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Queen’s Speech: Banking reform on its way

Energy and supermarkets also in the spotlight

Queen's Speech 2012

The Queen announced new banking and energy bills in her speech to Parliament

Banks will be forced to bring in new measures to protect taxpayers’ money, while a new Energy Bill and executive pay were also outlined by the Queen in her speech at the official state opening of Parliament today.

The Queen said the Government would be focusing on economic growth, justice and constitutional reform in the year ahead.

The Banking Reform Bill will ensure that retail banks are ring-fenced from their investment banking activities, to protect taxpayers’ money in the event of the bank going bust. The Banking Reform Bill also says it will introduce further protection for depositors by ranking them higher than other unsecured creditors.

Government must be strong

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd says: ‘We are pleased that the Government is moving to introduce ring-fencing of retail banking. The Bill should set out a clear and urgent timetable for reform and the Government must not allow this to be de-railed by bank lobbying.

‘It’s also vital that steps are taken to promote choice on the high street. Without strong action, consumers will continue to pay the price for a lack of competition. The Government must make sure that the competition recommendations of the Vickers Report are fully enacted.’

Energy reform

The Government has also proposed reform of the energy market ‘to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity and ensure prices are fair’. A draft Bill will also be published to reform the water industry in England and Wales. This will encourage more investment in low carbon generation and clean energy, while restricting emissions of new coal plants.

Richard Lloyd stated that ‘the Energy Bill must put consumers first. We recognise that mechanisms to encourage investment in low carbon electricity generation are necessary, but the cost to the consumer should be the Government’s overriding concern when they are negotiating contracts.

‘Badly designed policies like the Carbon Price Floor, the Green Deal and the smart meter rollout could cost the consumer billions, it is imperative that this is not allowed to happen with electricity market reform.

‘People tell us rising energy costs are their biggest financial worry so the Government should also take the opportunity to reform energy tariffs and make them simple and fair.’

Supermarkets must act fairly

There will be new legislation to reform competition law, to promote enterprise and fair markets. This will feature a series of measures including competition, employment disputes, director’s pay and regulation, and the introduction of a Green investment bank to promote private sector investment in the green economy.

Shareholders will be entitled to vote on executive pay, under the bill, which will also create a single Competition Markets Authority, through a merger of the Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading.

Supermarkets will be subject to a new Groceries Adjudicator Bill, which will ensure they treat suppliers fairly so that farmers, as well as consumers, get a fair price.

The Queen announced around 19 bills in total, which also included modernisation of the pension system, the House of Lords, electoral registration and administration and parental leave.

More on this…

  • Which? energy campaign  – we’re calling for a fairer deal for consumers
  • How much does your energy cost? – use our free calculator to find out
  • Find the best bank account – with our Which? recommended providers
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