Parliamentary Officer Joe Fortune outlines the work Co-operative MPs are doing in Parliament to make our economy fairer.

The Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group has always sought to provide the movement a range of activity in Westminster, whether it is promoting co-operative legislation, promoting the ideas of the movement and scrutinising proposals to ensure that the co-operative angle is not lost.

Although the Coalition Government have been short of legislation in the House of Commons, as much of their legislative agenda is being held up by rebellious Lords, they introduced a very important piece of legisaltion on Monday 6th February. This proposal is titled the Financial Services Bill and seeks to reform the financial regulatory system to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis. It brings forward proposals to give the Bank of England control of macro-prudential regulation and oversight of micro-prudential regulation.

This type of legislation may be a once-a-decade type of Bill and provides a range of opportunities for co-operatively minded politicians, not only to ensure that the Government does not produce more deficient legislation, but also promote issues we find important.

The Feeling’s Mutual Campaign that the Co-operative Party has promoted over the last number of years seeks to promote policies which enhance financial inclusion and a new, fairer economy which works in the interest of people rather than bankers. This campaign will help Chris Evans MP promote a Ten Minute Rule Motion later this session titled ‘The Banking Disclosure and Responsibility Bill’. This Bill will seek to press the Government to do more for financial inclusion and education, disclosure and transparency of financial institutions.

Many of the demands of Chris Evans’ Bill relate to measures in the Financial Services Bill. Therefore it is good to see that Labour & Co-operative members of Parliament took the opportunity of this week’s debate on the Financial Services Bill to serve notice on the Government that we will seek to improve their legislation with co-operative values over the course of the process.

Examples of this can be seen through the contributions of Stella Creasy MP, Chris Evans MP and Chris Leslie MP in the debate.

Stella called on the Government“…to do a lot more to emphasise other consumer protection matters. We must surely grasp the nettle and take this opportunity to do what we can to improve financial education in all our schools up and down the country. We must also make sure that the information available to customers more generally is accessible, intelligible, clear and understandable so that we can try to do something about the asymmetry of information that hon. Members have discussed.

“I know that many Members agree that things could be done, so let us give the FCA the power to intervene to make sure that there is competition and to use price as an indicator of competition. Let us give the FCA the real power it needs finally to address this country’s legal loan sharking.”

Chris Evans MP pressed the Government, stating:

“I believe that through the FCA we have a chance to bring about financial inclusion audits and to map where each financial transaction takes place. It would be very dangerous to say that a financial crisis will never happen again, but I hope that we can put things in place to ensure that, if it does happen again, it might not be as bad as it was this time.

“It is highly important that we bring about not only statutory financial education in schools but a duty on banks to provide some sort of financial education.”

Chris Leslie MP, who wound up the debate for the Shadow Treasury Team and suggested that there may be opposition amendments to force the industry to institute an important fiduciary duty on regulated firms stating: “a fiduciary duty of care could be placed on providers of financial services, and we think that there are compelling arguments in favour of such a change.”

Chris Leslie and others will ensure these points will ensure that Labour and Labour & Co-operative politicians will not lose sight of these important issues as the Bill enters its ‘line by line, clause by clause’ scrutiny.

Watch this space.