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Clause 1 - Deputy Governors

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 21st February 2012.

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Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East 11:30 am, 21st February 2012

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Leigh. In an earlier intervention, Mark Garnier touched on the question of regional diversity and made the point that there is a representative from Scotland, Lady Susan Rice, on the court, but my understanding is that she was not necessarily chosen specifically because she was a Scottish person; that was accidental. We need to look to the future of the Bank of England, as it is named, which is our UK bank.

I do not know how much awareness there is about this, but there has been a lot of discussion in Scotland about the potential role of the Bank of England in the event of Scottish independence. I do not want to suggest in any way that I favour Scottish independence, but there will be a referendum in due course, in which the Scottish people will speak one way or the other. There has been an interesting debate about the future currency of an independent Scotland and the country’s relationship to the Bank of England. The fashion some years ago was to suggest that in the event of independence, certain people would be willing or even enthusiastic to join the euro, which would solve the problem. The latest suggestion, however, seems to be to keep the pound, and therefore to be strongly linked to the Bank of England, which it might be better to rename appropriately. Other interesting suggestions have been made, some of which were bizarre.  I am sure it must have been a joke, but I read a suggestion that Scotland might link itself with the Chinese currency. If that was not a joke—and it might not have been—perhaps the suggestion was made on the basis that the Chinese currency is particularly strong, and it might be advantageous to a small—dare I say struggling?—independent country to link itself to a strong currency.

We must think about the fact that the economies of different parts of the United Kingdom—I strongly hope that they will remain part of the United Kingdom—move at different speeds. Different levels of economic growth and unemployment in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland cause difficulties, and we need to think about how the different parts of the UK work together to ensure the kind of financial stability that the Bill is all about.

It is important to make special provision for the representation of the different parts of the United Kingdom, particularly those that are accepted as nations within the United Kingdom—as I have said, I hope that they will remain so—but have distinct problems and ways of operating. It would be useful, not only in planning for the future but in analysing the present, to make provision in the court of the Bank of England for specific recognition of such regional and national diversity. Perhaps I should have tabled an amendment to suggest that we rename the institution the Bank of the UK, because that might be more appropriate. We recognise that we have strength in unity and we have diversity, and that the two can work very well together.