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Tories step up political row over the regulator

The row between Prime Min- ister Tony Blair and the FSA shows that the Government is in disarray over the function of the regulator, say Tory and LibDem front-benchers.

Conservative Shadow Fin- ancial Secretary Mark Field claims that the contrast between Tony Blair’s “calcu- lated” attack on the regulator in May and the Treasury’s sta- ted view of the FSA as “a beacon of regulation” shows that the Government lacks a coherent strategy on the regulator.

Field says Blair needs to show how to break through the technical and legal barriers which stand in the way of lighter regulation before his words in support of greater freedom for businesses can be believed.

LibDem Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable echoes Field’s comments on the Government’s position with the FSA.

Cable is calling for the publication of the four- page letter which was sent by FSA chairman Sir Callum McCarthy to Blair in resp- onse to the Prime Minister’s outburst. A small part of the letter has been leaked to nat- ional newspapers.

Cable says that the FSA’s opposition to the publication of the letter, despite requests under the Freedom of Infor- mation Act, shows “extreme bureaucratic defensiveness”.

Field hopes to meet with McCarthy, along with Tory Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, in the autumn to discuss their vision for the regulator, with improving competitiveness at its heart.

Field claims that he is getting a growing number of complaints from City prof- essionals about the effectiveness of the FSA and the regulatory burden that is being placed on small business.

Field says: “The Government is in disarray over where it stands on the FSA. The reality is that Blair’s words have struck a chord with Money Marketing readers and people in the City but what will he deliver?”

Cable says: “Keeping this letter private is utterly bizarre behaviour from the FSA. This is a public debate and the ind- ustry should not be denied access to the argument. What do they have to hide?”

A Treasury spokesman says: “The Government as a whole has made clear its support for the FSA and its high regard for the world-class regulation of the industry it provides.”

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