THE Government should support only banks that "have a clear and
explicit social value", the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin
Welby, said last week.
Speaking to financiers in Zurich last Friday, Bishop Welby, who
is a member of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards
(News, 20 July), said:
"In the same way as the ruins of Coventry Cathedral were turned
from a hideous symbol of destruction to a symbol of hope of
resurrection, of peace, and a new form of civilisation, so finance
can move from being the wreckage of a hubris-induced disaster, to
retrieving its basic purpose of enabling human society to flourish
effectively. To put it in one sentence, there is a need for
socially useful purposes for banking and financial services."
Bishop Welby suggested that the Government should offer
financial support only to banks that "have a clear and explicit
social value"; and that banks that demonstrate a "social purpose"
should "receive an easier tax regime and a lighter regulatory
touch". He also said that it was "essential" that "the process of
separating investment banking from . . . utility banking" should
Bishop Welby's speech gave some insights into the work of the
Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which is scheduled
to report before 18 December, in time for its recommendations to be
included in the Banking Reform Bill.
The Commission had been looking at how to restore confidence in
financial institutions, he said. The evidence it had received from
bankers "has said effectively, 'This was an unfortunate moment of
carelessness, we are very sorry, but let's keep going forward and
pretend that it didn't really happen.' "
By contrast, the evidence given by civil society groups "could
perhaps best be summed up with the French expression of 1789:
'À la lanterne'", the lamp-post used by mobs in Paris for
lynchings during the French Revolution. Before the financial crash
of 2008, financial markets "had no socially useful purpose. The
industry was referred to as financial services, but in fact it
Bishop Welby said that one of the "socially useful purposes" of
banking was "to harness the power of finance as something which
crosses boundaries. . . Financial services have huge potential as
vehicles of the common good in order to unite increasingly
autonomous and disparate societies."
Speaking on Monday evening at an event in London organised by
Occupy London (Features, 12 October), the
Executive Director for Financial Stability at the Bank of England,
Andrew Haldane, said that the Occupy movement's voice had been
"both loud and persuasive, and that policy-makers have listened. .
. We are in the early stages of a reformation of finance, a
reformation which Occupy has helped stir."
Mr Haldane said that the Occupy movement had been "successful in
its efforts to popularise the problems of the global financial
system for one very simple reason: they are right."
The Cabinet Office Minister, Nick Hurd, told a meeting of the
Cinnamon Network charity last week that the Government wanted to
work with Churches and Christian organisations to promote social
Living Wage. A survey by the accountancy firm
KPMG, published on Monday to coincide with Living Wage week,
suggests that one in five workers in the UK - 4.82 million people -
are paid less than the Living Wage. The Living Wage, which
employers are not obliged by law to pay, is £8.30 an hour in London
and £7.20 in the rest of the country.