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Governance deficit – the burning issue entirely absent from the Queen’s Speech

accountabilityThree related things became apparent on the day of the Queen’s Speech which show what is seriously wrong in the running of this country, but which got not a peep in the government’s legislative programme. They all relate to the key issue of governance in each area where the deficit of accountability is greatest – in the sphere of government itself and in the operation of the banks and the role of accountancy.

First, the government let it be known that they were not re-constituting a key Select Committee. That matters because Select Committees are far and away the most effective way of holding the government to account. The body in question, the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, had previously produced penetrating reports on English devolution, the need for a Constitutional Convention, Parliamentary boundaries, the future for Scotland, improving the legislative process, voter disengagement, the gagging bill, etc. – enough critical analysis for a domineering Conservative majority to want to get rid of it. It was a committee which led democratic scrutiny of the most powerful people in Parliament you’ve never heard of – Roy Stone, private secretary to the Chief Whip, and Mike Winter, Head of the Leader of the House’s office. They operate in the dark, agents of the secret state of the most over-centralised political system in the Western World. The government has less to fear now that a key instrument of accountability has been squeezed out.

Then on the same day the machinations of the banks were (once again) laid bare. Tom Hayes, former UBS and Citigroup trader, was charged in court with making ‘concerted efforts to manipulate Libor’ which earned him £4.8m over 4 years. He was the ringmaster of a conspiracy and ‘was wholly unconcerned that he was cheating those he was trading with’. More alarming still, a senior Bank of England official was sent emails that are claimed to have played a key role in the rigging of lending rates between banks, but did not take action to halt the wrongdoing. This blows apart the complacent claim that governance of the banking system, which previous scandals have shown to be rotten to the core, has now been properly reformed. It most certainly has not: how would a repetition of the trading scams in the gigantic Libor and ForEx markets be prevented in future?

Third, as the Financial Conduct Authority now investigates HSBC to see if money laundering occurred, it has emerged that it raises awkward questions for its chairman Griffiths-Jones who until 2006 was the UK head of accountants KPMG, and then chairman of KPMG while it slept so soundly at the wheel while auditing HSBC for which it received £82m in 2007. Despite the later scandalous revelations about HSBC’s private Swiss bank, the KPMG auditors found nothing untoward. What is the point of KPMG accountants if they find ‘no evidence of inappropriate conduct’, and are paid huge sums for their failure, and why is their former UK head then appointed to chair the FCA?

When will this country (not this government) wake up to the fact that the collapse of accountability across the board in the UK is now poisoning the raison d’etre of our most important institutions?

Image copyright: ijacky / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. swatantra says:

    Unfortunately, we can’t legislate for common sense. If we could the world would be a far better place. That’s why we need to tighten the screws on all organisations and introduce proper Governance Structures otherwise the don’t get registered in the Companies Register. And I say all organisations whether Private like Banks and The Labour and Tory Party or Pubic like Schools and Colleges. We also need to bring back the Standards Board and Ethics Committees to seek and destroy those people who are anti social elements like non doms and tax dodgers.
    One person we don’t want in the LP is Degsy Hatton. The Tories would have a field day if he were allowed in; Degsy should be on a lifetime exclusion clause; as should Ken L. They bth have the same toxic effect as Liam Byrnes Treasury note. Basically all organisations need to be a bit more careful how they are run and who is running them.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Liam Byrnes not may have not gone down well,but now all the leadership contenders are running round admitting we spent too much

  2. syzygy says:

    Ed Miliband really dumped us in it by resigning. The mood for exodus increases every time one of our leadership contenders open their mouths.

  3. David Pavett says:

    There is a useful piece by Vernon Bogdonor on these important and pressing issues in the current issue of Prospect.

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