Mr Christopher Chope (in the Chair):
Does the hon. Member for Cambridge have the consent of both the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) and the Minister?
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD):
Thank you for calling me to speak, Mr Chope. I will try to be brief. I congratulate the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) on securing this important debate. I also pay tribute to my noble Friend Baroness Susan Kramer, who did a lot of work in this area before her elevation to a ministerial role, which has somewhat curtailed it.
The sector is huge; we can read about just how big it is in the excellent “The Rise of Future Finance: The UK Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report”. I am delighted that Cambridge was able to play a part in that; £939 million is a large sum of money. The sector is also incredibly varied. In my constituency, for example, SyndicateRoom is doing equity crowdfunding, and the Future Business Centre is using social impact bonds to build an entire building for social enterprises. RealVNC, a software company, was set up though merchandising; it sold products with its logo on to get the money to build a better product. There is also Frontier Developments and its game, “Elite: Dangerous”. Those are all crowdfunded. The area is so varied that there is a huge challenge for regulation.
The sector must be regulated to avoid problems-none of us wants to hear the story of the granny who loses all her savings on something like that-but we must ensure that the regulation is not disproportionate. We must ensure that we have principles regulation, not firm tracks that lock everyone down and kill off the excitement, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield said. That is my aim.
The Government are supportive; I will finish with a quote from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in response to the excellent benchmarking report, “The Rise of Future Finance”:
“Alternative finance is playing an increasingly important role in helping businesses access the finance they need to grow and contribute to the economy.”
Let us ensure that that can continue.