thanks to Paul Braithwaite
with Nicholas Oglethorpe, Margaret Felgate, Leslie Seymour, David
Browning, and a dozen members of the press, I attended two and a half
hours of TreasCom this morning.
Between the seemingly endless game of slick tennis (or pass the parcel?)
there were some VERY promising signs:
The new chairman lost his rag with teflon-coated Sir Howard and said that
he expected to be seeing a lot more of him if that was his view (that the
regulatory regime was flawed).
Committee member Kali Mountford had the refreshing habit of actually
repeatedly alluding to policyholders.
You may not know (I didn't) that the ill-defined concept of Policyholders'
Reasonable Expectations (PRE) will be superceded at N2 (sounds like some
crap new account from Barclays) on Dec 1st by a broader concept of
Davies, I felt, WAY overstepped the FSA's prerogative when he did a sales
pitch for the draft compromise that has been published. He said that its
adoption, "will result in the fund in future being reasonably
sound". But...there is NO proposal before us. And the FSA is bound,
WHEN classes have been defined, only to opine whether what is proposed is
NOT UNFAIR to all classes.
My view is that the Berlin Wall is cracking. Try as she did, Ruth Kelly
could not rule out compensation. TreasCom really has the bit between its
teeth. Penrose is his own man but I absolutely don't believe we'll hear
from him in 2002 and committee member James Plankett expressed concern
that we may not hear from Penrose in the life of this Parliament.
The best line came last when Sir Howard agreed that Martin Roberts WOULD
be available to give evidence (having protected him Feb 16th). He on
"the smoking gun" Dec 18th 1998 - and one man who has remained
involved through the past several years. Unlike Davies, he's a manager not
But to my headline:
The ambitious young Ruth Kelly defended the indefensible.
She regretted that Baird had not looked outside the Jan 99 to Dec 2000
period, though those dates had been chosen with enormous care by her
She suggested that ELAS, Herbert Smith and/or policyholders could sue the
regulator - whilst knowing in practical terms that that is almost
inconceivable (and VT has expressed that view to me Sept 18th).
The Treasury has behaved in a deeply, deeply cynical fashion for years not
months and Kelly tried to hold the line.
She was enthusiastic but not convincing. She had the gall to claim that
announcing Penrose in August was in response to concern for policyholders
when it was actually an attempt to bat a hot potato into deep field.
To give it a bland remit of "learn lessons for the industry" was
offensive when a million of us were suffering losses and anxiety and she
chose not to intervene on our behalf. On August 30th VT trumpeted with
seeming relish that "there will be no compensation. There will be no
lifeboat." Singing from the same song sheet, or what?
She called for a murder inquiry whilst the crime was still being commited!