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Uk Surveillance Probe Goes Public — Sort Of

UK says its local banking rules eased for all, not just Chinese

In July, a month after the PRISM scandal broke, the British Parliaments intelligence oversight committee announced that the countrys spy services had not illegally used the American program to access the content of private communications of UK citizens they knew this because the spy services, namely NSA counterpart GCHQ, told them so. Not the end of the story That said, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) conceded that the laws it was talking about were a tad fuzzy and perhaps out-of-date, so the investigation quietly continued. Now, after months of further surveillance revelations that point to GCHQ itself as a major data-hoover , that inquiry is set to widen: on Thursday, the ISC said it would also look into the impact on peoples privacy, and would even hear evidence from the public. Even more astonishingly, some of its evidence-gathering sessions may be held in public, rather than in secret as is the norm. According to Malcolm Rifkind, the ISC chairman and a former UK defence secretary and foreign secretary (pictured above): In recent months concern has been expressed at the suggested extent of the capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and the impact upon peoples privacy as the agencies seek to find the needles in the haystacks that might be crucial to safeguarding national security. There is a balance to be found between our individual right to privacy and our collective right to security. The reaction from privacy activists has been cautious , and understandably so this is the same Malcolm Rifkind who last month downplayed the significance of Edward Snowdens revelations regarding the UKs own Tempora program, a partner program to PRISM, writing : On Tempora, it has been well known that the fibre optic cables that carry a significant proportion of the worlds communications pass close to the British coastline and could provide intelligence opportunities. The reality is that the British public are well aware that its intelligence agencies have neither the time nor the remotest interest in the emails or telephone conversations of well over 99% of the population who are neither potential terrorists nor serious criminals. Modern computer technologies do permit the separation of those that are of interest from the vast majority that are not. Shooting the messenger The announcement of limited public involvement in the ISC inquiry follows an extraordinary two weeks in which the Guardian, the British newspaper that has carried much of the Snowden material, has come under sustained attack from the new head of the UK Security Service (a.k.a. MI5), leading right-wing newspaper the Daily Mail and even fellow left-wing newspaper The Independent, whose former editor penned the immortal line: If MI5 warns that this is not in the public interest who am I to disbelieve them? The attacks from other journalists led editors from around the world to defend the Guardians journalism last week, but this week Prime Minister David Cameron piled on, urging MPs to investigate the publication because what theyre dealing with is dangerous for national security. Conservative MP Julian Smith also asked police to investigate the Guardian over terrorism offences . However, this official attitude is not unanimous. Late last week, business secretary Vince Cable said the Guardian was entirely correct and right even courageous to publish the Snowden material. Former Home Office minister Lord Blencathra also said the public had a right to know whether they were being spied upon, especially as proposed laws that would have allowed greater domestic surveillance had been repeatedly shot down. He said that, when his committee had been examining the last such proposal, the intelligence services had not told MPs that they already had mass surveillance capabilities.

Malcolm Rifkind

it should be clear that this is not a special arrangement for China, rather it is part of a broader policy,” Bailey told a British Bankers’ Association conference on Thursday. Bailey said branches would only be allowed if the PRA had clear and credible assurances from the parents of banks and from their home regulator. “This is not a free for all,” he said. “Our stance is sensibly cautious, but not I think restrictive … And let me reiterate that it is a general policy, not a China policy, and it is consistent with promoting the benefits of an open world economy.” In the last five years Britain has required most overseas banks to set up their UK operations as subsidiaries rather than branches, thereby providing greater protection for depositors and taxpayers. Branches are treated as extensions of the overseas bank, leaving the British regulator with limited control over capital and liquidity. According to media reports Chinese banks have complained the rules made it hard to operate in Britain, prompting them to move much of their business to Luxembourg. But in announcing an easing of the rules Osborne was met with accusations that he was being softer on Chinese banks, and going against the trend of requiring tougher rules on capital adequacy and against money laundering. A senior UK lawmaker on Wednesday called on the PRA to show it had not been put under pressure by the government. Following Thursday’s clarification from the PRA several bankers welcomed the shift in policy as a boost for London’s financial industry. “I think it’s good,” said Jeremy Bennett, chief executive in Europe for Japanese bank Nomura. “We (Nomura) are a typical example of people who choose to base themselves in London because of all the intellectual capital. “If we don’t reach out to the big Asian powers and the big investors it is at our peril.” RESOLUTION PROGRESS Bailey said progress had been made in how banks would be wound down in an orderly way and ensure customers’ money is kept safe, meaning it was reasonable to take steps towards a resumption of the growth of cross-border banking in ways that were discouraged in the past.