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Deregulation Act 2015, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 and the Insolvency (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2017

Volume 779: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2017

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Deregulation Act 2015, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 and the Insolvency (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2017.

My Lords, in 2015 the Government introduced a series of reforms to modernise and streamline the insolvency process. The regulations we are debating make consequential amendments to the relevant special insolvency procedures for financial sector firms to take account of the reforms.

I will begin with a brief outline of the reforms to general insolvency law. The Deregulation Act 2015 separated out the authorisation of insolvency practitioners for personal and corporate insolvency. This reduces the cost of training for applicants who wish to specialise. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 introduced a series of changes to streamline the insolvency process. This included an amendment to allow liquidators to exercise powers without court permission and an extension to the maximum term for an administration. In addition, the Insolvency (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 made similar reforms to insolvency legislation in Northern Ireland.

The purpose of these reforms was to reduce unnecessary regulation and therefore costs, improve public confidence in insolvency legislation, and make it clearer, more consistent, and modern. The Government carried out extensive consultations before bringing forward these reforms to the insolvency regime, which had the broad support of industry. The regulations make consequential amendments to the existing modified insolvency regimes for the financial sector. Modified insolvency regimes for the financial sector exist because general insolvency procedure is not always suitable for failed financial institutions. These modified insolvency regimes apply general insolvency law with modifications designed to address the special nature of some financial institutions—for example, the bank insolvency procedure. Because these special insolvency procedures for the financial sector are built on general insolvency law, they now need to be amended to reflect the reforms. The regulations are therefore important to ensure that the benefits of the reforms to general insolvency law are extended to the financial sector. They will also ensure that the modified insolvency regimes for the financial sector are compatible with general insolvency law. The proposed consequential amendments follow discussions with the regulatory authorities and the banking liaison panel.

In conclusion, the amendments are important to modernise and streamline modified insolvency regimes for the financial sector following the Government’s reforms to general insolvency. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that explanation. We accept this as it is an effective codification of what was agreed during the passage of the legislation. The only questions that we wish to address relating to the provisions regard the Government’s evolving policy on insolvency. Other issues have of course emerged in the light of experience about how this process can be done more efficiently. There are consultations on moratoriums and other sorts of things in future that we are now looking at, and of course there will be adjustments when the next wave takes place, when there will be issues around pensions and other things.

Particularly on moratoriums and other sorts of reforms where there are consultations to improve the process, we would be grateful to have some indication of the Government’s thinking on whether they would bring this forward with the financial services industry and the companies that are covered. Would the provision that the Government are bringing forward encompass those along with all the other companies, or do they wish to have a separate procedure for financial companies?

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, for his comments and his general support. I wonder if I could write to him to answer the question that he asked. On that basis, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.