What was the main cause of the financial crisis, and what should be done about it? Some blame irresponsible lending and trading at the banks; they say the major banks should be broken up to separate wholesale market risk-taking from retail market service-provision. Others blame the regulators; they say the regulatory system should be reformed to become tougher and more proactive.
George Osborne has chosen to hedge his bets, taking on both the banks and the regulators. In his Mansion House speech on Wednesday night he said: “When a system of regulation fails so spectacularly, people are going to ask what replaces it. When the failure of certain banks have cost the country so much, people are rightly going to ask how to stop it happening again.” He went on to announce the abolition of the Financial Services Authority and the creation a new prudential regulator as a subsidiary of the Bank of England. At the same time, he promised an independent commission to review the future of the banking industry, paying particular attention to the state of competition in the industry “and how customers and taxpayers can be sure of the best deal.”