The UK Government looks set to crack on with the program of banking reforms recommended by the Independent Commission on Banking, in spite of fears that the high cost of implementing them will slow down any chance of an economic recovery. The ICB’s package of reforms was outlined in their ‘Report on Banking Reform’, which was published in September 2011. The Commissioners’ recommendations included protecting customer deposits by ring-fencing high-street banking from riskier investment and trading activities, higher mandatory levels of liquidity for the systemically important financial institutions, and encouraging increased competition between banks.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, interviewed on the Andrew Marr show on the BBC recently, succinctly expressed the fears that many in the banking world have been feeling with the immortal words: ‘Just don’t kill the goose’.
In other words, don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Boris was saying that the banks, though unpopular, are a vital part of the UK economy, generating huge sums of money to the Treasury. As he put it to Andrew Marr ‘but those guys, all those great glistening Temples of Mammon I can see behind you in the City and Canary Wharf, they produce 53 billion quids worth of tax. Now that is that is something that is of huge value to the UK. That’s schools and hospitals and all the rest of it.’
Curiously, further in the interview, Andrew Marr tries to clarify Mayor Johnson’s remark with the suggestion ‘Pluck the goose, don’t kill the goose’. Now I may not know an awful lot about animal husbandry, but I am pretty sure that it is not customary to pluck a live goose. Have you seen the size of those things? Geese are large, noisy, ferocious birds, traditionally used by country people as a cost-effective alternative to the guard dog. Back in 365 BC they saved the Roman Empire from a surprise attack by the Gauls. I don’t think they would sit quietly and submit to having their feathers removed, though I would very much like to see Andrew Marr try it. The British Treasury is due to publish a report in response to the ICB recommendation, and it is expected to support it in full.
Business secretary Vince Cable has already said: “We have accepted the recommendations of the commission. It is absolutely right that we make the British economy safe. We just cannot risk a repetition of the financial catastrophe we had three years ago.