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Treasury must set early date as FSA hides behind N2

Sir Howard Davies&#39 performance before the Parliamentary inquiry into Equitable Life was the most disappointing since his appointment in 1997.

He refused to allow Martin Roberts,the only FSA civil servant involved in regulating Equitable for the DTI, Treasury and FSA, to answer questions.

He refused to offer an opinion on previous Government regulation, surely not too much to ask of a chief regulator.

To compound the insult, a story appeared in the Financial Times that morning, with the FSA conceding it had underestimated some of the risks,another snub to the inquiry.

Davies is at grave risk of making a mockery of Parliament but we will leave the final verdict on this to the MPs of the Treasury select committee.

Most seriously, Davies argued the FSA could not intervene fully in Equitable because it lacks full statutory powers,due on a date known bizarrely as N2.

Before this magical event occurs some time this year, the UK will witness the introduction of two new pensions, the erosion of polarisation and the launch of new distribution channels with little experience of selling financial products.

The 1 per cent compulsory cap on charges is pulverising existing channels, with the collapse of tied salesforces. It is also straining providers&#39 balance sheets and leaving a yawning commission gap between different types of products, surely a temptation for the less scrupulous.

Davies should be on the phone to the Treasury, demanding it gets its finger out on N2 before another disaster.


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