§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. Francis Maude)
I regularly meet my European Community counterparts to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern. These include the sorts of matters indicated by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Dykes
May I eschew the ghastly phrase "level playing fields" and ask my colleague whether he will work hard from now on to achieve the equalisation and harmonisation of conditions for these unit trust groups, both British and foreign? Does my hon. Friend agree that there should be equalisation of distribution and marketing provision in all member states as soon as possible? Does he agree also that insurance groups launching unit trusts and other similar instruments should not be able to conceal the real net charges from unit trust purchasers, but should reveal the same charges as other genuine unit trust groups?
§ Mr. Maude
All unit trusts, whether produced by insurance companies, specialised unit trust companies or anyone else, have to meet the same terms and conditions. I am delighted that my hon. Friend did not talk about level playing fields. In the time that I have been doing this job, I have heard a great deal about playing fields but have never come across one which people agreed was level.
We must ensure that such products are readily marketable across Europe. Under the directive that comes into force next October, it will be possible for a unit trust which is authorised in one Community country to be marketed throughout the Community, but it will have to be marketed subject to the rules of the country in which it is being marketed. There would therefore be no question of products authorised elsewhere but marketed in the United Kingdom being subject to a laxer regime.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Is my hon. Friend aware of the very real concern for the safety of the investing public if foreign financial intermediaries can operate in this country without qualifying under the Securities and Investments Board or FIMBRA? Can he assure the investing public in Britain that any financial intermediary operating in the United Kingdom will have to meet the high qualifications and standards of FIMBRA?
§ Mr. Maude
Certainly. As I indicated, under the directive which covers unit trusts and collective investment schemes it will be essential for those products to be marketed in a country subject to the marketing rules of that country. There can therefore be no question of intermediaries, no matter where they are based, selling those products in the United Kingdom being subject to anything other than the United Kingdom rules.
There is a further directive which affects investment services more generally. As I understand it—it is still in an early stage of negotiation—it will have the same broad division, so that services being promoted in one country will be subject to the conduct of business rules for that country.