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British PM Calls for Return of Traditional, Conservative Banking


Writing in Britain's Observer newspaper, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is calling for a return to old-fashioned, conservative banking practices. It is a change for Mr. Brown who as Treasury Secretary for a decade was a proponent of the light regulatory atmosphere in Britain's financial sector.

Back when he was Treasury Secretary, Gordon Brown maintained that lighter financial regulation created jobs and wealth in the economy.

But that economic climate has changed dramatically during the past six months, and the global downturn seems to have changed his view.

Writing in the Observer newspaper, Prime Minister Brown says Britain needs a more responsible banking system.

What he would like to see is a return of more conservative, old-fashioned banking practices.

Interviewed on Britain's Sky News, Brown's Finance Minister in the Treasury Department, Stephen Timms says because of the recent global economic turmoil, the prime minister wants to see a number of changes brought in, including increased internal oversight at the banks.

"One is around bonuses, to make sure that those are focused in the future on long-term good performance with claw backs if the good performance is not maintained," he said. "Second, on strengthening the boards of banks so they can really understand the risks that banks are taking on and can challenge the management of the banks if that is needed because that has not always happened in the period we have just been through."

The prime minister also believes that worldwide cooperation is essential to minimize the effects of this downturn.

And Finance Minister Timms says specifics must be worked out in the coming weeks.

"We need to learn the lessons of what has happened for how we regulate banks in the future, including internationally because one of the problems that has emerged over the last year or so is gaps in regulation between different country jurisdictions," said Timms. "And at the G-20 summit coming up in London on the 2nd of April, we need to be looking at how we do a better job internationally with countries cooperating on regulating the banks."

Many observers agree that more coordination is required. On Saturday, nearly 100,000 marched through the streets of Dublin to protest against government cutbacks as the recession deepens there and unemployment heads up.

On Sunday, Mr. Brown attended a gathering in Berlin where leaders worked on forging a European consensus before the upcoming London summit.

The prime minister will also be meeting U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on March 3, where economic discussions will take center stage.

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