Clause 209 — The Bank Levy
Diabetes Prevention (Soft Drinks)
Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands, Conservative)
I entirely agree. Clearly 50% of nothing is not as much as 45% of something, It is important for us to tell the world that the UK is open for business, and to say “Bring your business to the UK”. That applies very much to the financial services sector.
We have already discussed how much money the banks might or might not pay towards reducing the deficit. What we are considering now is just the additional amount that they are paying as a result of the increase in the bank levy. They are, of course, paying an awful lot more to the Exchequer. I believe that the financial services sector contributes about £32 billion to our economy, and I think it important for us to retain and increase that amount of revenue. I firmly believe that we should have taxes that raise the maximum amount of revenue to be spent on our schools, hospitals and police officers, and that ideology should not determine how we set our tax rates.
The main point that I want to make about the bank levy is that it will raise the money irrespective of the amount of bonus paid. I remember when the previous Chancellor announced, in his 2009 pre-Budget report, that the banks would pay
“a special one-off levy of 50 per cent.”—[Hansard, 9 December 2009; Vol. 502, c. 367.]
At that time I was working in a large accounting practice, and was analysing the Budget. The biggest surprise came when the then Chancellor said that the Treasury expected the bonus tax to raise £500 million. Those of us who were in that firm at the time—it was one of the big four—were staggered that the Treasury should think that only £500 million-worth of bonuses would be paid,
given that the tax meant that an equal amount would be paid to the Exchequer, and I think we have now seen that that did not happen.
The purpose of the levy was to drive behaviour. The point of it was that the banks would not pay the bonuses. The then Chancellor said that the Treasury expected a reduction in the level of bonuses that would be paid that year, but that simply did not occur: the bonuses were still paid. I personally believe that tax is a very blunt instrument for the purpose of driving behaviour, and that people will behave in the way in which they wish to behave, whether it involves charitable giving, buying pasties or paying bonuses. Tax is something that businesses “manage around”. They do not think of it as a behaviour driver, and it clearly did not drive behaviour in the way that the Treasury expected in that instance.