Skip to main content

Safe Hands Plans

Volume 747: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2024

9. Whether he has had recent discussions with the Financial Conduct Authority on the administration of Safe Hands Plans. (902064)

I recognise that this has been a very challenging time for Safe Hands customers. The hon. Member will be aware that the FCA, as the independent regulator of the funeral plan sector, is responsible for dealing with specific cases. However, the Treasury and the FCA have worked closely throughout the process of bringing the sector into regulation, as well as during the implementation of the new regulatory framework.

My experience of the FCA and the Safe Hands funeral plan fiasco is that it took six months to reply to my freedom of information request and pleaded commercial confidentiality to key questions, and that, despite being warned, the Treasury failed to support consumers moving from an unregulated sector into regulation. It appears to me that the Treasury missed opportunities to support consumers and is still shuffling its feet. At least 47,000 people are out of pocket to the tune of £60 million. They were trying to protect their loved ones from expensive funerals at the worst of times. Will the Minister consider an independent review of this matter? A constructive response is needed to ensure that Safe Hands victims can have confidence in a system that for too long has let them down.

I share the hon. Member’s anger at how Safe Hands customers have been treated. The business is under criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and its administrators are bringing legal action against the former owner of the Safe Hands business. In the Treasury, we do not believe it is right to use taxpayer money to compensate consumers who lose out due to the conduct of unregulated firms; Safe Hands was not within the regulatory perimeter at that time. However, we have worked with the sector so that the two largest providers of funeral plans have agreed to provide significantly discounted replacement plans for the customers who have found themselves so badly treated.