As the bankers squirm during today’s session with the Treasury Select Committee, one man should count himself lucky that he is not there. That is Sir Steve Robson, ex permanent secretary at the Treasury and more recently non-executive director of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Robson is a serial offender when it comes to wasting taxpayers money. A very cerebral and self-confident mandarin, he pushed through the structure of rail privatisation, insisting on the separation between operations and infrastructure that is at root of so many of the railway’s problems and so heavily criticised by rail managers from Japan who know how to run a railroad. Robson was obsessed with the notion of open access and stimulating competition, and had no knowledge of operating practices of the railway. With the Tory politicians unable to agree on a new model for the industry, Robson was able to push through his scheme ignoring the protests of all and sundry in the industry.
It was he who had the notion that every train path should be sold individually which fortunately never came to fruition. At the Treasury, he also blocked moves to regulate the banking industry more tightly and then got his reward by being made a non-executive director of RBS. The role of non-execs is to safeguard the interests of shareholders. With RBS shares having gone done from £17 50 to 22p in the past four years, he has obviously done as good a job with the banking industry as he did on the railways and clearly deserves his knighthood.