Let's step back briefly and remind ourselves of what we are dealing with.
First, Parliament makes the laws that change the lives of people, the businesses they work in and depend on. It is no good trying to plead that what goes on in Westminster is not relevant to you or that you don't want anything to do with it because you don't like politicians. It is there, it is important and it isn't going to go away unless we lurch into dictatorship which we haven't done since the days of Oliver Cromwell.
Second, it is full of new people as around one third of MPs - the largest proportion since the end of the Second World War - were newly elected in May. This has both benefits and drawbacks. It brings fresh thinking into Parliament, new expertise and a renewed vigour. On the down side, it means that alot of knowledge and understanding of the insurance and financial services sectors (among others) has gone out of Parliament. This poses a challenge.
Third, there is one hell of alot going on at the moment that directly affects the industry and its customers. Take just the last few days for instance.
- The Transport Select Committee is enquiring into the rise in motor insurance premiums
- The Treasury Select Committee is looking at the proposed regulatory changes with Lloyd's appearing today
- Yesterday there was a debate and vote on compensation for Equitable Life policyholders
- Yesterday there was a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance & Financial Services to discuss flood defence spending
- On Monday the Government announced that there will be a three hour debate on the Retail Distribution Review
As I said, that is just in the last few days. In the background the Finance Bill, which enacts the radical Budget proposals put forward by Chancellor George Osborne last month, has been rumbling along. There is lots more too.
The industry is quite well served at the moment by its various trade associations. The Association of British Insurers is at its most effective for some years, the British Insurance Brokers' Association has stepped up to the plate, Lloyd's is a polished performer in Parliament, the various IFA trade bodies are doing a good job and there are others contributing too. However, the national trade bodies can only do so much. MPs, especially those with slim majorities, have to pay attention to their constituencies and are usually keen to accept invitations from businesses to meet them and their staff. This is where everyone in the industry has a role to play, especially in hammering home the message that UK financial services is about alot more than just the City of London.
Don't forget too that MPs face an uncertain future. If the Bill to reduce the number of MPs to 600 goes through alot of them are going to face the next election with new boundaries and thousands of voters that they don't know and who don't know them. We will even see MP fighting MP in some areas. This means they are especially keen to make as many contacts as possible and listen to the concerns of businesses in their constituencies. Believe me, this sort of local lobbying makes a difference.
So, make it a priority to contact your MP, especially if they are new (and regardless of party), introduce them to your business and start to inform them about what the laws they are debating in Parliament right now will mean for your business, your staff and your customers.
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