Letter to the Financial Times, July 21, 2009
I have been reading with some amusement, occasionally turning to bemusement, about the proposals to change the role of the Bank of England. I personally believe that it was philosophically right to give the Bank independence on setting interest rates, even if in practice that independence has gone in all but name as the current UK Prime Minister tries to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, Bank Governor and Foreign Secretary as well as fill his principal role.
I am alarmed, though, by Mr George Osborne's proposal to award virtually all responsibility for financial supervision back to the Bank of England. I have no real principled objection to the proposal, only a purely practical one.
The last time I spoke to anyone at the Bank of England, an exceedingly rare occurrence in nearly 25 years as a financial journalist, not one member of the staff there could tell me how long it takes to clear a cheque.
If it can't handle the complexities of one of the most basic banking operations, how can it be expected to carry out the multi-faceted role that Mr Osborne envisages for it?
Just a thought.