Tuesday News Review

Interim recommendations on banking reform

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats avoided an immediate row over the future of Britain’s banks yesterday as they both welcomed the interim report of the Independent Commission on Banking. Before last year’s general election, the Liberal Democrats favoured the total separation of the banks’ high street and investment banking arms. Although the Vickers commission stopped short of proposing that, Liberal Democrat ministers admitted privately they were unlikely to persuade George Osborne and David Cameron to go further than yesterday’s blueprint. The challenge now for Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who has led the charge for complete separation, will be to prevent Sir John Vickers’ plan being watered down – either by the Commission in its final report in September or by the Government refusing to implement the interim report in full. Battle has been postponed until the autumn. – the Independent

Banks breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as the Government’s Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) stopped short of proposing radical measures to increase stability and competition in the sector. Presenting what he called “moderate” interim recommendations on banking reform, Sir John Vickers, the ICB chairman, denied his team had gone soft. “I absolutely reject any notion that we bottled it. These are absolutely far-reaching reforms. In the modern history of UK banking, if these reforms were implemented I think this could be absolutely transformative.” The banks have been lobbying hard in the run-up to the ICB’s proposals. Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered have said they could move their headquarters outside Britain if the proposals cost them too much money. Sir John said there had been “no ear bending” by politicians to tone down the proposals, but he pointed out that the ICB’s remit was to consider keeping Britain competitive for business and the impact on tax and spending. – the Independent

Cameron under attack from Oxford

David Cameron has raised hackles at Oxford University with a comment about its numbers of black students. Speaking at a PM Direct event in North Yorkshire, he said: “I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. I think that is disgraceful. We have got to do better than that.” But Oxford accused Cameron of quoting an “inaccurate and highly misleading” figure. The university’s admissions figures for 2009 show that just one “black Caribbean” candidate was accepted for undergraduate study, out of 27 black students in that year’s intake. Last autumn, seven black Caribbean candidates were accepted and there were a total of 20 black students in this year’s intake. Downing Street later acknowledged that the prime minister was not specific enough in his wording, but stood by the broader argument over Oxford and race. A spokesperson said: “The wider wider point he was making was that it is not acceptable for universities like Oxford to have so few students coming from black and minority ethnic groups.” – the Guardian

Clegg warned of being wiped out at local elections

The former Liberal Democrat leader of Liverpool City Council has urged Nick Clegg to end the Coalition Government and regain the party’s independence. Warren Bradley, now opposition leader of the Lib Dems at the council, wrote in a confidential letter that Mr Clegg should pull out before “it disappears into the annals of history”. He warned in an email seen by the BBC that Lib Dem councillors were at risk of losing seats in local elections on May 5. Mr Bradley, who led the council for five years until May 2010 and is also a firefighter, said: “The boil is about to come to a head and burst (probably on election night).” In the e-mail marked “In Confidence – Private”, he said: “Many other long serving councillors could be defeated not because of their record, but because of your record and the perception of what we as Liberal Democrats now are.” Mr Bradley has previously warned that the Coalition’s cuts could result in the Liberal Democrats being wiped out in the North within five years. – the Telegraph

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