Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, has had a second opportunity to question President Junker’s choice of European Finance Commissioner, Jonathan Hill, in an unprecedented second hearing in the European Parliament.

Jonathan Hill has been called back for a second hearing as many MEPs felt he failed to adequately address concerns regarding his appointment [1]. Greens in particular 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.

As a member of the Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee in the Parliament, Dr Scott Cato has asked Lord Hill a further question [2], following her original question last week [3]. She said:

“I have serious concerns about Cameron’s man to take an independent position in the role of Finance Commissioner. The government he represents has consistently challenged EU regulation on a range of financial issues. Hill being grilled for a second time by MEPs demonstrates a huge lack of confidence in his abilities to work independently of the Tory government and for the benefit of Europe. To try and get an idea of how close he is to the government, I asked him a specific question about how many times he has met David Cameron or George Osborne, formally or informally, in the past six months”

Lord Hill responded saying that he used to meet David Cameron “a couple of times a day” when he was Leader of the House of Lords, but denied that he was ‘part of the Chipping Norton set’ and did not ‘hang out with these sophisticated, well-connected types.’

The second hearing saw Lord Hill face probing questions on key elements of his portfolio with MEPs repeatedly returning to the issue of his loyalties, given his previous career in a lobbying firm for the financial sector [4].

Lord Hill tried to reassure MEPs of his commitment to Europe and his independence from the City of London. However, Molly remained unconvinced:

“It is clear that Lord Hill has done plenty of hanging out with those well-connected to the city as well as with leading members of the Tory Party. Are we really to believe that he is suddenly going to drop all those contacts from his past and not be influenced by his connections to them?”

MEPs will now decide whether Lord Hill has done enough to convince them of his suitability. The whole commission goes to a full parliament vote on 22 October.

Notes

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/01/lord-hill-mep-pro-eu-chief-financial-regulator?CMP=twt_gu

[2] Question Tuesday 7th October 2014:

Following our last session I have lingering concerns about your stance with regard to the EU but my major reservations are around the question of independence.

Even some supportive commentators who think Mr Juncker was wise to nominate you for the financial services portfolio see it as a way of ‘muting’ the UK and clearly anticipate significant conflicts between the Government you have been a senior member of and the broader interests of the Union.

This is why I asked you previously if you cannot anticipate, at least generally, some of these potential issues and tell us how you would handle them in a way less extreme than having your responsibility on such matters removed entirely, as is now the case for bankers’ bonuses.

Can you help us with that and, as a related point, can you tell me how many times you have met David Cameron or George Osborne, formally or informally, in the past six months? I am interested in meetings of the country supper in Chipping Norton variety as well as minuted meetings attended by civil servants.

[3] Question to Jonathan Hill during first hearing:

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?

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/british-eu-commissioner-nominee-lord-hill-given-a-second-grilling-by-meps-9780794.html

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