Northern Rock and Banking Reform

Part of Supplementary Estimates, 2007-08 – in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 10th March 2008.

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Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee 4:06 pm, 10th March 2008

They certainly will, but one starts from a position that includes the very large, major UK banks and works outward from there. I do not envisage the risk to be very large. What needs to be clear is that the House would be prepared to see the vast majority of banks and almost all building societies fail provided, of course, that the depositors were properly protected; otherwise, we will not have a market financial system at all.

Let us not forget that banks have been extremely profitable in recent years. Some of the British banks are world-class players. They have been extremely profitable for UK plc and for their shareholders, but they have also been profitable—very profitable—for their senior managers. That profitability, and some of the vast salaries involved, may now need to be priced a little more realistically. I should like the capital and liquidity requirements laid down for those banks to be readdressed. The House must never again be put in the position of suddenly having to commit more than £100 billion of public money.

There are lessons from Northern Rock. There are lessons for the regulator that failed in its duty, for the tripartite arrangement that could not deal with the consequences, and for the Government who fatally dithered; but, ultimately, there are lessons for us all.

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