Outlook: Bankers, tell us what you think

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The Independent Online

The finishing line is in sight for Sir John Vickers, the head of the Government-appointed commission charged with shaking up Britain's banking industry. Yesterday, he began sifting through theresponses to his preliminary findings, published in April, and he now has to present his final report on12 September.

Will Sir John stick by his initial proposals, particularly on ringfencing, which went down like a lead balloon with much of the banking industry? There is certainly something of a fightback going on – bank bosses are ramping up the rhetoric ready for what one might describe as a summer of discontent. They don't intend to give up easily.

The British Bankers' Association, naturally, is leading that fightback, though it seems to have changed its tactics. Rather than argue about the efficacy of the ringfencing proposal, the BBA now wants Sir John to think about the wider economic impact of such reforms. It's a throwback to a line we have heard in the past from the City: we are the wealth creators, do not fetter us with regulation.

What, though, have the banks had to say individually to Sir John? Well, we don't know yet, since unlike the BBA, the CBI and many other organisations, none of the big banks appears to have any intention of publishing the submissions they had to make before the deadline for responses to Sir John's preliminary report passed on Monday night.

It's curious that the banks have opted not to do so. Sir John has said he plans to publish all the submissions he receives alongside his final report in September, so there's no possibility of avoiding scrutiny in perpetuity. Indeed, publication may come earlier than that if the Treasury Select Committee, which has asked for copies of all the banks'submissions, decides to publish them for itself.

There's a good chance the TSC will do so: Andrew Tyrie, its chairman, has made it clear he thinks this is a debate the banks ought to be having in public.

He is right, of course: the suspicion must be that at least some banks are choosing to stay silent for now because they are busy fighting a bitter rearguard action against ringfencing and Sir John's other proposals. What does Lloyds have to say, for example, about the idea that it might have to sell off more branches than previously thought?

The problem is that if the submissions are only published alongside Sir John's report, it will be too late to challenge the assertions the banks may now be making.

That's not to suggest Sir John can't be trusted to hold his own – far from it – but this is an argument that ought to be conducted openly so that everyone can see exactly what everyone else is saying.

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