Financial Services Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 6th February 2012.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 5:48 pm, 6th February 2012

The Chancellor referred to his years of thinking about this legislation. I am afraid that his former adviser demonstrates the kind of muddled thinking that has got the Chancellor into this difficulty.

I am not saying that the tripartite system is the best one. I am quite happy to go along with the shift to the quartet system—I can see the advantages of the FPC and the split of the FCA and the PRA. I am not worried because individual statutory agencies will be under the umbrella of the Bank of England; I am worried because the deputy governor and head of the PRA, who has a clear responsibility, is not part of the decision-making process. That is what I am worried about. I want the MOU to say that at the heart of the system—in pre-crisis and crisis—there will be a “clear view” group, in which the Governor and his key deputies, who will have separate and sometimes contradictory statutory responsibilities, come together with the Chancellor to make the decision.

Even if the Chancellor—this is not an ad hominem point—has the umbrella of the Bank of England and the quartet system, he should want to hear from the person whom he appoints on a very large salary and in law to be the head of the PRA. What I do not understand is why that would not be written into the MOU. Actually, I sort of do understand. There is a history in the Bank of England of the Bank equalling the Governor of the Bank—of wanting to personalise the appointment—as the Chancellor has described. However, we cannot personalise something as complex as the proposed system. It is not just that the system is complicated; there are also tensions and differences of view.

My right hon. Friend Mr Darling is quite right that it is hard to operate a tripartite system in which there are different views, but those differences will not be avoided by burying them under the table and pretending they do not exist. Had that happened at key moments in the previous crisis, the wrong decisions would have been taken.