MANY people will see Brexit as an “opportunity further to weaken regulation of the banking industry”, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has warned.
Speaking in a House of Lords debate on Tuesday of last week, Dr Smith told peers: “I believe there is an even greater need for us to explore what progress has really been made, and, in particular, how we can know whether the necessary changes in culture have really been embedded across the industry.”
He explained that he sought the Banking: Standards and Reform debate after he had “witnessed first-hand some of the long-term costs of the banking crisis in communities across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire which lie within my diocese. . .
“Some bankers may think that we have moved on — indeed, they may have moved on — but the effects are still being felt in many of our poorer communities, especially in the north of England and some parts of Scotland and Wales.”
He told the Lords of credit unions that the Church had set up for people who are struggling. But, he said, “we cannot leave it to all sorts of people and charities to deal with this alone: there is still a vital role for government to play if we are to ensure that we do not have another financial crisis.
“We need to ensure that we have the right laws and regulations in place to protect the most vulnerable, and we should not be complacent.”
The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, also spoke in the Lords debate. He said that there was “still a long way to go to restore confidence in what is called the banking industry’s social licence to operate; it is still under suspicion. . . The values that underpin a healthy society and healthy banks are easily ignored and eroded.”
In response, the government minister Lord Bethell told the Lords: “The Government are keeping a vigilant eye on the regulatory framework for financial services. Improvements could be made.”
He concluded: “Today’s debate has made it clear that major steps have been taken since the crisis to implement the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards’ recommendations, demonstrating its determination to ensure that the sector is better regulated and better serves the needs of consumers.”