An object lesson in how not to make law

Solvency II debate reflects a frustration with EU politics.

Solvency II, the forthcoming regulatory directive for Europe, has been labelled as “an object lesson in how not to make law”.

Steve Webb, UK’s Minister for Pensions, turned up the heat on the insurance space last month when he called the European Union to abandon the new changes that are being proposed by Solvency II, the ever-delayed package of regulatory guidelines that will shape the insurance business in the EU in the next few years.

His concern had particularly to do with the effect of Solvency II on benefit pension schemes. According to a working paper by the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), the new regulatory changes could add a cost of £450bn to pension schemes.

Leaving no room for doubt he added: "any such new rules would harm businesses’ ability to invest, grow and create jobs, and many more schemes could be forced to close. I continue to urge the Commission to abandon these reckless plans".

Other heavy weights in the British government have expressed their concerns too. Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury Committee, has revealed his ill-feeling on Solvency II, following a lengthy debate with the chief of the new Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) Andrew Bailey.

Days before Webb’s statement, Tyrie said “Strengthening and harmonising the prudential regulation of the insurance sector across the EU could bring significant benefits. But we haven’t seen any yet. Even now, no one can be sure what it will add”.

Andrew Bailey had labelled the process the EU has followed on Solvency II as “shocking” and the costs arising from the delay in its implementation as “staggering”. The UK insurance industry is the third largest in the world and a key activity of the UK economy. So it is only reasonable that the local watchdog, and other involved government officials, will express their concerns on any changes that are likely to affect consumers and hinder the development of the business locally.

However, the criticism is also reminiscent of the current mood with the way a relevant part of Britain feels policies are being carried out in the EU. The sentiment is that well intentioned and necessary reforms, drag indefinitely under the hand of the EU and become so cumbersome that can make the problem it came to address worse.

Britain will hold a referendum to decide whether it remains a member of the EU by the end of 2017, that is in four years time. The deadline of Solvency II has consistently been postponed from November 2010, to November 2012, then January 2013 and January 2014. Now, it is not likely to happen before January 2016. The chance of a sharp u-turn on the envisioned Solvency II regime seems unlikely, considering how EU’s policymakers have acted in recent years. By the time it comes into place, the UK might feel comfortable enough with its Individual Capital Adequacy Standards regime, just when it needs to decide how convenient it is to remain in the EU.

Photograph: Getty Images

Carlos Pallordet is a writer for Timetric

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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