After George Osborne’s evidence-free assertion that Labour ministers were “clearly involved” in the rate-rigging scandal, Ed Balls has come out fighting. Speaking in the Commons, the shadow chancellor has just revealed that Osborne and David Cameron once supported a public inquiry into banking regulation (something they now oppose).
Here’s the November 2008 Tory press release quoted by Balls:
David Cameron has repeated calls for Gordon Brown to hold a public enquiry (sic) into failures in the system of banking regulation.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, David asked Mr. Brown if he agreed with Lord Myners, the Government Minister who this week agreed that a public enquiry (sic) was needed.
David warned that, with unemployment and repossessions on the rise, the public must be told how we came to be in this position and added:
“On the day the American people voted for change, people in Britain will ask how much longer do we have to put up with more of the same from a government that’s failed”
And here’s what Osborne had to say on the matter:
The whole point of having a public inquiry is that it must cover the behaviour of everyone responsible: the bankers, the regulators and of course the ministers, past and present.
Because so much public money has been spent rescuing the banks, any inquiry must interview witnesses in public and one of the central witnesses must be the man who was Chancellor of the Exchequer for ten years and presided over the age of irresponsibility: Gordon Brown.
Separately, Balls has confirmed that Labour will vote against the government’s proposed parliamentary inquiry. Given that Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative chair of the Treasury select committee, has indicated that he will not chair an inquiry without cross-party support, one may not take place at all.