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Business Comment

Anthony Hilton: Bank’s new Governor must answer to us

The Channel Islands Stock Exchange is a thriving Guernsey based business working closely with firms in the City to provide market listing, international fund management and property activities. Business is booming and on Tuesday evening it said thank you to its City friends with a dinner and a debate in The Mansion House, the Lord Mayor's glittering official residence.

Two observations from the debate seemed particularly pertinent. The Tory peer Lord Flight wanted a referendum to take the UK out of the European Union so it could trade freely with the rest of the world and prosper like Singapore unfettered by Brussels regulations. His audience seemed less keen, perhaps aware of the fact noted here a few weeks ago that the typical Briton works 1,625 hours a year, compared with the 2,307 worked in Singapore. So a Singaporean in effect works four months a year more than we do.

The other thought-provoking comment came from Angela Knight – described as the bravest woman in Britain when she moved from the British Bankers Association to become head of Energy UK, the trade body for the almost as unpopular electricity industry. She noted that we get very upset when Brussels passes laws where we have little influence, and complain about the lack of democracy, but we are taking a far greater leap into the unknown right here at home.

We are about to appoint a new Governor of the Bank of England with unprecedented powers over interest rates, economic activity and unemployment, mortgages and how financial institutions are run. Arguably he will have more direct influence over people's future prosperity than the Government will.

But we are doing this without having put in place clear mechanisms about how he might be accountable to Parliament, let alone the public.