This week we published a joint letter, coordinated by Positive Money and signed by 28 cross-party MPs, calling on the chancellor to publish the shortlist for the next Bank of England governor. The letter has been covered in Bloomberg, Yahoo News, Financial News and The Times among other places.
The letter argues that publishing the shortlist would uphold public trust in the appointment process and allow for greater scrutiny by parliament. We also published a YouGov poll showing that only one in five people trust Sajid Javid to appoint the right person.
The Treasury has now responded, refusing to increase transparency. A spokesperson told City AM that ‘it would not be appropriate to put personal information, including names from the shortlist, into the public domain.’
It’s disappointing news. Publishing the shortlist of candidates vying for the top job – with their consent – is standard practice for institutions like the IMF and World Bank. It begs the question: why does the appointment of Bank of England governor not deserve the same level of openness? Our poll shows that trust in the process is already shockingly low, and the Treasury’s response will provide little reassurance that this appointment is being made in the public interest.
The Treasury also says that there will be an opportunity for scrutiny by the Treasury Select Committee ‘once the appointment has been made’. But as the letter emphasised, once the decision has been taken it will already be too late to have any influence over the process. This is not a sufficient level of accountability for such a crucial position.
The governor of the Bank of England is one of the most powerful positions in the UK economy, and candidates for the post have been asked to commit to an eight year term lasting until 2028. As we wrote in the Guardian in June, they will have huge influence over some of the most important issues facing the UK, including rising inequality, climate breakdown and runaway asset prices. It’s crucial that the governor is someone genuinely committed to serving the whole of society, not just a political ally of the chancellor.
The chancellor’s decision could be revealed at any time, although Bloomberg recently reported that the announcement may be delayed until after Brexit. In the meantime however, we’ll be working with our allies in parliament to keep up the pressure. The Treasury’s response is disappointing, but the widespread coverage that our letter received – and the fact the government was forced to respond so quickly – shows this is an issue that can’t be ignored.