The levying of fines on banks by the world’s regulators, including our Financial Conduct Authority, is a measure of those regulators’ impotence. Banks are merely a protective vessel inside which bad behaviour can take place that ought to be proscribed as criminal. To fine the vessels for bad behaviour is collective punishment levied upon the taxpayer, honest employees, customer and shareholders.
The cause of the continuing banking crises is that it is not a profession. The professions of law, medicine, clergy, architecture and teaching are the least prone to corruption. This is not a coincidence. It is because the members of these professions have a code of practice to which they must personally adhere or be excluded from practising it. Failure to do so results in personal sanctions.
The bankers (famously) privatised the profits and socialised the losses, leaving the banks and taxpayers to pick up the blame and the tab. The latest forex and Libor scandals prove that nothing has changed and will not do so until criminal responsibility accrues to the criminals and not to everyone else who just happens to be hanging about nearby.
It may grate and be counter-intuitive, but bankers need to be made a profession.
That the City will feel no shame about the latest scandal is a given. Can I therefore propose a simple piece of legislation? Enact a corporate governance bill which states that any major bank transaction is carried out with the explicit assumption that the board is both aware of it and approves it. If that transaction is found to be illegal, both board members and traders involved will be subject to asset seizure. This will include, but may not be limited to, bank accounts, cars, homes and helicopters.
One hopes that would focus minds and spur the boards to take a little more interest in what their employees are up to.
British, and other, bankers involved in the forex scandal would do well to heed the words of a committee of the House of Lords: “The best banking system may be defeated by imperfect management; and, on the other hand, the evils of an imperfect banking system may be greatly mitigated, if not overcome, by prudence, caution and resolution.”
This is taken from the report of the committee of the House of Lords on the Causes of Commercial Distress, 1848. It would seem that some things never change.
'Philae’ and the search for life
The successful landing of Philae on comet 67P/C-G was an epoch-making technological achievement and everyone involved in this project deserves unqualified congratulation. However, the much-publicised scientific goals of this project fall well short of public expectations.
We should not be content with the boast that Philae will search for water in the comet – we know it is there already. What is most exciting is the search for life. For several decades the late Sir Fred Hoyle and I developed the theory that comets are responsible for the origins of life, and in recent years evidence in support of this theory has grown to the point of being compelling. Discovery of life in comet 67P/C-G would transform science, and would make billions of euros of taxpayers’ money well spent.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe
Director, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology
University of Buckingham
The wonderful achievement of landing a module on a comet will provide scientists with material for writing papers for many years, but its benefit to the man in the street is likely to be more questionable.
On the day in 1959 that I was conscripted into the Army and issued with a uniform, the quartermaster sergeant wryly commented: “They spend effin’ millions firin’ effin’ rockets to the effin’ moon but I can’t ’ave a bleedin’ electric fire in ’ere!”
After a 10-year journey Rosetta sent a message home from 300 million miles away. This morning after a five-minute walk I was unable to call home on my mobile phone from a quarter of a mile away as there is insufficient signal strength.
Vale of Glamorgan
Raped women are wars’ forgotten victims
So, the poppies are being packed up at the Tower and those on people’s coats disappear but in this momentous centenary year, with seemingly every angle of war examined, there was not a single commemoration for the women and girls raped as a direct consequence of both world wars.
Nothing for the women and girls gang-raped by the advancing Red Army in 1945, not only “enemy” women (who had the least political impact within Nazi Germany). Rape, including gang-rape to and beyond death by the Red Army, was indiscriminate and inflicted on women of Allies and Jewish women who had survived the Holocaust.
No thought for the women who raised children or those who were a constant daily reminder of the appalling assaults, which plenty of women committed suicide to avoid.
There were white poppies for peace and purple poppies for animal casualties. When will there be a commemoration for women raped and sexually exploited as a direct consequence of war?
Clare B Dimyon
Paul Donovan (letter, 13 November) regrets that the “better world” soldiers of the First World War died for has not come to pass. In answer, let me quote from this vivid picture of Edwardian Britain by a former editor of The Independent.
“Every town had places where the children were literally shoeless and where people were withering (not growing fatter) from malnutrition… Child prostitutes were readily available on busy streets… For the poor there was no state welfare, just charity relief or the threat of the dreaded workhouse.” (Andrew Marr, The Making of Modern Britain).
The modern world is not perfect, but it is a whole lot better than before 1914.
We can all do our bit for the planet
The argument of Nick Marler (letter, 12 November), that whatever we do in Britain about carbon emissions won’t save the planet because Britain is so small, is fallacious in a most fundamental way.
It is certainly true also that whatever the inhabitants of his street do, it will have even less effect, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t each do our bit.
Each time we as individuals walk or cycle instead of using the car, or desist from flying thousands of miles for a holiday, we will reduce the burden that will be borne by future generations, whatever collectivity we feel we belong to.
Fracking does not solve our problems
Oliver Wright clearly thinks that he has steered a reasonable course between the proponents of fracking and the protestors (Inside Whitehall, 13 November) but ignores the fact that shale gas is just another fossil fuel. The question he needs to ask is not whether Greenpeace is more or less persuasive than Cuadrilla, but how he reconciles the exploitation of unconventional gas and oil with the future survival of the planet.
We already have three times more fossil fuels in proven reserves than we can safely use, so why does the UK Government insist on fracking when renewables offer the only sane solution to our current predicament? He should also recognise that fracking companies in the US have not been prosecuted for air and water pollution because the Bush administration granted them exemptions from the relevant legislation.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Bucks
Monstering means they’re scared of Ed
The “monstering” of Ed Miliband by the right-wing press, no doubt orchestrated by the two Aussies, Lynton Crosby and Rupert Murdoch, can only lead people to one conclusion. The Tory Party is petrified that Ed Miliband will become Prime Minister on 7 May 2015. They’re scared the NHS will be saved from privatisation by stealth, hard-working families will get a fair deal and the Conservative Party will be sent packing by the British public.
East Halton, Lincolnshire
Ed Miliband should do a “Captain Oates” and allow someone else with a fighting chance to be installed in time for the next election. In 1983, Canada’s hapless leader, Joe Clark, stood down, thus allowing Brian Mulroney to succeed him in time for electoral success the following year.
In the light of his determined pursuit of fairness and justice, do we see in Ed Miliband the next president of Fifa (“FA braced for Fifa criticism”, November 13)?
Godfrey H Holmes
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