From the FT’s Arena blog:
Lord Turner, chairman of the UK’s Financial Services Authority, casts a sceptical light on the role of the City of London in the UK economy in an interview with Prospect Magazine. During the last boom, the financial sector grew as a share of gross domestic product, and ballooned as a share of profits and taxes. Should the government have as a goal to protect the City as a pre-eminent financial centre? Or has the City grown too big for Britain’s good? Lord Turner says the City watchdog should be “very, very wary of seeing the competitiveness of London as a major aim”. Which British industries – if any – have the potential to replace the City? Does the UK have any choice other than to nourish the financial services industry? Join the debate: click on comment. Read more
Some of you may remember when Gordon Brown declared that the City’s “old excesses” were coming to an end. His Op-Ed in the Times this Spring was full of ambition, swagger and purpose. He made absolutely clear what he considered to be an unacceptable bonus, setting out some basic principles (see below).
Brown’s first principle: “there must be no reward for failure”. Read more
A rebellion is brewing on the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), a Caribbean paradise that is bracing for the re-imposition of the British colonial yoke.
After an inquiry found evidence of “systemic corruption” in the island’s government, British ministers decided it was time to move back to direct rule. Preparations are advanced and the British governor is poised to take over, but the final act has been delayed by legal challenges related to the inquiry. Read more
Harriet Harman can’t let the gender issue drop (see yesterday’s blog). Now she has called for more women on the boards of financial services groups. Fair enough. Read more
Lord Myners gives short thrift today to Tory plans to kneecap the Financial Services Authority and transfer many of its powers to the Bank of England. Read more
A fascinating interview with the departing Foreign Office minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, in today’s Telegraph. It comes just days after Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the army, criticised the government for failing to supply enough men and equipment to Afghanistan. Read more
At a sparsely attended committee hearing this morning I heard Stephen Timms, Treasury minister, admit that public sector pay might have to be frozen. At least he said that the Treasury had not ruled this out. Read more
Attempts to clean up the financial system have become more urgent given reports of the banking world returning to normal. Read more
It is a difficult circle to square: Read more
Shaun Woodward: Our new secret formula is a great success. The public love it.
Gordon Brown: Higher spending and investment until the end of time. Read more
The charge against Gordon Brown is that his promise of future investment – instead of cuts – is cloud cuckoo land given the grim public finances. You may think this unfair.
But here is the verdict of the governor of the Bank of England today when asked about the national deficit: Read more
How did they all do? Marks out of 10 are for the speech – not the chances of success:
Margaret Beckett: 5/10
Thin gruel from the Labour former minister and bookies’ favourite. Admits that public confidence in the Commons is lost and says she will “facilitate desired change”. Agrees that an independent financial regulator (for MPs) would be a good idea…but the “devil is in the detail”.
No-nonsense style. Says she has chaired lots of committees and bodies. “I have never been afraid to speak truth to power, wherever power been found. I have always been my own woman.” Points out that the Speaker has historically always been from the ruling party: Betty Boothroyd was the exception to the rule. A bit humourless.
Sir George Young: 8/10
Tory grandee points out that he has relevant experience as chair of the Standards and Privileges Committee. That proves his independence and strength of mind. Gives backbenchers reassurance by indicating that he won’t join the “bidding war to be tough” on MPs. Points out that many innocent members, “those who did no wrong”, were “caught in the backlash” of the expenses scandal. Has a good line comparing the financial crisis with the political crisis: both now need “recapitalisation”.
Says he wants to tilt power back from the executive to Parliament. Calls for: more “brisk” Parliamentary debates; cut back on pointless opposition day debates; call MPs by relevant experience rather than seniority; let chairs of select committees announce their reports in the chamber.
Ann Widdecombe: 6/10
A well-received speech, despite the unfortunate vocal delivery. Says she will only be an interim Speaker, retiring at the next general election. Her purpose would be to oversee rapid reform and restoring public faith in the Commons. Wouldn’t spend her whole time parading up and down in the country in TV studios, she assures the House. But admits in so many words that her main selling point is public popularity. Makes the serious point that legislation is not sufficiently scrutinised in the House. Read more
1800 Our hunch about Hoon seems to be correct. He is not a rebel. Instead there are plans afoot to give him a job in the EU within a year.
1730 John Healey is the new housing minister
1709 Caroline Flint resigns after not winning a promotion. Sour grapes?
1643 Lord Adonis to transport. Flint gets nothing. Bradshaw to culture. Liam Byrne is chief secretary of the Treasury. Jim Knight becomes employment minister. Beckett and McNulty leave.
1617 Labour lose all their county councils. Read more
Hazel Blears has become the second cabinet minister to resign in 24 hours. She is skipping PMQs and heading home to Salford this morning to spend more time with “her people” ahead of tomorrow’s local/European elections. Read more
TSSA are the white collar transport union* who have been leading the drive for Network Rail to come clean about six-figure discrimination payments made to former members of staff several years ago.
It emerged in recent reports that some of the departees had made claims about a senior director of the rail operator allegedly involving highly inappropriate behaviour. Read more
It transpires that Cash rented his daughter’s flat even though he owned an apartment in Pimlico which was apparently not being used at the time*. Here is the story in full. Read more
Labour have trailed their latest party political broadcast on YouTube ahead of its broadcast tonight. The move has been billed as Gordon Brown’s brave return to his favourite video sharing site (YouTube if you want to, prime minister). There are a few trademark smiles and cringeworthy moments. But this is edited and (relatively) polished, unlike the prime minister’s notorious clip on MPs’ expenses.
If you want some real Brown YouTube magic, take a look at the second clip embedded below on “every child matters”, which was recorded on the day after Brown’s expenses riff. (Note that Brown has the same tie on.) Read more
I was surprised to see Bob Marshall-Andrews quoted in The Independent telling Simon Carr: Read more
I had a funny feeling that only the nationalised banks would sign up wholeheartedly to Gordon Brown’s mortgage support scheme.*
Today the programme has finally be unveiled – after months of negotiations. Read more
It’s normal practice in Parliamentary debates to declare any interests which could be relevant.
During a debate on tax avoidance yesterday, Baroness Hooper – a Tory peer – made sure she mentioned her interest as vice-chairman of the Overseas Territories All-Party Parliamentary Group.
What she didn’t mention is that she is also paid by Barclays (as chair of the advisory committee for Barclays European Infrastructure Fund).
Why is this relevant? Because, as Lord Oakeshott pointed out in the same debate, “Documents leaked to the Liberal Democrats…appear to detail systematic tax avoidance on a grand scale by Barclays”.
The documents in question have been injuncted.
So what did Hooper have to say about the overseas tax havens?
– prompting Lord Myners (no stranger to offshore havens) accusing her of “veering towards her being an apologist”?
UPDATE: Mea culpa. Myners actually used the phrase “apologist” in respect of another Tory peer, Baroness Noakes – although Baroness Hooper assures me: “I’m certainly an apologist for overseas territories”.
There is no doubt that successive governments have encouraged the overseas territories to be self-sufficient. A number of them have developed highly efficient and successful financial services, based on international best practice…
My final general point is to emphasise, as did the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, the distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The former is legal, the latter a crime… Read more