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Mark Field staunchly defends the City and makes the case for a strong financial services sector

By Jonathan Isaby

FIELD MARK On Wednesday afternoon, Tory backbencher, regular ConHome contributor and MP for the City of London, Mark Field, secured a debate in Westminster Hall with the title "Rebalancing the UK Economy".

He opened the debate by stating his fear that those, including Conservative Ministers, who talk about "rebalancing the economy" so that it is less dependent on the City are "playing to the gallery as part of the general banker-bashing sentiment". 

He explained:

"It is superficially convincing to promote attempts to stimulate growth more evenly through the regions, and stepping up our game in the innovation and incubation of companies in the high value-added areas of high-tech manufacturing, engineering, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. I acknowledge my own part in that: I have played a role in ensuring the incubation of those small companies in the City of London. The Corporation of London is to be complimented for finding premises in double-quick time for such companies. I wholly support the initiatives of the Government, in particular funding the £200 million science park in St Pancras. That is both welcome and highly commendable.

"However, we should be wary of how the aim of rebalancing is pursued. Unwisely, most of the focus so far has been on how we might shrink the City to reduce its relative importance, rather than providing a positive economic climate in which all other sectors can flourish.

"Before we pursue what I believe would be such a dangerous policy any further, I wish to make the case why financial services must remain a central plank in Britain's bid for continuing relevance in a fast-changing global economy. A strong financial services sector is overwhelmingly beneficial to our nation. It will provide the critical mass to draw business to this country. It offers diversified sources of capital to small business. It makes huge contributions to the Treasury's coffers, in terms of tax and employment, and it supports a wide range of complementary industries, from law to leisure. It is also one of the very few areas where we might envisage significant growth in the decades to come.

"The tens of millions of people who join the ranks of the global middle class annually from India and China have a greater cultural propensity to save, and they will seek expertise in investing their savings for the future. It seems evident to me that the entire drive for the west is directed towards capturing the growth of the developing markets. It is an argument that has been put to me in recent weeks by German industrialists. Here in the UK, we have already secured such an important competitive advantage. It is in the financial services sphere. Why throw that advantage away?"

"It is time that we changed our attitude towards the City, from one of punishment, which has taken place in the past two or three years in the aftermath of the financial crisis, to hard-headed realism. How we treat our nation's most valuable economic resource in the years ahead will be a litmus test for international business in determining how serious Britain is in its wish to be dynamic and have an open economy that embraces global talent, promotes aspiration and welcomes business."

You can read his whole speech and the minister's response in Hansard.


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