Europe

UK's Lord Hill approved for top EU job after questioning

Lord Hill with MEPs, 1 Oct 14 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Lord Hill's first question-and-answer session lasted nearly three hours

The UK's Lord Hill has been confirmed as the EU commissioner for financial services after facing questions from MEPs for a second time.

In an unusual step, MEPs had recalled him for a second confirmation hearing before re-affirming his appointment by a margin of 45-13 committee members.

Former French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici was also endorsed on Wednesday by the European Parliament.

He will serve as chief of economic affairs in the European Commission.

Committee members voted by 32-15 to appoint Mr Moscovici.

However, they rejected the choice of former Slovenian PM Alenka Bratusek as energy chief.

The new European Commission, headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, cannot take office unless the whole team gets the European Parliament's approval. That vote is scheduled for 22 October.

Worries about risk

Lord Hill's background in public relations came under scrutiny during the questioning in Brussels.

Some MEPs at the hearing also voiced concern about new EU efforts to boost the market in securitised debt.

Securitisation - the packaging of debt in complex instruments - was at the root of the 2008 financial crisis, as serious risks were hidden from investors.

Lord Hill said he favoured creating a bigger European market in securitised debt, provided it was based on "simplicity and transparency". There must also be "incentives to keep products safe" for investors, he said.

The UK government is keen to have Lord Hill oversee EU financial services and capital markets, given the City of London's key role in the economy.

But some doubt whether a Briton will be effective in promoting deeper eurozone integration, since the UK has not joined the euro.

Lord Hill said he recognised the need to "build understanding between the euro 'ins' and 'outs'... especially in the banking union".

Hungary's EU nominee, Tibor Navracsics, also met with MEPs' scepticism at his hearing on Monday.

MEPs voted against him taking charge of education, culture and citizenship, though he could still get a different post in the Commission.

Lord Hill's career

  • Born in north London in July, 1960
  • Read history at Cambridge University
  • 1980s - Special adviser to Kenneth Clarke in Conservative cabinet
  • Early 1990s - Adviser to then PM John Major during EU's Maastricht Treaty negotiations, which launched euro
  • 1994-1998 - Senior consultant at lobbying firm Bell Pottinger Group
  • Founding director of Quiller Consultants
  • 2010 - Becomes a Life Peer as Baron Hill of Oareford and junior education minister
  • Serves as leader of House of Lords and leader of Conservatives in the House

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