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George Osborne: Speech to the British Bankers Association

"Lord Mayor, it is truly a great honour to be asked to speak tonight - and to do so here at the Mansion House for the first time.

Let me just say, Lord Mayor, I hope it is not the last time you invite me to speak in your house - and I have put on my black tie to further my chances.

As the champion of the City, you have worked tirelessly in the last year to open up overseas markets to British financial services.

You have also spoken out about the need to encourage a greater culture of philanthropy in the City and you have reminded us all of the importance of those who succeed here in financial services not to become "too isolated, too distant from the real problems of Londoners who have to worry about the mortgage, the job and the car repayments".

They were powerful words. Well spoken and well timed.

For this year we were reminded that the world of the city trading floors and the world of the shop and factory floors are deeply connected.

We rely on successful financial services not just for the economic benefits that are so ably highlighted by my friend Angela Knight and the British Bankers Association.

The 5.7 million jobs you create and the £12 billion of tax revenues you generate to pay for our public services.

What a tribute to your success that this year's global annual report from Goldman Sachs featured on its front cover a photo not of the Empire State Building, but of St Paul's Cathedral.

The importance of your industry is not fully captured by the economic statistics.

You help the small business who wants to expand and needs to borrow to do so.

You help the large corporation that seeks new capital or tries to hedge its exposure to currency movements.

You help the young family that needs a mortgage to buy their own home.

And the whole of Britain has benefited from the innovation and the competitiveness and the ambition of your industry.

But we also know that because of the very importance of financial services, when you stumble the rest of the economy falls.

Who could have predicted, standing here a year ago, that we would have seen the first run on a bank since Victorian times and the complete seizure of so many markets.

It is approaching the first anniversary of that day on August 9th when the lending stopped.

We see the consequences for the wider economy unfolding every day. The fastest fall in house prices on record. The sharp slowing of economic activity. The rapid devaluation of sterling. And early signs of the rise in unemployment.

This was the year when Wall Street crashed onto Main Street, and the City found itself the subject of conversation across the country.

The questions for all of us here tonight are difficult ones:

How did banks that prided themselves on risk control get the risks so wrong?

How did regulators who prided themselves on their diligent regulation fail so spectacularly?

How do we politicians explain to those who elect us, the failure of regulatory systems we created?

And how do we justify to the taxpayer the use of their money to underwrite huge cash injections to prevent some banks failing - like the Bank of England's recent liquidity swap, which I supported?

After all, that money is not available to the manufacturer who has no cash flow or the retailer who buys a product that he doesn't fully understand.

The answers to the questions of blame will be provided in the numerous inquiries and investigations taking place in financial centres across the world.

The answer to the taxpayer is more difficult and lies, of course, in explaining the systemic risk that the failure of financial institutions poses to the wider economy.

But that systemic risk, and the taxpayer guarantee that it implicitly brings with it, puts unique responsibilities on your industry - and unique requirements of regulation and government supervision.

There is nothing new in this.

For hundreds of years here in the City of London, confidence in banking has depended on confidence in individual institutions alongside confidence in the government that oversees those institutions.

In looking for the long term solutions to the problems of the last year, I believe there is a deal to be struck between the government and the city.

Your side of the bargain is to manage risk properly, to understand the products you buy and sell fully, to make sure the generous rewards your staff receive do not distort proper judgement about financial control, and to be open, transparent and honest about losses in a timely way.

The City can once again lead the world in setting an example.

The government's side of the bargain is to provide you with a regulatory system that works, that provides clear leadership, that is proportionate, that does not stifle competition, and that does not, in trying to solve the last crisis, sow the seeds of the next.

Here, the British Government can lead the world and show how it should be done.

Let me give you some thoughts of what that involves.

First, we have to fix the tripartite regime of Treasury, Bank of England and FSA that provides the bedrock upon which confidence is built.

It failed its first serious test over Northern Rock, when, at key moments, it was not clear who was actually in charge.

Each member of the tri-partite regime has a responsibility to put its own house in order.

The FSA should be congratulated for their hard-hitting internal report about their failings.

The Bank too has accepted that it moved too far in the direction of becoming simply a monetary authority, and I welcome Mervyn King's decision to beef up its capacity on financial stability

The Treasury, however, has not yet faced up to its internal weaknesses. Too busy building empires across Whitehall, it neglected its core functions.

Now, in rather clumsy briefings, the Chancellor has let it be known that he wants to impose a financial policy committee on the Bank of England. But it is not clear what executive function this committee would perform.

And surely major internal reforms of the Bank of England should be produced in conjunction with the Governor, and in an orderly and timely way?

The current briefings and counter-briefings suggest that relations between two of the most important institutions are not good - and that in turn is bad for Britain's financial services.

Fixing the regulatory system is not just about institutions; it also involves providing regulators with new powers.

We agree with the Government that a new bank resolution regime should be created - indeed we proposed it last December.

Where we disagree is over the question of who should be able to pull the trigger.

We believe the Bank of England should have the power to do so, alongside the FSA. So does the Governor - and the cross-party House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, and I congratulate John on the work you have done.

The Government, however, believes the trigger on bank resolution should rest exclusively with the FSA.

I respect their arguments but I think they are wrong.

I don't think it is prudent to give the regulator the exclusive power to deal with potential failures of the regulation - nor should we ask the Bank of England to take greater responsibility for financial stability and avoiding systemic risk without giving it the tools to do the job.

As well as fixing the supervisory regime, we also need to ensure our consumer protection rules are up to date.

Above all, that means a modern system of deposit insurance to reassure retail savers.

Last September, Alistair Darling suggested the first £100,000 of savings should be protected.

We believe a £50,000 limit, similar to the $100,000 limit in the United States, would strike a better balance - and I agree with the BBA that it should be post-funded.

So if the first changes are to the domestic regulatory structures, so the second priority is greater macro-prudential regulation.

The debate about how to defuse asset bubbles continues - and I went to Washington last weekend to talk to Ben Bernanke about it.

I remain sceptical that we can use traditional monetary policy to target both price stability and asset prices.

David Cameron and I have been looking at more closely at the idea that capital adequacy rules could be used to better manage the credit cycle.

At the very minimum, we must reduce the pro-cyclicality in the current rules by revisiting parts of Basel II and changing the way the credit rating agencies operate.

We also need to develop better market infrastructure to minimise counterparty risk, and at the same time improve transparency, for example through clearing houses for some products now traded directly.

This is a real opportunity for the City to steal a march.

The third and final priority lies squarely in my brief.

We have to make sure that, in future, macro-economic policy and fiscal policy work together instead of pulling in opposite directions.

Last week, the OECD said the British Government had 'limited options' because of 'excessively loose fiscal policy' in recent years.

That is OECD-speak for: we borrowed too much and spent too much in the good years - and there is nothing left to deal with the difficult times.

Indeed, going into this downturn, we have virtually the highest budget deficit in the developed world.

Turn to the back page of this week's Economist Magazine and you will see that only Hungary, Pakistan, and Egypt have higher deficits.

It is - in my view - an example of gross economic incompetence.

The debate in America is how quickly can the fiscal stimulus package reach Americans.

The debate in European countries like Spain and Sweden is: how shall we spend our budget surplus.

Only Britain is raising taxes as its response to an economic slowdown.

And not only are the taxes on capital gains, small businesses, family cars and the low paid rising - but the way many of these taxes have been chopped and changed, and changed again by the Chancellor, has damaged the reputation of Britain as a stable place to invest.

We need to set the country on a long term fiscal path that sees government growing more slowly than the economy.

We need to see the share of national income taken by the state falling.

We have to simplify what has become the most complex tax code in the country, and bring certainty and stability back to the decision making of the Treasury.

Taken together, that is the long term, sustainable path to lower and simpler taxes - and we have already made commitments to reduce corporation taxes.

Next time, we should fix the roof when the sun is shining.

Mr Lord Mayor, I would try your patience if I went on to talk about the other reforms we must bring about - to education, welfare and transport.

But let me end by saying this.

Opposition is a pretty miserable business, even when you're ahead.

You spend your time saying things instead of doing them.

But it does have one silver lining. You are not surrounded by bureaucracies and the received wisdom of Whitehall. You can get out and listen and talk to people - and you can learn and think afresh.

That is what I have tried to do in the three years I have done this job.

That is what I want to continue doing with all the people in this magnificent room.

And then, perhaps, you will invite me back."

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