John Glen – 2019 Speech at the Wealth of Diversity Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by John Glen, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, on 5 February 2019.

Charles Babbage, the computer pioneer asked the following question in 1864: “if you put into the machine the wrong figures, will the right answers come out?”.

Nearly 150 years later, this question is still being answered.

By companies and industries of all shapes and sizes.

Take the next frontier of commerce: Artificial Intelligence, the next innovation set to transform financial services.

I was interested to learn that sophisticated programmes which employ AI operate much as we do as humans.

For example, AI is increasingly being shown to produce similar biases to those in the workplace.

A 2015 study showed that in a Google images search for “CEO”, just 11% of the people it displayed were women – even though 27% of the chief executives in the US are female.

The world’s major technology companies are starting to recognise that machines learn from the input they receive – and the results that this input generates.

Despite great intentions, seemingly subtle actions and moments can really entrench toxic or biased cultures.

And in this vein, I want to extend a huge thank you to PIMFA – Liz and her team are doing a lot of work to push the need for diversity to the top of commercial agenda.

Today I wish to speak to you about the business case for diversity and inclusion…

…and give my two cents on the best way to get there.

And the first step is welcoming diversity…as a matter of principle – and profit.

We need an inclusive workforce for many reasons – and ethics is but one of those reasons.

It is simply the right thing to do and to expect.

And it is a hallmark of a civilised society.

Ethics aside, there is more than anything, a strong commercial case for real diversity.

Diversity of thought leads to better outcomes…

…a happier workforce…

…reflects shareholder values…

…and is increasingly attractive to investors.

A report by the CBI in 2016 concluded that diverse workplaces generate innovation and greater employee engagement…

…employees said that they’re 84% more likely to innovate and more than twice as engaged in workplaces that are diverse and inclusive.

And research by Forbes in 2017 found that inclusive teams make better business decisions than less diverse teams up to 87% of the time.

McKinsey, the management consultant, has released research showing that closing the UK’s gender gap could create an additional £150 billion on top of business-as-usual GDP forecasts for 2025.

Diversity – and inclusion – challenges group think, it strengthens an organisation from within – and, it gives you competitive advantage.

The business case is irrefutable. And I know that you know that. That’s why you’re all here today. So I don’t want to spend my time here today convincing you why this matters – I want to focus on what needs to be done.

Despite the strong commercial argument, Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s [the former CEO of Virgin Money] 2016 review into the representation of women in senior managerial roles in the financial services industry was revealing.

One of the key findings from the report was that women make up just 14% of Executive Committees…

…25% of the firms included in the review had no women at all on their Executive Committee…

…and 17% had no women on their board.

The Treasury decided to take action and in 2016 launched the Women in Finance Charter.

And I’m pleased to say that the Charter has been an enormous success – I am delighted with the impact it has had…

…both in terms of driving the debate…

…and in giving firms a framework to set targets, and then develop and implement a plan.

300 financial services firms have signed the Charter who together employ over 780,000 people…

…close to 60% of the sector.

It includes everyone from global banks to FinTech firms with just a few employees.

We have also inspired other countries, like Brazil and China, to take action on improving gender balance, through their own Women in Finance Charters.

The Financial Reporting Council’s review of board diversity reporting, published in September 2018, found that Charter signatories had a higher diversity reporting score than other FTSE 350 companies.

And I’ve seen the impact the Charter can have within my own department. HM Treasury has set a target to increase the representation of women in the Senior Civil Service to 50% by 2020. In 2017 39 out of the 87 people in the Senior Civil Service were women, equating to 43%. This has now risen to 48.2%, and we are committed to building on this progress.

As we have now generated a large amount of industry support for the Charter, the focus has shifted to maximising its impact…

…by pushing ourselves to set and achieve more stretching targets through the use of evidence-based interventions.

I’m delighted that so many organisations have signed up to the Charter, which demonstrates the enthusiasm across the industry to solve this issue.

But for me the real measure of success is not just the number of organisations who sign up – I want to see firms taking this seriously and taking meaningful action, so we see a real shift towards gender parity.

The second Women in Finance Charter Annual Review will be published in March this year, where signatories to the Charter will provide updates on their progress. I will be looking at these updates closely, to assess whether firms have made sufficient progress and are taking appropriately ambitious action. And I will be using this to inform Government action going forward.

To have a real impact, it is important that we focus on what works, delivering interventions collaboratively and with a collective voice that promotes the progression of women.

Across the whole spectrum of the debate, it is clear that evidence-based interventions to bring about the step change is needed, as progress is slow.

Firms should make a habit of learning from one another, measuring their impact, and self-evaluating.

I am pleased that when I talk to senior leaders in the finance world, diversity and inclusion is increasingly an important issue for them.

Everyone has a role to play in creating a more equal working culture. And so I challenge everyone in this room to think about what you can do to drive change in your own organisation.

If you are responsible for recruiting or promoting people, ask yourself –

Could this job be done by someone working part-time, or someone working flexibly, or someone who is returning to work after taking time out?

Are you using skills-based assessment or structured interviews, so that your decisions are driven by what candidates can really do, rather than a sense of whether they will ‘fit’?

Have you included more than one woman on your shortlist?

If you are a senior leader, ask yourself –

Does your organisation know that you are committed to improving diversity?
How are you communicating this, and how are you holding your team accountable? Are you treating this like any other business priority?
Look at who you mentor and sponsor – does this reflect the widest pool of talent in your organisation?

And whatever your role, ask yourself:

Do you support and encourage difference in your team?

Can you be a role model for someone else?

And I put to everyone the same question I put to senior leaders – does your organisation know you care about this and how are you holding them accountable?

On that note, let me wrap up my remarks this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen – simply, a wealth of diversity will lead to a wealth of outcomes.

The business case is irrefutable…

…getting there is the hard part.

Which is why I want us all, government and industry alike, to focus on action which will drive change – I don’t want us to be having this same discussion in five years.

I hope that you can put the sessions today to good use…

…and that they can be a starting point for pushing the agenda across the industry.

Because although it is a tough discussion…

…it is one that we need to have…

…and it is an issue worthy of no less than national attention.

Thank you very much.

John Glen – 2018 Statement on Justice and Home Affairs Opt-in Decision

Below is the text of the statement made by John Glen, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in the House of Commons on 2 July 2018.

The proposed EU directive on credit purchasers, credit servicers and the recovery of collateral contains, among other things, provisions on a new EU mechanism for out-of-court collateral enforcement. The directive is part of a broader package of EU measures designed to reduce the levels of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the EU, as NPLs decrease profitability of banks, often leaving them in a weak position from which to provide finance to the wider economy in support of growth and jobs.

The Government have decided that it is in the UK’s interest not to opt in to the Justice and Home Affairs obligations within this directive as the provisions introduce an unnecessary level of administration to the UK’s existing collateral enforcement mechanisms, which are sufficiently robust and fit for purpose.

The directive states that where member states establish collateral enforcement mechanisms “by means of appropriation”, the rights of creditors “shall be governed by the applicable laws in each member state”. The Government’s view is that this provision addresses situations in which conflicts of laws points arise, in which case it is an applicable law provision and therefore includes JHA content.

The directive similarly governs applicable law if a borrower and lender from two different EU member states cannot agree on the appointment of a valuer—with the appointment of the valuer falling on the court within one of those member states.

The Government remain supportive of the European Commission’s broader efforts to reduce levels of NPLs in the EU, supporting solutions that are proportionate and targeted.

John Glen – 2018 Speech at Green Finance Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by John Glen, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, at the Green Finance Summit on 17 July 2018.

I’m delighted to address you all this morning for the second annual Green Finance Summit.

Ladies and gentleman – no one doubts the strength of the public will to fight climate change.

In such a time of friction and division, it comforts me to know this cause unifies our country across party political lines…

…as it continues to stand as one of the greatest challenges of our age.

How we manage our relationship with our oldest partner – the natural world – will be the test of our times.

As we know, up until recently, government and philanthropy have driven the debate and funded the growth of green finance.

But there is only so far that this approach can take us….

We have witnessed over the past 25 years a deeper – and genuine – engagement by the private sector in green finance…

…through the development of sophisticated financial instruments…

…and innovations to mobilise green capital.

All of this has helped propel the UK to the forefront of the global green finance market…

…with almost $25 billion of green bonds listed in London in seven currencies…

During my tenure as Economic Secretary to the Treasury, I am determined to push this agenda…

…for responsible capitalism…

…and for leveraging market forces to tackle the challenges we face as a collective.

Today I want to speak to you about three things.

Firstly – to take stock of how we arrived at the status quo.

Secondly – my vision for the future of green finance – one that is sustainable, mainstream, and culturally embedded.

Finally – how the work of the recently announced Green Finance Institute will be crucial in achieving this vision.

While I understand that there may be an increased number of political cynics in the room – which is not necessarily surprising given current events…

…I want to reassure you that this government’s commitment to stimulating a robust environment for green finance…

…is not mere political pageantry or a passing fad.

I am proud that the UK was at the forefront of setting a legislative mandate for combatting this challenge through the 2008 Climate Act.

But for too long, tackling climate change has been left to government, with the private sector largely left by the wayside…

…and as a believer in the sanctity of the free market…

…I am glad to see it taking a long-awaited place at the table…

…rising to meet the burgeoning appetite of markets and investors…

…to embrace green finance and responsible investing.

But green finance has yet to reach its full potential…

…as I believe it is largely untapped.

The conversation has been dominated by a few specific areas, such as green bonds.

And whilst there will always be a place for them, more lies further afield…

…in the breadth, and depth of global capital markets.

New instruments are gaining traction.

Take green loans, now accessible to a greater range of entities, and the emerging green mortgage market.

And the capacity for green securitisation is enormous.

It unlocks institutional investor capital to smaller projects that otherwise would be excluded from accessing capital.

Green funds are emerging from the fray with retail funds in particular becoming more engaged.

And of course this is being led, as ever, by a growing investor and consumer appetite.

A recent survey by Eon found 54% of UK consumers would definitely consider taking out a green loan to fund home energy efficiency improvements, with nearly a fifth citing energy efficiency as the most important factor when choosing a property.

A 2017 survey by Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing found that 86% of millennials are interested in sustainable investing.

Such demand will no doubt see an increasing number of asset managers and lenders broadening their offer on green products.

The figures will speak for themselves: at the end of 2017, only 17% of Europe’s sustainable investment funds were categorised with an environmental focus.

By the end of this year, we expect this number to have risen substantially, along with increased allocations of investments dedicated to fighting climate change.

As the needle shifts from fringe to mainstream, from curiosity to permanent action…

…I think we will continue to see a growth in product offering.

We may have solved the financing needs of the Paris agreement, but we are not here to discuss this today.

We are here to discuss how much further we need to go.

My vision for the next twelve months and beyond is an explosion of the momentum …

… to the point where ‘green finance’ becomes simply – ‘finance’.

We are seeing this happen.

For example, most of the top European insurers are committed to divesting from coal – pulling out a staggering USD 20 billion of investment.

Long-term climate change risks have been pushing pension funds to take action on their investment choices.

And the global green bond market continues to exceed expectations – the market is up 78% on 2016 to reach $155 billion of issuances.

Just yesterday I celebrated the largest green bond listing on the London Stock Exchange, of $1.58 billion, by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank.

While green and sustainable equity capital raised at the London Stock Exchange rose at a rate of 197% year-on-year.

And the Green Finance Taskforce, members of whom I welcome today, published a landmark report in March to help set the trajectory for UK green finance policy.

I want to quote a line from the report which I think cuts to the nub of the issue:

“the sheer scale of capital required dictates that this cannot be driven through either public or private sectors working alone…we need an international alignment of interests, incentives and policies”.

The momentous challenge facing us all requires a fundamental change of thinking…

…keep our ambitions limited to short-termism…

…or seek to hit targets or arbitrary timelines.

It is incumbent that whilst aiming for tangible results…

…we support an organic shift in the rationale of the market.

It is not enough that markets simply react to investor appetites.

A sustainable and long-term shift in mindset needs to happen…

…and the market needs to realise green finance is critical for long-term strategies.

This cultural pivot must happen at an institutional level – and it is already in train.

Because there is no doubting that the social impetus to transition to a low-carbon economy is there.

The whole market must now be brought along in parallel.

This calls for collaborative action…

…between governments, between public and private, and between sectors of our economy.

We have already seen so many successful advancements in this regard…

…from Barclay’s new green mortgage, offering consumers finance that aligns with their values…

… to international central banks forming a network to “green” the global financial system.

Executed well, green finance will not only help achieve our climate targets…

…but support long term economic resilience…

…and ensure the continued vitality and relevance of financial services.

Which is why the Chancellor’s announcement last month of the new Green Finance Institute is so important.

As he set out at Mansion House, we are working with the City of London to fund a permanent centre to champion green and sustainable finance.

The Institute will capitalise on the UK’s inherent strength: a magnet for capital and expertise.

My goal for this new venture is fourfold:

One – to provide strengthened purpose and branding to UK green finance.

The Institute will stand as a quality mark, a sign of the UK’s green finance expertise under one unified brand.

Two – to demonstrate our international leadership.

We already lead the world in this market, from attracting over $24 billion in international green bonds, to ensuring we remain partner of choice on green finance for some of the world’s biggest economies.

Three – driving innovation

As I set out earlier, it is not enough to live on the successes of the past…

… in order to ensure this market continues to grow, we must keep innovating.

Building on such strengths as FinTech and local currency finance.

And finally – setting the future agenda

The Institute will be a focal point for government-industry collaboration, working together to open up to new markets and drive forward future policy.

That’s why this morning I’m delighted to announce the City of London are establishing an Advisory Board to set out the shape and strategy of the Institute…

…which will be chaired by, Sir Roger Gifford…

…who brings his extensive experience in green finance to the role.

Members of the Board will be drawn from our domestic firms, as well as international financial leaders..

Because it’s not enough for the UK to lead…

… we need to make sure we’re taking everyone along with us…

…as we explore the opportunities this country voted to explore as Global Britain.

To conclude this morning., I want to share a quote with you:

“The…benefit of knowledge obliges you to act ethically. Complacency is not illegal, though it may be equally disastrous”.

Here was Churchill – speaking of the threats faced by Britain and the world in 1940 by a different kind of enemy.

From his immortal oratory, I couldn’t help but draw an analogy with the threat we now face.

We all know too much about what faces us – and responsibility is the natural corollary.

I am reassured by the ambition…

…of government – as a steward of the environment…

…and of a body politic – committed to the climate.

But it is by reaching for the invisible hand of the market…

…that green finance can endure…

…and sustain itself for the benefit of the collective good.

Thank you very much indeed.

John Glen – 2018 Speech to Innovate Finance Global Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by John Glen, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, to the Innovate Finance Global Summit on 19 March 2018.

Fantastic to see entrepreneurs, the giants of tech and finance, and the emerging players in FinTech under one roof…

…to celebrate the success of UK FinTech…

…and chart a future for the industry.

But we don’t need to navigate too far from our shores to witness how far we have come.

As a former Heritage Minister, I can see this link between our past, however ancient, and the present.

We should walk over to Bloomberg’s new headquarters at Queen Victoria Street…

…and admire the 405 Roman tablets found during its construction.

My favourite is an old promissory note detailing the payment of 105 denarii from Tibillus to Gratus – which is now the earliest dated document found in Romain Britain.

The irony that this was an ancient financial contract found in the heart of London…

…on a tablet, roughly the size of an iPad…

…didn’t escape anyone in the City!

As it always has been: the fulcrum of our financial future is right here – in London, and across the UK.

All of you are the levers – moving in tandem (and in healthy competition!) – to oil the engines of growth.

The world is changing so quickly that it would be an act of hubris to predict anything.

But one thing feels certain: you will all play a role in shaping that future.

Because FinTech will continue to transform the way we live our lives.

I’m very pleased to be here at IFGS kicking off UK FinTech week…

… a week packed full of great events from Edinburgh, Leeds, the University of Durham, the London Stock Exchange, the FCA and the Treasury’s own International FinTech Conference…

… I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I told you there is time for investors to register for this great event…

… an opportunity to hear from the Chancellor and other global leaders…

…about all we are doing to make the UK a great place to invest.

I would like to thank Innovate Finance – at the epicentre of the FinTech ecosystem – for doing such a great job in supporting this mandate.

This event is FinTech in microcosm…passion, drive, and ingenuity distilled into two days.

It is only right that the sector is brimming with confidence – the UK is the best place in the world for FinTech…

…and as Economic Secretary my mandate is to ensure it remains as such.

Today I have two intentions…

…first, to celebrate our status as a leading global FinTech hub…

…the second is to look at how we remain the leading global FinTech hub.

We are a leading FinTech hub

I hear rumblings from across the Channel that President Macron is looking to drag you all over to Paris. And I understand why – it’s a great city. So, hop on a Eurostar, enjoy a weekend away, stock up on croissants etc. Then come on back to London on Monday morning to carry on making money/go back to work/crack on as you have been

… because President Macron can’t argue against hard truths: that the FinTech sector is estimated to be worth over £6 billion to the UK economy…

…generating a staggering 60,000 jobs across 1,600 firms…

…a greater number than work in New York’s FinTech sector, or in the combined FinTech workforce of Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.

And London has been independently verified by Deloitte as Europe’s best city to launch a FinTech firm.

They said of London: “it has “the ‘fin’ of New York, the ‘tech’ of the U.S. West Coast … all within a 15-minute journey on public transport”.

For the pundits – the economic case for supporting UK FinTech is compelling.

2017 was the best year on record for venture capital investment in UK FinTech.

It saw £1.3bn invested – spanning 224 deals, representing a 153% increase on 2016.

54% of this funding came from abroad: a strong, international, vote of confidence.

This is not by accident but by design – we have the talent, the minds, the markets, and the regulatory and tax environment.

And the UK is now in the enviable position of being the global leader in FinTech.

We don’t want to shift gears, or resort to complacency – but keep up the momentum, and remain the global leader.

What will this position of sustained global leadership look like? What are the ingredients to make this a reality?

I can think of three: competition, capital, and connectivity.

Competition

I strongly believe that the free market is the key to create wealth and fuel innovation.

Driven by this compelling economic logic, the government champions robust market competition.

So we welcome innovation in the delivery of financial services that promotes competition.

And we know that government has a role to play in supporting a competitive environment…

…and we fully embrace our position as a partner of British enterprise and of FinTech.

But government backing is not, and should not be a blunt or misdirected instrument.

Our regulators also appreciate this: which is why they rank amongst the most robust in the world….

…because the economy moves rapidly, so we need regulators to keep up and move at pace.

Take the explosion of growth in crypto-assets.

While the pipeline of opportunity presented by the underlying technology is immense, crypto-assets (such as Bitcoin) may pose risks.

So in our upcoming Fintech Sector Strategy, the government will announce further work with the FCA and Bank of England to consider these issues in more detail.

And more generally, policies have been implemented to intelligently support the environment in which FinTech operates.

The FCA has risen to this challenge, setting up Project Innovate and the Regulatory Sandbox, seen as the global gold standard in terms of support for FinTech by a regulator.

In 2015 the government also established the Payment Systems Regulator – the first of its kind worldwide – with statutory objectives to promote competition and innovation in payment systems.

Government is in the privileged position to ensure that firms have both the right incentives, and the right environment to deliver cheaper, better products to consumers.

Capital

The firms you represent are the future: the digital economy is growing faster than the wider economy. Which is why this government is backing you to the hilt.

At Autumn Budget 2017, the government launched a 10-year action plan to unlock over £20 billion to finance growth in innovative firms.

This includes a commitment to support new technologies…

…improving the domestic skills pipeline by expanding the range of technical education opportunities…

…and overhauling the UK’s digital infrastructure, including rolling out our first 5G networks.

But we’re not just helping companies get off the ground. We want to help you build your businesses into the sky.

Since 2010, the government has reduced the rate of corporation tax from 28% to 19% today, the lowest in the G20.

And we have legislated for corporate tax rate to fall further, to 17% in 2020.

You will be able to keep more of what you earn, and invest more in yourselves to stay ahead of the pack.

We are doubling annual investment limits in EIS and VCTs for knowledge-intensive companies, and their investors.

We also know that it’s important that companies continue to evolve and stay ahead of the competition.

So since 2013, we have doubled the generosity of R&D tax credits for SMEs.

We are backing this up with direct support: since 2016, we have announced £7bn of investment in science and innovation.

Connectivity

Despite the strides made, FinTech is not “done” – we are very much at the start of this story.

My priority is to ensure that FinTech continues to function in a way that works for all – and delivers benefits across society…

…as a force for positive change right across the UK.

FinTech has enormous potential to transform financial inclusion…

…through the democratic power of information and universal connectivity.

This connectivity is the natural by-product of such a dynamic ecosystem…

…by expanding access to the unbanked and the underserved…

…and unlocking invaluable support to people up, down, and across this country.

FinTech is a route to ensure that this happens – by helping people make the most out of their money.

Open Banking is a clear next step in this endeavour.

It empowers customers to make the most of their data, sharing it with FinTechs, giving them access to a better range of tailored products.

It opens the door to cheaper and more easily available loans for small businesses by making it easier for them to shop-around for deals.

The government has also launched the Rent Recognition Challenge.

Millions of families living in rented accommodation in Britain today are not getting access to credit.

That is because, currently, a history of meeting your rent payments on time is not reflected in your credit score, and is not taken into account when you come to apply for a loan, such as a mortgage.

The Treasury’s Challenge was designed to tackle this problem.

It offers a £2m prize fund to UK FinTechs, to develop new solutions enabling tenants to collect their rental data, and share it with lenders and credit reference agencies.

Today I am please to announce the six winners:

Bud – a financial network allowing users to interact with all their finances in one place

Canopy – a deposit-free renting service

Credit Ladder – the UK’s first tenant rent reporting service for the private rental sector

META Labs – who focus on harnessing digital data to support decision making

Movem – a digital passport for tenant referencing

RentalStep – a rental platform helping tenants boost their credit scores

Conclusion

Government has an important role to play in fostering a strong, enduring and competitive FinTech sector.

But if Britain is going to continue to lead the way forward in world FinTech – it is ultimately down to you…

…the companies, the universities, financial services firms, investors, accelerators.

Collaboration and cooperation will be vital in bring further innovation to fruition.

We won’t be resting on our laurels…

…because that’s one of the things about this industry…

…you have to keep moving, and you have to keep improving.

I often hear it said that necessity is the mother of invention.

But I challenge this…because it seems to me that our modern economy has exceeded the bounds of this proverb.

If necessity powers invention, how then do we explain the explosion of creation…

…that has come from mere curiosity…

…from questions asked by frustrated minds trapped in the confines of the 9-5…

…from students dreaming big in university halls?

It is a sign of our times that invention is no longer birthed by necessity…

…but by innovation which goes further than any of us thought necessary or possible.

I look forward to taking this conversation forward with you all.

Thank you very much.

John Glen – 2016 Speech on the Advertising Standards Authority

Below is the text of the speech made by John Glen, the Conservative MP for Salisbury, in the House of Commons on 23 May 2016.

This evening, I want to raise an ongoing challenging issue with the Advertising Standards Authority Ltd, commonly known as the ASA, and related companies, including the Committee of Advertising Practice Ltd, the author and publisher of the CAP code.

I have been involved with two separate cases relating to the ASA on behalf of constituents. I intend to spend the balance of my time on the second, but the first is the case of Innovate Product Design, an excellent Salisbury company that provides a complete service to inventors, from patent search and product protection to design and prototyping and advice on marketing. It has had six complaints, not upheld, against it but still has outstanding concerns about the material subject to the ASA’s ruling and whether it was within the scope of the advertising code. I hope to resolve this with a meeting that I have asked Craig Jones of the ASA to convene with ASA representatives, but for now it would be helpful if the excellent Minister could confirm that Innovate has no outstanding ASA complaint against it and that it has never had a complaint upheld against it. It is a company that offers a first-rate service and there is nothing to suggest that it has misrepresented anything in its promotional literature.

The second of the two cases, which I will speak about in some depth, relates to my constituent Dr Alyssa Burns-Hill, PhD, MSc, fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and member of the Institute of Health Promotion and Education. Dr Burns-Hill first came to see me on 13 November 2015 and explained that in November 2012 the ASA had upheld one complaint made against her. The first part of the complaint was that she was making misleading claims about saliva testing being able to detect hormone levels. My constituent believes that the study submitted as evidence was cited inappropriately in the ruling, demonstrating a lack of deep expertise in interpreting health-related data. The second part of the complaint was that she was being misleading in using the academic title “Dr”, as while she had a PhD, she was not a medical doctor.

Following the ruling, Dr Burns-Hill was told in an email from the ASA to change her website, business cards and publications to say only her name followed by “PhD” and then the phrase “doctorate in healthcare”, followed by the rest of her post-nominals, including her MSc and professional memberships. Dr Burns-Hill refused to comply as she felt it conveyed that she was the holder of two doctorates, a PhD and a doctorate in health. After being rebuffed by Lord Smith of Finsbury and Guy Parker, managing director of the ASA, she went through the extended process of an independent review at her request, while the original judgment was still published on the ASA website. After the independent review, the ASA partially admitted its mistake but still insisted that she had to qualify that she was not a medical doctor next to any listing of her qualifications. She had already made it absolutely explicit on her website’s “About” page that she was not a medical doctor as well as issuing substantial information on her qualifications and work practice, as was acknowledged in the ruling. Yet Dr Burns-Hill is held up by the ASA as a misleading advertiser, and is even referenced in the CAP advice and guidance.

Dr Burns-Hill refused to comply with this ruling, as she felt that the proposed remedy was still inconsistent with established conventions of listing academic qualifications and served only to justify the ASA’s initial ruling. In response, the ASA imposed sanctions on her, including taking out Google adverts claiming she was a misleading advertiser, which she claims has damaged her business and reputation in what is a narrow and specialist field. She also contends that, as a means of persuasion or sanction, the ASA is itself in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. She was also advised that to pursue the case through judicial review would cost at least £20,000—a prohibitive cost by any estimate.

Since first speaking to Dr Burns-Hill about her case, I have been in contact with the ASA and have been very grateful to have had an in-depth phone conversation just before Christmas last year. I subsequently received a detailed letter from Craig Jones, the director of communications at the ASA. None the less, my constituent still feels aggrieved, as she feels that the underlying issues surrounding her case have not been adequately addressed or remedied.

First, there are legitimate concerns about the transparency of the ASA in terms of its processes and in particular with regard to its status and relationships to trading standards. I have looked into the legal framework within which the ASA operates, and I realise that it will always be complex for a self-regulatory body with a legal backstop. I understand that the ASA is recognised by the courts and the Government as the “established means” for the purposes of section 19(4) of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Judicial review is therefore possible because the ASA is recognised as a public body. However, the advertising codes it enforces are not enshrined in law; it is funded by industry and its council is appointed by industry, so it is also a self-appointed, regulatory body. I do not doubt that the legal status of the ASA is sufficiently robust, but it is extremely complex, and was certainly opaque to my constituent, a well-educated professional.

In preparing for this debate, I have even heard differing views from the ASA and from the House of Commons Library on the ASA’s legal position and authority, which I think suggests that there is unacceptable and misleading uncertainty. This has fuelled Dr Burns- Hill’s sense that the ASA is not operating legitimately and is not accountable in the way that statutory bodies are.

I am aware that similar concerns about the ASA have been raised previously in the other place by Baroness Deech. My constituent also feels that the recent South African High Court judgment against ASA Ltd reflects some of these concerns, and I understand that barrister Richard Eaton is raising questions with regard to the Competition and Markets Authority and its relationship to the ASA. I believe that there are some genuine transparency concerns here. The reasoning of the independent reviewer is not publicly available, and nor are the details of any original judgments that have been subject to revision, although it is noted when a judgment has been revised.

Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)

I, too, met the ASA in relation to a case raised in my constituency. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are inconsistencies regarding transparency in the ASA? One of the challenges is that where complaints have been made but not upheld, parts of the investigation are still published online, yet other evidence is not published and is withheld from the public.

John Glen

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s intervention. She raises other issues, which I hope the Minister will pick up on in his response.

To return to my case, after the independent review process, the only avenue remaining is expensive judicial review. Dr Burns-Hill was referred to trading standards in January this year, three and a half years after the ruling, but only heard from trading standards today— as a result, I believe, of the tabling of this debate. That referral is only on grounds on non-compliance, despite my constituent asking to be referred since the original ruling in 2012 and reiterating that request to them in January and September 2013. Would the Minister consider an option for an advertiser to require a referral to trading standards after independent review, who would then conduct their own investigation?

Secondly, I am concerned about the depth of the ASA’s technical expertise. In October 2015, Lord Smith of Finsbury, the chair of the ASA, said in the other place that in 2014 the ASA had used expert support in only 16 out of 900 cases. My constituent strives to reach the highest professional standards, and is a member of several professional bodies. Because of her significant experience in the healthcare sector, she is well aware that individuals with PhDs can call themselves “Dr” without having to qualify expressly that they are not medical doctors. That is true even in hospital settings, where, for example, holders of PhDs in public health and psychology often work.

I believe there is a concern that the ASA did not pay sufficient attention to established academic practice, and, indeed, to the codes of professional healthcare bodies. I was told only recently that it consulted such bodies. That fact appears nowhere in the public ruling, and the evidence from the consultations has not been published. My constituent was put in the invidious position of respecting the authority of those bodies in relation to how she presented her professional and academic qualifications, and being confronted with the opaque authority of the ASA, which initially demanded that she use a completely non-standard way of conveying her qualifications and did not use the title “Dr”, as was her right.

An advertiser without the tenacity of my constituent would probably have passively accepted the substandard—and subsequently adjusted—ruling of the ASA, the suggested remedy of which was to include the phrase “doctorate in healthcare” throughout her website and on her business cards. If the ASA did consult on the established professional and academic conventions for displaying qualifications, why was the evidence of those consultations not made available and cited specifically in the judgment? If the ASA is not seen to make use of readily available expertise in such an important area as academia, it is difficult for it to retain its full credibility as a self-regulating body. Will the Minister require the ASA to publish when it has drawn on external advice, what that advice is, and by whom it was provided? That would surely be a sensible step to improve the authority and credibility of the ASA in such specialist matters.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising what is clearly an important personal issue in his constituency. Many of us have had cause to have dealings with the ASA, and, all too often, have seen it go far beyond its intended reach. No doubt it does good work in rooting out misleading advertisers, but are there not occasions on which it goes too far? I hope that the Minister will assure us tonight that it possible to achieve a balance between credibility and responding to constituents’ concerns. If we can achieve that balance, we can do better.

John Glen

The purpose of this debate is not to undermine the ASA—obviously, I am raising a very specific case—but I believe that its credibility is at stake, and that there are sensible steps that it can take to improve the transparency of its decisions and the way in which it represents them.

For my constituent Dr Burns-Hill, it is too late. She is left feeling aggrieved, because she had an uncertain basis for action given the opaque authority of the ASA, which required a remedy that did not fit her understanding of established academic and professional conventions. It is very difficult for her to have confidence in the ASA, given its apparent lack of relevant expertise in its dealings with her. I recognise that there is a difference between the academic recognition of a qualification and the implications of the marketing of that qualification to lay prospective consumers, and I recognise that the ASA’s role is to examine those matters. However, my constituent does not recognise the right of the ASA unilaterally to require an individual to adopt a non-standard use of post-nominals, when someone could work in a hospital and use the title “Dr” without the need to qualify it, if they were the holder of a PhD.

I am grateful to the ASA, and in particular to Craig Jones, the communications director, for their engagement with me and my constituents and for their detailed responses to date. They have sought to answer my questions and address the case as far as possible. However, I have raised this matter today on the Floor of the House as my constituent still feels aggrieved and besmirched. I want to give satisfaction to my constituent on this matter and I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to address the specific points I have raised. I would also be grateful if he would use the authority of his office to facilitate a meeting between the ASA and Innovate, the first set of constituents. I very much look forward to hearing his response.