Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Public voice bank crisis concerns

Members of the public give their views on the banking crisis at the Edinburgh meeting

The public's concerns about the banking crisis have been aired in Edinburgh at a special meeting of the House of Commons Treasury select committee.

The evidence session was part of the committee's continuing inquiry into the banking crisis.

The committee, which has grilled financiers and regulators, heard from business, consumers and clergymen.

The event at Edinburgh City Chambers lasted one hour, with admission on a first-come, first-served basis.

The session chairman, West Dumbartonshire MP John McFall, said the views received would be incorporated into a report which is due to be published at the beginning of April.

"That report will focus on how we got here, how we're getting ourselves through the present situation and what the future of financial regulation will look like," he said.

"Thereafter we will be focusing on the issue of financial regulation and the international dimension, and hopefully produce a report on that - not least on the issue of the consumer and the customer."

One member of the public said the banks should focus on providing a basic banking service where "depositors could come in and be sure that their deposits were safe".

Safe banking

Mr McFall said this tied up with one of the objectives of the inquiry, the concept of a "safe bank".

"I think one of the hardest questions the chief executives of the banks have got from ourselves was would they agree to the definition of a safe bank which was there for the protection of customers' monies," he said.

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Tom Riley asked the committee to consider if there was sufficient morality in banking

"When men and women sit banking exams do they go back to first principles? How many bankers have sat banking exams and how many have passed?" he said.

SNP MSP Professor Christopher Harvie, who was in the audience, suggested the actions of some banks were almost criminal and that there was a lack of accountability.

In reply, Mr McFall said he now believed only a few individuals within the banks - often the "archetypal 35-year-old with a PHD" - understood the full nature of their organisation's financial activities.

He said: "You had the best and the brightest on these boards, people who had intimate knowledge of financial communities but were unaware of what was happening because the complexity of the products."

Michael Dixon from the Federation of Small Businesses said there was a long history of banks providing a poor service to small firms.

Other issues raised included the poor returns on savings, particularly for pensioners, and the ability of the Financial Services Authority to provide effective regulation.

Ben Alderson from the trade union Unite said he was worried the banks would use the current crisis as an "excuse" to drive through long-planned redundancies and changes such as "offshoring".

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