Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Barclays chief John Varley defends big banking

Varley: 'The system has survived'

The chief executive of Barclays, John Varley, has defended the role of big banks in the global financial system.

Appearing in front of the Treasury Committee, Mr Varley said that big banks were not necessarily riskier than small banks.

But he conceded that many banks were currently "too big to fail" - a feature that would have to change.

Reform to the system should ensure that taxpayers would never again be asked to bail out any bank, Mr Varley added.

"We should be able to say to taxpayers - 'you should not have to do that again'," he said.

Reducing the size of banks was not the way to prevent that from happening though, he said.

"Size is irrelevant - what matters is risk," he said.

"The system would not be served by making big banks smaller - the system would be served by making big banks safer."

Profitability essential

A safer banking system, he said, would be created through universal regulation, and new rules to allow for "smoother" failures of big banks.

Mr Varley also said that large and profitable banks were better at supporting the current needs of the UK economy.

Banks had to become profitable again before government support was withdrawn, he said, even if that seemed "unpalatable" to the general public.

"Profitability in the banking sector is a pre-condition to profitability in the real economy," he said.

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