Written question – Finance – [29/04/2021]

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to the announcement of a compensation scheme for London and Capital Finance bond holders of 19 April 2021, whether his Department has considered paying similar compensation to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to offset claims they have already settled. (187266)

Tabled on: 26 April 2021

John Glen:

Following an extensive investigation, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) found that certain London Capital and Finance (LCF) bondholders were eligible for FSCS compensation.

The FSCS has now paid out £57.6m to over 2,800 LCF bondholders, and has identified and contacted all bondholders whom it believes are eligible for compensation.

As previously announced, the government will establish a compensation scheme for all LCF bondholders who are not eligible for FSCS compensation. Details of this scheme were set out in a Written Ministerial Statement on 19 April. The government expects the scheme to have paid all bondholders within 6 months of securing the necessary primary legislation, which it will bring forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The scheme will not make payments to the FSCS to offset settled claims, as these claims were paid to eligible bondholders in line with FSCS rules. HM Treasury’s separate compensation scheme will compensate those bondholders who are not eligible for FSCS compensation, recognising the unique and exceptional circumstances around LCF’s failure. This compensation will be capped at 80% of bondholders’ initial investments up to a cap of £68,000.

The answer was submitted on 29 Apr 2021 at 07:35.

Mistrust of governments

At what point did we start to mistrust governments? At what juncture did politicians become widely derided? I suppose that depends on how old you are. For my generation it could have been Watergate or closer to home, the miners’ strike. Before that was it the Profumo scandal or the Suez crisis? The truth is it feels like there have always been reasons to mistrust politicians in the UK.  And yet in other countries trust still exists, mainly because there is a culture of transparency. In the UK we are currently experiencing a new period of openness. We know that there are issues over who paid for the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s flat, we know that the Secretary of State for Health benefitted from contracts handed out during the Covid crisis, we also know that UK government ministers have bullied members of staff and that senior civil servants have stepped down because of cabinet ministers behaviour. And beyond that there are a series of other allegations that for legal reasons I can’t mention. But our knowledge of these actions is not because the UK government has suddenly thrown open their doors and started to act in a more transparent fashion. It’s because of whistle blowers and they may be disgruntled individuals with an axe to grind. And that’s where the media come into play. Headlines often proclaim wrongdoings as if they are fact when they are only allegations. I often attend meetings where people speak openly and frankly. Good ideas and bad ideas can be discussed equally without fear of ridicule or retribution and that’s valuable. But if parts of those discussions are taken out of context and trailed in the media then we all end up looking foolish. We need to find a balance where private means confidential, for all the right reasons, and the machinery of government is open for scrutiny. Historically we have sought to achieve this through principles but sadly there are too many, a minority but a powerful one, that seek to abuse the system for their own aims. Elected members and senior civil servants should never use their position to line their own pockets or grant grace and favour to friends and family. And the culture that perpetuates entitlement to a chosen few while seeking to manipulate the media and avoid scrutiny is well past its use by date.   

But as I said earlier, not all countries are like this. While the OECD reports that trust in the UK government is 34.7%, Denmark, Netherlands and Luxembourg are over 70% and Finland, Norway and Switzerland sit at over 80%. I can’t help but notice that they are all small European countries that take their democracy seriously and in doing so cultivate trust and openness in their society. We can do better than be shackled to the corrupt, narcissistic, edifice of bygone days that is Westminster. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to start that journey and ensure that Scotland’s parliament grows to reflect the society around it, free from the chains that bind us.          

Greenock Telegraph 23rd April 2021

Gordon Gekko once expounded the theory that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”. This is a philosophy that when it’s applied to the accumulation of money the ex-Prime Minister David Cameron heartily buys into. He isn’t alone. His Chancellor, George Osborne, was not slow to use his position to line his own pockets and many others have done the same. There are rules and principles and all ex cabinet members should refer to the Advisory Committee of Business Appointments before taking up any paid position within 24 months of leaving. But in the privileged world that they inhabit, principles are for other people.

Unfortunately, we now know this applies to some top civil servants too. The Nolan Principles go out the window when money talks. Those abusing their position are relatively few but what bothers me even more is the lack of outrage from their peers. These revelations are met with a shrug of the shoulders or a raised eyebrow. But still it continues.

I sit on the Select Committee for Public Administration and Constitution and we shall be taking evidence to identify who and what has been allowed to happen and expect David Cameron to attend.

I am sure it isn’t just politics where ‘greed is good’ is accepted. Football has been accused of the same, with eye watering salaries being paid to very ordinary players. But look at what happened last week when six top English clubs decided that they wanted to break away to join an elite European football league. The outcry was immediate, and they were accused of turning their backs on their fans, ignoring the grass roots of the game, lacking a team football mentality and only being interested in lining their own pockets. I only wish that we had the same level of outrage and a sustained outcry when politicians behave in the same way or have, we just given up and disengaged, because if we have, that’s exactly what they want. And that’s a good reason why you shouldn’t do it. Being an elected member is a privilege in itself, no elected member should seek to benefit financially from their position and all dealings should be transparent and open to scrutiny.

Age UK – Changes to benefit rates

Benefit rates change every year, and it’s often hard for older people to keep track of how these changes will affect their pension, wellbeing, home, and working-age benefits.

To help your older constituents understand how these changes will affect them, we have produced an informative guide outlining the most notable changes this year. This includes information on:

  • Increases to the new and basic State Pension, as well as increases to Pension and Savings Credit. [RM1] 
  • Changes to entitlements for council tax support, housing benefit, winter fuel payment, cold weather payment and warm home discount.
  • Increases in Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, and Widowed Parent’s Allowance
  • Changes to benefits for working age constituents[RM2] 

 To help older people find out what benefits they’re potentially entitled to claim, we also have created a helpful benefits calculator which will provide an estimate for benefits or indicate if they are eligible. It covers England, Scotland, and Wales, and is free to use.

Written question – Travel [20/04/2021]

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions he has had with the (a) Secretary of State for Transport and (b) devolved Administrations on the Global Travel Taskforce and restarting cruises as covid-19 restrictions are eased. (181331)

Tabled on: 15 April 2021

Nigel Adams:

The FCDO continues to work closely with the Department for Transport about international cruise restart and the Global Travel Taskforce. On the domestic restart of cruises, officials from the Scottish and Welsh Governments and Northern Ireland Executive liaise with the Department of Transport and are closely involved in the taskforce’s work.

International cruises will restart alongside the wider restart of international travel, in line with the “traffic light” system. This will be subject to continued satisfactory evidence from the domestic restart and cruising in other countries. Travel advice will continue to be informed by the latest public health risk assessments.

For now, national restrictions on international travel remain in place, including only permitting travel abroad for a limited number of reasons set out in law. Holiday travel is not included.

The answer was submitted on 20 Apr 2021 at 16:51.

Written question – Access to cash [20/04/2021]

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions his Department has had with relevant stakeholders on bringing forward legislative proposals to allow cashback without a purchase. (178727)

Tabled on: 12 April 2021

John Glen:

The Government has supported an amendment to the Financial Services Bill that will introduce legislative changes to allow for the widespread offering of cashback without a purchase by shops and other businesses.

The Government’s view is that cashback without a purchase has the potential to be a valuable facility to cash users, and to play an important role in the UK’s cash infrastructure. The recent Call for Evidence on Access to Cash invited views on this issue. It noted that cashback with a purchase was the second most frequently used method for withdrawing cash in the UK behind ATMs in 2019. There were 123 million cashback transactions when using a debit card to make a purchase amounting to a total value of £3.8 billion.

Pre-existing legislation, which derives from the EU’s Second Payment Services Directive, has meant that if a merchant wanted to offer cashback without requiring the customer to make a purchase, that shop, or its agent, would have to be authorised or registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This presents a significant burden for many businesses.

This legislative change to enable cashback without a purchase will allow merchants to offer this service without being authorised or registered with the FCA. It is only possible now that the UK has left the EU and is a welcome step towards protecting access to cash for the future.

Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

Details of ministerial and permanent secretary meetings with external organisations on departmental business are published on a quarterly basis and are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmt-ministers-meetings-hospitality-gifts-and-overseas-travel

The answer was submitted on 20 Apr 2021 at 16:12.