The Prime Minister highlighted the huge contribution the City makes through taxes, trade and employment – though he lamented “utterly terrible mistakes” made and promised to crack down on law-breaking, boost transparency and “clear up the regulatory mess.”
He warned “those who think the answer is just to trash the banks would end up trashing Britain”, pointing out that the sector contributed one-eighth of the exchequer’s tax revenues, even during the recession.
“I say recognise the enormous strength and potential of our financial sector; regulate it properly and get behind it,” he added.
Cameron also defended his role in securing defence contracts for UK firms, made the case for free trade and against economic nationalism, and for green enterprise. “Winning abroad actually begins at home,” he told the Guildhall.
And while explicitly disavowing the 1970s industrial strategy – known as “picking winners” – the PM suggested the government was willing to intervene to boost UK business, in line with recommendations in the Heseltine Review.
The new Lord Mayor of the City of London, Roger Gifford, also hailed the role of the Square Mile – especially its most troubled sector, banking – as “crucial to the security, safety, and happiness of the whole society of which we are part,” in his speech at the event.