Group Puts Financial Regulation in Spotlight; Market Comment IN ASSOCIATION WITH Rensburg Sheppards Market Watch

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A NEW research body, dedicated to improving financial regulation, and backed by the Government, was launched in London yesterday.

The International Centre for Financial Regulation (ICFR), funded by the Treasury and 19 financial institutions, will be headed by Barbara Ridpath, previously head of ratings services for Europe at Standard and Poor's Ratings Services.

The credit crunch, the collapse of Northern Rock and the subsequent near-meltdown of several other banks, brought into question the effectiveness of the UK's regulatory framework.

The Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and Labour ministers all came under fire for not reacting quickly enough to the unfolding crisis.

Late last year, the situation became so dire that the UK government and governments around the world were forced to use public money to prop up teetering institutions.

In April, Britain will host a summit of G20 leaders and it is expected financial regulation will be a hot topic at the talks.

For the last few years, the UK has led the way in its "light touch" approach to regulation of City institutions. This allowed unprecedented growth in the financial services sector, but events over the past year have forced policymakers into a rethink.

Some traditional Labour politicians believe the Government should use the crisis to bring the banks and financial institutions to heel after years of excess.

But New Labour came to power in 1997, off the back of pledges to co-operate with the private sector and be more "business friendly", and would be reluctant to turn the clock back. …