By Marcus Leach

In a speech at the Mansion House the chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Lord Turner, said that the reform of the regulatory structure in the UK would help ensure better results than in the past.

However, he also highlighted remaining uncertainties and issues which needed detailed consideration by Parliament and by society at large before legislation was passed into law.

He set out how the new authorities would undertake their roles and the powers they would need to deliver their objectives. He also recognised the constraints they faced and how they needed to be tackled and clearly explained to society.

Lord Turner highlighted the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) as the most important element to address the failures that led to the financial crisis — filling the gap previously left between a central bank and the micro-prudential regulator. He identified two issues that needed careful consideration:

Forthcoming European regulation, particularly around maximum capital levels, had the potential to reduce the flexibility of the FPC to act according to the needs of the UK; and

What can be expected on macro-prudential policy and whether that includes policies to tackle downswings in the economy as well the upswings.
Lord Turner said:

''One thing which is crystal clear, but an area of significant concern, is that forthcoming European legislation must allow adequate flexibility for the national variation of macro-prudential tools. European capital adequacy regulation should enforce minimum standards across the European Union, but it should leave national authorities free to exceed and vary them above the minimum. The idea that securing the single market requires the harmonisation of maximum as well as minimum standards is simply wrong and potentially harmful.''

Lord Turner raised the question of whether the FPC should focus solely on financial stability or on the adequacy of credit supply to the real economy as an end in itself, important for macro-economic stability. This would imply making choices about the relative merits of different uses for bank balance sheets.

''Political independence to take unpopular action, to 'take away the punchbowl', is not the challenge today — the party is not so much out of hand as cancelled," Lord Turner said.

"And the issue with which the shadow FPC has therefore been wrestling, reflected in the record of the September meeting, is whether macro-prudential policy has any role to play in helping stimulate credit supply and activity in the downswing.

''If credit supply is the focus, it will be difficult for the Committee to avoid making judgements about the relative importance of different uses of bank balance sheets. And if that is the focus, we may need to consider prudential tools which lean far more aggressively than in the past against the proliferation of intra-financial system complexity, the use of balance sheets to support inter-bank position-taking which has been such a striking feature of the last several decades.''

On the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) Lord Turner said that the new authority will build on the approaches to regulation and supervision the FSA has put in place over the last few years. He highlighted that there needed to be a clear understanding in society that the PRA’s approach would not be a zero failure approach and argued that there was a real commitment to end the 'too big to fail' issue.

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