When a man who measures his words as carefully as Richard Lambert does starts talking about "banana republics" it ought to be time for those who regulate the banks to take notice.

As director general of the CBI, Mr Lambert is a much more cerebral animal than his predecessor, the jovial tub-thumping Lord (Digby) Jones of Birmingham.

As a former editor of the Financial Times and an ex-member of the Bank of England's inner circle of rate-setters, he is not by nature a rattler of the cages of the great and good in the higher echelons of finance.

Which means that, with due respect to Lord Jones, his public utterances should carry a lot of weight.

The trouble is, the man at whom Mr Lambert's recent attack on the banking regulation system was aimed will probably ignore it. Pricking Gordon Brown's thick hide with mere words is as as likely as stopping a panzer with a peashooter.

The CBI boss, you may remember, travelled last week to Northern Rock's north-eastern fastness where he attacked the tripartite banking regulation system that so signally failed to convince its customers that their savings were safe.

In his view, a largely post-industrial country that relies on its reputation as a global financial centre to make its living was made to look like a "banana republic".

"The crisis", he said, "was not well handled by those responsible, the Government and the City authorities."

Bank of England governor Mervyn King's protestations that his hands were tied by legislation cut not ice with a plainly angry Mr Lambert.

"You don't wait for the cinema to catch fire before you check out whether the fire precautions are working," he said. Mr Brown, as chancellor, put down the regulatory system that had worked very well in the interests of both banks and their depositors - with the exception of BCCI in 1991 - when he set up the monolithic FSA.

This has had two unfortunate consequences.

First, the Bank's ability to quietly shore up an ailing deposit-taker with an "out of hours" infusion of cash has gone.

Second, the FSA is top heavy with City bankers who, it could be said, identify too closely with the institutions they are meant to be policing.

And though their intentions may be honest, the systems designed to prevent Northern Rock-type crises developing are obviously not working.

How could a bank with such a hazardous business model - borrowing short to lend long - not have been called in to explain its plans for coping with a seizure of the short-term money markets on which it depended so heavily?

The mere fact that nobody asked the question until it was too late means that the system simply does not work.

And all the Band-Aids in the world won't convince a worried public that its savings are safer in a bank than under the bed.

If Gordon Brown doesn't get the message that bank regulation needs an urgent and drastic overhaul we really are in danger of becoming a banana republic - but without any bananas to sell. :