Thursday, 5 July 2012

Inquiry into bank ethics

Stephen Tall at Liberal Democrat Voice argues for a judge-led inquiry and by implication against the parliamentary inquiry which will no doubt be approved today. I don't see that the two are mutually exclusive. There is a real need for an expeditious (though not rushed) inquiry into LIBOR fixing and into mis-selling of hazardous financial instruments to SMEs. This committee of inquiry should be in a position to make recommendations as to government action, including possible legislation in the next session at the latest. It may turn up other aspects of City operations which would warrant a more wide-ranging Leveson-type inquiry, one which would necessarily be more expensive.

The composition of the parliamentary committee is important. Yesterday's interrogation of Bob Diamond by the Treasury Select Committee was notable more for sound-bites than for elicited information. There were not enough members with relevant City experience*. The decision to include the Lords in the forthcoming inquiry will enable such people as Matthew OakeshottSusan Kramer and even Paul Myners to participate (though the latter is more likely to appear as a witness!). Possibly there are Conservative and cross-bench peers with City knowledge who are not tainted by banking misdeeds. From the Commons, I would like to see Chris Huhne bring his knowledge to bear, though I accept that the criminal charge hanging over him makes his choice problematic for David Cameron. There should be no such difficulty in appointing David Laws, who is well on his way to rehabilitation after his expenses misdemeanour. Significantly, Laws was a director of Barclays de Zoete Wedd before it became Barclays Capital and before Bob Diamond was appointed.

[Later] Jonathan Calder is even more scathing about the Select Committee session. I have also heard the suggestion that the parliamentarians on the new inquiry should not put the questions themselves, but should appoint a QC, who can be trusted to pursue a line of enquiry forensically without being distracted by the desire to score political points.  There is a peer who was once ideally suited to the task, having made a successful career at the commercial bar before entering parliament, but sadly the rat-trap mind of Margaret Thatcher is no longer there.

* nor with interrogation skills

No comments: