Bank review chief sets one year schedule

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The Independent Online
DON CRUICKSHANK, the former telecoms watchdog director general chosen to lead the Government's review of the banking sector, is to appoint a team of five specialist advisers within the next few weeks.

He said yesterday that an indicative budget has been agreed with the Treasury and that he intends to present his report to the Chancellor Mr Gordon Brown within the next 12 months.

Mr Cruickshank said the review had to be seen in the context of the wider efforts by the Government to close Britain's 40 per cent productivity gap with its Continental neighbours.

"In industry and government there is much interest in the need to bring the sustainable growth rate of the British economy up to Continental European levels, particularly if we are to become more fully part of Europe," he said.

"In this context there is a real interest in the supply side of the economy and it would be surprising if the role of the banks did not loom very large."

However, he insisted that it was not the purpose of the review to justify government interference in the British banking system.

"I take the view that the role of government should be as limited as possible," he added.

Mr Cruickshank who has set aside a "couple of days" a week for the review admitted that he had no direct experience of the banking industry apart from as a customer. His advisers will include representatives from the Treasury and the private sector and will be backed by a research staff.

At Oftel, the Office of Telecommunications where he presided over the break-up of the duopoly between British Telecom and Cable & Wireless, Mr Cruickshank established a reputation as a man who was not afraid of taking on vested interests.

A crucial element in the review will be to examine how the British banking system compares with banks abroad in terms of levels of innovation, competition and efficiency and whether there are any improvements that the Government could promote that would help boost the competitiveness of the British economy generally.