Molly Scott Cato MEP has had an opportunity to question Jonathan Hill, a Eurosceptic and former financial lobbyist, and President Junker’s choice of European Finance Commissioner.

Greens in the European Parliament have been highly critical of the planned appointment believing that his previous role in the City of London will make him reluctant to take a tough stance on financial regulation across Europe.

The questioning of Lord Hill is part of a week long series of hearings in the European Parliament [1] in which proposed new commissioners are questioned by MEPs. As a member of the Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee in the Parliament, Dr Scott Cato had an opportunity to question Lord Hill [2]. She said:

“I used the opportunity I had to question Lord Hill to draw attention to the obvious conflict of interest he will face in his new role. The government he represents has consistently challenged EU regulation on a range of financial issues. As a former senior member of the UK government, I wanted to know what Hill’s strategy would be when dealing with potential conflicts between UK and EU objectives.”

Lord Hill responded that if the UK tried to negotiate ways around EU regulation, he would assume his role as Commissioner.

However, Greens and many other MEPs remain deeply unconvinced about Hill’s ability to act independently and his competence for the job of finance commissioner. Unusually, he has not been agreed in post following yesterday’s hearing and faces a second hearing next week.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme [2], co-chair of the Green group in the European Parliament, Philippe Lamberts, said that Lord Hill appeared to have little or no grasp of the major issues that he will face with the finance portfolio:

“No one from any of the main groups in the European Parliament would claim he had knowledge of the issues at hand; it’s just that some people were hesitant to send a rebuke to the UK at a time when relations between the EU and UK are quite tense. Lord Hill may be a good commissioner, but I would not assign him this portfolio.”

Molly Scott Cato concluded:

“Cameron’s man is facing an unprecedented second hearing because he failed to provide satisfactory responses to a number of questions, particularly regarding his role in the EU during UK renegotiation. My question and those from other MEPs has thrown into serious doubt his ability to do the job.”

Notes

[1] Greens perspective on the nominations and hearings for the new Commission: http://www.greens-efa.eu/commission-test-12691.html

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04jlygt From 1.13:45 in

[3] Question to Jonathan Hill:

You mentioned in your written responses that one of the key features of this parliamentary term will be the renegotiation of the relationship between the UK and EU. In the past the UK government has challenged EU regulation on a range of financial issues and we can, presumably, expect further action in future. We have already had several questions on the potential conflicts but I would like to press you on the specifics of the sort of negotiation the UK is seeking to achieve. Given the weight of the financial services sector in the UK, with the City as the largest non-Eurozone financial centre, I am sure that you have considered the problem of differences of opinion in areas such as benchmarks, money market funds, trading platforms, derivatives, and so on, as well as detailed secondary legislation covering banks and insurance companies. As a former senior member of the UK government, can you let me know if you see yourself having any role during the UK’s renegotiation and what strategy you would suggest to deal with potential conflicts between UK and EU objectives?

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