LONDON Dec 13 Britain's Queen Elizabeth put
central bankers on the spot when she quizzed them about the
errors that led to the financial crisis in a rare public
intervention during a visit to the Bank of England on Thursday.
She asked whether complacency was a factor and if the
financial watchdog lacked teeth, touching on a sensitive debate
that has raged since the near collapse of the banking system and
triggering widespread attention in the British media.
The 86-year-old monarch avoids entering political debate,
but four years ago pointedly asked academics why nobody had
foreseen the crisis, which forced Britain to rescue leading
banks, stoked a record budget deficit and sent the economy into
Bank of England staff attempted to answer her inquiry during
her visit, giving a technical explanation that prompted the
queen to explore the subject further.
"I suppose in money terms it is very difficult foreseeing
(things). But people had got a bit ... lax?" she said, before
agreeing with an official that the real problem could have been
She asked whether the bank regulator at the time lacked the
powers it needed, reflecting plans to abolish the Financial
Services Authority and divide its responsibilities between the
Bank of England and a new watchdog.
"It was really quite new, wasn't it? But it didn't have any
teeth or something?" she asked in comments captured in
television footage of the visit.
The central bank team giving the Queen an account of the
crisis were introduced to the monarch by an official as "some of
the staff who hopefully will spot the next one coming".
Her 91-year-old husband, Prince Philip, also on the visit
and fond of making off-hand quips, prompted nervous laughter
when he responded: "There isn't another one coming, is there?"