Tube strikes are a blot on our global reputation

Stuart Fraser
MY HEART sank when the International Herald Tribune splashed a large photograph of London commuters struggling to get to work on its front cover. Although the article rightly complimented Londoners on their determination to keep businesses going in the face of crippling tube strikes, it made me angry. This is not the image of London we need to project around the world. Whilst I, the Lord Mayor and many others redouble our efforts to strengthen London&rsquo;s reputation as a great place to do business, the RMT sets out to destroy this image.<br /><br />Last week&rsquo;s tube strikes cost businesses &pound;100m, according to the London Chamber of Commerce. The true damage is far greater. While Londoners&rsquo; journeys were back to normal by Friday the image of a city crippled by industrial dispute will be a blot on our international reputation. I urge all those involved to do everything possible to end the strikes.<br /><br />Infrastructure matters. Survey after survey finds that global companies consider infrastructure as one of the most important factors when choosing where to HQ, along with tax, regulation and skills. The real tragedy of the tube strikes is that London&rsquo;s transport infrastructure is actually enjoying its greatest investment for a generation. Tube improvements and Crossrail show London is serious about building a world class transport network for the future.<br /><br />The good news is that London&rsquo;s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure is still world class. According to a report commissioned by the City of London and published today, ICT infrastructure is &ldquo;as good as anywhere in the world&rdquo;. The report looked at five areas key to the financial services industry: network connectivity, data centre capability, electrical power supplies, security and resilience, and skills. It found the City&rsquo;s network connectivity and data centres are fully fit for purpose and should cope comfortably with future developments.<br /><br />On a different matter &ndash; European heads of state this week meet in Brussels to decide on plans which could dramatically alter the shape of Europe&rsquo;s financial services industry. The most controversial proposals on the table are the reform of the European system of financial regulation and supervision and a plan to limit borrowing by hedge funds and other alternative investment funds.<br /><br />I am not arguing that we do not need new regulation. But the detail of some of these ideas has not been properly considered. And when it comes to the impact of new regulation, the devil really is in the detail.<br /><br />That is why all European countries are signed up to the principles of Better Regulation. Unfortunately some EC proposals do not follow this course and the result is misguided, ill-thought-through and potentially very damaging legislation.<br /><br />Stuart Fraser is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation.