Empty words in Queen’s Speech

The Banking Bill and the Savings Gateway Accounts Bill were the two pieces of proposed legislation of interest to the financial sector outlined in the Queen\'s Speech on December 2.

But the former has already begun its passage through Parliament and neither address the immediate problems facing the mortgage and housing markets.

Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable said: “Setting a legislative agenda to deal with the economic crisis misses the point of how urgent the situation is.

“Rather than introducing legislation which will take months to come into force, ministers should be acting now to get banks lending again.”

He added: “The government should appoint directors to the boards of nationalised and part-nationalised banks to enforce business strategies that keep credit available for good businesses.”

The Banking Bill introduces a so-called “framework for protecting bank depositors”. It will allow the Bank of England and other authorities to intervene when a financial institution gets into severe difficulties. There is also an intention to change the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to ensure faster payouts. Meanwhile, the Bank will be given a statutory “financial stability objective” and be allowed to “lend in a more effective manner”.

The legislation will allow the Financial Services Authority to collect information from banks in difficulty and share it with the Treasury and the Bank.

The Savings Gateway Accounts Bill is aimed at getting people on lower incomes to save more. The government will contribute 50 pence for every pound saved, with savers able to build government contributions of up to £300.

Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the Association of British Credit Unions, estimated that around eight million people would have the chance to open accounts and said they would encourage people on lower incomes to save more.