Newspaper review: Papers back action on bank reform


There is strong support in some of Friday's newspapers for the Banking Commission's report on how to reform the industry.

The Daily Telegraph endorses what it calls a "welcome foresight" on banking that it says has not always been apparent from Parliament, and it says Chancellor George Osborne should adopt the recommendations into law.

It backs the idea of Parliament having the option to forcibly break-up a bank, if a ring-fence of its retail operations from its investment activities proves ineffective.

In short, says the Guardian, the commission's ring-fence is stronger and more likely to succeed than the chancellor's.

It praises the commissioners, arguing that ring-fencing is an experiment that may not work and that more radical reform should remain an option.

'Bankers' poodle'

The Independent urges Mr Osborne to respect the plans. If he ignores the recommendations or tries to water them down, argues the paper, he runs the risk of being seen as the bankers' poodle.

The Daily Mail dismisses ring-fencing as half-baked - and calls on Mr Osborne and incoming Bank of England governor Mark Carney to go the whole way.

But the Times reports that the Treasury is likely to reject the commission's recommendations on ring-fencing.

The Financial Times believes the report makes stark reading for an industry that has completely lost the trust of senior parliamentarians.

The paper says it points to shortcomings in the coalition's legislation and its conclusions are largely sensible. For instance, it feels there are real questions about whether the ring-fence can be enforced between the two types of banking under the same roof.

'Flawed' Bill

The Telegraph is also supportive of what it calls a sensible set of improvements to what risked being a flawed Banking Reform Bill.

The paper feels the report has struck an appropriately sceptical note about the ability of regulators to monitor and control banks' behaviour in years to come, given recent experience.

The Independent also concludes that the proposals are sensible, and predicts that they are likely to be supported by people such as current governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King.

But the Daily Mail adopts a sceptical tone, questioning whether politicians and regulators will ever find a way of controlling the banks.

'Pompous' Patten

Meanwhile, comments from Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, on Thursday's edition of BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, come in for widespread criticism.

The Daily Mail describes it as a "shameless display of sneering arrogance".

Lord Patten, notes the Mail, blamed everyone for the BBC's shortcomings over Jimmy Savile and the Newsnight report that led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly implicated in a child sex abuse scandal.

The Sun, which calls him "pompous", says it is unfortunate that he has yet to conclude that he's the wrong man for the job.

In short, argues the Daily Mirror, the BBC deserves better.

'Welfare card'

The Mirror is also preoccupied by the news that the Work and and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith, is considering introducing a card which could limit how benefit money is used.

The paper describes it as another insult from a government which, it says, already insults us with disdain.

In contrast, the Daily Express praises the idea, saying it could help stop irresponsible claimants using benefits to fund gambling, drink or drug habits.

The paper supports efforts to deal with the workshy, but it urges ministers to ensure they squeeze the less deserving harder than those making rare use of a safety net that they have paid for many times over.

'New spirit'

The marathon news conference held by Russian President Vladimir Putin prompts much interest.

The Independent says it went on for as long as three football matches - or an uncut production of Hamlet - and it seemed designed to quash rumours about his health.

The Times detected a new spirit among the Russian media.

In the past, local reporters would pose polite, subdued questions, but this time they were not shy to ask about his health.

'Look on bright side'

Back at home, and many photographs of the latest flooding feature.

The front page of the Telegraph features a postman cycling through floodwater in Hampshire.

Both the Mirror and the Express show waves crashing over a harbour in County Durham.

The Express predicts that 12in of rain will lash Britain - and it tries to look on the bright side by telling its readers there will be no hosepipe ban next year.

Finally, at this time of year, there are often many reviews of the year's events.

'Rampant gradism'

Simon Hoggart, writing in the Guardian, lists his political awards.

In the category for jargon of the year, he chooses a government report on reform of the civil service that included lines about "rampant gradism" and "lean continuous improvement".

Introducing the report, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude writes: "We need to say that, because it goes without saying."

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