My Lords, I begin with some context to explain why the Government have brought the Bill forward at this time. The Government have been clear that we do not want or expect a no-deal scenario but it remains the role of a responsible Government to continue to prepare for all possible outcomes. This includes the unlikely event that we will reach 29 March next year without a withdrawal agreement or an implementation period.
I have updated noble Lords a number of times on how the Treasury will ensure that we have an effective financial services regulatory regime in the event of no deal. That stability and continuity is being delivered by the 60 or so statutory instruments that Her Majesty’s Treasury is introducing under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. These will ensure that all relevant existing legislation continues to operate effectively, minimises disruption for firms and protects financial stability.
We need to do more than just ensure that our regime continues to function. The UK’s position as a global financial centre is critical to our prosperity and benefits businesses and consumers across the UK. We need appropriate regulation in place, with the right balance between protecting stability and fostering competitiveness. We aim to be the safest and most transparent place to do business, leading the race to the top and always championing high regulatory standards in financial services markets.
In the unlikely event of no deal, thanks to the hard work of both Houses, we will have brought on to our statute book a vast and highly technical body of EU financial services legislation. We thank both Houses, but both Houses should thank our remarkable civil servants for their incredible work in preparing this great volume of legislation with such accuracy and detail.
However, the powers under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act relate only to EU legislation operative on exit day. Numerous pieces of legislation—or files, which I will refer to later—will not be covered by the withdrawal act powers. They include those that are either already agreed but not yet operative on exit day, or those still under negotiation but which will be operative soon after our departure. There are also provisions in the Bill that relate to non-operative provisions, which it would not make sense to bring into UK law alone.
In many cases, the UK strongly supported these laws when they were being negotiated and played a leading role in shaping them over a number of years. These laws provide up-to-date tools to deal with financial stability risks, ensure that our firms can operate on a level playing field with firms on the continent, allow the UK to meet its G20 commitments and maintain the highest international standards, and provide all-important business certainty and continuity.
As part of this ambition, the Treasury undertook extensive engagement with our financial services industry while negotiating these laws. The sector has been expecting many of these proposals for several years and has been preparing to implement and gain the benefits of them. For example, the prospectus regulation will reduce the financial and regulatory burden for companies wishing to fulfil their financing needs on public markets, while maintaining high standards of investor protection. The UK has been a strong supporter of the reform of the prospectus directive and engaged closely in the development of this regulation.
Implementation is critical to ensure that the UK retains its reputation as an attractive destination for capital. If we are to retain our position as the world’s leading financial centre in the unlikely event of a no deal, it will be vital that the Government can implement the key policies in these EU files in a timely way. Global markets adapt and evolve at pace. We cannot afford for our high regulatory standards to fall behind those of other major financial services jurisdictions. That is what the Bill seeks to address. It will do so in two main ways. First, it allows the Government to implement in the UK a specified list of the most necessary EU financial services legislative proposals in the pipeline through statutory instruments subject to the affirmative procedure. Noble Lords will find the full list and purpose of these files in the policy note published by the Treasury.
Secondly, and importantly, the Bill is only for a situation in which we leave the EU without a deal. It will allow for the Government to choose to implement only parts of these pieces of legislation and make adjustments and improvements as they are brought into UK law. I acknowledge that this is a broad power, but let me be clear on two fronts. In the event of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement and without a future economic partnership, the UK will not countenance accepting EU laws wholesale. It will therefore be vital to ensure that any legislation implemented in the UK can be adjusted to work best for the UK markets outside the EU in a no-deal scenario. The Bill is and can be only a stop-gap measure to minimise disruption in the event of no deal for a time-limited period. The Government fully recognise the need to establish a more sustainable process for updating financial services regulation following our exit from the EU and will come forward with proposals in due course.
In recognition of the breadth of powers sought in the Bill, it is subject to a number of strict safeguards. First, as I have stressed, this is strictly a temporary solution and will be limited by a non-extendable sunset clause at two years after a no-deal exit, ending on 29 March 2021. Secondly, the power will be subject to the affirmative procedure in every instance of its use, providing Parliament a guaranteed opportunity to debate, discuss and scrutinise the Government’s approach to implementing these files. Thirdly, the Treasury will be mandated to produce and publish annual reports on the exercise of the power. Finally, the power will be subject to limitations as in Section 8(5) and (7) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It cannot therefore be used to impose taxation, make retrospective provision, create some criminal offences, establish a public authority or amend the Human Rights Act or the devolution settlements.
It is crucial that we press ahead with preparations to ensure that, in the event of no deal, we can protect and enhance the UK’s position as a global financial centre. The Bill is an essential part of those preparations, providing us with the critical ability to implement legislation important to maintaining the functionality, reputation and international competitiveness of our financial sector.
I hope that noble Lords will recognise the Bill as the Government taking a responsible approach in their contingency planning. I look forward to this Second Reading debate on the Bill’s contents and to responding to noble Lords’ questions and scrutiny at its conclusion. I beg to move.
My Lords, this very brief Bill has a perfectly reasonable objective, which we support. It makes obvious sense to deal with the in-flight files relating to financial services against the possibility that we crash out of the EU on 29 March. I entirely accept that we need to ensure the functioning of our statute book against the possibility of a chaotic exit from the EU. I entirely accept that we need a certain flexibility in the way we do this. We need to have the ability to incorporate pending EU legislation to which we have contributed significantly and which will bring clear benefits to the UK, but will not be incorporated, as the Minister said, by the EU withdrawal Act.
This need is not confined to the financial sector. I expect that the Government will want to bring forward similar legislation to cover other sectors. In particular, I would welcome equivalent legislation to cover the clinical trials regulation, which has been adopted but not yet applied. I realise that this is outside the Minister’s brief, but might he have a quick word with his colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care about the Bill’s in-flight mechanism?
The Bill before us may be short but it raises a number of substantive questions. The first concerns policy change. It seems clear that the proposed in-flight mechanism will allow the Government to make policy changes by delegated legislation, as section 2 of the de minimis impact assessment makes explicit. That is specifically prohibited in the EU withdrawal Act because it would significantly reduce parliamentary scrutiny. The same objection applies here. Making or changing policy via SIs will equally diminish parliamentary scrutiny. If doing this was wrong for the EU withdrawal Act, why is it okay for this Bill? Is it right to change policy, perhaps significantly, without substantive parliamentary debate? The affirmative procedure certainly does not count as substantive parliamentary debate. I would be grateful for the Minister’s thoughts on the matter.
The second question relates to the schedule. The provisions in it are not the only in-flight financial services proposed legislation. For example, the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association points out two other provisions. The first is the European Commission’s proposal of May 2018 for a regulation establishing a framework to facilitate sustainable investment. The second is a proposal for a regulation on disclosure relating to sustainable investments and sustainability risks. Why were those two in-flight proposals not included in the schedule list? More generally, on what basis were the items in the list chosen and on what basis were they excluded?
I can easily see that some items in the schedule are critical. The Capital Requirements Regulation II and the Capital Requirements Directive V will allow us to update the rules on minimum capital requirements derived from the international Basel standards. The Central Counterparty Recovery and Resolution Regulation will ensure that CCPs and the Bank have mechanisms for acting defensively in a crisis to ensure financial stability and the continued functioning of CCPs. I probably do not need to remind your Lordships that the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, has pointed out that if CCPs were to fail chaotically or be unable to continue to function, it would be 2008 on steroids.
My real difficulty with the Bill lies with Clause 1. “Similar” in subsection (1)(a) seems to give very wide discretion. Who is to decide what is similar, and on what basis? Subsection (1)(b) appears to give the Treasury extreme latitude. What is the force of the word “adjustments”? Does it imply any limitation on the changes that may be made? If it does, what are they and should they not be in the Bill? There is then even wider latitude: these adjustments can be made as the Treasury considers “appropriate”. Would it not be better to limit what currently seems an absolute and unfettered discretion for the Treasury to decide what is appropriate? Should not “appropriate” be qualified? Would it not be better to specify a purpose and to know “appropriate” for what purpose or objective? In any case, we need some indication of what tests will be applied in deciding when an adjustment is appropriate.
The wording of subsection (1) makes it clear, given the wide powers, that policy change can be brought about by SIs, limiting parliamentary scrutiny. This becomes evident when we consider the wording in parentheses, which makes it plain that the Treasury adjustments do not even have to have anything to do with our withdrawal from the EU.
A further question arises from Clause 1(9). It is not clear to me—I know that this may be entirely my fault—what this subsection actually does. In particular, I am unclear about the phrase, “in that following year”. I am not sure what that refers to or what it means and I would be very grateful if the Minister would explain.
The policy note issued by the ministry has been very helpful in working through the Bill, but it raises one additional question. On page 3, paragraph 1.8 talks about the safeguards contained in the Bill. The final bullet point states that the power,
“cannot be used to impose taxation; make retrospective provision; create some criminal offences; establish a public authority; implement a withdrawal agreement; or amend the Human Rights Act 1998 or the devolution settlements”.
It follows from this that the power can create some criminal offences. It would be very helpful if the Minister would spell out for us just what criminal offences may not be created and, by extension, under what circumstances the Treasury would want to create new offences and what these might encompass.
Overall, the Bill effectively allows the introduction of fundamental new law by SI. There is no natural, native parent for these SIs. There will have been no primary legislation to allow thorough parliamentary scrutiny. We will be relying, if that is the right word, for proper scrutiny on the EU institutions, which we will have left and whose interests may not be aligned with ours. Perhaps we need a sunset clause for the effects of these SIs, and not just for the powers within the SIs themselves, so that there will be an opportunity for proper scrutiny as they are incorporated in new primary legislation. I am sure that we will come back to this in Committee.
As I started by saying, we support the objectives of the Bill but have some serious concerns about the unfettered nature of the powers it contains and the implications for parliamentary scrutiny. I hope that the Minister will be able to put our minds at rest, at least somewhat.
My Lords, it would be hard to argue with the importance of having the necessary financial architecture in place to protect and sustain the UK’s position in the event of a no-deal scenario. The ability of the appropriate authorities to act decisively to maintain financial stability and public confidence is critical in any country, and nowhere more than in the United Kingdom, given the size and importance of our financial services sector. So the Bill certainly has my “in principle” support, and although it seems narrowly drawn, covering only regulations which are in process as the UK leaves the EU, there are a number of particular importance, as the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, pointed out.
When the tide went out as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, it did, in Warren Buffett’s famous phrase, reveal a number of people who had been swimming naked. As a result of that, the UK Government faced a crisis and had to become a significant shareholder in a number of major UK financial institutions. That must surely be inappropriate unless and until the shareholders, bondholders and creditors have borne their share of the pain. So ensuring that the UK keeps up to date with Bank and central counterparty recovery legislation is very important. We cannot allow gaps to appear in the regulatory framework that may offer opportunities for what is known as regulatory arbitrage. At a more practical level, as my noble friend pointed out in his opening remarks, the move to a more focused regulatory approach to the prospectus requirements, particularly for SMEs and investment managers, must be a welcome development. The UK needs to adopt these regulations if it is to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage.
However, as has also been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, the Bill, though narrowly focused, nevertheless gives the Government extraordinarily wide powers. I am sure that in Committee we shall need to prove the extent to which they are necessary and the ways in which the Government anticipate using them. At this stage I have a handful of points to raise with my noble friend. At paragraph 1.9 of the policy note that accompanies the Bill, there is an assurance that the Government will:
“undertake engagement and co-operation with key stakeholders throughout the process”.
That is potentially a very important restriction on inappropriate use of the powers in the Bill, but as it stands it is quite a bland statement. It would be helpful if my noble friend could give a little more detail about what the Government envisage in terms of their links with the sector during this very important two-year period.
Another constraint is the reporting requirement in Clause 1(8). The clause requires a report 12 months after a no-deal Brexit. After a no-deal Brexit, 12 months will be a very long time indeed. Have the Government given some thought to bringing forward a shorter regulatory period so that their use of these extraordinarily wide powers becomes more transparent more quickly? Moreover, the requirement, as I read it as presently drafted, requires only a statement of the actions that have been taken. It would surely be more helpful to the outside observer if the Treasury was also required to give a statement about why it had felt it necessary to take individual actions, not just that they had been taken.
My final point concerns the paragraph in the letter kindly sent to us by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Here I am going to cover ground that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, have covered. The important paragraph reads:
“It is of course vital that any financial service legislation best serves the interests of UK businesses and customers once we have left the EU, rather than the UK simply accepting EU laws wholesale. The measures in the Bill will therefore allow for the government to choose to implement only those EU files, or parts of those files, which it deems beneficial for the UK, and to make adjustments and improvements to the legislation as it is brought into UK law to ensure that it works best for UK markets in a ‘no deal’ scenario”.
That is a broad power, as my noble friend said in his opening statement. That whole paragraph contains some pretty challenging implications. For example, who is going to deem what is necessary for the UK, and who is going to ride herd on them to make sure that their judgments are being exercised properly?
These early decisions, taken against the background, as they will be, of a no-deal Brexit scenario, may well have a fundamental impact on the shape and structure of future UK securities legislation and consequently on the competitive position of the City of London. Further enlightenment on the background to this paragraph would be helpful when my noble friend comes to wind up.
I have said that I support this Bill, and I do. When I wrote my notes for it, I said that at least it provides an essential stop-gap—again a phrase that came up in my noble friend’s opening remarks—but stop-gaps cannot be, and cannot substitute for, a carefully crafted strategic plan. In Committee we shall need to explore in more detail the extent of the powers the Bill gives to the Government and the way in which the Government anticipate using them.
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I welcome the introduction of the Bill. It is not the most exciting piece of legislation we will consider in this House, but it is pretty vital in the event of a no-deal exit. Taking up points that have been made by other noble Lords, it also points to the intensity of the negotiations that have been taking place outside the Brexit scenario on future financial services regulation. There is poignancy in it as well because for more than 20 years the British voice in the councils of Europe on financial services legislation has been dominant. We have helped to craft that legislation and regulation over those years, and this legislation points out how critical that is. It also reminds us that we are about to move from being rule makers to rule takers. This is one of the steps along the way. I know that that irritates the Brexiteers, but it is a statement of fact.
I am very conscious that a number of points have been made by other noble Lords. There is one specific question that I would like to ask because some confusion has been caused. I think all of us who are speaking on this Bill have been approached by members of the sustainable investment community. I have a difficulty: the number of pieces of in-flight legislation that they refer to does not match the number of pieces of in-flight legislation that the Minister has referred to in this Bill. Particularly in relation to sustainable investment, there is a reference at point 2.52 in the very helpful policy note that the,
“proposal aims to enhance the transparency and comparability of low carbon benchmarks”.
That comparability is an area where there could be widespread interpretation, and it would be helpful if the Minister could give us some idea of the parameters within which that comparability would take place.
Moving to the last part of the policy document, which refers to the European supervisory authority review and the action that the Government will have to take post exit, I would like to see some indication of the timescale that the UK would be considering in making regulatory changes to allow for the exchange of information and delegation to function smoothly. That is a pretty critical part of the functioning of markets. I would be grateful to have some guidance on this; it would be useful because this is not really covered by the sunset clause in the Bill.
There are a number of points that will no doubt be teased out as we go through Committee, and most of them have been referred to before. I too was a bit confused by the use of the word “similar” in the first clause, conscious as I am that I am sitting beside a former Lord Chancellor. It would be useful to have a much clearer definition of what “similar” actually means.
It is important to get this legislation on the statute book as quickly as possible. I hope it is not needed, but again it causes us to reflect on how significant financial services are. It is regrettable that in the political declaration and indeed in the withdrawal Act we do not have any proper explanation of the nature of the regulatory compromises that will be made, particularly in relation to going from passport into equivalence. A big gap is opening up there. I do not expect the Minister to answer that but it is something that we need to have at the back of our minds as we look at this legislation.
My Lords, the Bill establishes a short-cut alternative to starting over again with primary legislation for provisions that are in the EU pipeline and in which the UK has already been engaged. It looks like a convenient scheme. However, I share the concerns raised by other noble Lords, although I agree that the legislation need to be implemented because the large majority of it—at least, what is in the schedule—completes the post-financial-crisis review of legislation.
I am sorry that we have not been given more guidance to what might be objectionable than the example of location policy. Once the short-cut onshoring of bits of legislation has happened, Parliament will be left with very little scope ever to come to grips with major financial services policy. That means that what we are doing now as a temporary measure will have permanent effects. It will all be delegated and in the hands of SIs and regulators—back to the Treasury and the regulatory officials who make up the rules in international consortiums. That, as I have said, is “delegate and deference”, not parliamentary democracy. It is far worse than the scrutiny available in the EU. If we are taking back control, we ought to make sure that our scrutiny is as good as that of the EU.
The Bill is also difficult for me because there is the possibility of wide powers being used differently from non-legislative promises, and because precedents are being set that may then be used in other circumstances. Here, a precedent is set of bypassing primary legislation and piggybacking on somebody else’s scrutiny—for our largest industry. Of course, that may be the truth of Brexit.
There are some non-legislative assurances listed in paragraph 1.9 of the Treasury policy document, which has already been referenced, but I am not sure I find them reassuring. The first is that any method other than coming to Parliament will be used in preference. I do not see virtue in avoiding the scrutiny of Parliament. There is also a commitment to undertake extensive engagement and co-operation with key stakeholders. I do not decry that but—from experience—that does not seem to include Parliament. In the present circumstances, it is all the more important to consult Parliament when, by the Government’s own admission, this is a process that replaces the more detailed scrutiny of primary legislation.
I too have noted the provisions about preparing reports. I particularly noted, in subsection (8)(b), the report on the,
“proposals for exercise of the powers”,
in the second year. Maybe that gives us something to expand on, because it is very important to have an overarching idea of the policy being pursued and the concerns that I have identified. But, as other noble Lords have perhaps already hinted, it is needed in advance of year one as well.
I accept that a no-deal Brexit is not quite what is planned, but, even so, everything that the Government have ever said about our relationship with the EU post Brexit has aimed at getting equivalence or better. If that breaks down because policy changes a great deal, I will accept it, but we must not find that we abandon equivalence by accident because we have made various incremental changes that, in EU eyes, could collectively destroy equivalence prospects without there having been explicit consent to that being what we wished to do. Moreover, as emphasis has been put on consultation with stakeholders, how can we know, whatever the current intention, that the Bill does not turn out to be a dilutors’ charter, because the specified legislation is now out there as an Aunt Sally at which interested parties may chance their arm? I have seen the gleam in the eyes of some in the City already.
In the all-Peers meeting last week with the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP, it was said that the words “corresponding, or similar” from Clause 1(l)(a) would not permit changing or deleting aspects of wider legislation not detailed in the specified items of EU financial services legislation. We inevitably got on to bankers’ bonuses as the example everyone knows, so although the schedule includes CRD5 on prudential regulation of banks, it would not, according to the analysis, open up change to the details in CRD4, which is where most of the bankers’ bonus information resides. It would be good for the Minister to confirm that understanding, as an example.
Developing that point further, and because there are some proportionality measures on remuneration for smaller businesses within the specified legislation, does it mean that proportionality measures could not be stretched by the UK to apply to larger businesses than the EU legislation intended? Given that, in my experience, the UK has not used all proportionality provisions—some of which I worked very hard to get—what is the policy on implementation of proportionality?
I could go through the list of legislation and ask lots more questions, but I will spare noble Lords with just one more example. Are the Government now in favour of extending the suspension of the clearing obligation for pension funds—a measure that I forced into the original legislation without any particular support? We should be told, because it could be that the Government do not want to do that and it could be crossed out with our being able to make a specific objection.
Why cannot the Government make a more fulsome policy report now of their key points and concerns? I accept that some things will change, but that does not detract from being given a grounding in where decisions are coming from.
More generally, the words “corresponding, or similar” are too wide. It may be possible to have a corresponding piece of legislation that is not similar. At the moment, I am veering towards suggesting that the provision should be “corresponding, and similar”.
The next part that concerns me is that EU legislation could be cherry picked. That may not be the intention, but the words,
“or any of the provisions”,
allow that possibility. It is very permissive, covering from everything to nothing of a piece of specified EU legislation. I want to find ways to qualify that to ensure that the overall framework that could sustain the objective of equivalence is being retained, and is not disappeared by stealth or accident via statutory instrument. One way to deal with that might be for “corresponding, and similar” requirements to apply to the whole of a piece of legislation, rather than individual provisions, but I accept that we need some more tightly defined requirements for omissions that might be necessary.
Then I come to,
“any adjustments the Treasury consider appropriate”.
In the meeting, we were told that new things cannot be created, but it is not entirely clear that the “corresponding, or similar” provision governs subsection (1)(b). I come back to my point that in this context there needs to be some kind of track record on the policy against which you can measure what is being done. The word “appropriate”, which is the unfortunate and common construction used for delegated power, is usually employed when there is some policy context in the primary legislation. In the Bill, there is no policy context other than to pick, choose, change and avoid primary legislation.
I do not understand why it is necessary to have such broad powers for the completed specified legislation. It is known what was argued and it is in its final form. We will know what was lost and any changes that might need to be considered. Why can we not know them now?
Legislation that is not complete in the schedule is not new or surprising either: there have been years of consulting. I did some of it. By the time an EU proposal is published, before you go through any amendment provisions, it has been well consulted on. The Commission, other member states and many MEPs know the UK lines. I often used to get it from them before I ever got it from the Treasury. How about telling us what those lines are in respect of that legislation? They must exist. Again, that would give us a background against which we could measure what is intended. Without that, we are approving a procedure blind of policy, facts and principle. It is not sufficient to think that an affirmative procedure is enough to satisfy all those concerns.
My Lords, I am pleased to speak today on this short, technical, perhaps not that exciting Bill, and thank my noble friend for his briefing earlier. I recognise that some will say that this is a belt-and-braces Bill to cover the very unwelcome possibility that we leave the EU on 29 March with no deal. I say that it is unwelcome not because I think that the UK cannot or will not flourish as an independent nation state outside the EU but because I really do not think that we will be ready at that time. I note that the Government recognise that, in those circumstances, only appropriate legislation will be brought in and then, importantly, it can be adjusted to suit us.
My position in supporting the Government and speaking for their proposals for the deal later this week is set out in an article I have written for today’s City A.M., so I will not bore the House further with my views on it.
I draw your Lordships’ attention to my interests in the register and to an entry which, for good reason, is not in it yet but which I ought to declare. I am, today, the senior partner of Cavendish Corporate Finance LLP, which will merge with finnCap Group PLC tomorrow. All being well, our first day of dealing on the AIM market starts at 7.30 am. So, as deputy chairman of an AIM-listed company, I have a vested interest in the operation of the market and will address some issues which are covered as specified EU financial legislation, which this Bill seeks to bring in on or after exit day.
The stated purpose of the power is,
“ensuring the Government can implement legislation which reflects the interests of the UK market and its participants”.
The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee criticised the similar powers contained in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act for giving what it called,
“excessively wide law-making powers to ministers”.
However, given the Bill’s stated purpose of ensuring the Government can implement legislation which reflects the interests of the UK market and its participants, it is both necessary and proportionate to allow Ministers to make,
“any adjustments the Treasury consider appropriate”,
so that the Government can make positive improvements to the proposed legislation for the benefit of the UK market and its participants, rather than just correct deficiencies, as the EU withdrawal Act allows.
Regulators and regulation have tended to focus on the largest and most visible markets but should address the whole of the UK financial markets, not just the FTSE 100, many of whose companies are multinational. The major public markets are just the visible tip of the iceberg, part of a broad financial ecosystem which supports the financing of and investment in UK businesses. Government should consider the impact and potential unintended consequences on the broader system before implementing EU legislation.
An important aspect of this broader system is the financing of small and medium enterprises. I am, of course, delighted to see that the Government support the aims of the SME growth market regulation proposals, to support the ability of SMEs to fulfil their financing needs on UK public markets through the reduction of administrative and financial burdens.
In this context, we need to consider the potential negative impact of the central securities depositories regulation, CSDR, and the related delegated cash penalties regulation, DCPR, on the provision of liquidity, which is so important for markets for small and medium enterprises, such as the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market. AIM is by far the most successful SME growth market in Europe. The EU does not have the same sort of experience or success as we do. Part of this success is due to the quote-driven nature of the market, with market-makers committed to providing liquidity at all times during market hours.
However, the CSDR introduces a new settlement discipline regime, under which trades not settled at an agreed time will face daily fines until they are. These fines will pass along the chain of settlement so that only the initial failing part of the settlement chain will pay. This will always be the liquidity providers, which are the market-makers, as they are the only type of participant permitted to sell shares they do not own—known as naked short sell—under the short selling regulation. Liquidity providers are thus fined for providing liquidity in periods when demand outstrips supply: in other words, for performing the specific purpose for which they exist. Penalising formal liquidity providers for not settling trades on time will lead to those very liquidity providers reducing their activities in smaller company securities in order to avoid these additional costs. This will lead to a further reduction in companies’ liquidity, thereby reducing their access to funding on public markets.
In addition, introducing a regulation to impose a fee appears to contradict the stated limitation of the power. The Government have committed to undertake extensive engagement and co-operation with key stakeholders throughout the process. In order to include views relevant to the broader market, this should include bodies representing smaller companies seeking funding for growth, such as the Quoted Companies Alliance, which has been of assistance to me with my remarks, and the ScaleUp Institute.
I hope that we do not need any of these measures, but I am happy to support the Bill in case we do and hope it provides a focus for the Government in their regulation of the SME market.
My Lords, it seems rather strange to be the winder in a short debate like this. My noble friends Lord Sharkey and Lady Bowles laid out the position of these Benches with great clarity and raised a series of questions, so it is not my purpose today to repeat them but to say how much I stand behind them and the comments we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, because in a sense he made the point for us about the underlying concerns that we have with this legislation.
I think that everybody accepts that it is necessary to have some provision for how we deal with, as it were, in-flight directives or regulations from the EU since they were not covered in the EU withdrawal Act. If it was simply a matter of technically keeping abreast, none of us would have a lot of queries about this piece of legislation. However, as other noble Lords have demonstrated, there is plenty of scope within this for fundamental policy change, and policy change through statutory instrument—an issue which this House has tackled again and again, and which it tackled in the EU withdrawal Act. We are concerned about creating that kind of precedent once again here, as well as the actuality of what may happen under this Bill.
I raise it in the following sense. If we crash out and have a no-deal exit from the EU, the following months will be absolutely critical to the future of financial services within the UK. In those months, firms that have not already made the decision about what they relocate to the EU 27 will make further decisions, and the EU will be establishing its response to our departure and setting in place many of the key elements that it needs to be able to withdraw a significant part of that business to within the supervisory and monitoring powers of the European Union itself. An example that is given in the policy paper is that we may well end up with a location policy—in other words, a requirement from the EU that all financial transactions denominated in euros, or a significant portion of them, need to be repatriated to within the eurozone because of the exposure of the European Central Bank, which is acting as a backstop to liquidity crises with those instruments. Therefore, we may have those kinds of situations. Policy then will be absolutely critical.
I think many people take the view of the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, that the people who will be making change in that period will be the UK, and indeed he sought from the Government assurance that there would be policy action to dilute regulation in areas where he thought it was of interest. My noble friend Lady Bowles made the point that that alone begins to undermine the policy of third-country equivalence across financial services, which the Government, and the City, have seen as an underpinning to keeping our current level of dominance and vibrance. But there will also be changes within the EU, and I know that the City is very afraid of that. If those changes take place, again that undermines third-country equivalence if we are not following suit.
The point I am making is not about where you end up, on which side of this issue, but that absolutely critical policy decisions will have to be made, and those seem to be the kind of decisions that ought to be placed before this House. They will impact the functioning of the largest and most significant industry sector that we have within the UK, which feeds our tax base, which in turn supports our public services. To hand the decision-making around the issues to the Treasury, or to the Treasury working with the regulator, seems exceedingly high-risk. The breadth of power that is requested is not just to enable relevant and relatively minor adjustment; it covers a period of time in which fundamental decisions are made. We may make different decisions two or three years later, but it will be too late: the shape of our future financial services industry will basically be decided within that relatively short period. Amendments will need to be brought forward to try to tackle these issues.
I ask that the Government recognise how fundamental and significant the decision-making—and policy decision-making—will be during that period.
My Lords, Her Majesty’s Opposition support this Bill in principle. The Government have every right, indeed they have a duty, to prepare against the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. A few months ago, when work on the M20 lorry park was first considered, it occasioned some surprise in the nation which had not realised that the Government might need to take constructive action against a no-deal outcome. After all, the Prime Minister had reassured us that negotiations were making satisfactory progress and few Members of Parliament had canvassed the idea of no deal as a good policy for the Government.
However, things have changed over time. Now, of course, the weakness of the Government’s case for the development of our position as a result of the negotiations means that a considerable element in the governing Conservative Party looks upon no deal as better than some other possibilities. Such an outcome is totally rejected by the Prime Minister, so her Government are setting out to mitigate the calamity of no deal against a background where they continue to expect a better result.
For the nation, however, these preparations take on a different salience: there is no certainty about the future and no deal is a possibility, however disastrous that would be for the economy and the country’s welfare. So we have this modest Bill to ensure that “in-flight” legislation in Brussels can be safely implemented in the crucial sector of the financial services industry; no one is in any doubt of the importance of the industry’s contribution to the welfare of the economy. The Bill updates the regulatory regime and seeks to minimise the problem of the year, or possibly two years, after no deal. It reflects the fact that a considerable amount of UK financial services legislation has been part of European law for a long time. Its applicability to the United Kingdom is therefore entrenched in our laws. This has provided a significant place for UK leadership. My noble friend Lady Liddell identified just how much the UK has contributed to the development of policy in Europe—the result of what is widely recognised as the advanced and sophisticated level of financial services in London and several other major cities of the country. It has been a prime mover of improvement in the development of legislation and regulation.
There will of course be an unquestionable loss when the UK quits the European Union. No one is saying for one moment that the industry will not flourish and play a significant role in our economy but it will be increasingly difficult for us to play the enhanced leadership role in Europe that has been the case in recent years. As we all appreciate, there are competing parties from other countries who are also very interested in securing control and power that they can exert over the industry.
As the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson and Lord Sharkey, pointed out, the problem with this legislation is that the legislative initiatives put forward significantly increase the power of the Government. There is a crucial phrase, which noble Lords have referred to on more than one occasion in this debate: the power for the Treasury to make adjustments where it considers appropriate. Of course, the Treasury will decide where this will be of benefit for the United Kingdom and where it will work best in the context of this country. The Treasury will defend itself with that phrase in the legislation, but it does not alter the fact that what are posited through delegated legislation as relatively minor transfers of powers in fact give the Treasury very considerable latitude.
We recognise that the powers last for only a short period—namely, two years—with a sunset clause attached to the legislation, and of course we approve of the fact that some gesture is made towards parliamentary scrutiny by the indication that the SIs will be subject to the affirmative procedure. However, the scope for government policy to develop in this process is considerable, and that has already been illustrated by the anxieties expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, and my noble friend Lady Liddell.
Also drawn to our attention has been the case put forward by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association. It wants to know, as I am sure we all do, where two pieces of in-flight legislation in which it has a significant interest appear in the list. If to govern is to choose, this certainly suggests that the Treasury can already operate with a heavy hand, even at this very early stage. Can the Minister clarify this position today? If not, rest assured that this and the other issues that have cropped up in this very well-informed debate will be the subject of considerable discussion and debate, as well as intensive scrutiny, in Committee.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies: this has been a well-informed debate, representative of the deep expertise in your Lordships’ House, which has been on full display. The areas of agreement were effectively two: recognition of the necessity of preparing for a no-deal scenario, and a united view that we hope never to be in the position of having to exercise the powers in this Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, began our debate by expressing concern about the range of powers, in particular those to include and exclude files. My noble friend Lord Hodgson questioned whether this was a stopgap measure and said that it could not be a substitute for longer-term legislation and a solution in this important area. The noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, having remarked that this is not the most exciting legislation to come before your Lordships’ House, recognised the importance of the financial services industry, to which it relates. She also recognised the role that the United Kingdom has played over many years in the European Union in shaping financial services regulations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, teed up what will be, if we are fortunate to secure a Second Reading, a Committee stage debate on words such as “implementation”, “proportionality”, “corresponding”, “similar”, “appropriate” and “adjustments”. It will be important to flesh out exactly what is meant by those terms.
My noble friend Lord Leigh talked about the impact of regulations in financial services on small and medium-sized enterprises. He also became perhaps the first Peer to announce in your Lordships’ House his forthcoming listing on AIM. I do not know whether it is appropriate to comment on that, but I wish him well—he is probably getting worried because I wished him well; it was a personal wish.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, talked about the strong role of the financial services in underpinning the fiscal base of the economy, tax revenues and public services. She said it is vital that we retain that strength and continue to exert scrutiny. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, talked about the oft overlooked fact that, when we talk about the financial services, we are talking not just about the City of London but about a national industry, with hugely important centres in Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh. He also reminded us of the international competitive nature of financial services, and that the UK’s leadership can never be taken for granted but must be earned and restated.
With that, let me move on to some of the points that were raised in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, asked why, if this is so important, other departments are not doing the same, specifically the Department of Health and Social Care. We have already put in place many of the legislative building blocks to deliver our exit from the EU. Since the European Union (Withdrawal) Act received Royal Assent, the Government have started laying statutory instruments to ensure a functioning statute book in all scenarios. Any requirements for further legislation in other areas will be announced in the usual way. I realise that that is not quite the answer that the noble Lord was looking for—or that I anticipated as I began reading out the note. His was a specific question, asking that I speak with colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care, and I will certainly do that and find out how the particular legislation he referred to might be handled.
The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, also mentioned the powers to adjust. As the final outcome on these files is still unclear, we need to make sure that we can bring them into UK law in a way that works best for UK markets. This could, for example, include areas where final parts of legislation could, if unchanged in a no-deal scenario, present inconsistencies with the UK regulatory framework, global standards or the UK’s position as an open, global financial market. It is important that we have the power to correct inconsistencies when bringing these into UK law.
The noble Lord then asked why we had chosen some files rather than others. The Bill provides the UK with an interim means to domesticate key EU financial services files that are in the European legislative pipeline. Those are the files that we believe will be the most important for market functioning and UK competitiveness in a no-deal scenario. Those in-flight files not listed on the face of the Bill include those that apply only to eurozone members, which we would never have implemented as a member state, those that the UK has opted out of, and those where there is not a critical need to implement the legislation in the narrow window of time covered in the Bill.
The noble Lord went on to ask what was meant by the word “appropriate”. Once we leave the European Union, we will lose our ability to influence the outcomes of files at a European level—something to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, also referred. As such, we will require the ability to ensure that the files or parts of the files implemented best suit the needs and the structures of the UK financial services market. The power to make appropriate adjustments to legislation is therefore designed to enable the UK Government to ensure that the implemented legislation is the best fit for the UK.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, similarly asked about the power to adjust. The power will only allow the Government to make adjustments to files and not to make entirely new financial services policy not covered within the files. The power will also have to be exercised with the purpose of making similar or corresponding provision to specific lists of files set out in the Bill, so the subject matter of the regulations will naturally be limited. This is simply about ensuring that we implement legislation that is the best fit for the UK.
The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, asked what was meant by “some criminal offences”. The limitation in the Bill mirrors that in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. It prohibits the creation of criminal offences for which an adult can be sentenced to a period of more than two years in prison.
The noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, asked about the comparability of low-carbon benchmarks. This is an important issue and I realise that a number of noble Lords have received representations on it. I undertake to look at it specifically and write ahead of Committee.
My noble friend Lord Hodgson asked about the reporting duty of the Government and whether that would include a statement on why a power is used. The report will provide an overview of how the power has been used in the first year and how the Government propose to use the powers in the second year. In the meantime, the Government will undertake extensive engagement and co-operation with key stakeholders throughout the process, ahead of and during each use of the power, and Parliament will have the opportunity to debate every SI under the affirmative procedure. He also asked whether it would be advisable for the Treasury to consult transparently ahead of each use. We agree, which is why, within the policy note accompanying the Bill, we have committed to undertaking extensive engagement and co-operation with key stakeholders throughout the process, ahead of and during each use of the power. In that term “stakeholders”, we very much include Parliament and your Lordships’ House.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked whether it would be helpful to change the wording to “corresponding and similar”. This is classic territory for Committee and a well-worked amendment around that will elicit a more in-depth and appropriate response from the Minister at that point. She asked a specific question, which was also referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer: namely, whether the power could be used to remove the bankers’ bonus cap. While remuneration policies were introduced as part of the EU’s Capital Requirements Directive IV, they are due to be updated through the Capital Requirements Directive V, which is included in the Bill. The Bill allows us to choose not to implement certain files or to implement parts of them. At this point we are not proposing specific policy changes or decisions. Before bringing forward any secondary legislation using the powers in the Bill, we will engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including the financial services sector.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked about legislation regarding pension firms. Again, this is something that might best be covered in a letter ahead of Committee. She also asked why we do not just do this through primary legislation in order to get proper parliamentary scrutiny. Given the number of files in question and the potential requirement to implement them at pace to respond to market developments and meet international obligations, it would not be feasible to rely exclusively on primary legislation in every instance. The Bill requires the use of the affirmative resolution procedure for every statutory instrument made. She went on to ask why the Government will not make a full report about concerns and the approach to policy in this Bill. At this point it is very difficult to say which files or parts of files we would seek to implement and whether and what adjustments would be made. This is because we do not know the exact context in which these decisions will be made and what the final versions of many of the files will look like.
My noble friend Lord Leigh asked about the potential negative impacts on, for example, CSDR. We recognise that there are aspects of these files that are currently under development which different parts of the sector may not fully support. The Bill allows us to choose not to implement files, to implement parts of them and to correct deficiencies in them, as well as to make adjustments to ensure that the legislation works best for the UK, subject to appropriate safeguards.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, asked about the so-called Henry VIII powers being used. Of course we understand the concerns around the breadth of powers, and that is why we have included a number of safeguards within the Bill to address them, including explicitly listing the relevant files on the face of the Bill and sunsetting the powers to two years, consistent with the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies, asked about adjustments to powers. It would be possible under the terms of the power only to make adjustments to any EU file we would be implementing and not to completely change its intent. This power would allow us to make provisions which are broadly equivalent to the original file and which therefore seek to achieve a similar outcome in a way that best fits the UK. However, it would not be possible for the Government to use this power to implement something completely different from the original file.
Again, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to the debate.
This may be extremely petty, so I ask for the compassion of the Minister. However, subsection (9) is completely incomprehensible. Three of us read it and we came up with entirely different conclusions as to what it meant in terms of both the preparation and publication of this report. Is he able to provide clarity now or else to do so by the time we get to the Committee stage? It may not be contentious at all—it is just that it is impossible to work out exactly what it means.
I can understand that. It is a fairly short Bill, but I will undertake to write a more substantial letter between this Second Reading and Committee if it is granted by your Lordships’ House. I will cover and expand further on that point.
We will carefully consider all the points which have been raised in this debate. I thank noble Lords for bringing their expertise and knowledge to bear on this important piece of legislation. I request that the Bill now be given a Second Reading.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.