Brown says tougher regulation needed on global scale
UK may create state-run bank for scientific innovation
UK’s Brown urges global supervision of banks
By Christina Fincher
LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for more rigorous global supervision of the banking system on Saturday, saying no hedge fund or tax haven should be allowed to fall through the cracks.
Speaking at Labour’s National Policy Forum in Bristol, he also spelled out a new vision for Britain’s domestic banking industry with nationalised and partly state-owned banks providing specialist services to better serve the country’s needs.
Brown said the financial crisis was an international problem that required an international solution.
“I want us to do what was advocated by our country years ago,” Brown said. “To have global supervision of what is a shadow global system. I want there to be no hiding place for special investment vehicles, for hedge funds or tax havens.”
Brown said the mandate of international institutions should be beefed up to deliver growth and jobs, especially for the world’s poorest countries.
Britain will host a meeting of G20 leaders on April 2 with pressure growing on policymakers to act on pledges to make the financial system more transparent.
“Because this is a worldwide problem of banking failures we are now looking with our other colleagues internationally at how across all parts of the world we can bring under supervision what is an international shadow banking system,” Brown said.
Brown said British banks that had taken billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money would be forced to tailor their services to better meet the needs of families and businesses.
He said Northern Rock, the failed lender that was nationalised a year ago, would focus on homebuyers while RBS (RBS.L), which may soon be 95 percent owned by the state, would concentrate on providing loans to small businesses.
Offering a radical new vision of the state’s role in the financial sector, he said the government was considering setting up a bank to boost investment in the sciences, as well as one to cater specifically for savers.
“We’re looking at how we can create an industrial bank – an investment bank that can fund the inventions and innovations of our scientists and technologists,” Brown said. “And we’re looking too at whether through the post office network or other means we can have a publicly owned savings bank.”
Brown had tough words for the bankers whose high-risk lending practices and bonus culture brought the international financial system to the brink of collapse.
“Some practices are indefensible and they have got to be cleaned up now,” he said. “It’s time to set new rules for the banks of all countries.”
Brown said the government was exploring legal avenues to recover some of the payouts given to bank executives who quit their jobs when their institutions were bailed out with state funds last year.
The government has come under heavy criticism after it emerged that Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) is drawing an annual pension of almost 700,000 pounds a year.
RBS reported a loss of more than 24 billion pounds for 2008, the biggest loss in British corporate history.
“We are exploring all legal action necessary to recover the pension payments from those who received too much,” Brown said.
(Reporting by Christina Fincher; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)