Within a few days of entering office, chancellor Gordon Brown declared there would be statutory regulation of financial services and markets and a Bill would be immediately introduced. The Bill was subjected to a review by the government’s new pre-legislative committee. The consultation continued through three secretaries of state at the Department of Trade and Industry; more than five-hundred government amendments were introduced and 1500 in all were tabled. The Bill ran out of parliamentary time and required the consent of the opposition to be rolled over to a new parliamentary session. Now, as they say on the West End placards, with the Royal Assent imminent, the end is nigh. Except that the European Union has decided we should start all over again. France is calling for Union-wide integration of regulations for both banks and financial services to take into account cross-border mergers, the impact of globalisation, on-line banking, and the impact of the Euro which begins to circulate in coins and notes in only six months time. It will, of course, depend upon the regulation the European Union comes up with, but since the proposal is French-led with a French chairman, any new proposals are likely to be more rather than less interventionist. New Labour came to office with a business manifesto that pledged less prescription for the business community and less red tape. Such are the ways of government, the business community feel they now have more legislation and more red tape. In opposition, New Labour believed in compatibility of objectives; in government this is called joined-up government. But with more primary legislation promised to build upon the Cruikshank report into banking how many more bundles of red tape are likely? The European Union proposes to bring in its new banking and financial services regulations for 2005 and the government has spent three years in getting its present Financial Services and Markets Act on the statute book. With European-wide pre-legislative committees, consultation and amendments, business – let alone parliamentarians – will not be enamoured of another long and uncertain haul.
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