Economics secretary Harriett Baldwin: It's in our national interest to keep the City competitive

 
Harriett Baldwin
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The conservatives say their actions will keep the City competitive (Source: Getty)

As someone who spent two decades in the UK’s financial services industry, I know well that this sector is hugely important for people and businesses across the country. We need a highly competitive business environment to support that, and today I'm speaking at The City UK’s conference about the steps we are taking to strengthen this position.

We want Britain to continue to be the most competitive place for global financial services firms. It’s in our national interest. And with the combination of a highly competitive economy, skilled people, new infrastructure, good quality of life, the English language, location and the rigorous application of the rule of law, we can achieve that.

We also need a regulatory system that protects everyone who relies on banks. For there is no trade-off between high conduct standards and competitiveness; they are two sides of the same coin.

Competitiveness was at the heart of last week’s Budget and productivity plan. The chancellor announced that over the next six years he would gradually reduce the bank levy rate, and after that make sure that it no longer applies to worldwide balance sheets.

And the Budget’s corporation tax rate changes mean that our banking sector will face the lowest corporation tax rates in the G7, at 26 per cent by 2020.

Last week we also announced that competitiveness will be added to the Financial Policy Committee’s remit, and that we are sending letters to the PRA and FCA highlighting our priority for securing London’s role as the leading international financial centre.

We are also backing innovation in our financial services sector, which is one of the best ways to improve productivity, and one of our great strengths. That’s why we appointed a Special Envoy for FinTech, Eileen Burbidge, to champion FinTech across the UK and abroad.

Another real boost for the industry would be expanding female representation in senior positions. We’ve come a long way since I joined the sector – but there is more to do. So I’m delighted that Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the chief executive of Virgin Money, has agreed to lead a review into how women are represented in senior managerial roles, and I look forward to the results.

We are proud of London’s position as the number one global financial hub – and through the actions we’re taking, we’ll make sure it remains so.

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