Bishop of St Albans asks about right-of-access to cash

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 23rd January 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government:

  • what steps they are taking to tackle the increased cost to people in deprived areas caused by the prevalence of pay-to-use cash machines in these areas.
  • whether they intend to introduce a statutory right to pay for goods and services in cash; and if so, whether this would be subject to financial limits.
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Financial Services and Markets Bill: Bishop of St Albans speaks on cryptocurrency, access to cash, credit unions, and net zero

The House of Lords debated the Financial Services and Markets Bill in its second reading on 10th January 2022. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate concerning issues of access and regulation:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, theologians sometimes discuss the personal and social ethics in the teaching of Christ under the three headings of money, sex and power, those three areas which can be the most extraordinary gift and blessing when used rightly and for the common good but which, when they are an end in themselves, can become extraordinarily disruptive. Of these three areas, Christ had most to say about money, as its use reveals our values as individuals and as a society, often in a very stark way. A close reading of this Bill reveals a set of cultural assumptions and values about what is considered important and valuable. There are four areas that I want to highlight and which we need to consider if a growing and vibrant financial sector will work for the common good.

First, on crypto asset regulation, as others have said, we need to act fast both to protect our citizens and so that we do not fall behind the rest of the world. The problem at the moment is that the almost complete lack of regulation means that, for many people, crypto- currencies are just another form of gambling. The recent collapse of FTX has demonstrated the volatility of this market and its vulnerability to fraud. Some have made a fortune, while others have lost their life savings and will now be looking to the state to provide for them. Just as we need a sensible and balanced approach to the regulation of online gambling, so we need sensible, balanced regulation of crypto- currencies. The provision in this Bill to ensure that crypto is treated as a regulated activity and giving the FCA and the PSR the power and, as others have noted, the resources to do their work and to protect customers, is welcome.

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Financial Services and Markets Bill: Archbishop of Canterbury stresses importance of serving the common good

On 10th January 2023, the House of Lords debated the Financial Services and Markets Bill in it’s second reading. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the debate, highlighting the need for good practice and quality of service in the finance industry:

The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the final report of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, Changing Banking for Good. I declare my interest having served on that commission, and I welcome the presence in this debate of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, who also served, as did the current Lord Speaker. I also welcome the maiden speeches of three noble Lords today: the noble Lords, Lord Ashcombe and Lord Remnant, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor.

We need to remember that the extraordinary crisis in 2008—which led to the various commissions, reports and changes in regulations, including the financial services Act 2013, in which the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards played a part—caused huge and ongoing crises. While welcoming the Bill very strongly, I join some of the hesitations mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Sharkey and Lord Vaux. It has been estimated that the financial services industry, and particularly the major banks, have an effective subsidy as a result of the implicit government guarantee that they receive, which is worth approximately £30 billion a year. If there is £30 billion a year going spare, many other industries and not a few churches would welcome that very warmly. However, that subsidy, which is at the risk of the taxpayer, as we saw in 2008 and 2009, is what gives the result of the banks having heavy social obligations; we must look carefully at that when the Bill reaches Committee, as has already been said. The issues of inclusion, stability and access at all levels, especially for micro-businesses, are very important, not least for levelling up.

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Bishop of St Albans asks about consumer protection

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 9th November 2022:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government:

  • whether they consider that the new Consumer Duty set out by the Financial Conduct Authority in their policy statement PS22, published on 9 July, is the same as a general duty of care; and if not, what the differences are.
  • what assessment they have made of whether the new Consumer Duty set out by the Financial Conduct Authority in their policy statement PS22, published on 9 July, will be effective.
  • what plans they have, if any, to introduce a statutory duty of care for consumers.
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Bishop of Birmingham speaks about banking reform

Birminghamsizedebate171219bOn 3rd September 2019 the Bishop of St Albans  led a debate on a motion to ask the Government “what assessment they have made of the implementation of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards and the opportunities for further banking reform”. The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, also made a contribution:

Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to my right reverend friend for leading this debate and I welcome the Minister to his new role. I want to focus on the recommendations in the original report—the references in paragraph 138 of the summary, volume 1—which looked at culture change. The response of the banking industry to that challenge came through a report produced by Sir Richard Lambert, which said that if the banks didn’t face up to this, there will be further intervention, regulation and direction. As a result, the UK Banking Standards Board was set up in 2015. I declare my interests in that I am a founder member of that board and also part of the ad hoc Financial Exclusion Committee which has been referred to already.

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Bishop of St Albans leads Lords debate on progress made in banking reform

St Albans 2On 3rd September 2019 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, led a debate in the House of Lords on a motion to ask Government “what assessment they have made of the implementation of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards and the opportunities for further banking reform”. The Bishop of Birmingham also made a contribution, which can be found here. The Bishop’s speech introducing the debate is below, as is the Government response:

Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I add my welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, in his new role and I look forward to working with him.

I begin by acknowledging that the banks have an important role in our society today. They do many good things—they employ more than 1 million people and pay more than £60 billion in tax annually—but, despite the many good things they do, we are also aware of the history of recent years. We are now 11 years on from the financial crash and six years on from the publication of the report by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, and it is almost three years to the day since I last secured a debate on this topic.

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Bishop of Birmingham asks Government to increase support for the financially excluded

birmingham-211016cOn the 18 December 2017 Baroness Tyler of Enfield led a debate on the report of the Select Committee on Financial Exclusion –  Tackling Financial Exclusion: A country that works for everyone? (Session 2016-17, HL Paper 132). The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart was a member of the Committee, and spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, as we resume the debate on Tackling Financial Exclusion: A Country that Works for Everyone?, there can be no more poignant reminder of the issues raised in the committee’s report and the seriousness with which we need to take its challenge. As the Bishop of Kensington said in the service [for Grenfell Tower survivors and community] just mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, we can be too wrapped up in our own interests and prosperity, but we might just now turn outwards towards each other—a society known for listening, compassion and love.

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Bishop of Southwark asks Government when it will implement Banking Standards Commission recommendations

southwark-20feb17On the 6th September 2017 Lord Leigh of Hurley asked Government “whether it is their policy to reduce unnecessary regulation of financial services; and if so, whether they intend to review current Financial Conduct Authority practices to ascertain whether that regulator is going beyond what is appropriate and necessary to fulfil that policy.” The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, when do Her Majesty’s Government intend to implement in full the principal recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, published in June 2013?

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Bishop of St Albans supports stronger relationship between credit unions and schools

On 3rd February 2015, Lord Kennedy of Southwark asked Her Majesty’s Government when they plan further reform of the law regarding Credit Unions. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question:

Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I imagine many of us are concerned about the culture of debt that seems to be normative in many parts of our society. In the light of this, can the Minister tell us whether the Government have any plans, first, to encourage all schools to consider working closely with credit unions, as in the case of the credit union in St. Albans, where I come from and, secondly, to further roll out and encourage payroll savings schemes as part of a wider initiative to encourage saving and financial responsibility across society?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the Government support both those concepts. The right reverend Prelate will be aware that the Government have been working with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s task force on affordable credit and savings to institute the LifeSavers project, under which primary schools are working with credit unions to encourage young children into good savings habits and raise awareness of credit unions.

(via Parliament.uk)

Bishop of St Albans presses Government to tackle cold calling by payday lenders

On 17th November 2014, Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Sharkey asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to bring organisations which make cold calls connected with the promotion, or sale, of financial services or products under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question:

Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I wonder if I could press the Minister again, particularly on payday loans. The recent report published by the Children’s Society, Playday not Payday, has highlighted the regulatory gap whereby payday loan companies can make unsolicited marketing calls, whereas, as we have heard, mortgage providers are not allowed to. That report showed that over 40% of people who have taken out payday loans are receiving on average more than one unsolicited phone call a day. Does the Minister not agree that the provisions that prevent the mortgage providers from making that sort of marketing approach really must now be brought in for the payday loan companies in order to protect those who are most vulnerable?

Lord Newby: The very specific arguments that apply in respect of mortgages do not apply to payday loans. The key thing about payday loans at the moment is that the payday loan companies are being regulated for the first time, which is leading to a collapse in the number of payday loan companies, so that it is expected that we may end up with as few as four payday loan companies in operation at the end of this process. However, the FCA is undertaking an in-depth thematic review of the debt management sector to assess the quality of advice and the area mentioned by the right reverend Prelate. If it finds substantial evidence of consumer detriment of the kind he suggests, it will be able to consider the scope of further regulations.

(via Parliament.uk)

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