As is becoming increasingly clear to David Cameron, the problem with answering calls for an inquiry into a scandal in one industry or another is that at some point that Inquiry will report back with a bunch of recommendations which may or may not be politically expedient to implement. The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards came up with proposals last week for an electrified ring fence, which the Treasury politely said it would look at, and Vince Cable rather more bluntly said the government should ignore, preferring instead that ministers get a move on with implementing the Vickers proposals, rather than opening up the whole debate again.
But the really pesky thing about these inquiries, so easy to set up, and so frequently called for (especially by Ed Miliband), is that their members don’t take kindly to the possibility that their recommendations might gather dust on a shelf. And given the chair of the banking inquiry is the tenacious Andrew Tyrie, it’s no surprise that today’s FT reports that the cross-party group of MPs and peers will table their own amendments to the bill implementing Vickers in 2013 if the Chancellor refuses to take on board their ideas.
That a cross-party group led by a Conservative plans to push the government further on banking reform is awkward enough, but as one member of the Commission observes to the FT, the push is made more awkward by the group’s representatives in the Lords:
‘It will be a pretty formidable alliance when the first three speakers in the Lords on any amendment are a former Tory chancellor, a former treasury committee chairman and the Archbishop of Canterbury.’
The Liberal Democrats have always wanted to go further on banking reform than the Conservatives, and though Vince Cable and George Osborne may be wary of unpicking the hard-won consensus, the Commission’s intervention does mean that those tensions will be forced out into the open once again.
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