Tories deny finance bill disruption

Melanie Johnson, economic secretary to the Treasury, yesterday warned Conservatives against playing political ping-pong with the bill, which the government hopes will receive royal assent in May.

Once the bill receives Royal Asset, the Financial Services Authority can assume its full responsibilities presently held by nine self-regulatory authorities. The government hopes to have the bill done and dusted before the end of the parliamentary session.

Since its publication the controversial bill has already undergone 1,450 amendments, 500 of which came from the government. It reaches the report stage tomorrow at the Lords.

Strathclyde said their proposed amendments aim to heighten consumer protection and prioritise UK competitiveness, which is currently viewed as a secondary priority for the Financial Services Authority. ‘The FSA has four main objectives and a list of items to which is has to have regard,’ said Lord Saatchi. The Tories say UK competitiveness must be moved up this list of priorities.

An eight-pronged attack is scheduled for tomorrow by the Tories which includes the separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive, increased accountability to parliament, limited immunity, prioritising competition and increased powers of the authority’s consumer and practitioner panels.

Strathclyde said he hoped tomorrow’s report session would not extend to a vote and that the government would promise to consider the tabled amendments.’We do support the concept of a single [financial] regulator, but not when the bill is wrong,’ Lord Strathclyde told reporters in a briefing on the Tories plans for the bill’s report. ‘We are keen to see the checks and balances in place.’

But, the government has hinted that although it will support moves to strengthen consumer protection, it would accept few amendments at this stage.

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