Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of Financial Services Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 10th July 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Myners Lord Myners Labour 5:15 pm, 10th July 2012

My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with the amendment. I declare my interest as a former member of the court from 2004 to 2008. I fully support the creation of the Financial Policy Committee-I think that it will become the most important committee in the Bank-but I am deeply anxious about the governance of the Bank and the lack of appropriate oversight from the court, the oversight committee as envisaged or, indeed, Parliament.

The Minister is in many ways the architect of this restructuring of regulation, as part of a project which he led for the Opposition, having ceased to work in the Treasury. I understand his thinking in evolving the proposals, but events have moved on. In the light of what we now know about the Bank of England, we must ask whether it is still right to put so much authority in the hands of the Bank without appropriate accountability.

When I was a member of the court, I sat in on a meeting of the Financial Stability Committee. That would have been in 2006 or 2007. At that meeting, one of the governors proposed that as a mechanism to cope with the crisis, the Bank should buy half a dozen or a dozen bicycles in order that members of the Bank could move swiftly and anonymously around the City. That tells us a huge amount about where the Bank sits in terms of its understanding of the complexity of financial markets. Some of the things that we have seen over the past few weeks have simply raised more questions about the wisdom of putting so much power in the hands of the Bank.

We are also about to have a piece of legislation to implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking. Having been intimately involved in the Government's response to the banking crisis from 2008 onwards, I would point out that the losses incurred in the British banking system-at HBOS, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland-largely occurred within the ring-fence. The losses of $5 billion which we have seen recently reported in London from JP Morgan took place within the ring-fence as envisaged by the Vickers report. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, looks somewhat sceptical about that. Those losses occurred within the treasury operations, or the investment office, of JP Morgan, and as such lay within the ring-fence rather than outside it. In being sympathetic to this amendment, and hoping that at the very least the Minister will go away and reflect on that, I think that the Minister will have to rethink some of the fundamental building blocks of this legislation-in particular the great powers and responsibilities that we are placing in the hands of the Bank of England-before we reach its next stage. These are powers and responsibilities that the Bank of England has historically not had and, in my judgment, is still not equipped to exercise.

If we are to do this then, at the very minimum, we must ensure that the Bank and its various agencies, including the Financial Policy Committee, are properly accountable to a court which is clear about its functions and clear about who it reports to. As a former member of the court I know that it was never clear who we reported to. It must also be clear about its parliamentary accountability.