Barclays and banking, Scotland and the EU and the proposed third runway at Heathrow were discussed at this press briefing.
Asked for details of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement to the House of Commons on banking due later today, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that we should wait for the statement.
Asked if an inquiry into banking had been agreed on Saturday, the PMS said that the Treasury had confirmed that there would be an independent review into the future operation of Libor, which would look at the issue of criminal sanctions and if there was a desire to take further actions in that area, it could be done through future legislation.
Asked if the Government was satisfied that there were enough investigative powers to bring those found guilty of any wrongdoing to justice, the PMS said that the Prime Minister (PM) had made clear that he wanted to see real accountability for what had happened. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) had been working with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to examine the issue of criminal sanctions. It was not possible to apply laws that weren’t in place so the prosecuting authorities would need to look at these issues in the light of the law as it was at that time. This was one reason why the Government needed to look at this area in the future and potentially toughen the law.
Asked if the PM welcomed the resignation of Marcus Agius, the PMS said that this was a matter for Barclays board & Barclays shareholders and stated that the PM had said that the management team had serious questions to answer. The PMS also remarked that the Chief Executive of Barclays would be appearing before the Treasury Select Committee where he would face some of those questions later in the week.
Asked if Marcus Agius would remain as one of the PM’s business ambassadors, the PMS said that he had been appointed as a business ambassador because of his role as Chairman of Barclays.
Asked if the PM was concerned by allegations that the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England had been involved in encouraging some of the events at Barclays, the PMS said that it was right that the Treasury Select Committee would be looking into those allegations.
Asked if the PM agreed with Mark Hoban’s comments that any bonuses paid to Bob Diamond during the period of what had happened should be clawed back, the PMS said that the new rules on bankers’ bonuses had come in quite recently so provision for claw back had not been in place very long and probably didn’t go back to the period in question.
Questioned about the wisdom of giving more powers to the Bank of England given their involvement, the PMS said that the previous system of regulation had failed during the period in question and the FSA had been the regulator at that time, but the FSA had conducted a thorough investigation into the issue.
Asked if the PM’s view on whether we should have a referendum on the European Union (EU) had changed, the PMS said that the PM’s view had always been the same in that he didn’t think that an in-out referendum on EU membership was the right thing to do at the present time.
Asked why the PM saw no urgency for a referendum on the EU, but a huge urgency for a referendum on Scotland, the PMS said that on Scotland the Government had set out their position that they should hold the referendum sooner rather than later and that ongoing uncertainty on that issue was damaging. On the EU, the situation was different as there was ongoing uncertainty as to how the EU was going to change.
Asked about the PM’s view on the First Minister’s comments that he wanted a second question on the ballot paper for the referendum on Scotland, the PMS said that the Government favoured one question and added that the Secretary of State for Scotland had written to the First Minister inviting him to take part in talks.
Third runway at Heathrow
Asked if the Government’s thinking on a third runway at London Heathrow airport had changed, the PMS said that the Government’s position had not changed.