When I raised the need for criminal prosecutions in financial services at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons last December, I did not believe we would come so far, so fast.
Yet I feel that we have only just seen the tip of the iceberg of potential wrong doings in the financial sector during the financial crisis.
That is why I welcome the call for a Parliamentary inquiry into professional standards in financial services.
Put bluntly, people want these issues sorted out quickly, and they don’t expect to fork out a fortune to get the job done. The public wants to be engaged. If I draw one conclusion from recent judicial led enquiries, it is that they distance, rather than engage the public from the resolution of the issues that concerns them.
People want to know and see that those responsible are held to account and that those who acted criminally are imprisoned.
Parliament would have been weakened if, yet again, when a major issue of concern needed resolution, MPs had voted to pass it off to someone else.
Parliament has democratic accountability. Members of Parliament are responsible to our constituents and Parliament has the power to reshape the laws of our land.
It is time that Parliament stood up to these responsibilities and stopped contracting them out to others. The vote this week, and the willingness of the Opposition to engage constructively, is a positive development.
We are living through times not only of great economic uncertainty but also of great doubt about the veracity and legitimacy of major institutions that impact our daily lives: the media: the banks; the European Union and, indeed, Parliament itself.
In a democratic society, the pathway to recovering people’s faith in these major institutions – and Parliament itself – is for Parliament to assert its authority, to find its voice, and to work together to get the public’s work done. I am pleased we have started the job.