Governor backs watchdog merger

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The Independent Online

Economics Correspondent

Eddie George, Governor of the Bank of England, hinted last night that he would favour some mergers between financial regulators to improve consumer protection.

His remarks will be seen as lending the Bank's support to proposals for a single body such as the Securities and Investments Board to take responsibility for the regulation of retail financial products.

Mr George also said it was essential for the quality of people involved in regulation and co-operation between regulators to improve.

Mr George stressed, in a speech to financiers in Edinburgh, that the regulation of financial services was bound to be complex because of the wide variety of financial institutions and products. The only answer, he argued, was close co-operation between different regulators, including those overseas.

However, he added: ''That does not necessarily mean that some further institutional consolidation of the regulatory structure is not worth undertaking.

"There are many ways of skinning this particular cat and it may well be that in some areas consolidation would make co-operation, between some domestic regulators at least, easier to achieve.''

Mr George said yesterday there was a trade-off between protecting investors and the financial system and imposing excessive costs of regulation.

Retail consumers did need special protection, he added. There was ''essentially a social argument for protecting consumers, who necessarily rely upon purportedly expert financial advice and assistance, against being sold a pup.''