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December 31, 2015

UK\’s Financial Conduct Authority drop inquiry into culture of banking

UK’s Financial Conduct Authority drop inquiry into culture of banking

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

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The Financial Conduct Authority, one of Britain‘s banking sector regulators, indicated it has decided to drop an inquiry into banking culture, including practices and payment of banking staff. The inquiry was intended to review “whether culture change programmes in retail and wholesale banks are driving the right behaviour, in particular focusing on remuneration, appraisal and promotion decisions of middle management, as well as how concerns are reported and acted on”.

A spokesman for the Financial Conduct Authority stated: “A focus on the culture in financial services firms remains a priority for the FCA[…] There is currently extensive ongoing work in this area within firms and externally. We have decided that the best way to support these efforts is to engage individually with firms to encourage their delivery of cultural change as well as supporting the other initiatives outside the FCA.”

The Shadow Chancellor, Labour‘s John McDonnell, said shutting down the inquiry would be a “dangerous and costly mistake” and said: “This will be a huge blow to customers and taxpayers who are all still paying the price for the failed culture in the banking sector that’s been widely attributed to be among the main causes of the crash and the scandals over Libor and price-fixing”.

Members of the Treasury Select Committee have also been critical of the cancellation of the review. On Twitter, Labour MP John Mann stated the “FCA surrender to big banks today is entirely from pressure from Treasury and Osborne”. Conservative MP Mark Garnier, told the BBC: “There has always been this great argument that perhaps the Treasury is having more influence over the regulator than perhaps it ought to and certainly, if I was looking for a Machiavellian plot behind what’s happened here and the tone of the regulator, then I suppose I would start looking at the Treasury.”

Richard Lloyd from the consumer group Which? expressed disappointment at the cancellation of the report: “It’s disappointing that the regulator has decided against publishing this report on the culture of banking. Cultural change doesn’t happen overnight, so despite signs of improvement, the FCA must not take their eye off the ball and should continue to clean up the industry”

The FCA has had no leader since Martin Wheatley resigned in July following an expression of no confidence by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.



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June 23, 2014

George Osborne mulls northern England high-speed rail links

George Osborne mulls northern England high-speed rail links

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Monday, June 23, 2014

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George Osborne.
Image: HM Treasury.

George Osborne, the United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer, is to announce plans today for a proposed high-speed rail link between a number of cities in the North of England as a means to bring about economic development and build a “northern powerhouse” to compete with London.

Osborne says the individual cities in the north of England are strong, but “collectively not strong enough”. To remedy this, he is proposing plans be made to create high-speed railways between Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, the latter to link up with High Speed 2, the planned high-speed railway to run between London and Birmingham.

“We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns here in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west — to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city. I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high-speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds.”

The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said: “We said months ago that we need value for money for the taxpayer and to improve the existing plans to maximise the benefits for the whole country and strengthen the links between northern cities. […] Nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the north of England. Regional growth divides have widened markedly since 2010.”



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May 18, 2014

Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy

Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mark Carney in 2010.
Image: World Economic Forum.

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The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that the state of the housing market in the United Kingdom is the current biggest domestic threat to the country’s economy, due to lack of house building, and regulatory issues.

In an interview to be aired on Sky News today, he said the housing market is the “biggest risk” to the economy and has “deep, deep structural problems”. Of house building he said: “There are not sufficient houses built in the UK. To go back to Canada, there are half as many people in Canada as in the UK, twice as many houses are built every year in Canada as in the UK and we can’t influence that.”

“We’re not going to build a single house at the Bank of England. We can’t influence that. What we can influence […] is whether the banks are strong enough. Do they have enough capital against risk in the housing market?”

Carney also said the Bank of England would look into the procedures used to issue loans and mortgages to see if they were being granted appropriately: “We’d be concerned if there was a rapid increase in high loan-to-value mortgages across the banks. We’ve seen that creeping up and it’s something we’re watching closely.”

Kris Hopkins responded to Carney on behalf of the government, saying the government “inherited a broken housing market, but our efforts to fix it are working”. “We’ve scrapped the failed top-down planning system, built over 170,000 affordable homes and released more surplus brownfield sites for new housing. We’ve also helped homebuyers get on the housing ladder, because if people can buy homes builders will build them. Housebuilding is now at its highest level since 2007 and climbing. Last year councils gave permission for almost 200,000 new homes under the locally-led planning system and more than 1,000 communities have swiftly taken up neighbourhood planning. It’s clear evidence the government’s long-term economic plan is working.”

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called on the UK government to “tighten” access to the ‘Help to Buy‘ scheme introduced by George Osborne and the coalition government in 2013. ‘Help to Buy’ has also recently been criticised by three former Chancellors of the Exchequer — the Conservatives Norman Lamont and Nigel Lawson, and former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling. Darling said: “Unless supply can be increased substantially, we will exacerbate that situation with schemes like Help to Buy.”



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April 25, 2014

UK announces £200 million polar research ship

UK announces £200 million polar research ship

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Friday, April 25, 2014

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UK Chancellor George Osborne today announced a new £200 million research ship to ply Arctic and Antarctic waters.

Cquote1.svg The new vessel will make Nerc’s entire fleet, ton for ton, the most advanced scientific fleet in the world Cquote2.svg

—Nerc boss Professor Duncan Wingham

“One of the final frontiers in the world where there is still much discovery to be done are the polar oceans” said Osborne, explaining “our two current polar exploration ships are nearing the end of their life and need replacing. So I am delighted that we are investing in a new polar research ship to carry cutting edge British technology to put British scientists at the forefront of research in both the Antarctic and the Arctic oceans”.

The icebreaking ship is to belong to the British Antarctic Survey and is funded from a £7 billion pot earmarked for science over the next six or seven years. Osborne told those gathered at Cambridge‘s Laboratory of Molecular Biology today he had “made it [his] personal priority in government to support [scientific] endeavour.”

RRS James Clark Ross, one of two aging ships currently filling the role.
Image: Tom L-C.

Funding body the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) says the current ships, RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton, are to carry on operating at least until 2020. They were built in 1990 and 1995 respectively; RRS Ernest Shackleton is a leased Norwegian vessel. The new vessel is intended to be able to stay in the field longer and, unlike RRS James Clark Ross, feature a helipad.

Other specifications include the ability to launch unmanned submarines and scientific gliders, devices towed behind ships to gather data, as well as power through 2m (6.6ft) thick ice at three knots.

Osborne also announced the start of consultations on how to spend the rest of the £7 billion. The announcements come shortly after Nerc completed upgrades to ocean-going ‘bluewater’ ships RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook. “The new vessel will make Nerc’s entire fleet, ton for ton, the most advanced scientific fleet in the world” according to Nerc head Professor Duncan Wingham, speaking to the BBC.



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October 1, 2013

UK\’s Conservatives promise an end to deficit by 2020, Human Rights Act repeal

UK’s Conservatives promise an end to deficit by 2020, Human Rights Act repeal

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Image: HM Treasury.

Senior politicians in Britain’s Conservative Party pledged today to scrap the Human Rights Act, freeze fuel duty until 2015, and clear the UK’s deficit by 2020.

In a speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: “Provided we can find the savings to pay for it, I want to freeze fuel duty for the rest of this Parliament.” The fuel duty rise had been scheduled for next September. This announcement follows a similar cancellation of a planned fuel duty rise in the Chancellor’s March Budget which would have come into force in September.

Party aides said the plan would save motorists £750m a year, with petrol prices 20p a litre cheaper than they would have been if plans by Labour had been followed. Edmund King from The Automobile Association welcomed the announcement on fuel duty, but said: “it is worth remembering that every time there is a spike in fuel prices, the Chancellor brings in money due to the 20 per cent VAT [Value Added Tax] rate on petrol and diesel. This is not exactly a give-away, as even with a duty freeze the Chancellor is still raking in approximately 60 per cent of the pump price in duty and VAT.”

Osborne also announced that he intends to end the deficit by 2020 and wants to keep the nation’s finances at a surplus. This would be accomplished by a new round of cuts after the election amounting to £25 billion.

“So I can tell you today, that when we’ve dealt with Labour’s deficit, we will have a surplus in good times as insurance against difficult times ahead. Provided the recovery is sustained, our goal is to achieve that surplus in the next parliament. That will bear down on our debts and prepare us for the next rainy day. That is going to require discipline and spending control.”

Osborne’s speech also stated that the government intends to continue with reforms to the welfare system and to require those who have been unemployed for more than two years to take part in work placements in order to get benefits: “They will do useful work to put something back into their community; making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, working for a local charity.”

Labour MP and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves, said Osborne’s fuel duty plans were “panicky” and an “aspiration” without funding. Reeves said of Osborne’s plans regarding the deficit: “nobody will believe a word he says”.

Theresa May, Home Secretary.
Image: Home Office.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the conference that the next Conservative Party manifesto will commit to repealing the Human Rights Act 1998, backing a statement to the same end made by Prime Minister David Cameron in an interview over the weekend.

May argued that European human rights law had prevented the deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan, and that the guarantee of a “right to a family life” had become a “free-for-all” for appeals against deportation. In addition to repealing the Human Rights Act, May raised the possibility of leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) altogether. “The Conservative position is clear. If leaving the European convention is what it takes to alter our human rights laws, that’s what we will do.”

The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has expressed caution about plans to repeal the Human Rights Act or leave the ECHR, saying it “could be interpreted as a sign that Britain is not interested in creating a better world”.

“If we leave it then we have to take the international reputational consequences of doing so.”

The Conservatives have also faced questions about their relationship with the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, attended the Conservative conference and raised the question of deals between UKIP and the Conservatives at a local level. A number of Conservative MPs have said that the Conservatives and UKIP should work together during the election including Bill Cash, Douglas Carswell, and Peter Bone.

Senior leaders in the Conservative Party have rejected any suggestion of working closer with UKIP. George Osborne said: “The only candidates who will stand for the Conservative party at the election are Conservative candidates – a sort of statement of the obvious.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson joked of the UKIP deal suggestions: “you kip if you want to, David Cameron’s not for kipping“.



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March 20, 2013

British Chancellor George Osborne downgrades growth forecast in annual budget

British Chancellor George Osborne downgrades growth forecast in annual budget

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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A file photo of the British Chancellor George Osborne.
Image: HM Treasury.

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered the budget today, an annually-held audit of the country’s finances deciding how taxpayers’ money should be spent. He set out plans to boost the housing market in his fourth budget, as well as stating the economy will grow by 0.6% — half his prediction four months ago.

George Osborne revealed plans to improve the housing market, including a “Help to Buy” shared equity scheme which would offer buyers who can place a 5% deposit on a new house, a 20% loan to buy it. He said: “This is a budget for those who aspire to own their own home”. He also offered a new Mortgage Guarantee, created in conjunction with mortgage lenders — the scheme would allow them to offer loans to homeowners without the need for a large deposit and offer guarantees to support up to £130bn of lending for three years beginning in 2014.

As a measure to attract investment to the British economy, he announced to reduce corporation tax from 21% to 20% taking effect from April 2015. The rate of corporation tax has fallen from 28% in 2010 to the current level of 21%. The United Kingdom is to have lower rates of corporation tax than the USA at 40%, France at 33%, and Germany at 29%.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) stated the government debt reduction programme to reduce the budget deficit will miss its targets. The government has forecast the total public sector debt will begin to fall by the financial year 2015/2016, while OBR says national debt will reach a high of 85.6% of GDP, £1.58 trillion, in 2016/17. Osborne defended the government efforts to reduce the deficit and said: “Our judgement has since been supported by the IMF, the OECD and the Governor of the Bank of England.”

In response to the Budget speech, the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband said: “At the worst possible time for the country. It’s a downgraded budget from a downgraded Chancellor […] Debt is higher in every year of this Parliament than he forecast at the last Budget. He is going to borrow £200 billion more than he planned.”

The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls said to The Independent, “They are borrowing £245bn more in this Parliament, we said all along …said this two years ago, if they had moved more quickly with a sensible, targeted package of measures to kick-start the economy, which would have meant at that time more borrowing for a VAT [Value Added Tax] cut to bring forward housing investment, then we would have got the economy growing and the deficit coming down.”

The Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC in an interview, the “age of austerity” would probably end within the current decade, but made no more definite forecast.

The head of the British Federation of Small Businesses, John Walker, said: “The Budget opens the door for small businesses to grow and create jobs. The Chancellor has pulled out all the stops with a wide ranging package of measures to support small business. […] [W]e are pleased to see the scrapping of the 3p fuel duty due in September”.

Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of Unite the Union, criticized the budget for not helping working families. He said: “This is a Budget for the few by the few that attacks the many. Millionaires are days away from getting a £40,000 tax cut from the Tories, but George Osborne is using the budget to attack hard-working public sector workers. The worst chancellor in British history has gone further by giving big business another tax cut while staff caring for the sick get pay cuts. […] [H]e should have raised the national minimum wage by £1 and drop the senseless plan to give millionaires a tax break in a few days’ time”.



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February 25, 2013

Britain loses AAA credit rating due to poor economic growth and continued austerity

Britain loses AAA credit rating due to poor economic growth and continued austerity

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Monday, February 25, 2013

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George Osborne: “Far from weakening our resolve to deliver our economic recovery plan, this decision redoubles it”.
Image: HM Treasury.

The US-based credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service announced on Saturday their decision to downgrade their rating of the United Kingdom economy from AAA to AA1 – stating that lack of economic growth and austerity continuing into 2016 are to blame.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement: “The main driver underpinning Moody’s decision to downgrade the UK’s Government bond rating to AA1 is the increasing clarity that, despite considerable structural economic strengths, the UK’s economic growth will remain sluggish over the next few years due to the anticipated slow growth of the global economy and the drag on the UK economy from the ongoing domestic public- and private-sector deleveraging process”.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the move to lower the credit rating was a “stark reminder” of the debt problems that the country is facing and that the government is planning to stick to it’s original deficit reduction plan. He went on to say “Far from weakening our resolve to deliver our economic recovery plan, this decision redoubles it”.

The British economy shrank by 0.3% in the final quarter of 2012 and output remained flat throughout last year – the economy would have to grow in the first quarter of 2013 in order to avoid a recession. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned George Osborne last month that he should slow down the rate of his deficit reduction and austerity programme if Britain entered a triple-dip recession.

The Labour Party has said that the government must reduce the number of spending cuts and focus on growth. Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “This credit rating downgrade is a humiliating blow to a Prime Minister and Chancellor who said keeping our AAA rating was the test of their economic and political credibility.”



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  • “UK economy shrinks by 0.3% in fourth quarter of 2012” — Wikinews, January 25, 2013

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January 31, 2012

Elizabeth II annuls Fred Goodwin knighthood

Elizabeth II annuls Fred Goodwin knighthood

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch, has today withdrawn and annulled a knighthood given to Fred Goodwin in 2004, heeding the advice given to her by a forfeiture committee. Goodwin is the former chief executive at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) and was awarded his knighthood by the British government of the time for services to banking. The committee concluded “that widespread concerns about Fred Goodwin’s decision meant that the retention of a knighthood for services to banking could not be sustained.”

Goodwin was chief executive of RBS when they purchased ABN AMRO, a Netherlands bank, in 2007. The British government subsequently bailed out RBS for £45 billion, amidst the late-2000s financial crisis.

British prime minister David Cameron stated about the annulment: “The proper process has been followed and I think we’ve ended up with the right decision.” Cameron and Ed Miliband, UK Leader of the Opposition, both believed Goodwin’s knighthood should be removed. Miliband called it “the start of the change we need in our boardrooms.”

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg considered it to be the “right decision”. “[A]ppropriate” was the word George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer used to describe it. “RBS came to symbolise everything that went wrong in the British economy in the last decade,” Osborne stated. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland stated the title was given “for services to banking which could not therefore be sustained”, calling the decision “correct”.

Goodwin does not have the right to appeal against the decision, nor had the right to provide the forfeiture committee with any representations. The monarch holds sole responsibility for withdrawing all knighthoods; on this occasion Elizabeth II followed the advice of the committee, who decided to recommend the withdrawal to her. The Cabinet Office announced the advice had been given to the queen on the understanding that “Goodwin had brought the honours system in to disrepute”.

Speaking of the “exceptional case”, the committee explained: “In 2008, the government had to provide £20 billion of new equity to recapitalise RBS and ensure its survival and prevent the collapse of confidence in the British banking system. Subsequent increases in government capital have brought the total necessary injection of taxpayers’ money in RBS to £45.5 billion.” The committee understood that “Fred Goodwin was the dominant decision maker at RBS at the time.”

Until this announcement, criminal conviction and professional expulsion were the only causes for which individuals had their knighthoods revoked.



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August 13, 2011

David Cameron responds to rioting, promises changes on policing

David Cameron responds to rioting, promises changes on policing

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

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Metropolitan Police in Lewisham preparing for the riots.
Image: Stuart Bannocks.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that a change in police strategy is appropriate following what many feel to be an inadequate response to the rioting that has overrun many cities across England. Riots started in Tottenham on Saturday night after the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old taxi driver who the Independent Police Complaints Commission state was in possession of a handgun, but did not fire it.

During the Parliamentary debate on the riots, David Milliband, the Labour leader, called on Cameron to reconsider cuts to police budgets. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne described the communities where the rioting occurred as being “left behind” and “cut-off from the economic life-blood of the rest of the country”, and called for solutions to the “deep-seated social problems”

One avenue the Prime Minister is said to be considering is changing regulations on social media services like Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger, the latter being used to communicate between groups of rioters. The Open Rights Group and Big Brother Watch came out in opposition to any plans to restrict communication using social media, with Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group warning that such regulation would be abused by the police and private companies.

In Southampton, England, three people were arrested by police for the suspicion of using Twitter or BlackBerry Messenger to encourage the rioting. The government is “working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality,” said Cameron.

The Prime Minister also announced that he would consider using the army to support the police in controlling future rioting, and also that he would consult with William J. Bratton, CBE, who had been the chief of police in Los Angeles and a police commissioner in New York City and Boston. Bratton is quoted as saying that arrests are not the only way to solve societal problems which lead to rioting and unrest: “You can’t arrest your way out of the problem.”



Related news

  • “Three killed amongst Birmingham, England riots” — Wikinews, August 12, 2011
  • “Riots in England continue for a fourth night” — Wikinews, August 10, 2011
  • “Rioting develops throughout England” — Wikinews, August 9, 2011

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April 29, 2011

Prince William marries Kate Middleton—live updates

Prince William marries Kate Middleton—live updates

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