There will be a Westminster Hall debate on the economic impact of covid-19 lockdowns on Tuesday 29th November at 2:30pm. The debate will be opened by Esther McVey MP
Documents to download
Dormant Assets Act 2022 (679 KB , PDF)
The Dormant Assets Act 2022 was introduced as Bill 203 in the House of Lords on 12 May 2021. It passed Lords Third reading on 23 November and was introduced in the Commons the following day.
Commons Second reading was on Monday 6 December 2021 and an amended Bill emerged from Committee Stage after one sitting on 11 January 2022. Report stage and Third reading was on 31 January 2022.
Royal Assent was obtained on 24 February 2022. The Act extends to the whole of the UK.
The Government defines a dormant asset as a financial product (such as a bank account) that hasn’t been used for many years and which the provider hasn’t been able to reunite with its owner despite efforts aligned with industry best practice.
In 2008, the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act (the 2008 Act) was passed to provide a system to distribute dormant assets to good causes. It applies to cash in UK bank and building society accounts that has been dormant for 15 years, and has so far distributed around £800 million.
The core principles of the scheme are that: (1) attempts should first be made to reunite assets with their rightful owners before transferring them; (2) owners should always be able to reclaim their funds; and (3) participation is voluntary. Funds should also not be used as a substitute for Government spending.
In late 2015 the Government appointed an independent commission to advise on expanding the scheme to include other dormant assets. The Dormant Assets Commission recommended expanding the scheme. An “industry champions” report agreed and recommended a phased approach to expansion.
The Government launched a consultation in February 2020 on the list of assets it proposed to expand the scheme to, with a tailored definition of dormancy for each. The consultation attracted 89 responses, with “widespread support” for expansion.
The Act significantly expands the scope of the existing scheme to cover a range of financial products, being long-term insurance products, certain pension assets, collective investment scheme assets, client money, and proceeds or distributions from shares in traded public companies. The Government estimates that this could allow a total of around £880 million to be released to good causes.
It also introduces a specific legal requirement for firms participating in the scheme to make attempts to reunite assets with their owners, before passing them into the scheme. In total, £2 billion of the £3.7 billion of dormant assets the Act could cover are expected to be reunited with their rightful owners. The remaining £1.7 billion will be transferred to a “reclaim fund”, which will reserve a proportion of the funds to ensure it can meet future claims and pass the rest on to be spent on good causes.
The Act consists of 34 sections and two schedules divided into three Parts. The Bill introduced in the House of Lords had only 33, but Clause 30 (now Section 30) was added to Part 2 at Lords Report Stage.
The Act received cross-party support in its passage through the House of Lords, and passed all stages without a division. A large number of technical Government amendments were made at Committee stage on 21 June 2021.
At Report stage on 16 November, Lord Bassam (Labour) moved an amendment to “enable orders under Clause 29 [on the distribution of dormant asset money in England] to create community wealth funds as a means of tackling deprivation and building social infrastructure in left-behind communities.” The Government opposed the amendment, but it was approved by 216 votes to 195.
Two Government amendments were made at Report stage. The first inserted into Clause 29 a commitment to have a public consultation before changes can be made to the focus of the English portion of funds now or in the future. The second was the addition of current Section 30, which would “require periodic reviews of the dormant assets scheme and the alternative scheme, with a report to Parliament on the results”. Both were approved without a division.
Second reading took place on 6 December without a division, and Committee stage concluded in one sitting on 11 January 2022.
Seven amendments were tabled, and two were made (both tabled by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nigel Huddleston) during Committee. The first amendment removed provisions inserted at Lords Report stage on the distribution of scheme assets to community wealth funds. The amendment was carried along party lines by ten votes to six. The second amendment made was a procedural one that removed the Lords privilege amendment, in accordance with convention.
Three further amendments were tabled at Report stage on 31 January 2022. One opposition amendment was withdrawn, and the remaining two (both Government amendments) were made without a division. The first of these was a “minor and technical” amendment to Clause 12 clarifying that money from collective scheme investments cannot be transferred into the scheme as client money.
The second amended Clause 29 to list causes that must be included in the Government’s consultation on the use of scheme money in England. The consultation now must include community wealth funds as well as the three existing purposes set out in the 2008 Act (youth, financial inclusion and social investment).
The Bill received its Third reading immediately after Report stage without a division.
Lords consideration of Commons amendments
The House of Lords considered the four amendments made to the Bill during its passage through the Commons on 9 February 2022. All amendments were approved without a division, although some peers expressed regret at the removal of the amendment inserted at Lords Report stage on community wealth funds, and its replacement at Commons Report stage with what they viewed as a weaker version.
With the Bill having now passed all stages in both Houses, Royal Assent was obtained on 24 February 2022.
The Act’s core measures enjoyed cross-party support during its passage through Parliament, and support from industry stakeholders including trade body UK Finance, the Association of British Insurers, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and Social Enterprise UK.
Documents to download
Dormant Assets Act 2022 (679 KB , PDF)
Analysis of the latest UK and international economic indicators
Information on business and consumer confidence surveys. This is generally released ahead of official statistical data and can indicate changes to the economic outlook.