Monday 4 February 2019
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, if there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.
Public Procurement (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, procurement by the Government and public sector bodies represents a significant sector of the UK economy. It is essential to the day-to-day running of government and is appropriately regulated. The Government are committed to ensuring the continued functioning of this important marketplace when we leave the EU. If a transitional deal is agreed with the EU then the existing procurement regulations will remain in place during the transition period. However, if no deal is reached with the EU then certain aspects of the existing regulatory scheme for public procurement will be deficient and will simply not work. The draft regulations before the Committee seek to address those deficiencies that would arise in a no-deal scenario.
The amendments made to the legislation reflect the UK’s new status outside the EU. It provides a balance between the need to maintain continuity based on established principles and the existing framework with the need to correct deficiencies to the extent permitted by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. This will ensure the legislation is operable, effective and makes sense. This instrument primarily makes amendments to three sets of regulations—the Public Contracts Regulations, Utilities Contracts Regulations and Concession Contracts Regulations—that regulate public procurement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These sets of regulations implement EU directives on awarding contracts and concessions in the public and utilities sectors, outside the fields of defence and security.
This instrument amends or revokes various EU regulations and decisions relating to public procurement that will become retained direct EU legislation on exit day. It also makes small amendments to various pieces of domestic legislation, including some primary legislation, that are not primarily about public procurement but which contain public procurement references that will become deficient on exit day. These changes address the UK’s new position outside the EU while continuing to facilitate a functioning UK internal market.
As we leave the EU, the UK is working to join the WTO government procurement agreement in its own right. We are currently a GPA member through being an EU member state. I am pleased to say that the other GPA parties have agreed in principle to our market access offer and accession. We have taken precautions against the UK’s accession not being fully completed by exit day. One of the amendments to the public procurement regulations ensures continued guaranteed access, rights and remedies on current terms for suppliers from existing GPA countries for a time-limited period from exit day. Without this amendment, suppliers from GPA parties would no longer have the guaranteed access, rights and remedies that they currently enjoy in our public procurement contracts. This will mitigate the risks of a short gap in GPA membership by facilitating continued market access.
Through the amended regulations, control over public procurement is returned to the United Kingdom. All notices for public procurement opportunities will in future be published on a new UK e-notification system. Business continuity is meanwhile assured through the transitional provisions that will generally apply the amended regulations, even in relation to procurements that are already under way on exit day.
In a no-deal scenario, this instrument reflects the UK’s status as a non-member state, at the same time as ensuring a functioning internal market exists that complies with the requirements of the GPA. It provides the continuity and legal certainty required by public procurers and suppliers. I commend the regulations to the Committee and beg to move.
I thank the Minister for introducing the regulations, and those who drafted them for their hard work. Shall we get the good points out of the way first? I thought there were three. The first is that any regulation-making powers under the 1958 list will be by affirmative procedure—a tick for that one. The second was the ban on convictions being carried over as grounds for exclusion—tick. Thirdly, it looks as though Gibraltar has been included, which I assume is with the agreement of the Government of Gibraltar—tick. However, I have a number of questions.
One of my major questions is about the bold statement that no impact assessment has been made, despite the regulations introducing a requirement for businesses to use a new e-notification system that might include considerable changes to their own data systems, requiring software changes and internal training. These things never just happen, and preparing for them could well be expensive for the companies involved. That is a concern, given that the Explanatory Memorandum also states that there has been “no consultation”. It is hard to see how on earth it could have been decided that there would be virtually no cost to the companies affected, particularly small and medium-sized companies. It is exactly those companies, which do not have their own sophisticated IT departments, that could therefore face quite a challenge. It would be helpful to have some explanation of why no consultation and testing took place with them, and how it was therefore possible to take the view that the change would have no impact.
My second question relates to the exit date. I think that I am right that no definition is given in the regulations, presumably because they are made under the withdrawal Act of 2018, which itself defines exit day. I know that the Minister will not comment on this, but a number of us think it extremely unlikely that we will leave on 29 March and that there will very likely be a request for an extension to Article 50, and therefore a change of exit date. Should exit day be amended by statutory instrument under, I think, Section 20(4) of the Act, does that automatically amend the date on which these regulations would come into force? Would the eight months after which Regulations 6, 8 and 10 would come into force automatically follow the new exit date?
My third question is about e-notification, which I touched on earlier. I am worried about it because this is a no-deal preparatory statutory instrument, which sort of assumes that there will be no deal in seven weeks’ time. It would be helpful if the Minister could indicate when he considers that the e-notification system will be up, ready to run and fully tested; hopefully, it will be pre-tested with potential users. Some response on that would be helpful—as would some thoughts on what happens if it is not ready on exit date, particularly as another part of the regulations says that notices cannot be published on any other national portal until they have appeared on the e-notification system. Since we know that these things do not always appear quite on time, what happens if the system is not ready by 29 March? Can the Minister also tell us what sort of training and support will be given to those who need to access it? Perhaps he might know, or be given guidance on, how different this system is from the one currently used with EU procedure.
My fourth question turns to the GPA. The Minister said that the other parties have agreed in principle to us becoming a member of the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. However, I am interested to know why, both in the regulations and in what he says, there is an indication that that might not have happened by exit date. Paragraph 7.20 of the EM suggests that it may not have happened. Can he explain why there might be a delay, given that we have applied, I assume, and he has heard that the other parties are happy? Basically, what is the problem?
My fifth question is about the CMA. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that the “award of public contracts” is done in a market which is,
“open and competitive and that suppliers are treated equally and fairly”.
As I understand the regulations, the CMA will oversee and enforce this but that is something of a problem in that we do not yet know the nature of the state-aid regime post Brexit. We do not know the anticipated regime, nor exactly how it will oversee and enforce it. Obviously, state aid is very relevant to procurement, but the market is populated by international actors. They, and our people doing the procurement, will need to be clear about what the regime is. The relevant SI for the CMA bit of this was laid only on 21 January, and there is no indication of when the CMA will publish its policy statements. It says it will be before the end of March; should we come out on 29 March without a deal—which is what this instrument is about—there will be almost no time for anyone to know what the policy on which it will work to oversee the market is.
The Minister will be very pleased to know that I have only seven questions. My sixth question is about the financial threshold. The role of converting the GPA threshold into sterling will fall to the Cabinet Office Minister under these regulations. I was not clear about how this decision will be communicated. At the moment this is done through the normal EU channels but once that no longer happens, what is the transparency? This should be quite a simple decision and how it will happen is laid down, but it would be good to know how it will be communicated.
My last question is about something that I am sure everyone in the Room except me knows, so I ask it very much for my own benefit. It is about social obligations. A contracting authority can refuse to award a contract to the lowest bidder if the bidder,
“does not comply with certain … obligations in the field of social, environmental and labour law”.
I understand what environmental and labour law cover, but I am personally unsure whether “social law” would include consumer law, or whether it is more about social benefits and so on. For my benefit, could the Minister clarify whether consumer law would be covered? I am sorry that I have lots of questions, but that is partly why I asked my colleagues if they minded me going early. I think that gives other people in the Room a chance to find the answers before the Minister has to reply.
My Lords, having read this lengthy SI and being conscious of the other 600 or so coming our way, my sympathy for the officials working on Brexit is deeper than before. My despair at the Government refusing to rule out a no-deal Brexit is deepened when I think that some of all this is to guard against the contingency of no deal and would not be necessary if we ruled out that possibility. I know that a huge amount of extra work is going on across Whitehall to guard against a contingency that Parliament would not accept if we found ourselves drifting towards it. However, in the event of a withdrawal agreement, we will still have public procurement issues.
I want to ask primarily about the agreement on government procurement and the adjustment of moving to WTO terms, so to speak, in moving from the EU regulations to the GPA. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, I heard the Minister say that others have “agreed in principle” to this and that we are “working to join” the GPA, which suggests that we will not have joined by the end of March. I hope that he can tell us when we might do so and what will happen if we leave in an orderly fashion in the next few months—I do not know how we will manage that but we will try to do it somehow—before we have joined the GPA, with a gap in between.
I note that paragraph 12.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum says that,
“in a no deal scenario where the UK is not participating in the GPA, it may be that economic operators would no longer have guaranteed access to the procurement markets of GPA parties (including the EU) or the remedies provided for by them”.
I understand that to mean that British companies will suffer in having no access to other countries’ markets. What would the situation be? Can the Minister explain a little about the difficulties we appear to have run into between October and November last year in applying to become an independent member of the GPA? Why was the United States so resistant to UK admission, as some of the documents I have looked at suggest? Are Her Majesty’s Government confident that, in rejoining the GPA as an independent country, we will find that procurement in the United States—by states as well as by the federal Government—will be open to the UK? I recall from my time in the US as a student that other countries constantly complained about how they could access federal procurement but states did not think that they were bound by international agreements of that sort.
Why did New Zealand express reservations about the UK becoming a full member of the GPA? Given that Liam Fox provides constant assurances that New Zealand is willing to offer open arms to the UK through the most generous possible trade deal after Brexit, it struck me as rather odd that its Government did so. New Zealand is a massive friend to the UK, ever grateful for having been colonised by British people. One would have thought that there would be no problems what ever.
Will Irish firms be in an intermediate position in any way in terms of access to government procurement? I am conscious that the Belfast agreement and our future relationship with Ireland are not exactly foreign matters. Can the Minister say anything about our confidence in standards of enforcement in the GPA? Moving from the EU framework to the World Trade Organization GPA framework represents moving to a looser framework. It is a bit like moving from Europol to Interpol. Standards of enforcement tend to be lower; for example, I know that China is about to join the GPA but I cannot imagine the Chinese opening their domestic state procurement market as fully as we have managed with France, Italy or Spain. Is a little more assurance on that point possible or are we simply accepting that we are moving from a tighter, more effective framework to a looser and less effective one?
My Lords, I will begin by asking the noble Earl some specific questions, and then make some wider remarks. First, what status would British public procurement contracts have in the Official Journal of the European Union? In a no-deal scenario, is it the intention that the United Kingdom would still advertise its contracts in the Official Journal? Indeed, would it be legally possible for it to do so? If it does not, either because it is not legally possible or because it is a policy of the Government not to do so in a no-deal scenario, will that not in practice mean that our procurement market in the United Kingdom is a great deal less competitive after than it was before because, if people do not know about contracts and there is not a level playing field for them to apply, fewer people will apply? That is an important point. I simply do not understand the position in a no-deal scenario.
Secondly, from what the Explanatory Memorandum says, I assume that it will still be entirely open to UK companies to bid into the EU procurement market, in the same way as it is open to countries outside the EU at the moment. It is the issue about the advertising of contracts in respect of the United Kingdom that seems significant.
My third question relates to the point just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, of the slightly conditional language used by the noble Earl in his opening remarks about whether we will or will not be a member of the GPA by 29 March. I took him to say that we might be, but he could not give a guarantee. Having looked at the statements made by the WTO and Julian Braithwaite, the United Kingdom’s representative there, my under- standing is that our application has been accepted in principle but that there are a number of issues still being worked through. Perhaps the noble Earl could update us. That seems a point of some importance for people in these markets to understand—whether we definitely will or may not be an independent signatory to the GPA by the end of March—not least because of the remarks made by the noble Earl himself in his introduction, where he said, I think, that having that independent membership would give us,
“continued guaranteed … rights and remedies”.
I assume the reverse is also true: if we are not an independent member at the end of March, then for the period when we are not we will not have guaranteed rights and remedies, and this could leave British companies seriously vulnerable in enforcing their rights.
My fourth question relates to paragraph 7.39 of the Explanatory Memorandum and what the regime will be in respect of state aid. A number of questions arise from the paragraph, so I will quote it:
“In respect of abnormally low tenders submitted by bidders who may have been in receipt of state subsidies, the intention”,
of the Government,
“is to treat non-UK economic operators on a level playing field. Further, although a new UK State aid regime is envisaged in which the function for enforcement is to be conferred on the Competition and Markets Authority, in the area of public procurement, it would be inappropriate for economic operators established in the UK to be required to demonstrate that aid provided by the UK Government was compatible with the UK’s State aid regime in contrast to economic operators not established in the UK”.
Is my understanding of this correct, namely that whereas we intend to apply state aid rules to European bidders for our contracts, we are not intending with these regulations to insist on those same state aid rules being applied in respect of UK bidders for European contracts? The obvious point which arises if that is the case is that it will not be accepted at face value by our European partners, who will of course presumably continue to insist on the application of their state aid rules, which are the same as now. They will not change those rules. I therefore do not understand the actual effect, because the implication in paragraph 7.39 is that the UK could start, for example, flouting existing state aid rules to support UK bidders for EU contracts. As I understand it, that would be legal under the regime envisaged. What is the point of allowing that if those same rules are going to be applied by the EU in the first place? Let us think about real-life situations. It is not in the interest of the United Kingdom that we be regarded as an unreliable bidder in respect of state aid for EU contracts. If a belief gains ground that because these rules do not apply we are content for UK companies which are in receipt of state aid to bid, that will in quite short order lead to significant tension between us and the European Commission. Would a better arrangement not be to say that if we are so keen on state aid rules being applied in respect of EU bidders for UK contracts, the right, reasonable and collegiate thing for us to do would be to insist that those same rules applied in UK domestic law to UK bidders for European contracts? Is the noble Earl with me on those points? They are technical but extremely important for bidders for these contracts.
More broadly, we are again in a slightly surreal Alice in Wonderland situation. We are told—it comes up again in the impact assessment and the statement on consultation—that these changes are technical. Indeed, they are technical in the sense that they replace an existing procurement regime which operates within the European Union market with one that operates within the UK, only with minimal changes. That is certainly correct, and for that reason there is no impact assessment and there has been no consultation. However, at another level they are anything but technical; this relates to a point that my noble friend Lady Hayter made. The act of leaving the EU with no deal means that we are at one stroke potentially rupturing our entire access to these markets and the entire access arrangements of EU bidders to our market. As the noble Earl does not appear even to guarantee that we will be a member of the GPA—subject to what he says in his response—we cannot even be sure that we are able properly to enforce existing contracts which United Kingdom operators have entered into, because the ability to enforce those contracts depends upon our membership of the GPA.
While the technical wording of the rules may not have changed in terms of how we intend to operate public procurement, the act of leaving the EU will fundamentally rupture the entire regime for public procurement, including potentially closing European markets to UK operators over time and closing UK markets to EU operators. This goes against the whole drift and success of EU policy over the past 20 years, which has been systematically to open public procurement markets. I see from the latest EU statement on the three directives in this area that they are estimated to be worth €1.9 trillion a year, paid by 250,000 public buyers across the EU. This is a very significant reason why we engaged in the construction of the single market, why we have played such an active role in setting up the rules and why we have been absolute hawks on issues of state aid and intervention by EU Governments—some of our fellow European Governments have not been as open to the concept of competition in public procurement markets as we have been.
As this statutory instrument goes through, it is important to note that the loss to the UK will be huge. It relates directly to paragraph 12.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum, which was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. Those of us who are becoming familiar with these statutory instruments after dozens of them are now used to this formula. The technical changes made in this statutory instrument to make it compatible with UK law on exit are minimal. However, the actual act of leaving the EU in relation to the real-world operation of the law is massive. Paragraph 12.3 is another statement exactly in that tradition. It says:
“An Impact Assessment has not been prepared for this instrument because the framework and principles underlying the Regulations have not been substantially amended”.
Three sentences later, however, it goes on to say:
“It will be open to UK economic operators to continue to respond to contract notices published on OJEU by member States but in a no deal scenario where the UK is not participating in the GPA, it may be that economic operators would no longer have guaranteed access to the procurement markets of GPA parties (including the EU) or the remedies provided for by them”.
Those euphemistic words amount to the undermining or closing of a substantial part of the markets in which UK companies currently operate. The fact that it is caused not directly by these regulations but by the decision to leave the EU in a no-deal scenario—which underpins these regulations—will not greatly satisfy or mollify those companies whose livelihoods are trashed as a result of a no-deal Brexit.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for their questions. If noble Lords will bear with me I will do my best to answer them, although not necessarily in the order in which they were asked.
The first question of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, was about the lack of an impact assessment. As I said in my opening remarks, this statutory instrument was designed to ensure continuation of the current system where possible. The impact of the amendments, including the replacement of the OJEU with the UK e-notification service, was deemed, after a de minimis impact analysis, to be below an annual cost of £5 million, which is the critical figure in this context. Consequently, in line with published guidance, a full impact assessment was not required or produced. We do not anticipate that the costs of complying with the amended regulations will be very great: in fact for all practical purposes they will be unchanged, because this amendment only fixes deficiencies and removes reciprocal rights—it does not change processes and procedures that would affect the cost of running or participating in a procurement under the regulations. That is why there was no consultation.
No, my Lords. These regulations are designed to ensure that the experience of businesses using the public procurement system is virtually unchanged from today. Our aim has been to produce as smooth a transition as possible—even in the event of no deal. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has pointed out, there will be changes in the wider context of bidding in the European market; I will come to that in a minute.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, asked what would happen if exit day was deferred. If that were to happen, and the withdrawal Act amended, that would feed directly through into these regulations, so no specific amendment would be required for that. She also asked me about the GPA thresholds and how they will be published. To update the thresholds, the Minister for the Cabinet Office will need to exercise the new regulation-making powers conferred by this instrument. The new thresholds will, therefore, be reflected in the public procurement regulations themselves and be publicly available and notified by procurement policy notice.
The noble Baroness, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked about the GPA. As I said in my opening remarks, the UK currently participates in the GPA via its EU membership. We need to accede to the GPA in our own right to maintain legally guaranteed access to public contract opportunities that the GPA provides. The offer that we have made to GPA parties maintains our existing commitments in the UK part of the EU schedule. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 aims to ensure as much continuity as possible. It is, therefore, the UK’s intention to join the GPA in its own right and, ultimately, to transpose the other international agreements between the EU and third countries. Accordingly, all suppliers should continue to be treated equally and fairly through open competition. Keeping our procurement market open to international competition clearly ensures better value for money for the taxpayer and facilitates UK suppliers being offered reciprocal rights to participate in procurements abroad.
Noble Lords asked me what would happen if our GPA accession did not take place by exit day. We have made good progress in our accession process and, as I said, we have received agreement in principle to our GPA market access offer. Despite this progress, we have taken the necessary precautions in the event that the UK’s application to accede has not been fully completed by exit day. In this scenario, economic operators established in territories and states that are GPA parties would no longer have the guaranteed access and associated remedies that they currently have in relation to UK public procurements. One of the amendments in the public procurement regulations guarantees continued access, rights and remedies for suppliers from GPA countries for a time-limited period from EU exit. This approach has been taken to mitigate the risk of a short gap in GPA membership. This will facilitate UK suppliers being offered reciprocal rights to participate in procurements abroad.
The noble Lords, Lord Wallace and Lord Adonis, asked about the attitude of other countries—New Zealand and China in particular—to what we were doing in relation to the GPA and standards. New Zealand has, in fact, accepted our final market access offer. It continues to be interested in other aspects of the UK’s WTO membership. China’s application has been in train for many years and I am advised that it is unlikely to be completed in the near future. There will be no change to the standards that we currently operate. A draft decision inviting the UK to join has been sent to all GPA parties. It is expected that the formal invitation will be issued at a committee meeting this month. Parties were interested in how the decision described the UK’s relations with the EU during the transition period.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, also asked about oversight carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority. This instrument does not provide for oversight by the CMA of the public procurement regime. Aggrieved suppliers will, however, continue to be afforded the remedies provided for in the regulations. In that way, contracting authorities and other entities will be held to account by the courts.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked various questions about the Official Journal of the European Union and the publication of contract opportunities. In a no-deal scenario, the UK is unlikely to be afforded access to the Official Journal for the purposes of advertising public contracts. That is simply a facet of no longer being a member of the EU, and that is why we have developed our own system to which UK bidders, EU bidders and bidders from the rest of the world will have access and in which they will be able to see UK public procurement opportunities. UK authorities may continue to advertise some types of procurement opportunity in the Official Journal—where the UK is participating in EU research and development projects, for example—though we anticipate that being a relatively rare event.
Is the noble Earl saying that to advertise in the Official Journal of the European Union you are required to be an EU member? Could he say—or follow up in writing afterwards—whether Norway and Switzerland, countries with very close economic associations, including membership of some of the economic institutions of the EU, do or do not advertise public procurement opportunities in the Official Journal? If it is possible to advertise in the Official Journal without being an EU member, it would be good to know whether the United Kingdom could continue to do so, since it would be a big advantage to be able to advertise our public procurement opportunities in that way.
I take the noble Lord’s point entirely. I need to seek advice on the question that he asked me about Switzerland and Norway, as I do not have that information to hand, but clearly, to the extent that we are allowed to avail ourselves of the OJEU in any public procurement context, it will be an advantage. However, I am advised that the new UK e-notification system which is being developed will be accessible by the same portal that suppliers use at the moment. To that extent, the process which they go through will feel quite normal. I can advise the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that the new system is on track to be in place by 29 March 2019.
My Lords, am I correct in thinking that provided we have an agreement as we leave and therefore also a transition period, during that transition period many of the same arrangements will continue? If so, it is possible that the answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is that during the transition period we will continue to have access. The question of what happens after 2020, 2021 or whenever it is has to be negotiated; the future relationship negotiations have not yet begun.
The noble Lord is absolutely correct. Clearly if the agreement proposed by the European Commission is agreed, or something like it is agreed, the implementation period will kick in, and therefore we will be as if a full member of the European Union for purposes of public procurement. There will then be the question of what long-term arrangements are negotiated by and through the Commission.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked what would happen if the e-notification service was not ready, and what training and support was being provided. As I said, the system is on track for exit day but, if not—if something unexpected were to happen—notices will be published on existing national portals for notices, such as Contracts Finder for England and Public Contracts Scotland, until the UK e-notification service is ready. Notifications are made through the EU exit portal to businesses, but I must emphasise that we do not anticipate that there will be a gap in that context.
As far as support to suppliers goes, communications have been published in the form of a technical note and on the Brexit portal to prepare suppliers for transfer from the Official Journal of the European Union to the UK e-notification service.
I hope I have answered most of the questions from noble Lords to the extent—
I have just alighted on my note to that effect. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, essentially asked whether the implication of the Explanatory Memorandum is that the UK could start flouting the EU state aid regime. On leaving the EU, the UK will no longer be bound by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, so economic operators will not be subject to the EU’s state aid regime any more than a third-country supplier receiving state subsidies would be. The UK has developed its own state aid regime, but it is important to remember that this instrument does not disapply the state aid rules. Rather, contracting authorities will simply no longer be required to look behind an abnormally low tender to investigate whether a bidder was in receipt of unlawful state subsidies. That is because the UK will no longer be a participant in or bound by the EU’s single market and competition rules.
I asked a question about whether the description of social law includes consumer law. I am happy for the Minister to write to me if he needs to check that.
There was one question I omitted to ask. It is not particularly relevant or specific to these regulations, but the Minister may know the answer anyway. It is: assuming this goes through, is approved by the House, therefore becomes law and then we get a deal, what happens? Do all these statutory instruments get repealed? What would be the status of all these no-deal statutory instruments should we get a deal?
In that case, the impact assessment for no deal should have been part of the statutory instrument. I read it as being partly about no deal and partly about the withdrawal agreement, because if we leave with a deal before we have completed joining the GPA the consequences could be quite substantially adverse.
The two situations would indeed be very different. The Government hope that Parliament will agree a deal, which will make for a much smoother transition in the implementation period for businesses, private citizens and everybody else than if there is no deal. However, as has been said many times in the Chamber, it behoves a prudent Government to prepare for these contingencies. Unlike the statutory instrument we will debate next, this one is purely designed to address the contingency of no deal.
Defence and Security Public Contracts (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, a responsible Government plan for all eventualities. It is essential that, as part of our preparations to leave the EU, we make sure that our legislation governing defence and security procurement functions properly beyond exit day in a no-deal scenario. It is the first duty of the Government to keep their citizens safe and the country secure. As part of that, the Government need to be able to procure the critical equipment and capabilities they need smoothly and with confidence. In the event of no deal, these amending regulations will provide procurers and suppliers with legal continuity and certainty, giving them the stability they need to conduct business after 29 March.
Clearly, the amendments to the legislation reflect the UK’s new status outside the EU in a no-deal scenario. However, the framework and principles underlying the defence and security procurement regime remain otherwise unchanged. This is in accordance with the powers given to amend retained EU law in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. That Act does not allow major policy changes or the introduction of new legal frameworks beyond those that fix deficiencies to ensure the law continues to function properly or remove any reciprocal obligations that are no longer appropriate from exit day.
Brexit will offer us real opportunities, including reform of our defence and security procurement regulations. In the near term however, these amending regulations ensure that the UK’s defence and security procurements continue to function smoothly in a no-deal scenario, but with that all-important autonomy from the European Union. To protect the UK’s essential security interests, the amending regulations will maintain the effect of Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union by writing its substance into the existing regulations. The regulations already make it clear that they can be trumped by Article 346. Article 346 enables us to disapply the defence and security procurement rules when necessary to protect essential national security interests.
Through the amendments, control over our procurement is returned to the United Kingdom. For example, the Secretary of State for Defence will take the power previously held by the European Commission to modernise, although not broaden, the 1958 list of warlike stores that falls under Article 346 (1)(b). All notices for defence and security procurement opportunities will in future be published on a new UK e-notification system. Business continuity, meanwhile, is assured through the transitional provisions; there will be no defence procurement cliff edge.
Competition remains the cornerstone of defence procurement policy to ensure we equip our Armed Forces with the right capabilities at the right price. Currently, we allow bids from suppliers outside the EU, although the existing regulations provide only the legal right of market access required by EU law for suppliers based in the EU. Any restrictions on bidding, for example, on national security grounds, are made clear from the outset of any procurement.
The amending regulations provide a legal right of market access for suppliers based in the UK and Gibraltar which currently enjoy rights under the EU defence and security directive. After exit day, we will still allow bids from suppliers in the EU on the same basis as we do now for suppliers currently outside the EU. This reflects the UK’s new status as a third country outside the EU.
Although the amending regulations are mainly about EU exit in a no-deal scenario, they also make some updates and corrections to the Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011. They will come into force before exit day regardless of whether there is no deal.
To sum up briefly, it is through these amending regulations that the Government will ensure that UK defence and security procurement continues to function properly and appropriately, with solid legal foundations underpinning it. It is this instrument that will give procurers and suppliers the confidence and continuity in procurement they need in a no-deal scenario. I commend these regulations to the Committee. I beg to move.
My Lords, this is the first statutory instrument related to Brexit that I have had the joy, or misfortune, to be involved with. In that sense I am quite glad that it has two purposes, one of which is valid regardless of whether there is a no-deal Brexit. However, one does wonder, given that the relevant legislation was repealed in 2011, why it has taken Her Majesty’s Government quite so long to bring this to our attention in the SI.
On the other aspect of the SI, many of the questions I have noted are very similar to the questions raised by noble Lords on the previous SI. According to the statutory instrument, Regulations 3 and 4 come into effect on exit day. Will the Minister explain what would happen in a transition period? Exit day would still presumably be 29 March, but at that point we would stop using the Official Journal to advertise things. Will we be in a situation where, somehow, the statutory instrument does not come into effect? Is it like the previous SI and will come into effect not on exit day, but only after some transitional period? Otherwise there would seem to be a bit of a gap. The UK would not quite be at a cliff edge, but the situation would be somewhat unclear because we would not have the situation I envisaged would be the case during the transition period.
I will ask various questions that go beyond the nitty-gritty of the regulations. Will the Minister explain what Her Majesty’s Government envisage by the statutory instrument in terms of access to UK markets? There is already a whole set of questions about overspends and the Public Accounts Committee has asked questions about defence procurement. If we are in a new world where EU defence contractors are treated like third-country defence contractors, have the Government modelled the impact this is likely to have on defence procurement? Will it mean that the UK will spend more on defence procurement than was the case when it was a member of the European Union? Similarly, what work have Her Majesty’s Government done on evaluating the impact on our arms export industry of not being part of the single market? If we are treating the EU 27 as third countries, presumably they will not exercise the reciprocity of access to their defence industry and defence exports that we have enjoyed. There are some wider questions on the impact the Government think we will see from Brexit if we are not part of the single market for defence exports.
I have various technical questions. Like other noble Lords, I have spent quite a long time reading the Explanatory Memorandum. I am intrigued to note that the Minister can confirm that it meets the required standard. What counts as the required standard, and what can we expect to see in an EM? Are there things that we might find even more useful for understanding what is going on? The memorandum is certainly rather easier to follow than the SI as it is drafted.
On page 3 of the Explanatory Memorandum there is a discussion about a current derogation from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:
“It is necessary to ensure that contracting authorities can continue to disapply the 2011 Regulations where required”.
If we are leaving the European Union and therefore withdrawing from that treaty, how do we effectively apply the derogation from a treaty to which we are no longer a member? I am somewhat confused. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned Alice in Wonderland. Applying something that looks like a derogation to a treaty to which we are no longer a signatory seems somewhat peculiar, but maybe I am missing something.
I note the references to Gibraltar, which is clearly of significance to our Armed Forces. I have a wider question: how do the Government envisage ensuring that the duty owed to economic operators in Gibraltar can be met in the absence of a deal? There is discussion of this in the Explanatory Memorandum, but there is very little to say how it would be seen in practice. As with the previous SI, what about state aid? Do Her Majesty’s Government envisage giving subsidies to the defence industry? Is that one of the expectations of Brexit? What are we to understand by that aspect of the Explanatory Memorandum when talking about state aid?
My Lords, the noble Baroness has asked a number of pertinent questions. I hesitate to intervene in this area, because this is the first time I have ever made any remarks in the House on defence issues. I have always regarded the defence of the realm as so capably safeguarded by other noble Lords, not least the noble Earl himself—and, indeed, his family historically—that I never thought I needed to intervene in such affairs. I have two questions, which will reveal my ignorance but seem to be important in the context of us leaving the European Union in a no-deal scenario. The noble Earl said that once we have left in a no-deal scenario, we will allow bids in the defence sector from inside the EU on the same basis as we currently allow them from outside it. What is that basis? Is it codified? Looking at it from a great distance, I have always thought that we are extremely selective in the countries and suppliers outside the EU from which we are prepared to entertain bids for defence contracts. For example, I do not believe that at the moment we entertain bids from Chinese companies—and some other countries—for extremely good reasons. What is the noble Earl saying? Is there a document to which he can point me, and those who will be reading these proceedings, showing the basis for bids being entertained? The noble Earl may correct me, but if the basis on which we allow bids from outside the EU at the moment is essentially arbitrary, will that be the same basis on which we allow bids from existing EU states after Brexit?
I know that the noble Earl was simply reading his brief, but in his positive-sounding remarks at the outset he said that there would be real opportunities in procurement from leaving the EU, which I took to mean also in a no-deal scenario. It is not immediately obvious what those real opportunities are. Will he tell the Grand Committee something about them, as there are many disadvantages in leaving the EU? Readers of our proceedings will be delighted to know that there are some opportunities and would be grateful for any optimism that the noble Earl can provide for the world after 29 March if we leave without a deal.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for introducing this statutory instrument. On the other hand, that is not really true: the facts of life are that I would rather not spend my weekend studying SIs for a scenario that is deeply absurd and the Government should have ruled out many months ago. It is, however, forced upon us.
Initially, I tried to read the Explanatory Memorandum while applying the test that I have been using so far—that there is no new policy except what is necessary to smooth the transition. That is essentially the test of the withdrawal Act. He has already said, however, that this SI goes beyond what is allowed in the withdrawal Act. I noticed that the SI also prays in aid the infamous—as I would call it—European Communities Act 1972, which must have the grandest powers of any piece of primary legislation. Since, therefore, this is quite important—that the Government are seeking to mix the two—I would be grateful if he could give a little more detail on where the 1972 Act has been used and where he is praying in aid the 2018 withdrawal Act.
I found the Explanatory Memorandum difficult to understand because it requires considerable previous knowledge. I can find only one area of concern. In general, the references to the requirement for a new organisation—for new parts of government to take over what is happening in the EU—all seem to make sense.
Essentially, I think the Minister has said that this SI leaves the situation unchanged. Does that mean that the requirement to put defence procurement up for both domestic and international tender is unchanged, except where derogated under provisions similar to Article 346, which I assume is written into the regulations? Does the derogation for national security reasons remain unchanged? Has it been decided that it should not be enhanced, as many of us would argue it should, to include wider, more long-term considerations, such as the preservation of UK sovereign capability by favouring UK firms in some circumstances? This measure seems to create a situation where the rest of the world can bid for UK contracts except where derogated. Does that mean that UK firms will be able to bid for foreign contracts, particularly opportunities in the EEA?
Finally, can the Minister indicate what will happen to these regulations in the event of a deal? Do they die in total or in parts? How will the deaths be managed?
My Lords, once again I thank the noble Lords who have contributed to this debate for their questions, which I will do my best to answer. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, both asked a similar question about the coming into force of these regulations and the circumstances in which they might not come into force. These amending regulations apply only in a no-deal scenario, other than the changes being made under Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, was slightly unclear as to how we could avail ourselves of powers under that Act if we are not a member of the community. The answer is that we are still a member of the European Union and we can avail ourselves of the powers under the 1972 Act until such time as we cease to be members. The very minor adjustments we are making will come into force regardless of whether there is a deal or no deal. If the withdrawal agreement enters into force, the UK, with certain specific caveats, will be treated as an EU member state for the duration of the implementation period. Therefore, the current DSPCRs will continue to apply for that period, albeit with the updates and corrections made in Regulation 2.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord asked about those changes. They are very minor. They are, in the main, changes required to resolve outdated references and to correct an omission arising from an amendment to the European Economic Area agreement. There is an amendment to the definition of “member state” to add Norway and Iceland, ensuring that economic operators from those two EEA states are covered. Again, that amendment is required regardless of whether the exit-related changes come into force. There are various other minor changes that I can read out, but I think it would be tedious if I were to do so.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked about the effect of the coming into force of these regulations on UK companies and what the benefits to UK industry are likely to be. The main benefit for both UK and Gibraltarian suppliers will be stability and continuity of working regulations, which are well established, understood and practiced. Importantly, UK and Gibraltarian suppliers will continue to enjoy legal rights to participate in UK defence and security procurements. Other non-UK economic operators, save for those in Gibraltar, will not have these rights under the amending regulations. I make it clear that that is not to say that only UK or Gibraltarian suppliers can bid for defence and security procurements. As noble Lords will know, the UK has a long-standing practice of allowing overseas suppliers to participate in defence and security procurements where there is no need for restrictions on who can bid in some way—for example, on national security grounds.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked whether UK companies would be disadvantaged regarding their access to the EU market. As a matter of EU law, EU member states will no longer be legally obliged to open their defence and security procurements to UK suppliers, as the EU defence and security directive will no longer apply to the UK after exit day. However, it has to be said that our UK suppliers are recognised as world class. They offer extraordinary experience and expertise in defence. Individual EU member states therefore may choose to give UK suppliers access to their competitions to maximise the effectiveness of their procurements in the same way as the UK does. There is a strong case in terms not only of value for money but of other considerations, such as interoperability and cutting-edge capability.
It will depend on the procurement. If it is determined that the procurement rate relates to an issue necessitating the protection of UK sovereign capability, as in the case of the construction of warships, we would restrict the tendering process to UK-based suppliers. However, the generality of defence procurement is opened up to the widest market possible, although, as was pointed out, we make clear in certain procurements that we will not entertain bids from certain countries. Each procurement has its operational basis made clear at the outset.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked whether we will give state aid to suppliers. We have no intention of providing state aid to UK suppliers, which is incompatible with our state aid regime. I am sure she will not be surprised to hear that. Having said that, it is important to understand that there are ways we can alert our home-based industry to forthcoming procurements to enable them to prepare their bids in good time and understand our needs. That process is already under way; we are clear that the entire procurement process needs to be smoother than it perhaps has been. That is not the same as state aid, however.
The noble Baroness also asked whether the Government have modelled the impact of the change on UK defence exports. As I said, defence suppliers will lose their legal rights to participate in procurement in the EU 27, but the quality of our companies should ensure that many EU member states will still wish to entertain bids from our defence industry. As the noble Baroness knows, the UK defence industry participates in co-operative defence projects, such as Eurofighter; that will not change either.
I am sorry to ask the same question over and again, but it is important: putting the derogated areas covered presently by Article 346 to one side, do the regulations—noble Lords must realise that I cannot read them; it took all my time to read the Explanatory Memorandum and try to understand it—require the UK to put non-derogated opportunities to international tender, or is that a matter for the United Kingdom Government’s discretion on a project-by-project basis?
It is important to understand that competition remains at the heart of our approach to defence procurement. Currently, we routinely allow bids from suppliers outside the EU, although the current legislation provides a legal right of access only for suppliers based in EU member states. Where we restrict who can bid in some way—for example, on national security grounds, as I have mentioned—we would make that clear at the outset in the advert or in any pre-procurement documentation.
That position will not change after exit day. Suppliers in the EU and elsewhere will still be free to bid for procurements where no limitations are specified. What is changing is that bidders from the remaining EU member states will not have a legal right to bid for defence contracts; this is the same position as for suppliers currently based outside the EU. I hope that answers the noble Lord’s question.
If the noble Earl will forgive me, I think I follow what he is saying, but I invite him to say whether I have understood him correctly. Because we will no longer be part of the EU procurement regime, we will have no statutory obligation to make these contracts available to bidders from the EU, but we intend to continue to invite applications from those countries. Is he saying that, in practice, for suppliers from the EU—leaving aside those from outside the EU about which we have security concerns—there will be no change in the bidding regime as a result of a no-deal Brexit? If that is not correct, and there will be a change, could he tell the Grand Committee what that change would be?
For UK Government defence procurements, the process from the point of view of an EU supplier will be no different. What it will experience is the need to bear in mind two separate portals or bidding channels; one is the UK e-notification system, which I mentioned earlier, and the other is OJEU. It will need to keep an eye on both if it wishes to participate in the Europe-wide market; in using that phrase, I include the UK as still being a European country, even if not a member of the EU.
The noble Earl says there will be no changes. I understand that at the moment, in non-derogated areas, EU suppliers have a right to bid and we have an obligation to take their bids seriously. I think that under the new situation they do not have this right and that whether they are allowed to bid will be a matter of policy. That policy could change year by year or Government by Government.
That is technically right. It is our policy to maintain access for EU member states—and indeed, non-EU states—in many, if not most, instances of procurement. A good example might be the fleet solid support ships. We invited tenders from all over the world to build those ships and that should provide the best value for money. We all hope that UK suppliers will feel confident in bidding for that contract, but we wish to benefit the taxpayer as well as the Royal Navy and the process will be an open one.
To answer one point which the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, alluded to, there will of course be opportunities to reform the defence procurement rules after we leave the EU. The current rules are generally seen as out of date, compared to the PCR 2015. We have the opportunity to take a fresh look at what is needed for defence procurement—
They are the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. This will involve public consultation to ensure that we strike the best balance between value for money and protecting national security. However, I emphasise that that is a long-term project and does not relate to the regulations before us today.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked about exit day in the event of a deal. As with the non-defence procurement that we debated earlier, any amendment to exit day as a result of a deal will track through from the EU withdrawal Act to these regulations. Therefore, the no-deal element of the amendments will not come into force.
I hope I have explained clearly the effect of Article 346 and why we have replicated it in the regulations but, just to make doubly clear, it is to ensure we can continue to disapply the procurement rules when required to protect our national security interests. For example, if we did not do so we would be required to advertise our sensitive procurements as a matter of domestic law. In so far as I have not answered noble Lords’ questions I will certainly do so in writing, as for the previous debate, but I hope that my responses have clarified any points of uncertainty.
Collective Investment Schemes (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, as this instrument has been grouped, I will speak also to the Long-term Investment Funds (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The Treasury has been undertaking a programme of legislation to ensure that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period, there continues to be a functioning legislative and regulatory regime for financial services in the UK. The Treasury is laying SIs under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act to deliver this, and a number of debates on these SIs have already been undertaken here and in another place. The SIs being debated today are part of this programme and have been debated and approved in the other place.
These SIs will fix deficiencies in UK law on investment funds to ensure they continue to operate effectively post exit. The approach taken in this legislation aligns with that of other SIs being laid under the EU withdrawal Act, providing continuity by maintaining existing legislation at the point of exit but amending where necessary to ensure that it works effectively in a no-deal context.
Turning to the substance of these instruments, noble Lords may remember previous debates relating to alternative investment funds and their subcategories on 16 January. Those instruments, along with these being debated today, will ensure there is a functioning legislative and regulatory system for investment funds in the UK. The first instrument focuses specifically on the regulation of Undertakings for Collective Investments in Transferable Securities, commonly known as UCITS, which are funds aimed at retail investors. The second instrument relates to long-term investment funds, a further subcategory of alternative investment funds that promote long-term investment, such as in infrastructure and small and medium-sized enterprises. In a no-deal scenario, the UK would be outside the EEA and the EU’s legal, supervisory and financial regulatory framework. Retained EU and domestic law relating to the regulation of UCITS and long-term investment funds needs to be updated to reflect this.
I will begin with the collective investment schemes regulations. First, this instrument removes references to the Union and to EU legislation that will no longer have legal effect, replacing them where appropriate with references to the UK and UK legislation. It removes obligations to co-operate with EU authorities and defunct references to the EEA passporting system. However, as set out in FSMA and other legislation, it maintains the ability for co-operation between authorities which may be in the interests of both the UK and the EEA.
Secondly, this instrument maintains a standalone UK regime for UCITS. This includes ensuring that UK funds use firms for depository and management services that are incorporated in the UK, and re-labels UCITS in the UK as “UK UCITS”.
Thirdly, like many other instruments this instrument includes a temporary regime for funds. It will allow an EEA UCITS that is currently marketed into the UK under an EEA passport, and subsequent new sub-funds of an existing umbrella fund, to be marketed to UK investors in a similar manner to before. This regime will last for up to three years, although, if judged necessary, the Treasury may lay a statutory instrument to extend the temporary period for up to 12 months at a time, following an assessment by the FCA and a Written Ministerial Statement to both Houses. In order for funds to continue to be marketed into the UK after the temporary permissions regime, they will be directed to gain permissions as with any other third-country fund. The process for gaining this permission is outlined in Section 272 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The Government have committed to reviewing this process and will bring forward any necessary legislation in due course.
This instrument will transfer powers from the EEA bodies, such as the European Securities and Markets Authority ESMA to UK bodies such as the Financial Conducts Authority, the FCA. For example, the power to make binding technical standards will be transferred to the FCA. This is considered appropriate, because the FCA, as the UK’s national competent authority within the EEA, is already responsible for supervising investment funds.
Finally, this instrument makes an amendment to a similar instrument, the 2018 regulations on alternative investment fund managers. This will bring forward the commencement date relating to the temporary marketing permissions regime for alternative investment funds, which will allow the FCA notification window to operate as intended.
I move on—if my voice permits—to the long-term investment funds regulations. These funds are a further sub-category of alternative investment funds. The take-up across the EEA has been low, with no such funds set up in the UK by the end of 2018, according to the FCA. However, in line with the Government’s approach to European legislation, this regulation ensures a functioning framework for long-term investment funds. This instrument maintains the existing investment rules for long-term funds. It addresses deficiencies, for example by removing references to European institutions and replacing them with UK bodies. It will also create the UK-only label “long-term investment funds”.
As always, the Treasury has been working very closely with the Financial Conduct Authority in drafting this instrument. It has also engaged the financial services industry, including TheCityUK and the Investment Association, on this SI and will continue to do so. In particular, I note that the funds industry has reacted positively to the Treasury’s preparations. In December, the chief executive of the Investment Association, which is the main industry body for investment funds, noted:
“In a possible no deal Brexit, HM Treasury’s commitment to remain open to international funds ensures that the UK will remain a world leading asset management centre and that UK savers will continue to have access to a full range of investment opportunities”.
In November and December the Treasury published these instruments in draft form, alongside Explanatory Notes to maximise transparency to Parliament and industry. The impact assessment for the collective investment schemes regulations has also been published recently.
The Government believe that the proposed legislation is necessary to ensure that there is a functioning investment funds framework in the UK, and that the legislation will continue to function appropriately if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period. I hope that noble Lords will join me in supporting these regulations. I beg to move.
My Lords, we have allowed my noble friend Lady Bowles to go off to her committee today so I am afraid that there is somebody on these Benches with a far less-detailed knowledge of the intricacies of the relevant pieces of legislation. That may be of some relief but she will be back on future occasions so the respite is only temporary.
We have no objection to these two SIs, although I would like to probe around them a little. Clearly the UK Government should make this move because, frankly, EEA UCITS with a presence here in London suddenly fleeing because of a lack of temporary permissions would be a hole beneath the waterline for the future of fund management in London. The measure is absolutely necessary. The vast majority of those funds have said that if they had to go back and apply again as third countries for third-country permissions to keep their existing funds in place, they would prefer to exit. That is the situation with which we are dealing so the Government’s move is appropriate.
However, noble Lords will be aware that a great deal of money has already fled London. Two or three weeks ago, EY provided a report setting the number of assets to have left the City, primarily funds, at around £800 billion. With the latest Barclays announcement, that takes the number to about £1 trillion, which is a reasonable amount of assets under management to have left because of Brexit. So that everybody understands, I say that this is not about people being disloyal or unpatriotic. One of the companies involved, Somerset Capital Management—co-founded by Jacob Rees-Mogg—domiciled two recently launched funds in Dublin, apparently because of the demands of various clients. Clearly, a great deal of the movement out of London has been client-led.
That is a problem because conglomeration is a very powerful factor in driving this industry forward. Losing something like £1 trillion of funds under management and finding that many players are playing double-handed, with a presence in both London and somewhere else—typically in Dublin but perhaps in other places in the EU 27—puts into doubt a future never before doubted: that London would dominate in this area. Did I understand correctly from the Minister—and do I understand correctly from reading the instrument—that the transitional arrangements described are simply to provide continuity for existing London-domiciled EEA UCITS? Has there been any assessment of the likelihood of new funds to open choosing London for their headquarters? Has there been any assessment of whether the limited reach of the regulations means that, if we leave on 29 March, funds to open later in the year are far less likely to be London-domiciled because they will have to apply through a third-country process? I would be interested to understand that.
In a sense, that leads me on to the impact statement, which is peculiar. The Minister is absolutely right that the statement is recent: I think it went online on Friday and was printed only today. The costs are defined in the summary as “Unknown: likely significant”. But the description which follows that brief table says that the only really quantifiable costs on businesses are,
“marginal compared to the … costs arising from the UK leaving the EU”—
thank goodness, as this is one tiny area—and that they,
“mainly consist of familiarisation costs”.
Has there been any attempt in that estimate of significance to estimate the changing pattern of investment for new funds that will follow, because of the limited nature of this new SI? From a cost perspective, I do not know whether that has been included in the numbers.
The benefits are described as “significant” but, again, we have no numbers around any of that. I suppose that one person’s significant differs from another’s but it seems that it is significant compared to having nothing to protect us from a cliff edge. I can certainly understand that that is significant but it seems peculiar, frankly, to suggest it as a benefit. The status quo is clearly the benefit; there are no costs and there is no reduction in the future location of funds in the UK. A benefit that basically avoids the damage of a cliff edge seems a terribly odd description.
Finally, I saw the humour on the Minister’s face, and I share it, at the second SI, which deals with long-term investment funds. Since, as I understand it, this is a continuity and rollover SI and there are no funds, can he help me with the logic of why we are bothering with it? I do not mind it being on the statute book but it seems slightly redundant to provide for the continuity of nothing. I thought that the Minister might help me in this context with these issues, but we will of course oppose neither instrument.
I thank the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument but I repeat my concern that we are considering such instruments at all. I and my party feel that the Government should have given a commitment that we would not have a no-deal exit; day by day, there is growing evidence that such an exit will be disastrous for our country. I will say no more on that but try to process these SIs on their merits against—how shall I put it?—the strict limitation that we are assuming a no-deal situation and recognising that things have to be done to achieve that.
The Treasury, I assume to be consistent, has reproduced the same eight paragraphs in all the Explanatory Memorandums. Paragraph 7.4, which I will repeat, says:
“These SIs are not intended to make policy changes, other than to reflect the UK’s new position outside the EU, and to smooth the transition to this situation”.
It is against that test that I spent my time studying the Explanatory Memorandum. It seems to do all the right things: it creates a new name; it says that passporting dies; and it goes on to offer a temporary permission regime. This regime may last for up to three years, or three years and 12 months, or three years and 24 months, or perhaps for ever. One has to view the SI in the light of that regime.
The SI goes on to make perfectly reasonable rules about information sharing, which is not mandatory but discretionary to make sure there is a function transfer. This SI suffers from what I would loosely call asymmetry. As I understand the situation under the temporary permission regime, EEA UCITS can be marketed in the UK but there is no reciprocity. UK UCITS have no right to be marketed in the EEA. The justification for that is that if this temporary permission regime were not there the disruption would be negative for customers and for participants in the market. Will the Minister affirm that there is consideration on both sides and that that is why we have chosen not to seek reciprocity in this SI?
In this SI and in all the SIs coming forward we need to discuss what happens if we have a deal. When and how does this SI get repealed?
The Long-term Investments Funds (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations seem even less controversial. There seem to be no particular problems or transition problems and they do not create asymmetry.
What comes across with all the SIs is the increased workload for the SCA and other regulatory bodies, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the PRA. Whenever we ask this question, we are assured that these institutions have plans in hand to cope with it. Will the Minister give that assurance again? I understand that these institutions work on a cash-neutral basis—that is, they charge for their services so the industry pays their costs—but there are only so many competent people. Whatever the funding situation, are the Government sure that they have sufficient resource of quality people to allow these agencies and institutions to discharge their duties?
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate for their broad support for the statutory instrument before us. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, implied that she was not well informed on financial matters, but we all know that not to be the case. I agree with what she said about the TPRs. These are sensible measures, not least for seeking to keep the City of London’s pre-eminent position in financial markets at the forefront of our priorities.
The noble Baroness mentioned the migration of funds. I, too, saw the EY report. The £800 billion figure was an estimation of firms’ stated intentions rather than of actual assets transferred. The report states that the estimate is a “modest” sum when compared to the total assets of the UK banking sector, which stand at almost £8 trillion. None the less, it underlines the case for taking forward measures such as this to prevent any unnecessary migration of funds out of the UK. She also asked whether new funds could be established. The answer is that where there is an umbrella fund with lots of sub-funds, an existing umbrella fund with a sub-fund approved under the TPR can then get another sub-fund approved subsequently because it shares the same governance structure as the original one, so it has already been validated. Otherwise, a brand new one would have to start from scratch, in the way that the noble Baroness implied.
The noble Baroness asked about the impact assessment, She is quite right that it was published recently. These impact assessments focus narrowly on the changes that these SIs make and how businesses will need to respond. They do not deal with the broader economic impact of leaving the EU. The whole point of these SIs is to try, wherever possible, to maintain stability and continuity and minimise the amount of turbulence for firms involved. An impact assessment for the EU withdrawal Act deals with the impact of the parent Act; the Government have also published analysis of the potential economic impact of a range of scenarios, including no deal. These SIs mitigate the impact of leaving the EU without a deal. As the noble Baroness said, if they were not in place, there would be substantially more disruption and turbulence for the industry as a whole.
I think I have dealt with temporary marketing permissions. New EEA UCITS that are not sub-funds with temporary permissions, as I have just described, will have to use the third-country regime to market into the UK after exit day. The instrument does not change the process for authorising UK UCITS; that remains the same. There should be minimal change for the domestic industry.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, reiterated his opposition to no deal, which I understand and which he has made absolutely clear on earlier occasions. The best way to avoid no deal is to agree a deal; as I think he knows, the Prime Minister wants to meet others to identify what would be required to secure the backing of the House.
I think I answered the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, about removing LTIFs, in that some market and want to go on doing so. It will allow for EEA funds that market into the UK before exit day to continue to do so through the temporary marketing permission regime. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is right that it can be renewed at the end of three years. The TMPR can be extended only by the Treasury, pursuant to an FCA assessment on the effect of extending, or not extending, on financial markets, funds in the TMPR and the FCA’s objectives. It must also go through the House.
I was asked, if reciprocity is so important that they can continue marketing into this country, what about the reverse? The answer is that we can legislate only in relation to EEA funds and managers that passport into the UK. We cannot, through our own unilateral action, oblige them to do the same to us. That is why we are seeking to agree a deep and special partnership with the EU, as well as an implementation period—important for both of us—so we can have this reciprocity.
On reciprocity, we know that some temporary permissions are now being provided by the EU. For example, the London Clearing House has been given 12 months. Does the Minister anticipate temporary permissions in this area? Some guidance would be extremely helpful for the industry.
The noble Baroness makes a valid point. The answer may become available before I sit down. I agree that it would be of great value to firms based in this country if they could continue marketing into the EU in the event of no deal. I have just been handed the answer to an earlier question, which I have already replied to off the cuff. There may be some more in-flight refuelling.
On the response of industry to what we are doing, I draw the Committee’s attention to the remarks of Richard Withers, the head of government relations for Vanguard in Europe—one of the world’s largest asset management firms. He said that the collective investment scheme regulation that the Committee is debating now is a well-considered and well-drafted piece of secondary legislation, which removes possible disruptions to the UK public’s long-term investment and pension savings activity while also ensuring that the UK remains an attractive and pre-eminent target market into which global fund management companies distribute their products.
On the last point, it looks as if I may not be able to give a response to the very good question aimed at what representations are now being made by the Government or City institutions to encourage the EU and the relevant authorities there to do to us what we are in the process of doing to them. If I have not got the information by the time we reach the end of the next statutory instrument, I will write to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. I beg to move.
Long-term Investment Funds (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Considered in Grand Committee
Over the Counter Derivatives, Central Counterparties and Trade Repositories (Amendment, etc., and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, as this instrument has been grouped, I will speak also to the Financial Markets and Insolvency Amendment and Transitional Provision (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
As with the instruments we have just debated, these two instruments are also part of the same legislative programme to ensure that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period there continues to be a functioning legislative and regulatory regime for financial services in the UK.
Turning to the substance of the over-the-counter derivatives, central counterparties and trade repositories SI, many noble Lords will be familiar with the European market infrastructure regulation known as EMIR, which the EU implemented in 2012. It is Europe’s implementation of the G20 Pittsburgh commitment in 2009 to regulate over-the-counter derivative markets in the aftermath of the financial crisis, reduce risk and increase transparency in derivative markets. It should be noted that EMIR, and the financial markets and insolvency SI which we will come on to in a moment, concern activities that mainly take place on financial markets. EMIR imposes requirements on firms that enter into any form of derivative contract and establish common organisational, conduct-of-business and prudential standards for trade repositories and central counterparties. Central counterparties, for example, stand between counterparties in financial contracts, becoming the buyer to every seller and the seller to every buyer. They guarantee the terms of a trade, even if one party defaults on the agreement, thereby reducing counterparty risk.
This SI addresses deficiencies within EMIR and related UK legislation to ensure that after the UK has left the EU an effective legal supervisory and regulatory framework for over-the-counter derivatives, central counterparties and trade repositories remains. This instrument is the last of three key SIs that fix deficiencies in EMIR, and it follows two SIs which have already been debated in your Lordships’ House and which have subsequently been made: the central counterparties SI and the trade repositories SI.
Firstly, the SI continues key requirements of EMIR that include the clearing obligation, which requires firms to clear certain types of derivative contracts at a CCP, the reporting obligation, which requires firms and CCPs to report derivative trades to a registered or recognised trade repository, and margin requirements, which compel firms to put forward money to cover the costs associated with trades. In order to have a framework in place to facilitate these requirements the relevant functions are transferred from the European Commission to the Treasury, and from the European Securities and Markets Authority—ESMA—to the UK regulators, namely the Financial Conduct Authority or FCA, the Prudential Regulatory Authority, known as the PRA, and the Bank of England.
Secondly, the power of granting equivalence decisions for non-UK trade repositories is transferred from the European Commission to the Treasury and functions for recognising non-UK trade repositories are transferred from ESMA to the FCA. The SI also transfers powers from the Commission to the Treasury with regard to equivalence decisions on over-the-counter derivative requirements and whether non-UK markets are recognised for the purpose of trading exchange-traded derivatives.
Thirdly, a temporary intragroup exemption regime provides continuity by ensuring that exemptions from EMIR requirements for intragroup transactions will continue after exit day. The regime will last three years from exit day to allow time for consideration of an equivalence decision by the Treasury and for the FCA to determine a permanent exemption. This period can be extended by the Treasury if necessary. Under the MiFID II legislation, there is an exemption from clearing and margining for certain energy derivative contracts, and this exemption is maintained by this instrument. Finally, EU processes which will become redundant are removed and replaced with equivalent UK processes.
I turn now to the financial markets and insolvency SI. This instrument, broadly speaking, concerns insolvency-related protections that are provided to systems and central banks under the EU settlement finality directive, or SFD. Systems are financial market infrastructure, such as central counterparties, central security depositories and payment systems, which provide essential services and functions relied upon by the financial services sector.
Currently, if an EEA-based system is designated under the SFD and receives funds or securities from a system user—for example, a UK bank—those funds or securities cannot be clawed back in the event of the UK bank being subject to insolvency proceedings. Importantly, this framework also benefits system users, who could receive services on less favourable terms, or not at all, if the EEA system were not protected from UK insolvency law. In certain cases, membership of a system is contingent on these protections. Designation is therefore important as it facilitates the smooth functioning of, and confidence in, financial markets.
In order to become a designated system, a system must be approved by its designating authority—the Bank of England, in the case of the UK. The Bank then informs ESMA, which places it on the EU register of designated systems. The SFD provides similar protections to central bank functions across the EEA. Collateral received by an EEA central bank in accordance with its functions, such as emergency lending, cannot be clawed back if the relevant counterparty to the central bank is subject to insolvency proceedings.
The relevant EU laws—the SFD and the financial collateral arrangements directive—are implemented in the UK via the Financial Markets and Insolvency (Settlement Finality) Regulations 1999, the Companies Act 1989, the Financial Collateral Arrangements (No. 2) Regulations 2003 and the Banking Act 2009. Should the UK leave the EU without a deal or an implementation period, there will be no framework for the UK to recognise systems designated in EU member states, which in turn may risk continuity of services from those designated systems for UK firms.
This SI therefore establishes two main measures to mitigate these risks and ensure that settlement finality protections continue to operate effectively following the UK’s withdrawal. First, this SI establishes a UK framework for designating any non-UK system, while maintaining existing designations for systems that were designated by the Bank of England before exit day. To do this, the Bank of England’s powers to designate, and charge fees to, UK systems will be expanded to non-EEA systems, such that they can be designated under UK law. Moreover, the Bank will be able to grant protections to non-UK central banks, including EEA central banks, which already receive protections under the SFD. This will help maintain the effect of the current framework, providing continuity to UK firms accessing systems and central banks, while assisting UK firms in accessing the global market.
Secondly, the SI establishes a temporary designation regime. This provides temporary designation for a period of three years to existing designated EEA systems that intend to be designated under the UK’s framework. The purpose of temporary designation is to allow time for designation applications to be processed by the Bank of England while ensuring continuity of access for UK firms to relevant EEA systems immediately after exit day. The SI also gives the Treasury the power to extend this regime should more time be required to consider these applications.
The Treasury has been working very closely with the regulators in the drafting of the instruments. It has also engaged the financial services industry on these SIs and will continue to do so going forward. The Treasury published these instruments in draft alongside Explanatory Notes to maximise transparency to Parliament, industry and the public. That took place on 22 October and 31 October 2018 respectively for the Over the Counter Derivatives, Central Counterparties and Trade Repositories (Amendment, etc., and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 and the Financial Markets and Insolvency (Amendment and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. Furthermore, the Treasury published the impact assessment that accompanies these SIs, providing further transparency regarding the reasons behind, and foreseen impacts of, these proposals.
The Government believe that the proposed legislation is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of financial markets in the UK if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period. I hope that noble Lords will join me in supporting the regulations. I beg to move.
My Lords, as the Minister noted, the first SI—dealing with OTC derivatives, CCPs and trade repositories—was published in draft on 22 October last year. The second, dealing with financial markets and insolvency, was published in draft on 31 October last year. The impact assessments for these SIs are contained in a consolidated batch of nine HMT impact assessments, which themselves rely occasionally on references to IAs for other SIs. That batch was published on 29 January, three months after the publication of the drafts and two working days before we were scheduled to debate them. Even one working day beforehand, last Friday morning, the IAs were not available in the Printed Paper Office. Can the Minister explain the very late appearance of the SIs and why the PPO did not have copies by Friday? Can he reconcile this late publication of IAs with giving Parliament proper time for scrutiny? Can he assure the Committee that future Treasury IAs will be published in good time and lodged with the PPO?
The consolidated IAs contain a headline assessment of cost and benefits. As to costs, there are three headings: “Total Transition”, “Average Annual” and “Total Cost”. In each case, the IA estimates the costs as “Unknown: likely significant”. This is unsatisfactory and raises the question of whether HMT understands the role that IAs play in parliamentary scrutiny. It is of no help that the consolidated IA reckons the benefits to be “significant” but declines to attempt to quantify them. In the remaining 52 pages of the impact assessment there is no real detailed examination or quantification of likely costs and benefits, apart from a reading time-based estimate and a passing reference to the trade repositories SI where costs are estimated, apparently, at £500,000 per TR. I say “apparently” because there is a typo in the cost reference for these TRs, so it is not clear whether the figure is meant to be £50,000 or £500,000. Perhaps the Minister can clear that up. I think that it would help the Committee in its scrutiny of future Treasury SIs if consolidation was avoided and we returned to individual impact assessments in proper form for each SI.
Turning to each SI, I found it quite hard in parts to follow the EM for the OTC derivatives, CCPs and TRs SI. I would be grateful for some clarification from the Minister. In paragraph 6.1, the EM notes that the SI revokes two pieces of delegated legislation. Will the Minister expand on what these are and why they are being revoked? The EM does not say why—or if it does, I could not find it. In paragraph 7.7, the EM explains that:
“As a general principle, the UK would need to default to treating EU Member States largely as it does other third countries, although there are cases where a different approach would be needed including to provide for a smooth transition to the new circumstances”.
The EM does not explain what these cases may be or what the different approach might be. Will the Minister tell the Committee what these cases are, or may be, and what different approaches will be needed, and why?
Paragraph 7.12 of the EM states:
“Where the Commission has taken equivalence decisions for third countries before exit day, these will be incorporated into UK law and will continue to apply to the UK’s regulatory and supervisory relationship with those third countries—with the exception of those taken under Article 25 EMIR as set out in the CCP Regulations”.
Will the Minister explain what these exceptions are and why they exist?
In paragraph 7.16, the EM notes that the SI introduces a power that allows the FCA to suspend the reporting obligation for up to one year, with the agreement of HM Treasury, where there is no registered UK TR available. Surely the Treasury must know how likely this is and who it will affect. Again, the EM and the impact assessment do not help—or at least did not help me. Will the Minister say how likely this suspension is, who it will affect and what its consequences and impact might be?
I turn briefly to the second instrument, the financial markets and insolvency regulations, which is, by comparison, a model of clarity and straightforwardness. My only question relates to paragraph 1.76 of the impact assessment, which explains that the relevant EEA systems will be required to notify the Bank of England, before exit day, to enter the regime. What happens if they do not? What risks does this generate, and what procedures are in place to mitigate them?
I realise that I have asked quite a few quite detailed questions, and if the Minister prefers to respond in writing I would be happy, as long as we have the answers before the SIs reach the Chamber. I emphasise that I feel strongly that the consolidation of IAs makes proper parliamentary scrutiny significantly more difficult, and the very late production of IAs, as in this case, really does not help.
My Lords, there is much that I would support in the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey. I particularly like the way he sneaked in the fact that he got to page 41 of the IA.
The first instrument is on an area that I knew little about before I read it. With that limitation, it seems generally to make sense. It is clear about the transfer of functions, who will be responsible for equivalence decisions and information exchange—data comes over with a discretionary relationship. It is clear that the object of the exercise—at least this is how I read the Explanatory Memorandum—is to retain the discipline of EMIR. In view of its importance, I was surprised that a UK name for EMIR was not created, as was done in a previous SI, so that we would all know what we were talking about, given that the E in EMIR stands for European.
Going a little way into the detail, as the noble Lord pointed out, paragraph 7.16 allows a reporting obligation to be suspended for one year. From what I understand of the overall regime that this is part of, its very essence is open reporting of transactions. That is what the G20 came up with to create this regime. Will the Minister give us some feel for what risks are being taken by Part 2 of the instrument, which creates an opportunity for reporting to be suspended for up to one year? It also has what seems a fairly reasonable exemption for intragroup activity. It is a classic three years, plus however often the Treasury wants to extend it. It also has an exemption for energy derivative contracts up to 3 January 2021, but I could not see where that date came from; perhaps it is something to do with an international agreement.
In paragraph 7.22, the instrument introduces or changes some criminal offences. I looked back at the document that enables this, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. I assume this is being done under Section 8, under which most of this is being done. Section 8(7) states,
“regulations under subsection (1) may not … create a relevant criminal offence”.
I would therefore like some assurance from the Minister that the changes outlined in paragraph 7.22 are legally correct.
The essence of the financial markets and insolvency regulations is to prevent clawback in insolvency situations, which is presently automatic for non-UK EEA members. This will fall away on exit day, but this SI gives the Bank of England power to designate, and there is a temporary designation regime with the traditional format of three years and 12 months. However, does this create an asymmetric situation? Do UK firms participating in EEA countries receive the same protection?
This is quite an important question. At the moment, LCH is the dominant clearing house globally and it is certainly the dominant player for any euro-denominated transactions. There is a shift under way to take some of this activity to Paris. The real question for a lot of the UK players is whether they have to relocate part of their operation to Paris to be able to play in both parts of what will become a much more fragmented European clearing system. That matters a lot for terms of compression and deciding what levels of margin companies have to keep. The reciprocal play matters. Today, the Bank of England and ESMA signed an MoU on how they will regulate these central counterparties. I do not know whether, or to what extent, that is the context. Am I being clear? No, I am being confusing.
No, that is very good. It might turn my casual question into quite a substantial one.
I notice that all the Treasury SIs that the Committee has discussed say that there will be no consolidation and no guidance. I do not know how we can carry on like this. I have found it absolutely impossible to understand the overall scene that these SIs relate to. The scrutiny that one is able to give is therefore entirely dependent on the Explanatory Memorandums. As a generality, these assume quite significant previous knowledge and it is an uphill battle to get a feel for these SIs and to give them the appropriate scrutiny.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. I detected no objection to the basic premises on which these SIs are based. I will sweep up some of the points raised in earlier debates that are also relevant to this one.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked about the FCA’s resources to cope with the new responsibilities being imposed on it. We are confident that the FCA is making adequate preparation and is effectively resourced ahead of March this year. In its 2018-19 business plan, a significant proportion of its resources are already focused on the forthcoming exit, including arrangements to implement any necessary changes. It has increased its staff numbers in response to increases in the scope of its regulatory activity, including EU withdrawal. It will publish its 2019-20 plan this spring, setting out its planned work for the coming year. As I said in response to an earlier SI, the chief executive of the FCA, Andrew Bailey, has said he expects to hold FCA fees steady for a year or two, assuming there is an implementation period. If there is not, it can increase its fees should it need to do so in the event of no deal.
The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, asked about the impact assessment being published late. This issue was raised in another place and was dealt with by my ministerial colleague John Glen. We do recognise the importance of making impact assessments available for parliamentary scrutiny. We find ourselves in a unique situation. While we have tried to ensure that these impact assessments are published before debates, this has not always been possible. We acknowledge that some firms will incur costs as a result of these SIs but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, said in an earlier debate, the situation for these businesses would be much worse in the absence of this legislation. As a whole, these SIs will reduce costs to business in a no-deal scenario as without them the legislation would be defective. In response to the points raised by both noble Lords and the noble Baroness, we have agreed to undertake further analysis of these SIs in the event that we leave the EU without a deal and they come into effect.
The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, asked whether we could have independent assessments for SIs. I understand that, but there are some complex interdependencies between some of the SIs. Also, the work that the regulators are undertaking cannot always be neatly pigeonholed between the SIs. Given that, it has not been possible to fully quantify the impact of the individual SIs at this stage. However, this is something that Miles Celic, the chief executive of TheCityUK, noted in a letter to the RPC in November. As I said a moment ago, we are committed to undertaking further analysis of the impact of these instruments at an appropriate point, should they come into effect, either in the event of leaving without a deal—
We hear that explanation and I have great sympathy for the civil servants involved with this task. However, will the Minister at least have the grace to admit that it was entirely in the Government’s hands to decide when to start this process? If they had started it earlier we would not be in this mess now. We have had impact assessment after impact assessment delivered after we have approved the instrument. That is not satisfactory and I doubt whether the Treasury will be able to catch up.
I asked about the absence of the impact assessments from the Printed Paper Office. That is the route by which most of our colleagues get the information. They were transmitted electronically to some noble Lords on 29 January, but they were not available in printed form until this morning. That seems a very odd lapse.
Again, I take that seriously. Would the noble Lord allow me to make some inquiries within the machinery of government in this House to find out what exactly went wrong there? I understand that they were delivered to the Printed Paper Office on Friday.
We need a post-mortem on this, which I will authorise.
In response to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, regarding the numbers on the impact assessment, and how they relate to trade repositories, I say that there are eight trade repositories operating in the EEA that are in scope of familiarisation costs. The impact assessment confirmed that we anticipate that the IT costs for those TRs will be approximately £10,000 to £15,000 per TR—although this cost is also dependent on the size of the TR—and, for firms that will need to update their systems, £5,000 per firm. Costs to the FCA associated with supervising the trade repositories, as well as new IT systems to connect to trade repositories, would be approximately £500,000 per trade repository, although this cost is also dependent on their size. The impact assessment also acknowledged that there may be other costs associated with trade repositories connecting to the Bank of England.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and it may have also been the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, who asked about the FCA’s power to suspend the need to report if there were no trade repositories. That is most unlikely. There are a number of trade repositories in the UK and there are arrangements in the legislation to passport them so they carry on. There are also arrangements for relatively speedily authorising any new TRs. It was slightly odd that a city such as the City of London did not have any TRs, so we think it most unlikely that the FCA will utilise its power to suspend reporting obligations against that background.
In the earlier debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, asked me whether the EU was considering reciprocity to UK funds in a no-deal scenario. The EU has not done the same for UK funds passporting into the EU, but many UK asset management firms operate EU fund ranges, and they have welcomed the creation of the temporary marketing permission regime, which enables them to market them into the UK.
I was asked what happens to an EEA system that does not notify the Bank of England of entering the TDR. Such a system will not enter the temporary designation regime and it will therefore not have recognition for UK insolvency law purposes. A notification is not an onerous requirement; the Bank of England provided details of this last autumn. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, pointed out that under Section 8 we cannot create any new criminal offences, or, I think, create new taxes or new public authorities, and I am confident that nothing in the SIs goes against that restraint.
The noble Lord asked a good question: is the creation of a criminal offence consistent with the withdrawal Act? Section 8 outlaws the creation of a relevant criminal offence. This is defined in Section 20 of the Act as an offence with a possible prison term of more than two years. The criminal offence in this SI is not caught by that definition, so it is permitted.
Following an intervention from the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, I was asked about unilaterally recognising EEA systems as central banks with no EU-wide reciprocal action. Extending settlement finality protections unilaterally reduces the risk that UK firms will be refused access to EEA financial market infrastructures, known as systems, and central banks once the UK leaves the EU. It also reduces the legal uncertainty and settlement risk these systems and central banks would face regarding UK law without such protections, so it ensures that the UK remains an attractive place to do business in a global context and supports broader financial stability.
I am conscious that I might not have answered all the penetrating questions from the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, or some others that have been raised. If I have not, I will write to noble Lords, I hope with an authoritative reply.
Financial Markets and Insolvency (Amendment and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Considered in Grand Committee
Committee adjourned at 6.01 pm.