ICAS grills Alexander on regulation

TODAY’S ICAS CONFERENCE kicked off with a welcome from institute president Iain McLaren. In the majestic surrounds of the Caledonian Hilton overlooking Edinburgh castle, he laid out the many challenges facing business and chartered accountants.

Delegates then heard a speech from Danny Alexander (pictured), secretary to the Treasury, who rattled off government initiatives to help Britain through the tough economic environment.

Chief among these was “slimming the regulatory rule book through the red-tape challenge”, examining regulations one by one and asking industry members to comment. He asked business audiences “sceptical after hearing so much about cutting red tape from past governments” to give the coalition a chance and be patient as the changes “start to bear fruit”.

When questioned on the juxtaposition between the post-financial crisis push for strengthened EU-level regulation versus the UK’s drive to cut red tape, Alexander agreed that “much regulation needs to be at international level”. Underlining the importance of Basel III, he said: “We cannot afford to bail out the financial sector again. Our focus is not on deregulation, it is on having the right regime.”

As a parting question, Iain McLaren asked whether the accountancy profession needed tighter regulation, as suggested by the recent European Commission draft green paper on audit. Alexander dodged the issue, saying: “I’m not an expert, but that’s why we need you, as chartered accountants, to come forward with your concerns and comments.”

The conference continues with a talk on the future of audit by Costas Markides, strategic leadership expert from the London Business School, and women on boards champion Angela Knight, chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association.

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