The House of Lords Committee on Financial Exclusion has today published its call for evidence and is asking interested parties to submit their evidence by 14 September.
The Committee has been set-up to consider financial exclusion, which results in people having difficulty accessing or using the mainstream financial services that are necessary to participate in daily economic life and society.
Commenting on the launch of the inquiry Baroness Tyler of Enfield, who chairs the Committee, said:
“Financial exclusion affects a large number of people in the UK, with estimates that 1.5 million people do not have access to a bank account and up to 40% of the population stating they did not feel in control of their finances. These are worrying numbers and this is an issue successive government have found difficult to tackle.
“Our inquiry will attempt to find a way forward. We will look at the role banks and others in the financial services industry can play in helping those who are currently excluded and we will examine the role of charities, Government and regulators. We will also look at the quality of financial education in the UK. Are we doing enough to ensure that children, young people and adults understand their finances and know where to seek help if they need it?
“For our inquiry to be effective we need to hear as many views and experiences as possible. Written evidence will play an important role in informing our work and I would encourage anyone with knowledge, or an interest in this area, to return a submission by 14 September.”
Some of the questions the Committee are inviting written evidence on include:
- Who is affected by financial exclusion? Do different sectors of society experience financial exclusion in different ways? To what extent, and how, does financial exclusion affect those living in isolated or remote communities?
- What is the relationship between financial exclusion and other forms of exclusion, disadvantage or deprivation? What role does problem debt play in financial exclusion?
- Are there appropriate education and advisory services, including in schools, for young people and adults? If not, how might they be improved?
- How can financial literacy and capability be maintained and developed over the course of a person’s lifetime?
- What role should the concept of ‘personal responsibility’ play in addressing financial exclusion? Is appropriate support available for the most excluded in society and, if not, how should support be strengthened? What role should Government, the charitable sector and business play in tackling financial exclusion?
- What has been the impact of recent changes to the consumer credit market – such as the capping of payday loans – on those facing financial exclusion? How can it be ensured that those in need of affordable credit can access appropriate products or services?
- How effective has Government policy been in reducing and preventing financial exclusion? Does the Government have a leadership role to play in addressing exclusion?
- What has been the impact of recent welfare reforms on financial exclusion?
- How effectively are policies on financial exclusion coordinated across central Government? Is there an appropriate balance and interaction between the work of central Government and the work of local and regional authorities, and the devolved administrations?
- Does the Government have a role to play in ensuring that the development of financial technologies (FinTech) and data capture helps to address financial exclusion? If so, what should this role be?
Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.
Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.
The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.
Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.
Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.
“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.
Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.
“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.
“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”
Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.
He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.
“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.
Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.
“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s (Dowden’s) assertion that the governmentâ€™s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.
Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.
It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.
The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.
Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.
Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.
The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.
The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.
It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.
“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”
Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.
“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.
“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.
The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).
“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)
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