POLITICS

Bankers Must Cope With New Rules Or Leave, Labour Warns

16/10/2014 10:23 BST | Updated 16/10/2014 13:59 BST
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Bankers complaining about new and tougher regulation are "maybe in the wrong line of work," a Labour frontbencher has warned.

Shadow financial secretary Cathy Jamieson also dismissed suggestions that there had been too much "banker-bashing" from politicians, insisting: "I think it's right and proper that politicians continue to scrutinize the banking sector.

"There has been a lot of pressure put on banking and financial services by politicians but that was because of the problems that emerged," she told an audience at the British Bankers' Association's annual conference on Thursday.

Citing a recent string of scandals that have hit banks including interest rate swap mis-selling, she said: "Those things do not give confidence to the general public."

Jamieson said that the last Labour government "should have been tougher" in its regulation of the banking sector, adding that politicians needed to ensure a "tighter regulatory structure was there".

Deliberately echoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney, Jamieson warned that bankers who can't handle new regulation "are perhaps in the wrong line of work".

Following reports that two senior HSBC executives are to quit over new misconduct rules, Carney warned earlier this week: "If you're chair of an audit committee, you have responsibility for the activities of an institution. And if you don't think you can discharge that responsibility, you shouldn't be on that board."

Jamieson also said that it was not "helpful" for George Osborne's Treasury to fight EU regulation like a cap on bankers' bonuses, something that the Huffington Post UK previously revealed has costed at least £20,000 so far.

Speaking after Jamieson, City minister Andrea Leadsom called for a move away from "banker-bashing and the behaviour of the past" towards the "exciting and innovative ways [the industry is developing]".

"Restoring a good culture needs careful thought," she said. "Government needs to set out the big picture, regulators must finalize the detailed rules, supervise them and enforce them. Bank leaders must be committed to carrying out good practise."

Leadsom echoed the message given by David Cameron in a video played to start the BBA's conference earlier in the morning, calling on the sector to "behave responsibly" but also see ambition as "the watchword of the day".

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"I definitely want to focus on fair play but I badly want to see us scoring goals on the world stage," she said. "People in this industry are among the best and highest calibre in the world.

She added: "It's an ambitious vision but what are we if not ambitious?"

This comes after Douglas Flint, chair of Britain's biggest bank HSBC, warned that the level of regulation was "hugely consumptive of resources" and risked encouraging "unwarranted risk aversion" as bankers seek to protect themselves.

Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, chair of the influential Commons Treasury committee, told the Financial Times that Flint's complaint was "very important", but added: “It is for the industry to demonstrate that that is the case.

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Reasons Why The Banks Aren't Yet In Order