Mutuals have accused Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban of failing to contribute to the Government’s commitment to promote mutuality.
The coalition agreement says the Government will “promote” mutuals but at an all-party Parliamentary group on building societies and financial mutuals hearing last week, Hoban said he aimed to create “a level playing field for mutuals”.
He told the hearing: “We aim to be neutral to the form of ownership and legislation around mutuals. There should be no inherent bias against them.”
Association of Financial Mut-uals chief executive Martin Shaw says: “That neutrality is not consistent with the coalition agreement. We would not expert overt advantage in regulation but we are looking for intervention where we see regulation is contradicting with Government policy.”
Royal London head of corporate affairs Gareth Evans says: “He is ducking his responsibilities to execute coalition policy. I do not think he is taking it as seriously as he should do.”
Hoban said the introduction of a requirement for regulators to carry out a cost benefit analysis detailing the impact of new regulation on mutuals and assistance to help them develop new forms of capital required by Basel, demonstrate support for the sector. But he conceded: “We could do more.”
APPG chair and Conservative MP for Cardiff North Jonathan Evans asked why there is “significant” promotion of the mut-ual model in other Government departments but the Treasury is aiming for neutrality.
Hoban said: “The difference is there are already lots of mutuals. We have sought to strengthen the sector by proactively tackling some of the problems of mutual owners.” He added that it is not for ministers to give direction to an independent regulator.