following Nightingale courts have been extended:
Prospero House, London
Croydon Jurys Inn, London
Mercure Hotel, Maidstone
Former court, Chichester
Former county court, Telford
Park Hall Hotel, Wolverhampton
Maple House, Birmingham
Former Magistrates court, Fleetwood
Cloth Hall court, Leeds
Civic Centre, Swansea
Former Magistrates court, Cirencester.
The decision to extend these Nightingale courts was based on operational need and venue availability, ensuring that these extra facilities are in the right place to meet demand and make best use of taxpayers’ money.
Nightingale courts at Middlesbrough, Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, Chester, Peterborough, Warwick, Winchester, Nottingham and 102 Petty France in London will end as planned at the end of March 2022. Use of the venue at Monument will end in early April, with HM Courts and Tribunals Service seeking a replacement venue.
The sites which are closing as planned are not needed because HMCTS has reopened existing hearing rooms as social distancing measures have eased. We now have sufficient rooms in these areas for all the available Crown court judges. We are continuing to deliver a high volume of judicial recruitment, with a recruitment programme of a further 1,100 judges in 2022-23 planned in addition to around 1,000 recruited during this financial year.
The extensions to Nightingale courts are part of our wider approach to increase capacity in line with local demand, building on measures taken over the last two years in response to the challenges of the pandemic, including:
Legislating to double the sentencing powers available to magistrates from six months to a year to free up an estimated 2,000 extra days of Crown court sitting time each year;
Investing a quarter of a billion pounds to support recovery in the courts in the last financial year, plus over £50 million for victims and support services;
Ensuring there is no limit on the number of sitting days in the Crown court this year;
Opening three rooms at Hendon Magistrates court that are currently being used for Crown court work, with a fourth due to open by the end of March 2022, providing custodial facilities for defendants on remand;
Opening two “super courtrooms” in Manchester and Loughborough, which can accommodate multi-handed trials, and added portacabins at 14 locations to facilitate jury trials; and
Arranging a temporary venue to hear a large trial in Walsall over the next 13 months, avoiding major disruption in the nearby Crown court.
These plans, alongside the decisive action already taken by this Government to date, makes it clear that we remain totally committed to reducing delays in our courts, and pulling every lever available to us to deliver justice for all those who need it.