Cleaning up bankers' mess
Bankers have made "an astonishing mess of the financial system".
So say the MPs on the Treasury Select Committee - and you'd walk quite a distance, across continents, before you would find many who'd disagree with that verdict.
But the committee's latest report in its investigation of the financial crisis spreads the blame more widely, saying that governments, regulators and central bankers all share responsibility for "sustaining the illusion that banking growth and profitability would continue for the future".
What an expensive illusion that turned out to be.
So what, for the MPs, is the way to prevent a repetition of this debacle and to make the best of our recovery from it?
Well, that's work in progress. But the committee does have a few recommendations.
For me, the most interesting relates to mutual building societies.
The committee believes the building societies have operated a "safer business model" than most commercial banks (with the recent woes of the Dunfermline Building Society as the conspicuous exception).
But if building societies, or mutuals, are not just an example of solid Victorian values but are also our financial future, it's a concern for MPs that establishing new building societies appears to be much harder than it was when the Ecology Building Society was started in 1981.
In that context, they also say it's unfair and troublesome that building societies are forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the costs of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme - which is the fund that compensates depositors for some of their losses when banks go belly up.
The MPs call on the FSA to review the societies' heavy contribution to the compensation scheme "with urgency".
Among their other recommendations are that the government take steps to improve competition within the banking industry, because they feel that the benefits of competition were sacrificed in initiatives to prevent banks from collapsing (this is a big hello to ministers' decision to allow a mega retail bank to be created when Lloyds rescued HBOS by buying it).
Also, the committee is not persuaded that the rescued banks have yet done enough to reverse the squeeze on lending to small businesses, in spite of their promises to do so. And the MPs fear that when banks do lend to vulnerable smaller businesses, they're charging too much in the form of fees (as opposed to interest).
The committee is particularly concerned that UK Financial Investments, the body charged with managing taxpayers' stakes in Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, isn't sufficiently arm's length from the Treasury, or insufficiently precise about its ambitions. UKFI should, say the MPs, be put on a proper statutory basis.
However, if I was surprised by one element of the report it was that MPs felt that retail customers like you and me stand a proper chance of evaluating when banks are taking silly and undue risks, even though recent events have proved that the most financially sophisticated central bankers, regulators and investors in the world were for years ignorant of the banks' complex and crazy investing and lending activities.
No matter that the FSA wasn't bright enough to see that RBS and HBOS were galloping towards the cliff edge, the MPs believe that the government should abandon its 100% protection of retail deposits - which is the current de facto reality - and make it clear that the formal £50,000 limit on deposit protection is not just a theoretical limit.
Why? Well the fear that depositors' money was at risk would "reintroduce the depositor's obligation to consider matters other than the bald interest rate in choosing where to locate their investments and thus ensure that the banks had a disincentive to be reckless".
Most, I think, would say it's a lovely idea that consumers could have enough relevant information to judge when and whether Mega Bank Inc is investing sensibly or gambling recklessly - but is it remotely realistic in an era of financial globalisation, even if the regulators start to do their jobs properly?
Which brings us neatly to the contentious point of the moment, which is whether the big "universal" banks - such as Royal Bank and Barclays - should be cleaved or broken in two. This would mean that the likes of RBS would be split into a putatively safe and simple retail bank and into a supposedly riskier investment bank playing in the global casino.
The argument is that such a division of banking activities would make it easier for regulators to protect the deposits which matter - that's our deposits by the way, those of retail savers.
I've bored on about this a good deal in recent notes, and will bore on a bit more over the next fortnight, when the chancellor confirms in a White Paper that he's not minded to dismantle the big banks in this way.
The MPs however are showing due deference to the governor of the Bank of England, whose instinct - they say - is that "a separation of retail from investment banking functions is 'very attractive'".
They won't dismiss his view "lightly". But nor do they sign up for it.
Which is probably not unreasonable, because there would be serious economic implications from breaking up the banks.
So however numbed you are by debate on the arcana of banking regulation, a bit more deliberation probably wouldn't hurt.