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Kevin Duffy: MMR may choke off recovery

The best context-setter for what the AMI has achieved is the mortgage market review paper. Many of us breathed a huge sigh of relief when this was finally published and some of the Doomsday scenarios which were being speculated on thankfully did not materialise.

I don’t imagine for one second that the CML, IMLA, BSA and other interest groups did not also play a huge part in bringing some common sense to the FSA’s original thinking but having seen at first hand how Robert Sinclair engaged so skilfully with these various stakeholders, it is difficult to conclude that brokers would be in any better a situation right now with under three months to go before the consultation period ends.

My own thoughts on the MMR are threefold.

First, (and despite the fact it could have been a lot worse) I remain disappointed it has adopted what appears to be an over-prescriptive and precautionary approach to regulation.

This word precautionary is one which I know the AMI executive may find a touch disingenuous. It sounds great but what does it mean?

I am left with the feeling that the Government has allowed too much of the agenda to be shaped by civil servants. Readers may recall the BBC series Yes Minister where a cabal of Whitehall mandarins manipulated and soft-soaped recently elected Government ministers, many of whom had a poor technical grasp of the subject matter or whose interest in it was feigned from the start.

Second, and more pertinently, I am not the only one in the industry to be expressing reservations over the timing of the legislation as well as its over-prescriptive content.

Against a backcloth of heightened consumer resentment towards the banking industry, it is almost as if the MMR has been incidentally constructed as a stick of retribution to lay before disaffected consumers.

This is perverse in so far as if it has been universally agreed that the role of the new Financial Conduct Authority is to ensure that markets are efficient and effective for both consumers and firms alike, then this is doomed from the outset. The savings gap will not close, access to advice will not improve and there will not be wider societal benefits.

Finally, there is the matter of timing. It is fair to say the legislation will not be slated before 2013 but all stakeholders must surely realise that many of the prescriptions within the MMR act as posthumous remedies for ailments dating back to the Wild West days of the last decade. If economic conditions are not allowed to improve sufficiently before implementation then the MMR runs the risk of choking off recovery which we are seeing.

It is time for the politicians to get more intellectually involved and to justify the mandate which we have all given them. A proportionate, accountable and sensible final MMR document…? Yes please, minister!

Kevin Duffy is the managing director of Mortgageforce


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  1. Not ‘may’, ‘will’.

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