Financial Services Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 6th February 2012.

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Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer 4:40 pm, 6th February 2012

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has commissioned a review of the cost of credit, but I think that the Bill takes a significant step on that, partly because of the Joint Committee’s recommendations, because the regulation of all retail financial services will now come under the remit of the FCA. It will have the power to ban specific products, to name and shame particular firms and to publish details of misleading promotions, so there will be considerable new powers that were not previously available. On the hon. Lady’s specific concern about the price of credit, that is something the Government are looking at. Of course we are also looking at the recommendations of the FSA’s recent report on RBS—I do not wish to reopen that issue—in relation to legislation on the sanctions available for bank directors who fail in their role.

The Bill is an important piece of legislation. I believe that it replaces the confused and dysfunctional system that presided over the biggest banking crisis in our modern history. It creates clear lines of accountability by putting the Bank of England in charge of monitoring and dealing with debt levels in our economy. However, no amount of new clauses, powers or institutions can substitute for something for which Parliament cannot legislate: judgment. There were thousands of pages of financial regulation in existence in 2007, but that did not stop the queues forming outside Northern Rock or prevent RBS from making its final, fatal, bid for ABN AMRO. I hope that we have learnt that financial stability depends not simply on a checklist of regulation, but on individuals within our regulators feeling empowered to trust their judgment, and our giving them the power to act on it. By putting our central bank in charge of monitoring overall levels of risk and the soundness of individual firms, we are trusting in its judgment. By giving the elected Government of the day the power of direction in a crisis, we are trusting in their judgment, and that of Parliament, to which they are accountable.

Britain has paid a higher price than most for what went so badly wrong in our banking system. The errors of the economic policy that led to such a boom have cost every taxpayer dear. Today we show that we are learning the lessons and passing on to our successors a better system than the one we inherited. I commend the Bill to the House.