The Banking Inquiry and Libor were discussed at this press briefing.
Asked whether the Prime Minister had spoken to the Leader of the Opposition about a possible public inquiry on banking, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) confirmed that there had been a discussion at lunchtime the previous day. He also said that there would be a debate in the House the following day and that would allow the Commons the opportunity to discuss the issue. Asked to speculate what would happen if Andrew Tyrie would not be willing to chair the Government’s preferred option of a parliamentary inquiry, he told the journalists that any joint committee inquiry would require a motion in both Houses. Then asked whether Lord Turnbull had been lined up as a back-up to chair an inquiry, the PMOS said that the position had been set out by the Chancellor earlier in the week; the Government considered the best approach to be a joint committee, chaired by Andrew Tyrie. It would be for Parliament to take a view.
Asked whether the Government required cross-party support for a parliamentary inquiry, the PMOS said that we hoped the proposal could secure support from all sides. Asked why there was no timetable set out for an inquiry in the Government motion, he referred journalists back to the Chancellor’s statement to the House earlier in the week. He said that the Committee would have its own views on which items to cover but it was the Government’s objective that this should be done as soon as possible. Asked whether that would be by January, the PMOS said that it would make sense to conclude proceedings by then. The Banking Reform Bill would be introduced in the new year and was an obvious vehicle to make any changes to the law. He added that this had been part of the Government’s rationale for wanting a Parliamentary rather than a public inquiry as it would be able to progress more quickly. Asked whether it would make more sense to have the Treasury Select Committee undertake an inquiry, the PMOS pointed out that a Joint Committee would be able to draw on the expertise of both Houses.
Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with the Deputy Prime Minister’s view on a possible pay-off for Bob Diamond, the PMOS said that the DPM had also said that it wasn’t for politicians to micro-manage the pay and severance conditions of individuals. He added that Government had been taking action to tackle the culture of irresponsibility in banking and that the Business Secretary has set out a number of reforms to ensure that shareholders have a proper say on pay. Asked whether Bob Diamond should pay tax on his pay-off, the PMOS said that he would not comment on individual compensation packages, but the Government has made its position very clear by setting out reforms to tighten up the system. Asked whether he thought the DPM was right to say the public would be dismayed by any pay-off, he said he was sure that they would be.
Asked whether he had any information as to whether the FSA had instructed Barclays to lower the LIBOR, the PMOS said that was a question that the Treasury Select Committee would be examining that afternoon.