It’s been a busy first quarter, with good momentum across our priority programmes of work.
We were very pleased to see recent amendments passed in the House of Lords to scale back the Foreign Influence Registration Scheme (FIRS) in the National Security Bill. As something we have been working on for the past few months, leading a coalition of members and industry partners to put forward our recommendations, we were pleased to see this positive outcome. These amendments overturn previous amendments introduced to the Bill by the government in late 2022, which would have placed onerous restrictions on non-UK entities and would ultimately have disincentivised investment in the UK.
Further to my last update on the Financial Services and Markets Bill, we recently gave oral and written evidence to the Bill committee in the House of Commons and as a result, were able to deliver broad, cross-party support for the new secondary objective around economic growth and international competitiveness. I am also pleased to report that the government added Clause 37 on reporting requirements to the Bill. We had been pushing for this, and the amendment gives HM Treasury (HMT) the power to ask the regulators to report on their performance.
It was a pleasure to welcome Ashley Adler, Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority, to speak to our Leadership Council last month. Chaired by Bruce Carnegie-Brown of Lloyd’s, we had a productive discussion covering a wide range of areas, including regulatory culture and the industry’s support for measurement amendments in the Financial Services and Markets Bill.
We have also run the first in a series of Business Council breakfasts with the main political parties ahead of the general election. Chaired by Alasdair Haynes of Aquis Exchange, we had a lively discussion with Sarah Olney MP, the Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, covering topics from how we secure the industry’s international competitiveness to the industry’s role in supporting the net-zero transition.
Further to my recent evidence session with the BEIS Select Committee on UK plc, at which I appeared alongside Burkhard Keese, CFO of Lloyd’s, we were pleased to see many of the points we had discussed around business productivity, skills shortages, the apprenticeship levy, regulatory standards and the need for a strong partnership between government and industry to deliver growth referenced in their report.
Among the announcements in this year’s Spring Budget, it was positive to see progress made on our asks around business mobility. The Chancellor confirmed that steps will be taken to expand the range of short-term business activities that can be carried out by those on short-term business visas. The government has also committed to reviewing the Shortage Occupation List more regularly and to consider enhanced provisions under certain trade deals.
Together with the Chair of our Legal Services Group, James Palmer of Herbert Smith Freehills, I recently met the Lord Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister to discuss FIRS, Retained EU Bill, Bill of Rights, and the importance of maintaining the international competitiveness of English law and the UK’s legal sector. Our Legal Services Group also co-hosted an event with the Ministry of Justice and Slaughter and May in early March with some of the UK government’s trade envoys to discuss how industry and government can work together to promote UK legal services overseas.
In March, the Bar Council of India agreed to allow foreign law firms to establish and practice in designated areas, including international arbitration. India-UK Financial Partnership (IUKFP) members have strongly advocated for this move in dedicated engagement with policymakers in both countries since 2014. We are very pleased with this significant achievement and believe it will enable India's legal services sector to grow even further, boost UK-India cross-border investment, and support burgeoning financial centres like GIFT City.
As part of work we have been commissioned to deliver by the UK Government to support Vietnam’s ambitions of developing an international financial centre (IFC) in Ho Chi Minh City, last month we travelled to Vietnam to accompany Mark Garnier, the PM’s Trade Envoy to Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei and Myanmar, for meetings with Vietnamese authorities and stakeholders in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. We will shortly launch a report on this initiative and engage further with members on future areas of work.
Last month we launched the latest iteration of one of our annual economic reports, ‘Key facts about UK-based financial and related professional services’. The report includes data from 2021 and 2022, the latest periods for which annual data is available, and highlights the strong contribution the industry continues to make to the economy. It also shows that despite a challenging backdrop, the UK-based industry has seen substantial employment growth attracted positive inward investment flows and continued to support individuals and businesses in their day-to-day lives.
Our 2023 International Conference, sponsored by HSBC and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and supported by State Street, will take place on 20 April. The event has a great line up of speakers and will cover issues such as investment and growth, transformative innovation, the net-zero transition, and international trade and investment trends. You can still register to watch the conference online here.
Preparations are also underway for our 2023 Annual Conference, supported by Citadel Securities and DLA Piper, which will take place on 29 June in London at the QEII Centre. Please do save the date and register to attend.