I beg to move amendment 13, page 42, line 30, at end insert—
‘(2) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall review the possibility of incorporating a bank payroll tax within the bank levy and publish a report, within six months of the passing of this Act, on how the additional revenue raised would be invested to create new jobs and tackle unemployment.’.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 31, page 42, line 30, at end insert—
‘(2) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall review the possibility of incorporating a bank financial transaction tax within the bank levy, levied on trading in financial products including stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, futures and options and publish a report within six months of the passing of this Act, on how the additional revenue raised would be invested to tackle unemployment and reduce poverty in the United Kingdom and to assist in tackling deprivation in the developing world.’.
Government amendments 32 to 50.
We now come to our general debate on taxation in respect of the Finance Bill. Clearly, one of the major omissions from the Bill is a repeat of the bank payroll levy or bonus tax that the previous Labour Administration implemented in 2009. It is not only a matter of fairness that bankers should pay some of their substantial bonuses to support people far less fortunate than them and to rebuild public trust; it makes economic sense too. I hope that our amendment 13 will persuade the Government of the merits of a review of how the bank bonus arrangement could be incorporated into the bank levy. A fair tax on bank bonuses would help to get people off the dole and into work, and it is the best way to get the deficit down and stop Britain’s talent going to waste.
Youth unemployment rose sharply in the recession, as we know, but a year ago it was starting to fall steadily thanks in part to the youth jobs programme and the future jobs fund advocated by the previous Administration. One of the first things that the current Chancellor of the Exchequer did was to scrap that successful programme. Before the election the leader of the Liberal Democrats, now the Deputy Prime Minister, said:
“Parents used to worry about whether their children could get onto the housing ladder, now the concern has spread to whether they can even get a job…We must provide a lifeboat to this lost generation.”
Well, he and the Prime Minister have sunk that lifeboat.
In the 1980s, youth unemployment continued to rise for four years after the recession was over, and whole communities were scarred as a result. Many of the effects can still be seen and felt in places across the country. That is why we believe we need to act urgently to prevent disastrous mistakes from being repeated. There are now 31,000 more young people unemployed than there were last summer, and one in five 16 to
24-year-olds is now out of work. Although there has been a welcome fall in unemployment in the past two months, the claimant count is still rising, vacancies are down and job creation has slowed in the six months since the spending review. Unemployment is set to be 200,000 higher over the coming years than was expected just a few months ago, and the Office for Budget Responsibility keeps revising the figure upwards, just as it keeps revising the growth figures downwards.
We believe that a repeat of the bank bonus tax could be used to create more than 100,000 jobs, build 25,000 affordable homes, rescue construction apprenticeships and of course boost investment in businesses. Putting young people on the dole is not just a waste of talent but a waste of money, and failing to get Britain back to work fast enough is helping to push the benefits bill and welfare costs up by more than £12 billion, or more than £500 a household. It is not rocket science—more young people out of work means more money spent on benefits and less money coming in through tax receipts to pay down the deficit.
Considering how the future jobs fund and the bank bonus levy worked, we believe that sufficient revenue could be raised to invest the money in creating 90,000 good jobs to get young people into work and ensure that we do not make the mistakes of the past. It could also be used to build 25,000 homes to support people as they get back to work. Our plan could generate more than 20,000 jobs in that sector and save several times more jobs in the supply chain and as many as 1,500 construction apprenticeships. That would leave sufficient resources to boost the regional growth fund by £200 million, to support companies that want to start projects that will create more jobs, meaning more help for small businesses in regions up and down our country.
Our amendment is pretty straightforward and, I hope, fairly unobjectionable. It asks the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the possibility of incorporating a bank payroll tax within the bank levy, and to publish within six months of the passing of the Finance Bill a report on how the additional revenue would be used.
One of the objections that has been raised to reintroducing the bank bonus tax is that it would lead to a flight of talent abroad. We have often been told that a number of people would go from the City to Switzerland, for example. Has my hon. Friend noticed that in 2011, just under 400 of the 330,000 people working in banking and financial services in the City went to Switzerland, and that the year before the number going there fell by 7%?
An excellent statistic from my hon. Friend. We are often told that the reason why we cannot take any action is that complex descriptor “regulatory arbitrage”. It is a term that belies what it actually means—people fleeing the country, usually because they want to pay lower taxes. Actually, there are good reasons for the financial services sector to stay and thrive in this country, and they are not just about tax and regulation. They are not always financial reasons. We have Greenwich mean time, and we have a great rule of a law that can ensure that businesses succeed and thrive. I believe that that is ample for our financial services sector to be rejuvenated and sustainable. The talk of “regulatory arbitrage” is in many cases the last refuge of the scoundrel.
The Government are letting the banks off the hook. They are taking a light-touch approach on taxing the banks by failing to repeat the banker bonus tax that the previous Labour Government levied, which brought in £3.5 billion.
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that this Government’s banking levy raises £2.5 billion, compared with the £2.3 billion one-off net yield of the bonus tax that the previous Government levied? The bank levy is a proactive statement by this Government—action that will lead to the raising of more than £10 billion over the course of this Parliament.
The problem is that we should have not either/or, but both. The bank levy and the banker bonus tax would be a fair contribution from the banking sector—[ Interruption. ] The Minister disagrees, but that is his opinion. The OBR says that the yield of a bonus tax could be £3.5 billion, but even a conservative estimate of, say, £2 billion would mean significant money that could eat into youth unemployment.
I will make my remarks in my own time, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that he and his colleagues stood on a manifesto that rejected the bank levy. It is a bit rich for him now to talk of having both a bank levy and a bonus tax, because at the last election he and his colleagues rejected both ideas.
Let us assume that the Minister is mistaken in his understanding of the Labour manifesto; I certainly would not accuse him of twisting our hope of an international agreement on a bank levy. Many countries are adopting the bank levy idea, and it is often much higher than the one we are pursuing. The Opposition believe that the bank levy is important, and we support it as it is, but—
May I just remind the hon. Gentleman what the Labour party said on the bank levy when it was in government? It said that it should be
“coordinated internationally to avoid jeopardizing the UK’s competitiveness”.
The previous Government were not even thinking about a bank levy—they ruled it out. They said that we should not set the tone of the international debate. This Government have had the courage to do so. It is about time that the hon. Gentleman recognised our willingness to take that tough decision to raise more money from the banks than the previous Government raised from their bank payroll tax.
I am sorry that the Minister repeats the point he made earlier. Of course, if the previous Government could have got international agreement writ large on a bank levy, so much the better, but this Government have introduced their bank levy at a puny level. It is a shame that the Minister refuses to repeat the bonus tax on senior executive bankers who take home obscene amounts of money, when that revenue could be used to help to get young people off benefit and into work. It is a shame that he turns his face against that idea. He thinks that the revenue raised by the levy is adequate, but the Opposition do not. We believe that it is necessary for the banks to do more to pay their fair share.
Indeed. Sometimes Government Members protest too much. The Opposition simply want a review of what the bank levy combined with the bonus tax could yield. My hon. Friend is right about the corporation tax cuts from which the financial sector will benefit. The sector will have a tax cut of £100 million in 2011-12, £200 million in 2012-13, £300 million in 2013-14, and £400 million in 2014-15. That is a £1 billion corporation tax cut over this Parliament. The Treasury ought to supplement its very modest bank levy plan with the bank bonus tax because it is only fair that those who played such a central role in the global economic downturn make a greater contribution to help to secure the economic recovery by supporting jobs and growth.
I agree with the thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s argument—the bankers are getting off far too lightly—but rather than introducing a payroll tax, as he suggests in the amendment, would it not be better to increase the corporate levy? Would that not deal with the bonuses issue?
We discussed in Committee how the bank levy might be altered, and I will come in a moment to my own criticisms of how the Government have framed the bank levy. Their original plans would have brought in far more revenue, but the banks started complaining so the levy was shrunk back to a level that the banks felt was acceptable, not to a level the taxpayer felt was acceptable.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that in order to pay for the corporation tax reduction, which has greatly benefited the banks, the Government withdrew quite a bit of the special funding that had previously been provided for investment in industrial activity? So much for their claim to be promoting British manufacturing! In fact, their taxation policies continue to over-promote the banks.
Indeed, they have imposed stealth tax after stealth tax on ordinary working people and small—and larger—businesses in this country. For some reason—we know not why—they have sought to give help and support to the banks at a time when they ought to be paying their fair share.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way three times on the same point. My recollection of the Committee stage upstairs was that he and his colleagues did not oppose the Government’s reduction in corporation tax and actually thought it a good thing. Perhaps he will recall that the reason the bank levy was increased was to take account of the fact that some banks might benefit from that reduction.
I agree with my right hon. Friend—they definitely will benefit from the reduction. I am not sure that the counteracting change—the tweak to the bank levy—goes far enough to counteract that corporation tax change. There are ways in which the bank levy could be amended further, but in general we support the principle; it is the design and the level at which it is set that we object to.
Amendment 31, tabled by my hon. Friend John McDonnell, relates to a financial transaction tax, for which a strong and impressive case can be made. Many of us, on both sides of the House, will have received letters and e-mails from constituents through the Robin Hood Tax campaign, which many charities have advocated. I pay tribute to the technical work that they have done on that issue. What may well be very minor changes to transaction levies could, according to many of these designs, generate significant and useful resources. Clearly, though, we need a design that does not jeopardise the rejuvenation of a stable and well-balanced financial services sector, so we would need an honest assessment of the impact of such a tax.
I am appalled that the Government have for now ruled out a financial transaction tax. It should not only stay on the table, but be actively examined and reviewed. Government Members might say that they are pursuing a financial activities tax—a slight variant in this policy area—instead, but the Chancellor, having talked about that last June, has made absolutely no progress with international jurisdictions in advocating or gaining support for it. We see no action by Ministers on what were ultimately G20 discussions about a financial transaction tax. We have not seen them explore either that possibility or a financial activities tax. The only qualm I have with my hon. Friend’s amendment is whether it stresses sufficiently the need for international agreement and discussion. Nevertheless, it is certainly something that, in broad terms, we think needs to stay on the table to be examined further.
That is a crucial point, because moving ahead on this suggestion will take leadership from the very top of all Governments around the world, yet that is the very thing that seems to be lacking in Britain at the moment.
It is a shame that the leadership we need—not just at the G20, but at the European level and elsewhere—on the financial transaction tax and in a number of other areas is lacking. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not reported any progress on the financial activities tax, for example. Perhaps the Minister would care to tell us today what progress he has made with other Heads of Government and Finance Ministers on the financial activities tax.
Might not the Government’s position have something to do with the fact that the International Monetary Fund does not endorse a financial transaction tax and that there is a stronger case for an activities tax? Should the hon. Gentleman not consider that more fully?
I know that the Government have such a close relationship with the IMF that they take their policy lead from it on almost every issue, but I am sure that they can think for themselves on this issue. Given that there was discussion at the G20 about exploring many of those things, I would have thought that the Government ought to keep the issue on the table and under review because it has potential, as most hon. Members seem to recognise.
Indeed, and there are ways the bank levy could be improved. It might be appropriate at this point to refer to the Government amendments 32 to 50, which are technical amendments. It would be useful if the Minister said whether the bank levy’s yield will be affected by those technical changes. Generally speaking, although the bank levy is a fine idea in theory, the way the Government are implementing it in practice is inadequate. It has been designed around a fixed yield of £2.5 billion to £2.6 billion, but when the Treasury originally published its design for the bank levy last June, the banks complained that it would cost them £3.9 billion. The Chancellor listened to their complaints and, as a result, watered down his original plans. Indeed, he gave the banks a £20 billion tax-free allowance before they start paying the bank levy, thus bringing the yield back down to £2.5 billion to £2.6 billion.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government’s bank levy was watered down as part of an agreement in their Project Merlin to secure a wider arrangement for lending by the banks into the economy, which we desperately need? Merlin has turned out to be an absolute flop: the first quarter figures for private sector lending to small and medium-sized businesses show that they are £2 billion short already. What a deal!
It is difficult to see how the Government thought that that would be the moment of catharsis—the moment when everybody said, “Yes, aren’t the banks doing their just bit? They’re now completely free from their obligations to the taxpayer.” Project Merlin clearly did not achieve that. The Chancellor made some tweaks to the negotiations on the Project Merlin arrangements—he did so in February, on the day of Treasury questions—and he then tweaked the rate again in the March Budget, after criticisms of the big corporation tax cut that the banks will enjoy. However, the bank levy is set at a relatively low rate, especially when we look at what is happening in France, Hungary, Portugal or Austria. Indeed, we even read in today’s Financial Times about the quasi-bank levy arrangements pursued by the Dutch Government.
In future years, the Government should increase the bank levy to ensure that the banks continue to pay their fair share of tax and so that taxpayers are not left picking up the bill for the crisis caused by the irresponsible actions that the banks pursued. That is why in May we called for the Government to review the bank levy and to publish a report of the analysis behind the rates that they had set and the thresholds that they had chosen. They refused to do that; however, as we have seen, they are now refusing even to review the possibility of repeating the bank bonus tax.
Why has the Chancellor failed to take action on excessive executive banker bonuses? At first, the coalition agreement suggested that the Government might well do something about this. It promised to
“bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector; in developing these proposals, we will ensure they are effective in reducing risk.”
That is on page 9; it is one of the first things that the coalition put into its agreement. The Business Secretary recently described the bankers’ bonuses paid for this year as “offensive”, yet the Government could not even promote proper transparency on bonuses and remuneration, never mind taking action to ensure that they were fair and reasonable. The most that the Government could extract voluntarily from the banks was an agreement in Project Merlin to report anonymously on the total remuneration of the five highest-paid bank senior executives outside the board. The Government are not even forcing the banks to disclose all the bonuses over £1 million, which was a key recommendation of the Walker review. That would have been easy to implement, given that it was part of Labour’s own legislation. The provision is on the statute book, ready to be triggered.
The Government’s excuse for inaction is apparently that they are trying to get other countries to sign up to the transparency arrangements, but we have seen absolutely no evidence of any attempt to secure such an agreement. In a written parliamentary question in June, I asked the Minister
“what meetings he has had with his EU counterparts to discuss disclosure by banks of the number of employees paid salary and bonuses of more than £1 million per year.”
“Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.”—[Hansard, 15 June 2011; Vol. 529, c. 801W.]
My hon. Friends will be used to getting that kind of answer to written questions. We must therefore take it that there have been no meetings whatever with the Minister’s European counterparts to get agreement on transparency on bonuses—[ Interruption. ] If he has had such meetings, I would be delighted if he would stand up and inform the House of the progress that has been made. It does not sound as though he has talked to a single one of his counterparts about this issue, however. Bonuses remain staggeringly high, and the Government must say why they are scared of transparency.
Does my hon. Friend remember hon. Members talking in Committee about the large-scale donations that bankers had made to the Conservative party? Has he had cause to reflect on whether that might be the reason for the Government being so reluctant to act on this matter?
I cannot answer for the motivations of Ministers. It is difficult to know what motivates them. Is this a question of omissions? Is it incompetence? Is there some other devious motivation, or malice for those who might benefit from the proceeds of these revenues? We do not know, but we look forward to hearing the Minister’s justification for failing to get transparency and failing to repeat the bonus levy.
Recent figures suggest that some of the largest investment banks are actually increasing the slice of their revenues that they pay to their staff. The ratio between remuneration and revenues is known as the compensation ratio, and it is interesting to note from the detailed figures that even the Royal Bank of Scotland’s global banking and markets division paid 34% of its net revenues in remuneration in the first nine months of 2010, compared with just 27% of net revenues in the full year of 2009. The amount of compensation, in the form of salaries and bonuses, is therefore going up as a proportion of revenues. That was also the case for J. P. Morgan, which paid 39% of its net revenues in the first nine months of 2010, compared with 33% in the full year of 2009. Barclays paid 43% of its net revenues compared with 38% over the same periods. Compensations are strong and still growing.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Orwellian use of the term “compensation” in relation to working for a bank suggests an effort to increase public sympathy for some of the greediest and most stupid business people this country has ever seen?
It is very easy to find oneself tied into the lexicon used by the financial services sector. My right hon. Friend calls a spade a spade, and it is sometimes important to do just that.
The bonuses that I have described are really excessive. For example, we know from the limited disclosures that we have seen that John Varley, the former chief executive of Barclays, received a £2.2 million bonus in 2010 and that, between them, the top five earners at Barclays, excluding executive directors, received more than £38 million in salary and bonuses in 2010 alone. That amount was shared between five individuals. Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Barclays, has received £6.5 million in bonuses for 2010 since January. As many will know, Mr Diamond lost out in the bonanza compared to his two senior managers at Barclays, with Tom Kalaris receiving a cool £10.9 million in salary and bonuses, and the other top manager, Rich Ricci—my hon. Friends might remember his name—receiving a cool £10.6 million. Those two individuals earned enough money—£17 million—in 2010 to pay the wages of more than 500 qualified nurses.
My hon. Friend is pointing out some of the excesses at the top of the financial services sector, but does he agree that it is also a matter of concern to those at the bottom end of the pay scales in the financial services sector to see such inequality in the organisations they work in, just as it is to workers in other sectors?
Indeed. That is precisely why the bonus payroll levy arrangements that we advocated excluded bonuses of up to £25,000 going to those working on the front line in the banks. We thought that those working at that level should not be affected by that particular payroll tax. What we are talking about now are senior executives. Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC, gained a £5.2 million bonus while Eric Daniels, the former chief executive of Lloyds, secured £1.45 million.
Does it occur to my hon. Friend, as it does to me from time to time, to ask what sort of activity these bankers engage in that can generate such enormous profits? Anybody who has worked in any competitive commercial sector in the UK, let alone the manufacturing sector, operating in the international economy, knows that those sorts of margins and returns cannot be generated in the real world. Are we heading back to the same sort of distortions that led to the previous crash?
There are serious issues about the balance of power between management and ownership. Many shareholders are also very exercised about excessive remuneration, compensation pay or call it what we will, and I believe that the balance of power needs addressing in the longer term. It is interesting to note how banks have tried to shift their remuneration approaches according to the political and tax arrangements of the day. While the Minister will no doubt tell us that bonus payouts for the City in 2010-11 were predicted to come down by 8% in comparison with 2009-10, what he will not tell us is that that apparent fall in bonuses was largely offset by a 7% increase in salaries for senior banking executives. The roundabout continues, but some people never lose out when it comes to this particular game.
Analysis of official earning figures by pay research specialists Income Data Services showed that large payouts in the financial sector during February and March this year helped to maintain payments during the 2011 bonus season at a similarly high level to that recorded in 2010. Not enough has changed; Ministers are not exercised or angry enough about this particular scandal, and action is necessary.
The fact is that banks are now more likely to pay discretionary bonuses, which would be captured by our proposed bonus tax, instead of paying the guaranteed bonuses that they used to get away with—the multi-year contractual bonuses that looked to the rest of us like salaries but that they called bonuses, which would not be caught. If the guaranteed bonuses become the exception and not the rule, as the Chancellor says, it might provide us with an opportunity to capture more of the discretionary bonuses through our bank bonus tax. As I said, we estimate the yield to be £2 billion.
We have to resolve the sense of anger felt by UK taxpayers towards the banking institutions that they had to bail out. The public are still rightly angry about the greed and irresponsibility of some of the senior executives at our largest banks and about the size of the bonuses. There is simmering anger out there still about the bonuses that continue to be paid when austerity is biting very hard for many of our constituents. Real and visible action is needed on bonuses, not secret voluntary arrangements behind closed doors between the big banks—as with Project Merlin, which the Chancellor pursued before. As my hon. Friend Mr Robinson described it, it was little more than a damp squib.
The banks provide an important utility in our society. They are a key part of our economy, and a strong banking sector is in all our interests. However, by talking tough and acting weak the Government are fuelling public anger while doing little to address the issues. They should stop treating people like fools, and do far more to ensure that the banks and senor banking executives are paying back their fair share—a fair share that could generate money to repair some of the damage to jobs and the economy, and help tens of thousands of young people to secure a decent start in employment.
We are not asking very much. We just want a review of whether the bank levy could be augmented with a repeat of the bonus tax. We want the taxpayer to be given a fair deal in return for rescuing the banks, and we want the Government to take seriously the threat of a lost generation of young people struggling to find work. A fair tax on banker bonuses to help people off the dole and into work is the best way to get the deficit down and stop Britain’s talent going to waste.
Amendment 31, which stands in my name, proposes a report reviewing the possibility of incorporating a financial transaction tax within the Government’s proposed bank levy, which would also examine ways in which any funds raised through such a tax could be invested in tackling not just unemployment and poverty in this country, but deprivation in the developing world. Many will remember the financial transaction tax in its former life as the Tobin tax; last year it was relaunched as the Robin Hood tax, focusing largely on the campaign to tackle poverty in the developing world.
I can think of no better day on which to debate this issue, having seen the pictures shown on our television screens last night and today of the tragedy that is taking place in the horn of Africa. This morning, Radio 4 broadcast the story of a family—parents with one child—who had walked for miles to the aid station, only to find that the one-year-old child had died as a result of suffering the drought and famine. I also commend last night’s “Dispatches” programme, presented by Jon Snow, which identified the activities of Rachmanite landlords in west London. Some of those landlords operate in my constituency, and the matter has been raised in the Chamber in the past. It demonstrates the poverty that still exists in this country.
On a personal note, let me say that this morning I received letters from children at Cherry Lane primary school in my constituency as part of their campaign to encourage politicians to think about how we can fund education in the developing world so that children there can go to school. That is what my proposal is all about.
When the transaction tax was relaunched last year as the Robin Hood tax, it was supported by a wide range of churches and religious organisations. I will not name them all, but let me give Members a flavour of them. They included the Trades Union Congress, Crisis, Action Aid, Article 12 in Scotland, Barnardo’s, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, Church Action on Poverty, Comic Relief, the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, the Christian Socialist Movement, the Disability Alliance, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, EveryChild, Family Action, Faith2Share, Friends of the Earth, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Save the Children, Tearfund and the Salvation Army.
That was the largest alliance of civil society organisations that we have seen in generations campaigning on a single issue, and, as you know, Mr Speaker, they came here last month. Twelve hundred people came to Parliament, and met us in Central Hall over a cup of tea. The event was organised in particular by Oxfam, Action Aid, Save the Children, Tearfund, CAFOD and Christian Aid, and their message was simple: 1 billion people have no access to clean water and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation, and it is time for change and action.
Those organisations pointed out that—as we have seen in the horn of Africa—the situation is dramatically worsening as a result of drought and famine. They raised three issues with us: the need to ensure that all Governments commit themselves to devoting 0.7% of gross national income to aid, the need to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, and—this was their key demand—the need for a Robin Hood transaction tax on banks. The amendment does not ask the Government to make an instant decision; it simply asks them to help us move the debate on. It is an attempt at a bipartisan—or whatever the correct term is as so many parties are represented in the Chamber—or consensual approach to enable us to move forward. I am not asking for its immediate adoption, although I would like that; rather, it specifically asks for a report to be prepared so that we can be convinced about the way forward both in principle and in respect of the practical arrangements, to ensure that whatever Government introduce this tax, it proves to be successful. It simply asks the Government to review and report.
There is now a sense of urgency, as the problems are escalating in the developing world. That is why I have set a six-month deadline for the report. It is not an unrealistic time scale given the work that has already been undertaken by the past and present Governments. It is not only our Government who are being lobbied about this matter; that is happening across the world, from New Zealand to New York.
Let me run through the proposal and what I would like the Government to examine and report upon. Most Members know the details following last month’s lobby. The proposal is for a small tax to be included in the bank levy. The sum proposed is 0.05%, which is 5p in every £1,000, which would be levied on financial transactions including in stocks, bonds, foreign currencies and derivatives. There are already some transaction taxes in place in this country, such as the stamp duty of 0.5%, but this proposed tax is nowhere near that level; it is a relatively trivial sum for an overall tax. However, it is estimated that if that trivial sum were introduced globally, it would raise £250 billion, and in the UK alone it would raise about £20 billion. It is argued that it could reduce speculation, and certainly some of the riskiest speculation that caused the last financial crisis.
The Robin Hood tax campaign lobbied us saying that it would like 50% of the income from this tax to be spent on fighting poverty in the UK, 25% to be spent on tackling poverty in developing countries and a further 25% to be spent on tackling climate change.
My hon. Friend is setting out his case very well. In recent years, there has been an ever-speedier move towards the globalisation of our economies, and he is absolutely right that this assessment and review is needed in respect of our obligations to global society. My hon. Friend has set out that case perfectly. Does he agree that it is crucial that we do not overlook some of the global challenges in tackling poverty and climate change?
Yes, and when the various groups lobbied us last month it was interesting to note how the debate had progressed since the original discussions about the Tobin tax. The debate had become much more refined and concretely related to the global needs that my hon. Friend mentioned. There has been a debate about how we allocate these resources and what the greatest priorities are, and so far it has been about poverty in this country so that we do not in any way undermine support for such taxation among people in the UK, but we must balance that with support for efforts in the developing world. The climate change issue has also come on to the agenda since the Tobin tax was first proposed.
One question that arose in the discussions in Central Hall was what the effect would be if we did raise, for example, £20 billion in this country. It was said that if we spent £4 billion, we could halve child poverty in this country overnight, and if we spent £5 billion, we could insulate every home and therefore take people out of fuel poverty. Such examples bring home the reality of what could be done through such a tax.
It is not a tax on normal retail banking or on savings or mortgages. It does not hit the ordinary saver. It is a micro-tax, and in some ways a tax on short-term speculation banking. It does not fall on UK banks alone either, as foreign banks operate in the City. I would take particular delight in taxing Goldman Sachs in this way—that is a personal grudge—but there are also other hedge funds operating in the City of London. A strong argument, which we have heard today, has been made for seeking international agreement. Negotiations are taking place and there is consensus, even within the European Parliament, on introducing a European-wide financial transaction tax. My concern about that is that the European discussions were about using that tax to fund the European Commission—I might have more than reservations about that proposal.
The idea of a Robin Hood tax is noble, but does the hon. Gentleman not agree that without international agreement across all countries, it is very unlikely to get off the ground?
No. If that was the case, we would not have introduced a stamp tax on transactions. It brings in £5 billion and has been an incredibly successful tax. The concern has been expressed that this country would be disadvantaged if it acted unilaterally, but the International Monetary Fund’s study does not say that. It cites the stamp duty as an example of a transaction tax that has not affected UK business and states that financial transaction taxes
“do not automatically drive out financial activity to an unacceptable extent”.
Banks do not leave, because they know that they are secure in this country—in fact, they know that if they get into trouble we bail them out.
The argument that London’s advantages would evaporate overnight as a result of this sort of tax are just not accurate. The reason why this country has these advantages, apart from the experience in dealing with financial transactions that we have built up over generations and centuries, is that it is time zone-critical—it is located between the Asian and New York markets—so it is ideally placed to ensure that financial operations are carried out in London. If companies were to move elsewhere in Europe, where would they go? Germany, our main competitor in the European time zone, is already committed, under Chancellor Merkel, to implementing a financial transaction tax.
The argument that is made now about needing some form of global international agreement is exactly the same one that was used to say that we should not introduce any form of taxation on bank bonuses. When we introduced the one-off tax on bonuses in 2010 we were told of fears that there would be a mass exodus of bankers leaving the country. In fact, the recruitment of bankers has increased—perhaps that is a debate for another day.
On the argument that my hon. Friend has just made about whether or not people would leave as a result of such a tax, does he agree that we should support what J. K. Rowling said in 2010 about people who might leave this country because of taxation? She said:
“I cannot help feeling…that it would have been contemptible to scarper…at the first sniff of a seven-figure…cheque.”
Ought we not to support her on this?
There is a spell, is there not—[Interruption.] The new sequel film is coming out soon, so we will see what spell there is to retain bankers in this country, if we need them.
I do not take this issue about international agreement lightly. That is why I am calling for a report, as any report would examine that issue. We are going back to the point that my hon. Friend Alison McGovern made earlier, because this country is best placed to take the lead in trying to secure some of these agreements and such a report could address how we could do that. However, it certainly should not hold us back from taking unilateral action.
The other matter that has been raised in this debate previously is the concern about avoidance, but we can design out any avoidance measures. We can design this tax to make it difficult to avoid, just as we did with stamp duty.
My hon. Friend rightly talks about taking the lead. Are we not hearing exactly the same arguments as the ones used against my private Member’s Bill to tackle vulture funds in the previous Parliament? Thankfully, the Bill was pushed through by the previous Government using the wash-up procedure and it has been made permanent by this Government. Were not exactly the same arguments employed during the debate on that Bill? Is it not sometimes right that we do take the lead?
Yes, I had forgotten that example. It is a good example of how unilateral action can raise the standard overall across Europe and globally.
Another issue raised in our debate on the Tobin tax a number of years ago concerned whether it would be practical. Things have moved on since then and the system for undertaking financial transactions is highly automated and centralised. New systems have been put in place, and I refer Members to the study by the Institute of Development Studies that identified how the system now operates:
“The Continuous Linked Settlement Bank, launched in 2002, now settles more than half of all foreign exchange transactions, with the remainder processed through national real-time gross settlements systems.”
Now we have the systems in place, through advances in new technology, to monitor the process and thereby ensure that tax is collected easily and that avoidance can be prevented.
My hon. Friend just mentioned avoidance and the problems that it causes. Does he agree that if avoidance was the reason for not doing what he proposes, the Government would give up on collecting any taxes? Avoidance of tax is a far greater problem than any to do with claiming benefits, yet the Government focus their energy on benefits and not on tax.
The main argument on the Tobin tax involved the inability mechanically to identify the transactions and therefore levy the tax. I think that that has been overcome with the new systems.
The avoidance issues will concern migration to tax havens and elsewhere and the report on this tax would have to address them, but we must also attack them more generally. That is why I was so disappointed that my amendment on that subject was not called for debate. That is another issue, however, that I shall raise at another time.
Financial transaction taxes have been introduced elsewhere in the world. In fact, they have been identified in about 40 countries—including ourselves, with stamp duty. Another question that was raised concerned whether, if we introduced this tax, it would be passed on to the customers. That is a concern, but the report we receive from the Government can consider how to design the tax so that it is targeted at the casino banking that has resulted in this crisis and so that we can protect ordinary people and businesses.
The key point about this tax is that, as the IMF study said, it is “highly progressive”. It falls on the richest institutions and individuals in a very similar manner to capital gains tax. As for the competition element and whether the cost will be passed on to customers, thereby hitting individuals harder, the finance sector is competitive and institutions that try to pass on the cost of the tax to customers will find themselves attacked through a shortage of business.
Another argument that has been made more recently is that this tax could help to assist in addressing high-frequency trading, where transactions happen every few seconds. There has been a huge increase in the number of transactions to do with derivatives. The volume of such financial transactions is now 70 times the size of the world economy and commentators have argued that that is dangerously large and destabilising. Lord Turner, the chair of the Financial Services Authority, said that many such speculative transactions are socially useless. Many of them are based on extremely small profit margins, so even a low rate financial transaction tax of 0.05% would reduce the size of the market by reducing the profitability of these risky transactions. In that way, it would contribute to stabilising the economy overall.
I do not want to delay the House. Many Members have considered the issue in some depth as a result of the lobbying, but for all the reasons I have given I agree with the 1,000 economists who wrote to the G20 summit. This is an idea whose time has come. Issues still need to be addressed, which were set out by Neil McCulloch in the IDS study, but the principal issue is political will. I hope that we can display political will across the parties and across the House to move on this matter.
I finish by quoting from the letter from the 1,000 economists to the G20:
“The financial crisis has shown us the dangers of unregulated finance, and the link between the financial sector and society has been broken. It is time to fix this link and for the financial sector to give something back to society.”
The letter says that a Robin Hood tax is not only “technically feasible”, but “morally right.” That is why I invite the House to support my amendment.
I want to make some brief remarks on the amendments. Chris Leslie, who leads for the Labour party, mentioned that youth unemployment has grown to roughly a fifth of 16 to 24-year-olds. Of course we all deeply regret the wasted talent that that represents, whether of young people who have qualified at school or college or have left university with a degree and cannot find jobs or those who have not acquired any training or education—the so-called NEETs, those not in education, employment or training. Over the years, I have worked with many charities, such as Fairbridge and the Prince’s Trust, which try to help such people in my constituency. I must gently tell the hon. Gentleman that many of his points were made in the last Parliament when I used to sit where his hon. Friend John Cryer is sitting now and I spoke for the Liberal Democrats on skills and higher education. The number of NEETs and the rate of youth unemployment increased year on year throughout the previous Parliament; the number just about touched 1 million before the general election.
I am sure the hon. Member for Nottingham East was not trying to give the impression that youth unemployment had reached 1 million purely because of the actions of the Government. It has been a problem in some cohorts of young people for a long time and has seemed intractable for Administrations of many parties, but the Government are trying to do some good things to tackle it, such as investment in apprenticeships and in the Work programme that will come in shortly.
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has given way, because I cannot believe he has the nerve to say what he has just said. One of the first actions of the incoming Government was to scrap the successful future jobs fund, which was bringing down youth unemployment. If he reads Professor Wolf’s report, he will see that her worry is about what is happening to 16 to 18-year-olds. We are in danger of repeating the mistakes of the ’80s when youth unemployment peaked four years after the middle of the recession.
I have spoken on platforms with Alison Wolf, and indeed launched a book with her during the last Parliament. I think she would be surprised to hear the Labour Opposition citing her in support. Yes, the Government are phasing out some of the previous Government’s programmes, but they are being replaced by the Work programme, which brings together many people who can work with the long-term unemployed or unemployed young people. They have a holistic approach and are bringing social enterprises into the programme, which may be more successful than the many initiatives that took place under the previous Government. I repeat: youth unemployment just about reached 1 million just before the previous Government left office. It is not a new problem created by the present Government.
But does the hon. Gentleman at least acknowledge that as a result of the measures brought in by the previous Government, through the future jobs fund, youth unemployment was falling? Surely, that is something we should celebrate, so was it not a mistake for Government Members to support the move that got rid of the future jobs fund, which was having such a positive impact on youth unemployment?
As I understand it, the future jobs fund was a temporary measure and it has now stopped. It is being replaced first by the Work programme, which will come in shortly, and by the Government’s investment to create hundreds of thousands of new youth apprenticeships. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has visited in his constituency, as I have in mine, the many employers—including, in my constituency, the city council—who are taking on apprentices for the first time to give those young people a chance. Indeed, the Government have increased the minimum wage some of those people receive; they have also increased the apprentice wage, which the previous Government did not do.
Of course we all celebrate the fact that some young people are getting apprenticeships. We obviously support anything that helps young people get into employment, because it is a waste of talent for people to languish on the dole, but as my hon. Friend Bill Esterson pointed out, the Government’s Wolf review said that those apprenticeships are not going to the youngest school leavers; they are going to an older cohort, so clearly the Government need to take additional measures to ensure that we do not have a whole generation of 16 and 17-year-olds who are simply thrown on the scrap heap.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his rather long intervention. As well as the Work programme and investment in apprenticeships, the Government have a growth strategy to develop the new jobs of the future—into which, incidentally, the future jobs fund was not necessarily placing people. For instance, there are many initiatives in the green economy, with the green deal that has come along as well, that will help the young unemployed. I mentioned the situation to emphasise that the problem is not new. The previous Government struggled hard with it as well, as I pointed out in the previous Parliament. I have been consistent in what I have said across both Administrations.
The purpose of amendment 13 is to reintroduce, or at least to examine the case for reintroducing, the bonus tax that the Labour Chancellor introduced in 2009. As I recall, the purpose of that bonus tax was not to raise revenue, but to change behaviour. It was an attempt to persuade the banks that they should not be introducing bonuses at that time, when many of them were dependent on state funds to continue in existence. I also recall that the anticipated proceeds of that bonus tax were about £500 million. In fact, as we have heard on many occasions, it raised in gross terms more than six times that amount, so it did not change behaviour at all. It seems that the Labour party in opposition has switched the underlying purpose of a bonus tax.
I share the moral outrage that many people feel about the level of bonuses being paid by some institutions. I am a free market liberal, so I believe it is up to a company to decide its own remuneration package and justify it to its shareholders, but in the current climate, when many families around the country are facing difficulty, some of the decisions taken by remuneration committees in the City cross the threshold at which it is right that some of us in this place express moral outrage at what they have been doing.
The culture of people paying huge amounts of money to themselves is not a new phenomenon in this Parliament. I remember Lord Mandelson, before he became the Trade Secretary in the previous Parliament, saying that new Labour was “intensely relaxed” about people becoming filthy rich. The hon. Member for Nottingham East looks faintly embarrassed at my reminding him of that phrase, but when the Labour party was in government it encouraged that culture. We should not let Opposition Members forget that.
I was not aware of the continuation of that quote. However—[Hon. Members: “Withdraw!”] Rather than withdraw, I shall expand on my point and make it more strongly. The previous Government engendered the culture of get rich quick by slashing the rates of capital gains tax and making a virtue of cutting income tax and holding down higher rate taxation. Ironically, it is under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that capital gains tax has gone up and the 50p top tax rate has been levied in this Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman called himself a free market liberal. Another Member of the House who described himself as a free market liberal is Mr Davis, who describes the current arrangements in this country and the way that capitalism operates as wealth extraction, rather than wealth creation. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with that assessment when it comes to bankers’ bonuses, and will he support the amendment on the reasonable grounds that my hon. Friend Chris Leslie set out?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I have already stated clearly for the record that I share the moral and ethical outrage at the level of bonuses being paid by certain firms in the City and elsewhere. The question is whether reintroducing the bonus tax designed by the previous Labour Government would make any difference, because the evidence suggests that it made absolutely no difference to the bonus culture. It was a handy device for raising rather more than the expected revenue, but it certainly did not change behaviour.
As a free market liberal, I think that companies should be free to decide their remuneration policies, but they must justify them to their shareholders. One way that behaviour might change would be if shareholders took a more active interest in the bonuses that the remuneration committees award within their companies, whether they are banks or not. As was mentioned in yesterday’s debate, the people on those committees are often executive directors of other companies and so have a vested interest in the magic circle of super bonuses being justified in other companies. If the shareholders of the banks that we own, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, were able to express a view, that would introduce a new dynamic into capitalism.
I hope that the Government will seriously consider giving each citizen a share in RBS and Lloyds Banking Group when the time comes for both banks to be divested from the state—this is another plug for the pamphlet I published in March, “Getting your share of the banks: giving the banks back to the people”. I had an interesting meeting with officials from UK Financial Investments last Wednesday in the Treasury in order to discuss that.
Amendment 31, tabled by John McDonnell, proposes a Robin Hood tax. I fully support such a tax, as I have mentioned in many debates in the House. I have spoken with many non-governmental organisations in my constituency and at lobbying events, such as the one that took place last week and has already been mentioned. A Robin Hood tax has three elements. The first is a levy on banks’ balance sheets, and the Government introduced that in the form of a bank levy. We might disagree about the level of the levy, but the important fact is that the coalition Government have legislated for it to exist and said that it will be permanent, in the sense that it will last for the lifetime of this Parliament. The rate has been changed once, as I mentioned in an intervention, and I hope that it might be increased again.
The second element of a Robin Hood tax is a financial activities tax—FAT, as opposed to VAT, which Jonathan Edwards might have phonetic difficulty with when speaking in Welsh, in distinguishing between an F and a V. I hope that the Minister can update us on what discussions are taking place on that between Finance Ministers across the European Union and what progress has been made on the introduction of such a tax, which is a tax on certain profits of the banks.
The third element of a Robin Hood tax is a financial transactions tax, which is the subject of the amendment. As the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington said, that has traditionally been called a Tobin tax. It would be the most problematic component of a Robin Hood tax to introduce. It might impede liquidity, which is not necessarily a good thing, and the other barriers he mentioned would be difficult to surmount without international agreement between the major trading nations.
Another problem with a Robin Hood tax is the question of how much it would raise, as I have heard a wide variety of figures for that which are in the billions. The hon. Gentleman referred to the great coalition of NGOs that support such a tax, and many of us support them, but I wish that they would agree a figure for what the different components of the tax could reasonably be expected to raise.
The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point, and I am sure that the Minister will tell us what work has been done in the Treasury and his estimate of what the proposal from the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington might raise.
My point is that it is not helpful to present MPs or our constituents with such a range of sums—from the low billions to in excess of £100 billion—that the Robin Hood tax could raise, because they raise false expectations of what it might actually achieve.
I was encouraged by the hon. Gentleman’s earlier statements, but I was waiting for the “but” and it has come. Amendment 31 simply asks for a report to be prepared exploring all the issues that he has quite rightly and properly set out, so I see no reason why he cannot support it in order, as I said earlier, to move the debate on.
I have not said, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not think, that I do not support what he is trying to achieve. We will have to hear from the Minister what work the Treasury is doing, or may have already done, to produce the facts and figures that we all want.
My final point on the amount that a Robin Hood tax could raise is about what it should be spent on. I have heard about a range of problems at home and abroad that could be solved by such a tax, but I entirely agree with the way in which the hon. Gentleman has refined those objectives down to dealing with poverty at home and abroad. I think we can agree at least on that.
It is interesting—if not more than that—to follow Stephen Williams, who calls himself a free-trade liberal, or words to that effect. He is a “good doer”, in other words, and he means that he is in favour of every good sentiment expressed in this House but believes that neither he nor any Government can do anything at all about this issue, other than consult the shareholders. If the shareholders—the electorate—were consulted at the moment, his party might not be as pleased with the idea as it seems to be.
Nothing can be done, it is said, and the hon. Gentleman, while agreeing with every sentiment, will not even vote for amendment 31, spoken to by my hon. Friend John McDonnell, who I think is going to press it to a vote if he can catch your eye, Mr Deputy Speaker. It calls for exactly what the hon. Member for Bristol West wants, and he would not have to listen to his new masters in the Treasury, because we would be able to have an independent inquiry.
I had the luck to study with Tobin at Yale university when he first advanced these ideas, and they generated a lot more attention and interest in those days, but if the hon. Gentleman is serious about his wishes, and about the good will that he bears towards every serious intent to put things right, including bankers’ bonuses—which we are discussing in relation to amendment 13, of which I am speaking in support—he should vote with us, and also for amendment 31, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington.
The strange thing about this debate is that before the election, and even during it, the current Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the current Chancellor spoke with great vehemence and passion about how offensive the whole banking culture was and how, once they were in office, they were going to get tough with the bankers.
As in other matters, however, the Chancellor talks a good talk but does not walk a good walk: one puff of wind from the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor gives in on regulation. One meeting with the bankers and he says, “Okay, we’ll do Merlin, but meanwhile we’ll agree with you on the level of bonuses: I won’t tax your bonuses; we’ll go for a corporate bonus tax instead.”
Of course, we wholly endorse the effect of that tax and fully support the bank levy, but it has an impact on banks’ balance sheets, because as we are asking them to build themselves up, we are taxing them, quite rightly. We can achieve both, however, given the unusual and inexplicable profitability in the banking sector. The joy of what we would do, through amendment 13, is that we would tax the bankers—and so we should—but not impact on the business per se.
My hon. Friend Chris Leslie, who introduced amendment 13, said that under this Government something in the order of £40 million had been paid in net remuneration—or it may be even gross, I am not sure—to the top five employees of Barclays bank. Some £40 million has been paid in bonuses alone. If anything is offensive, that is, and yet the Government refuse to do anything about it. What they should do is staring them in the face. We are not, in the amendment, asking them to agree with every single purpose to which we would dedicate the use of the funds. They may disagree with us on regional development or on the growth fund for new jobs; they can disagree on any number of items. However, surely no one in this House who is serious about tackling the bonus culture that has become so poisonous in the banking industry, and is spreading increasingly to the rest of the commercial and private sector, can disagree with the need to tackle those bonuses.
We heard the hon. Member for Bristol West speak for the Liberals, but it is interesting to note that there is not another Government Back Bencher anywhere in the House. When my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East spoke to the amendment, not a single Government Member, Liberal or Conservative, rose to oppose it. Not only have the Chancellor and his Financial Secretary caved in to the banks, but the whole coalition has fled the Chamber in fear and trembling of saying something that will offend the bankers. There is not one Member there—where have they all gone? What has happened? Are they, like the Chancellor and his Financial Secretary, afraid of offending the banks? I do not know; all I can see is that the serried ranks have fled and the Financial Secretary is left on his own to defend the indefensible—of which he is no doubt perfectly capable.
They are hoping to collect them, I imagine, when they lose the next election.
What I do not understand about this whole debate is how the banks can make so much money. The retail sector is usually profitable. It is like a utility: there is a regular amount of income, those involved have a fairly nice oligopoly between them, and it works quite well. I do not think anybody is complaining about that, apart from the fact that every time the investment sector does badly, the poor retail customer gets it in the neck—the small companies and others—when the banks immediately try to recoup their losses by increasing fees and charges. While all is going well, we have one rule for the investment banks and one rule for the rest of the world. The investment banks continue to coin it in and take every penny they can in bonuses, and the rest are left with the remaining share of profitability, which is diminished by the excess amounts that the investment side is taking.
The first thing that I would recommend the Government to do is look at the spread of profitability throughout the economy. If we are serious about rebalancing the economy, the first thing that has to be rebalanced is the power differential between the banking sector and manufacturing—and, equally, the share of profitability as between the banking sector and the rest of the economy. It cannot be possible for those in the banking sector—RBS, Barclays and others—to go from a position of massive losses one year to huge profits on their investment trade in the next. In six months RBS made £5 billion profit. We are pleased to receive our share of that, but how can it be making such disproportionate profits compared with the rest of the economy? That does not quite stand up. Either they are real profits, in which case there is clearly a dysfunction in the economy as regards competitiveness that needs to be investigated and addressed, or the bank is creating fictitious profits, taking the bonuses while it can, and leaving the taxpayer to bail it out later. I do not know the answer to that question, but I put it to the Financial Secretary that it needs to be looked into. The profits are unreasonably high. He should forget about whether they are offensive or poisonous and address this as a purely economic phenomenon. How can the banking sector make those profits without sucking profitability out of the rest of the economy, particularly the manufacturing sector?
That brings me to the Government’s policy on rebalancing the economy. We all agree with that, but why do they not address the problem by taxing bonuses through the levy—and, for that matter, through the bonus tax that we propose? Unless we do something about that, the banking sector’s preponderance in being the master and not the servant of industry will continue, and for as long as it does, any talk about rebalancing the economy and the rebirth of manufacturing is make-believe. Nowhere can we see that better than in Derby, with yet another death of one of the few remaining conventional manufacturing industries in the UK. We are all in favour of advanced manufacturing and high-tech industries, but the German success has been based on superb engineering in the traditional conventional industries, which we—particularly those on the Treasury Bench, under both the Conservative and Labour parties—have tended to look down on.
If the Government are serious about rebalancing the economy in favour of manufacturing—we must all be serious about that—they will have to do better than saying that the market and the banks are the master. I am pleased that the Transport Secretary announced an investigation this morning—on the “Today” programme, as usual. The next instalment of the growth plan must consider how the Government can use their purchasing power to the benefit of this country, as is done superbly well in Germany and France.
We should look back. I have not made a study in advance of this speech and it would take us too long to go through everything. The death of the telecoms industry was down to a Government purchasing decision that ditched GPT. Ericsson came in with a great fanfare, then closed the whole of its works in Coventry and pulled its horns back to Sweden. We also pulled our support from the motor car industry. Years ago, people thought it was great because we would move into high-tech manufacturing. What happened? One industry after another closed in the wake of the car industry, including the machine tools industry and the capital goods industry in general. Throughout the history of post-war British manufacturing there has been a progressive loss of self-confidence and self-belief in British manufacturing throughout the country. That has to be addressed, and I put it to the Financial Secretary that it needs to be done now.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one moment in history when the British Government did not act in that way, which I raise because it was important to my constituents, was when the Labour Government stood behind General Motors at Ellesmere Port to maintain that industry in my area at a time of deep economic troubles in this country?
That is right, and I supported that entirely. I support any large manufacturing company with a base in the UK that we are seeking not to protect, but to develop and expand. I have stressed the progressive loss of self-confidence in British manufacturing across the nation. That example involves a large American company. Although it had got into a much worse mess than the old British motor industry ever got into, because it was American it had a naive faith that it would be able to pull itself, and us, out of that situation.
There has been a loss of confidence in our industries. I will not delay the House by giving example after example, but the view of the Treasury, the old Board of Trade and the old Department for Industry—unbelievably misnamed—has always prevailed: that the Government can do nothing, and market forces must prevail. That is despite the fact that every country that was a real competitor of ours took exactly the opposite view, and ensured that their industries thrived and prospered.
They were not protected, but they were supported. We have so many latent advantages that we simply ignored, to the advantage of others and to our own continuing and cumulative disadvantage. That is the point that I am trying to make.
This is by no means a digression from the debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. This is why the tax on the banks should be increased. The banking sector’s preponderance in the economy has to be reduced if we are to survive as a manufacturing and balanced economy in the future. In one way or another, that has to be done. What we have seen from the Government is a pathetic capitulation to the banks. It was difficult enough for us when we were trying to save the banking industry in the crisis, when it was in a bad state. When the banking industry is clearly on the way to recovery, there is absolutely no reason not to proceed with the bonus tax.
The only reason—with which I disagree—is that if we dare tax the banks, they will go abroad because they are being taxed too highly in the UK. This is another area where I would like a study to be done. To what extent is that really a risk? If it were a risk that major bankers would leave the UK in droves and we would have a denuded financial sector over night, it would have some benefits and a lot of disadvantages, but to what extent is it a risk? That could be studied. There are some hard-headed people in the Treasury who would certainly not agree with the banking point of view.
What is so special about the bankers that they can generate these huge profits and bonuses? I do not think that anybody knows. Anybody who thinks about it objectively thinks, “How can that be done?” The manufacturing industries in Germany and France, such as the telecoms sector and the car and lorry manufacturers, are sweating it out in their export markets. They are rebuilding the east of Germany and eastern Europe, and are now helping to industrialise China with massive exports of huge engineering resources. How can it be that they struggle to make 10% on turnover, but bankers can come in and generate huge profits—unrelated, as far as one can see, to any meaningful or socially useful activity, as Lord Turner said in another place?
We need to consider how much real danger there is of bankers leaving the UK. Is it a real threat? I do not believe it is, to be quite honest, or at least it is nothing like what the Government fear. We also need to consider how to redress the apparently inherent profitability of the banking sector compared with the rest of the economy. We must get those two pieces of work under way.
The Government should find enough nerve to stand up for what they and the whole country said when the ordinary taxpayer had to go to the rescue of investment banks that had brought the economy of the country, and the world, to the verge of collapse. They need to see that there is no inherent danger in saying to the banks, “You’re going too far, with too much support from the taxpayer. You’ve got to be reined in.” They must have the courage, determination and good sense to do that. It is not a question of market forces prevailing, as the Liberal party would have us believe. Instead, the Government must take a sensible view.
Labour has admitted that we were not tough enough on regulation. Of course we were not. However, the current Government have been far too lax in their attitude to banking, and particularly to bank bonuses. We were weak, but this Government have been dreadfully weak, just as they were on regulation. If we were weak on regulation, the Conservatives were hopeless: they did not want any regulation. In their pamphlet on it they said not “Let’s have more,” but “Let’s have less.” That was their only contribution to that debate.
Instead of always saying what we did wrong, why do the Government not learn from it and do now what we should have done then, with the benefit of having seen our failure? They have fudged this coalition together one way or another, so why can they not see where we went wrong? Why can they not see that we were weak with the banks, and they should be strong? Why can they not be as strong as they said they would be during and before the election campaign? The Financial Secretary has gone to great lengths to tell us what we said during the election. We do not want to repeat what the Conservatives said, but they were right then and they are wrong now. Can he not see that? The Government should do something about this now, and that is why I and my hon. Friends will vote for amendment 13. I hope that we will also vote for amendment 31, if my hon. Friend John McDonnell presses it.
I am pleased that I caught your eye, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I hope that there is still time for many other Members to speak on this important issue. We only wish that the Government would find some guts.
I very much welcome the telling case made by my hon. Friend John McDonnell for a bank financial transaction tax, but I wish to focus my remarks on how the proceeds from the bank payroll tax suggested in amendment 13 should be used to create new jobs and tackle unemployment.
We have argued that £600 million of the proceeds should be used to establish a fund to create 90,000 good jobs for young people. That would not be identical to the future jobs fund, but it would certainly have striking similarities to it, so it is important to consider the lessons from the future jobs fund.
As my hon. Friends have pointed out, the scrapping of the future jobs fund was announced in the emergency Budget just after the general election. In opposition, the then shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the current Home Secretary, whose assurances ought to carry some weight, promised that it would not be scrapped. She wrote to the chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations on
“I welcome this opportunity to clarify the Conservative position on the Future Jobs Fund, which I feel has been misrepresented by certain groups in the media.”
Unfortunately, far from misrepresenting the position, those certain groups in the media were right. The fund was scrapped, without even the pretence of a review, which was a terrible mistake.
The future jobs fund was a £1 billion fund, set up to get 100,000 18 to 24-year-olds into work. It was set up quickly—certainly—to minimise the scarring of long-term worklessness on young people in the wake of the global crisis. We saw serious scarring during the recession of the 1980s, and we are still paying the price for that in today’s labour market, almost 30 years later. Rightly, the previous Government wanted to ensure that there was no repeat.
It is worth reflecting on anecdotal evidence on the future jobs fund. A strikingly large number of people, with a lot of experience in such matters, have made the point that in their view the future jobs fund was the most successful welfare-to-work programme in which they had ever been involved. I noticed the remarks made about the programme to the Select Committee on Work and Pensions by Jackie Mould of Birmingham city council. She said:
“The benefits that they have identified are about the fact that they’ve had a job. I can’t say that enough; it’s come out in every interview that we’ve done, with every single person. Some of them didn’t even know they were on a programme; they just thought they’d got a job. The other benefits have been the confidence and self-esteem that people get from having a job, from feeling valued—that they’ve got something to offer and that they can do it.”
We can all understand how big a breakthrough it is for a young person who has been out of work for some time to get a job. The price of keeping that young person out of work for a long period is huge. It is in that context that the costs of the fund proposed in amendment 13 need to be assessed.
The future jobs fund provided proper jobs when they would otherwise not have been available. My right hon. Friend Mr Field, who is currently the Government’s adviser on child poverty, said that the future jobs fund was
“one of the most precious things the last government was involved in, a lifeline”.
Ministers in the present Government have criticised the future jobs fund essentially on two grounds. In considering amendment 13, their criticisms need to be addressed. The first ground is value for money, and the second is that the jobs created were largely in the public sector.
First, on value for money, the maximum price per job offered to bidders to the future jobs fund was £6,500. That is a higher cost per job than most welfare-to-work schemes, but—this crucial difference is often overlooked—unlike other schemes, participants in the future jobs fund came off benefits and were paid a wage. We therefore no longer incurred the cost of benefits to support them. That is not always reflected in cost comparisons, but once it is taken into account, the difference between the Work programme approach and the future jobs fund is much less than is frequently stated.
The Department for Work and Pensions produced statistics showing that of the people starting the future jobs fund between October and November 2009, just over 50% were not claiming benefits one year later—well after their placement on the future jobs fund had finished. The Prime Minister used that figure to criticise the future jobs fund, saying that 50% is not a large proportion, but that comparison is not a valid one, because the young people whom the future jobs fund helped were precisely those who were furthest from the labour market, and therefore most in need of support to get back into work.
In that context, having more than half of such people still in work a year after their placement with the future jobs fund ended is no mean feat. I think that the assessment we are expecting of the fund will show that it provided good value for money by avoiding unemployment.
The second criticism is that none of the jobs created were in the private sector. In fact, that was not the case. It is true that only a small proportion of the jobs were in the private sector. There was an issue about the state aid rules making it harder for private firms to benefit, but with a little more time to plan next time and with the benefit of the report proposed by my right hon. Friend Ed Balls in amendment 13, we could increase that proportion. I noticed that Neil Carberry from the CBI told the Work and Pensions Committee:
“I suspect that the speed of the timetable greatly restricted the number of private sector companies that could get involved”.
I think that he was probably right. This was an emergency response to avoid what otherwise would have been a rapid escalation in youth unemployment.
Having said that, there were examples of private firms benefitting from the fund. In Oxfordshire, 33% of the jobs under the county council’s future jobs fund programme were in the private sector, and the council pointed out in its evidence to the Select Committee that it had been disadvantaged by the loss of the future jobs fund—that is the county council for the Prime Minister’s constituency. Other councils reported a smaller but nevertheless still significant proportion of jobs in the private sector. The Select Committee is right that this issue needs to be tackled in the report. Amendment 13 proposes that care should be taken next time to ensure that private firms can benefit from the new programme when it is introduced.
It is not the case, as Ministers have sometimes carelessly asserted, that all the jobs were in the public sector—many were in the voluntary sector—so when the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions appeared on the “Today” programme on
“Future Jobs Scheme created only jobs in the public sector and once the money ended those poor young people crashed out of work straight away”,
it was clearly untrue. Indeed, Dr Peter Kyle, the acting chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which represents more than 2,000 third sector organisations, wrote to the Secretary of State that day to reply:
“I feel obliged to point out that within the voluntary sector it has been widely perceived as a success in delivering vital vocational skills to potentially vulnerable people whilst unlocking potential within non-governmental organisations.”
Later that same day, the Secretary of State claimed:
“The Future Jobs Fund was six times more expensive than anything else that they were doing and actually created jobs only in the public sector”.
That was simply untrue, as Martin Sime, the chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, pointed out. There are lessons to be learnt from the future jobs fund about how to ensure maximum private sector participation from this approach to creating jobs for young people at a time when those jobs are desperately needed, which they most certainly are at the moment. The value of voluntary sector participation—the contribution and enthusiastic support of those whom Ministers want to be their partners in the big society—must not be overlooked.
The Opposition’s amendment would put back in place the support that the future jobs fund provided with lessons learnt through the proposed report to improve the programme further. It is important that Ministers, when evaluating the proposal in amendment 13, reflect on what people have widely said about the future jobs fund and on the enthusiastic response from local authorities, businesses and participants. A young woman from Rochdale told the Select Committee how her time with the future jobs fund opened up many avenues for her, boosting her confidence in the workplace, providing her with training and supporting her with her interviews. She said that being in employment with the future jobs fund helped to get her full-time employment subsequently.
As Stephen Williams acknowledged, youth unemployment remains unacceptably high. The Government cannot simply point to the Work programme. We wish it every success of course, but the future jobs fund created jobs where none would otherwise have existed. Given the long-term damage of extended youth unemployment, for both young jobseekers and the economy more widely, it was undoubtedly an investment worth making. Indeed, it is an investment that we should make again. I hope that the House will agree to amendment 13, as moved by my hon. Friend Chris Leslie.
I want to say a few words in addition to those made so far about amendment 13. The amendment is crucial, and it matters because at its heart it concerns inequality. I want to say something that I take to be uncontroversial across the House: inequality is a problem for us all, no matter what our place in society—it is even a problem for the bankers receiving the bonuses that we have heard about so far. We know that more equal societies do better. I take that statement to be uncontroversial, because we have had many recent discussions both inside and outside this House about why equality matters and why it is important to deal with wide income gaps between the top and bottom in our society.
On that basis, amendment 13 is highly relevant to one of the biggest problems that we have been trying to grapple with. As I said in an earlier intervention, this is not merely about inequality across society, from the very top earners to those receiving the minimum wage; it is about an imbalance in the financial services sector. Many people in my constituency, across Merseyside and in the rest of the UK work in the financial services sector, and not all of them are well paid. Inequality matters not just within those companies, but for those working for companies that service banks—I am thinking about those in occupations such as cleaning or looking after the children of those working in the financial services sector. They face steep income inequality; therefore, it matters that we address this issue. Income inequality has a huge impact on our society—I take that fact to be uncontroversial—and therefore the amendment is important.
Stephen Williams described himself as a free-market liberal; I would not go that far, but I would describe myself as somebody who has tried to think about how the economy works.
I am quite proud to call myself a free-market liberal, but just to make it clear and to differentiate myself from Mr Davis, who was mentioned earlier, I am also a social liberal. I wonder what label the hon. Lady would apply to herself. Is she a socialist, a democratic socialist or perhaps a social democrat?
That is probably the easiest intervention that I will ever get. In so far as I believe in the needs of society above the needs of capital, I am a socialist. However, as a socialist, I think that it is important to consider how the economy actually works, because unless we understand the functioning of the economy and what makes our society work well, we will not be able to live up to the needs of society or the demands of our fellow people. As my hon. Friend Mr Robinson mentioned earlier, something has gone wrong when we see such large bonuses and when a small group of people in the City of London can arrange extremely high salaries for themselves.
However, this is not just a market imbalance; it is a power imbalance too. Something is going on that enables a small group of people to argue for a much higher salary than anyone else in society. As someone who cares about how the economy works, I call that market failure. Something is going on, and the situation needs to be questioned, thought through and rebalanced. That needs Government intervention. There could be an insider-outsider problem, in which some people are outside the small group who are able to arrange bonuses for themselves in this way and use their position as insiders to argue powerfully for the maintenance of their position, while others remain unable to enter the market. That is what makes me think that Government action is important in this regard.
My hon. Friend Chris Leslie said that there was also a failure of transparency. Markets work well only in conditions of perfect information, but we do not have perfect information, and we have seen the lengths to which some people have gone in order to prevent transparency over pay and bonuses. The case for Government action on bonuses has been well made today by other hon. Members. I would argue that that, too, is politically uncontroversial. In fact, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills told the BBC earlier this year that the coalition Government were “fully signed up” to “robust action” on curbing bonuses. Well, that is great. Our amendment should therefore be pretty uncontroversial, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support the principle of what we are trying to do.
My worry is that the Government have just not done enough. They have straightforwardly not lived up to the public’s expectations on bankers’ bonuses. I am also worried that the corporation tax cut that they have introduced will effectively hand money back to the profitable banks, and that not enough action is being taken to rebalance our economy. I could talk for many hours about manufacturing and the fact that the financial service sector should serve the productive economy, rather than the other way round, but my hon. Friends have already done that subject justice, so I will not detain the House further on that.
The hon. Lady is making a case for the higher taxation of banking bonuses and salaries. Does she think that high salaries in other professions such as the oil industry, financial services, insurance—
Indeed. Does she think that higher salaries in all those professions should be taxed more? If that is the case, the most logical option would be to have higher income tax.
As I said earlier, I think we all agree that inequality is a problem. We have tabled an amendment that deals with a specific problem. Do not we all agree that inequality in this country is a problem that needs to be tackled? I thought that that was politically pretty uncontroversial these days.
Many people wish to speak, so perhaps it would be better if I did not take any more interventions. I am assuming that the hon. Gentleman was not about to tell me that inequality is not a problem.
I want to outline what we could do with the extra income that could be generated if our amendment were accepted. I also want to build on the remarks made by my right hon. Friend Stephen Timms. His analysis of the future jobs fund was thorough and it accords with my research on that subject. I pay tribute to him as one of the House’s experts on youth unemployment. His constituency is in the London borough of Newham, which has done extensive research into that issue and probably knows more than many places in this country about what can best be done to tackle it.
I want to make a further point. In January, I asked the Minister for Employment whether he could provide business planning projections of how much the Department for Work and Pensions expected to have to pay for 16 to 24-year-olds on jobseeker’s allowance for each year of this Parliament’s life. I was told that by the end of this Parliament the Department expected to pay jobseeker’s allowance to 279,000 16 to 24-year-olds. It thought that just under 280,000 young people would be on the dole. To check what had happened as a result of the Government’s economic policies coming into force, I asked that self same question in June, when the Minister for Employment was forced to tell me that his Department projected having to pay 303,000 such young people on the dole. The DWP has had to up by 24,000 its own forecast of the number of young people on the dole by the end of this Parliament. Nobody can say that this problem does not need to be dealt with. The Government know from their own DWP projections that this problem has to be dealt with—and it has got worse, not better, over the last six months.
I applaud the Government’s approach to apprenticeships and many other things, but the fact is that we had a programme and a set of policies that were working well for young people. The future jobs fund will be much debated and there is more research to come on the subject, yet the DWP’s own research provides evidence of how that particular scheme worked. The best way to get a job is to have a job; we demonstrated that basic fact through the future jobs fund.
I agree with every word that my hon. Friend says. Does she agree that one crucial value of the future jobs fund intervention was that it broke the trend into long-term youth unemployment—a trend about which we should be particularly concerned? The lesson of the 1980s recession was that if young people did not get a start in the labour market at the very beginning of their working lives, they never really got themselves established. That is what the future jobs fund successfully intervened to disrupt.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. Having grown up on Merseyside in the 1980s, I know it was only when I studied economics later in my life that I found out that there was a word for the thing I always knew happened—that people got punished throughout their lives for being unemployed when they were young. The economic word for that is hysteresis. The labour market has memory: if someone fails to get a job early in life, it stays with them, scarring not only the person’s career prospects, but the economic prospects of the locality. We know all about that and the previous Government worked to stop it happening when the economic crisis hit. I would like to see this Government take that problem seriously, introduce measures that will bring real work to young people and deal with some of the problems we face, which are getting worse.
“The Chancellor…shall review the possibility of incorporating a bank payroll tax within the bank levy and publish a report”— not an unreasonable request, but a very sensible and measured one. Yet we have heard from Conservative Members and from the Minister in an intervention that they are reluctant to take that action. I guess that the Minister will take the same attitude towards the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend John McDonnell, which similarly calls for a review. Neither of these measures calls for the City of London to be disbanded or for bankers to be put in the stocks and pilloried by the public—much as many members of the public might wish to do just that! However, given that many members of the public may have recently wished to do the same to Members of Parliament, perhaps we should not pursue that line too far.
The amendments simply request a review, which is surely reasonable. I should be interested to hear from the Minister what is so wrong with a review or, indeed, with the idea of a bankers’ bonus tax. When the Minister wound up our debate on
The Government’s failure to repeat last year’s bankers’ bonus tax, combined with cuts in corporation tax which helped the financial services industry, amounted to a cut in tax rates for the banks. Meanwhile, those on the lowest incomes—families and other particularly vulnerable members of society—are being made to pay for the mistakes of the banking sector. The excessive behaviour of bankers, of which excessive bonuses were a symptom, caused a crisis that nearly brought down the entire financial system not just of this country but of the world.
Amendment 13 states that the money raised by the tax
“would be invested to create new jobs and tackle unemployment.”
Members—including me, in interventions—have mentioned the importance of the future jobs fund and how well it was performing in bringing down youth unemployment until the Chancellor scrapped it in last year’s emergency Budget. The fact that youth unemployment was approaching 1 million has sad echoes of what happened in the 1980s, particularly in the part of the world that my hon. Friend Alison McGovern and I represent.
People on Merseyside have long memories when it comes to the damage inflicted by youth unemployment, which peaked in 1985, four years after the middle of the 1980s recession. This year, activities are being organised to mark the 30th anniversary of the Toxteth riots, the appalling scenes in Liverpool during the summer of 1981, and the despair and misery that provoked that action. There are lessons to be learnt from what happened in the 1980s. We know from that time what goes wrong if we do not tackle unemployment, particularly among young people.
Some members of my generation, and slightly older people, have never found long-term work. As young people they were never able to enter the jobs market owing to the difficulties facing those in their cohort: the lack of jobs that resulted from the policies of the Government of the day, and the way in which unemployment was allowed to rise to over 3 million. There are people, now in their late forties, who have never experienced secure employment. They have never established proper careers, and they and their families have never recovered from the experience of 30 years ago. That is why it is so important for us to find a mechanism that will help people to find secure employment now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South rightly said that having a job was the best way of finding a job. I know of a number of people who were able to enter full-time employment as a result of the future jobs fund, because, thanks to the last Government’s successful approach, they were able to demonstrate to other employers how successful they could be in employment.
In an intervention on the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Stephen Williams, I mentioned Professor Wolf’s comments on apprenticeships. In her evidence to the Select Committee on Education, she made clear her worries about 16, 17 and 18-year-olds currently being most at risk of not participating in education, training and apprenticeships and about the long-term prospects of their finding work as a consequence of that. That is why it is important to have a strong and well-structured approach to employment for 16 to 18-year-olds. The evidence suggests that apprenticeships are largely being taken by 19 to 24-year-olds, and that there is a lag in respect of younger people taking them up. We must address that; we need to focus our efforts on younger people leaving school.
We need to grow the economy and to ensure that there is a proper growth strategy. The Chancellor talked about the Budget being a Budget for growth, yet the latest figures show that the economy has flatlined for six months and there has not been sustained growth. Borrowing has increased by £46 billion, and the Government have resisted using fair measures, such as the bankers’ bonus tax, to help to encourage job creation and to help the construction industry in house building and other activities that stimulate growth.
One of the benefits of this tax is that a considerable sum would be put into building 25,000 new homes for affordable social renting. Does my hon. Friend agree that through investing in housing we invest in apprenticeships and jobs and we get a higher tax take because people are working?
My hon. Friend is right: a virtuous circle is created by investment, and especially investment in construction. It is one of the most efficient ways of putting money into the economy, and there is clear evidence that in periods of recession and downturn the role of the public sector should be to put money into the economy until such time as the private sector is strong enough to take up the slack and create jobs and continue to grow the economy. I fear that stage of the economic cycle has not yet been reached, which is why we need measures such as a bankers’ bonus tax to enable money to come into the economy.
Those 25,000 affordable homes would only be a start, but it would be a very important start. We have a housing crisis in this country, and it will be made worse by the benefits cap the Government are introducing, as revealed by the evidence from the private secretary of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that the cap could result in 40,000 families losing their homes. We certainly need activities such as that mentioned by my hon. Friend to make up for Government problems being caused by activities elsewhere.
I hope the Government will read carefully the two Labour amendments, and acknowledge that, as they merely call for a review and are very reasoned, they are worthy of support. I therefore hope that we will hear later that they accept both amendments.
I should begin by saying that I support the Robin Hood tax, and it therefore follows that I am opposed to the Sheriff of Nottingham, who in this context is the British banking industry. The sheriff was known for robbing the people and feathering his own nest, which is a characteristic of our banking industry. When the bankers start squealing and the City journalists start repeating their squeals and appearing on radio and television saying how terrible it would be to impose further taxation on the bankers, it is worth remembering the scale of the banking industry, and the scale of the damage the banking crisis did to this country.
It is estimated—I think this estimate is generally accepted—that the effect of the banking crisis on Britain has been to reduce our output of goods and services by more than £300 billion. In other words, had that recession caused by the bankers not taken place the country would be £300 billion better off than we are now, and, with a normal tax take, the Treasury would have been about £120 billion better off than now. In other words, a large slice of the famous deficit would have been wiped out, and a large slice of that deficit has been caused by the incompetence, stupidity and greed of the bankers.
When the bankers say they cannot afford to pay any more, it is worth looking at the sums Britain’s leading banks lost in the crisis while still managing to survive—and most of them survived only by being either taken over or backed up by the taxpayer. HSBC lost $27 billion in the crisis; Morgan Stanley lost $15.7 billion in the crisis; Royal Bank of Scotland lost $14 billion in the crisis; Barclays lost $7.6 billion in the crisis; HBOS lost $6.8 billion in the crisis; and Lloyds TSB lost $4.7 billion in the crisis. Yet all of them have paid bonuses to management who presided over those losses. In the case of Barclays, as I understand it even the shareholders have been doing rather badly and have been treated unfairly, because the Barclays leadership has been paying bonuses while the bank’s share value has been halved in the last 10 years. These are therefore undeserved bonuses not only from the point of view of the rest of us, but even from the point of view of the banks’ shareholders. There is a lot of scope for getting some money out of these banks because they are rolling in money, and we should spend it in ways such as those mentioned in amendment 13, tabled by my party’s Front-Bench team, and amendment 31, tabled by my hon. Friend John McDonnell.
To put matters in perspective, this year—a frugal, austere year in the City, we understand—City bonuses amounted to more than £6 billion, yet we are told that the Government may not be able to accept the Dilnot report recommendations because they would cost the taxpayer £2 billion. That means that the Dilnot recommendations, which would help all the people who look with fear to the future and to getting older, could be implemented at an annual cost of one third of the bonuses being paid in the City of London. If that does not demonstrate how ridiculous the remuneration in the City of London is, I cannot imagine what does.
As I said in an intervention on my Front-Bench colleague, my hon. Friend Chris Leslie, these people in the City have now started to refer to their pay as “compensation”. They apparently need to be compensated to turn up at work, and apparently their normal compensation is not sufficiently high, so they have to get a bonus on top of that to compensate them for going to work and turning up at their office—and then, as we know from the crisis, losing money. It is about time these bankers started compensating the rest of us and doing what my hon. Friend Mr Robinson discussed: making more of the undeserved wealth splashing around in the banking industry available to those who are providing useful goods and services to people in this country and the rest of the world, and getting us to a fairer and better situation.
If people want to know why it might be a good idea to put more money into industry and a bit less into banking, they should look at the example of the most prosperous country in the European Union—Germany. Its manufacturing sector comprises roughly twice as big a proportion of its economy as ours does and as nearly every country in Europe’s sector does. That is because, over the years, the Germans have invested a lot more in the manufacturing of goods and the provision of high-tech services; they have not just let their banking industry run away with all the money.
I am strongly in favour of a Robin Hood tax. It is time that the Government really took on the Sheriff of Nottingham and made sure that Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the rest of us win.
May I begin by entirely agreeing with what my hon. Friend Bill Esterson said about the amendment being wholly reasonable? It ought to command the support of Members on both sides of this Chamber. I hope that at least some Government Members will find it within themselves to support an amendment that will make a significant contribution to addressing the real challenges facing this country. My right hon. Friend Frank Dobson just referred to the eye-wateringly high bonuses that the City of London has enjoyed in what he described as an “austere” year. It is incredible to think that the City of London bankers’ bonuses amounted to £6 billion.
May I, first, draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests in relation to an indirect interest of my right hon. Friend Mr Raynsford, as I should have done that earlier? My hon. Friend Chris Williamson mentions some enormous sums. Does he share my concern, and that of enough people around the country, about the huge contrast between those figures and the people who are desperate to find a home? The homelessness figures are rising, as we have learned from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
My hon. Friend makes an apposite point and she has done some excellent work to highlight the plight of people in our country who are struggling as a result of homelessness and having inadequate access to decent housing. It is a stain on our national character that in the 21st century, in one of the richest nations on earth, there can be the huge disparity to which she referred.
My first point relates to apprenticeships, the waste of talent in our country and the level of youth unemployment, which is still unacceptably high. I wish to discuss some personal experience and my concern that Bombardier, the last train-building company in our country, has today announced 1,429 redundancies at its Derby plant. It also made the point that its ability to provide apprenticeships for young people in the city of Derby has been considerably diminished. My real fear is that before the end of this year, unless the Government are persuaded to review things and to revise their decision in favour of the British train-building industry, the last remaining company that manufactures trains in our country will pull out of Great Britain altogether. The company will certainly be a shadow of its former self and its ability to provide apprenticeships will be almost completely eliminated.
It is, therefore, absolutely essential that hon. Members support the amendment proposing a tax on bankers’ bonuses, because it would enable the Government to earmark a proportion of that money to create job opportunities. My Front-Bench colleagues suggest that if £600 million of that £2 billion bonus money were used, almost 100,000 opportunities for getting young people into work could be created. Surely that ought to unite all of us. One would hope that even the bankers might consider that to be a reasonable use of the eye-wateringly high bonuses that they have enjoyed in this austere year.
The Government are under a moral obligation to support the amendment. I look directly at the Minister when I make that point, because he is under a moral obligation. I say that because one of the first decisions taken by those on the Government Benches was to scrap the future jobs fund. I can see him mouthing things because he knows what I am about to say. That fund did provide opportunities for our young people and it was making genuine inroads into youth unemployment in our country. The Government’s ability to tackle that is stuttering as a consequence of removing the future jobs fund.
This tax would make a mere pinprick on the standard of living of the bankers affected by it. The Government keep saying that we are all in it together, but if they genuinely believed that, surely those with the greatest resources should be giving a bigger contribution to those with almost no resources. As my hon. Friend Alison McGovern said, if young people are unable to get a job at the start of their career, this follows them throughout their life. The Government have it within their gift to support the amendment, which would go some way to addressing that real concern, and I hope that they will take on board their moral obligation to support it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central also mentioned that the Wolf review pointed out that some of the youngest of the unemployed in our country—the 16 to 18-year-olds—are struggling to find alternative employment. Although I applaud the Government’s attempts to deal with youth unemployment and their efforts on apprenticeships, their actions are clearly missing out a significant cohort and they should do more to address that situation. One of the other ways in which they could make a significant contribution would be by earmarking a proportion of this bonus tax for the building of 25,000 affordable homes. That would be a modest contribution, but we know that there is a huge demand for affordable housing in our country. Far too many people are living in inadequate accommodation, and there was an excellent exposé on Channel 4 last night about the growth in the number of Rachman-style landlords, who are afflicting parts of our country again.
In my view, we certainly need to do more to tackle that problem and one of the best ways to do that would be to build more decent affordable homes for people to live in. That would have not only the social benefit of providing good-quality homes for people who desperately need them but the added benefit of creating job opportunities and, dare I say, more apprenticeships for younger people, stimulating the economy. If young people are living in better, decent accommodation, their educational and health outcomes are beneficially affected. Whichever way one looks at such investment in affordable housing, through a modest tax on bankers’ bonuses, one can see that it would bring huge benefits to society. I hope that Members will find it within themselves to consider that and to support the amendment.
There is a great need to stimulate and support manufacturing industry and businesses across the piece. They are struggling: we know that the economy is flatlining, that the Government’s attempts at growing the economy are failing and that there is a need for a plan B.
I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman’s points about apprenticeships and youth unemployment. In my constituency, youth unemployment has fallen by 14%. For a similar reason, the aerospace industry and associated apprenticeships in his constituency are doing rather well under this Government. That is especially the case as regards foreign orders, such as those from China for Rolls-Royce engines and, in a case that affects my constituency, the expansion of British Aerospace abroad. That is the best way to create futures for young people. We should give them proper jobs through long-term investment in intellectual property and research and development tax credit, which the Government have expanded in the recent Budget. Does the hon. Gentleman not think that that is the best way to do it and should he not therefore support the Budget tonight?
I certainly do not support the Budget. Although I acknowledge that Rolls-Royce does some excellent work—we are fortunate, in that it is the largest employer in my constituency and provides huge opportunities for young people—the hon. Gentleman would do well to remember the support given by the previous Government to the aerospace industry. He would also do well to remember that one of this Government’s first decisions was to scrap the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters. I can see that he is screwing up his face and rolling his eyes—
Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman was tempted down this line of argument by the intervention, but we are discussing the bank levy.
Thank you for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. The point I am trying to make is that the resources realised as a consequence of supporting the amendment and introducing such a tax within the bank levy—or at least exploring the possibility and reporting back on how it might be used—could be used to support opportunities to create new employment for people in Sheffield through Sheffield Forgemasters and to generate more apprenticeships and opportunities for young people. I hope that Mr Wallace will reflect on those comments and join us in supporting the proposal made by my hon. Friends on the Front Bench about considering a tax on bankers’ bonuses.
I was going to talk about the fact that we know that the Government’s economic policies are failing and that the economy is flatlining. Opportunities are not being realised because of the Government’s blinkered approach, if I may put it that way. I ask Ministers to consider this proposal as an additional opportunity to support business and young people and to create opportunities in our country. Realising such aims has been made very difficult for Ministers because of the policies they have pursued.
We hear all the time from Government Members, particularly the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we are living in austere times, that we all must tighten our belts and that we are all in it together. As I have said, the amendment provides an ideal opportunity for the Minister and for Government Members to demonstrate that they mean what they say when they make comments about all being in it together.
I urge, beg and plead with Government Members to consider the modest proposal that is being made this evening and to join us in the Division Lobby so that we can give the Government an additional funding stream, which could do so much good in our country to tackle youth unemployment, to provide decent homes and to provide additional support for businesses through the regional growth fund. The regional growth fund was massively oversubscribed, and in my county of Derbyshire, not one single bid was successful—not one. Clearly, more resources are desperately needed and I would therefore have thought that this was a free hit for the Government. It would certainly be popular with the general public and the Government might even gain some additional popularity if they supported this reasonable proposal. I urge all Members to join us tonight to take the proposition forward and to take some positive steps to address some of the concerns that we all share about youth unemployment, inadequate housing and difficulties with the flatlining economy.
The Finance Bill introduces the bank levy, a permanent tax on banks’ balance sheets that will raise more than £2.5 billion each year. Amendment 13 seeks to reintroduce the one-off bank payroll tax introduced in the last Parliament, but that would be unnecessary and counterproductive. Amendment 31 seeks to introduce a financial transaction tax, but such a tax would need to be applied globally to prevent the relocation of financial services.
The Government have already set out far-reaching plans for banking reform on regulation, lending, remuneration and tax. That includes the introduction of the bank levy. Both amendments would also place an obligation on the Government to produce a report on how any additional revenues from each tax could be spent and we have already heard many ideas during the debate.
Before I talk about the amendments in detail, we should remind ourselves of the significant contribution to the economy and public finances made by banks operating in the UK. Many hundreds of thousands of jobs across the whole United Kingdom—not just here in London—depend on Britain being a competitive place for financial services. It has been said:
“While the success of the financial sectors in New York and Tokyo has been built largely on supplying large domestic economies, with a smaller domestic economy the success of London has increasingly depended on its global role…The Government recognises that it must ensure that the UK’s tax regime remains competitive”.
Chris Leslie described such an approach as the last refuge of the scoundrel, but the “scoundrel” who made that statement was not me, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, or the Prime Minister; it was Ed Balls, when he was the Treasury Minister responsible for financial services. It is clear that in a short space of time, the Labour party has decided it is no longer important to be globally competitive. That is yet another nail in the coffin of the economic credibility of that party, which voted this morning to scrap the deal obtained by the previous Prime Minister at the G20 summit to increase resources for the IMF.
The financial crisis demonstrated that fundamental reform was needed and that is what the Government are delivering. The Government firmly believe that banks should make a fair contribution to the public finances. In particular, banks should make an additional contribution in respect of the potential risks they pose to the UK financial system and wider economy. Last year, we announced a permanent levy on bank balance sheets, which was implemented from the beginning of this year.
Let me make my point and then perhaps the hon. Gentleman can explain the position of his party when it was in government.
In opposition, we made it clear that the UK should introduce, unilaterally if necessary, such a levy, but just weeks before the general election, the previous Government told us that a bank levy would have to be
“coordinated internationally to avoid jeopardising the UK’s competitiveness.”
Where we and our coalition partners have sought to lead international debate, Labour would hang back and let others make up their mind for them.
The Minister is extremely fond of harking back to what the previous Government did, but he is in government now and has failed so far to give a single convincing reason to support his position of not adding a bank bonus tax to the levy. Reuters is predicting profits this year of about £51 billion in the sector and there is still an implicit taxpayer subsidy of the sector, so in that context why is it so unreasonable to support the amendment? It simply asks for a review, which is a very reasonable suggestion.
The hon. Gentleman should be patient. I am just warming to my topic. I have much more to say about the bank levy and about amendment 31 on the Robin Hood tax. There is an issue about the need to reform the banking sector and the coalition Government decided to look at the structure of banking, which the previous Government failed to do. We want to tackle issues around the resolvability of banks and to look at how we can make the banking system much more stable. The measures we are taking forward will tackle some of the issues.
On the so-called progress the Minister is making on banking reform, can he tell us what progress he has made on the transparency of banker bonuses? That is a critical point. How many other Finance Ministers, worldwide or in Europe, has he spoken to and when will the transparency element of the legislation be triggered?
We have one of the most transparent disclosure regimes for banking salaries anywhere in the world. The measures we introduced as part of Project Merlin were more transparent and provide more information than in any comparable regime across the world. The Government have made real progress on tackling that issue.
We decided that we would lead the international debate and act unilaterally if necessary on the bank levy. Since we made our announcement, France and Germany have joined us in announcing such levies, and others have followed, including Hungary, Austria and Portugal. The hon. Gentleman made reference to the fact that the Dutch had announced a similar thing. Apparently, they believe that our design for a levy should be followed.
The hon. Gentleman talked about international comparisons. Even allowing for the larger size of the UK banking sector, the UK levy is larger than that of France or Germany. Different levies cannot be compared by looking just at headline rates; for example, the UK levy is focused on balance sheet liabilities, while the French levy is on risk-weighted assets. Furthermore, unlike the UK levy, the French levy does not apply to branches of foreign banks. Consequently, the French levy is expected to raise between €500 million to €1 billion a year, much less than the £2.5 billion we shall raise in the UK, a difference that cannot simply be explained away by the different sizes of our banking sectors. Moreover, unlike the UK, the French levy is deductable from their corporation tax liability. The hon. Gentleman said that the Government will not review the banking levy. If he looks carefully at the documentation, he will see that we are committed to reviewing it in 2013.
The levy is not the only tough action we have taken to ensure that banks pay their fair share of tax. Stephen Timms was a member of the Treasury team when the previous Government introduced the code of practice on taxation for banks, but they utterly failed to get all the banks to sign up to it; only four of the big 15 banks had signed up to it by the time they left office.
While the previous Government talked a good story about tackling tax evasion and avoidance, we acted. By the end of November, all the top banks had adopted the code and by the time of the March Budget this year, 200 banks had adopted it. We have taken tough action to tackle tax planning issues and to ensure that banks pay a fair share in taxes to recognise the contribution they should make, given the risk they pose to the UK economy.
With amendment 13, tabled by the shadow Chancellor, the Opposition seek to reintroduce the bank payroll tax, which was introduced in the previous Parliament as a one-off interim measure ahead of changes in remuneration practices from corporate governance and regulatory reforms, and the previous Chancellor conceded that it could not be repeated. The net yield for the tax, accounting for the impact it would have had on income tax and national insurance contribution receipts, was £2.3 billion, which is less than we will raise from the bank levy this year, and less than we will raise from it next year, the year after and the year after that.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the unintended consequence of the payroll tax was to push up salaries versus bonuses in the City, which is something that no Member wants to see?
My hon. Friend points out some of the behavioural impacts of the tax. A Labour Member pointed out earlier the reduction in the proportion of remuneration from bonuses and the increased amount from salaries. That is the kind of behavioural change that happens. Those responses are important. Banks and bankers respond to such changes, but the world has moved on. Unlike when the payroll tax applied, the top rate of income tax is now 50p in the pound. The previous Government told us that they would apply the bonus tax only until changes in remuneration practices were in place, and this Government have taken firm action in that regard.
The Financial Services Authority revised remuneration code of practice sets out detailed rules for pay for firms in the financial services sector. The code ensures that bonuses paid to significant risk-takers are deferred over a number of years and are linked to the performance of the employee and the firm. In addition, significant portions of any bonus will be paid in shares or securities. Those revised rules came into force on
At times, I wonder what Opposition Members read; we were clear from the outset that we wanted to toughen up the rules on remuneration. [ Interruption. ] We were very clear about what we wanted to do. The Opposition should hang their heads in shame about the bonus culture they allowed to perpetuate when they were in government. I remind them that Labour gave Fred Goodwin a knighthood for his services to banking.
We do not need a bank payroll tax. We have demonstrated that the bank levy we have introduced will ensure that banks pay a fair share in relation to the risk they pose to the wider economy. The right actions have been taken.
Amendment 31 was tabled by John McDonnell. He is right to highlight the importance of funding international development, on which there is cross-party consensus. The Government agree that we should move to ensure that 0.7% of gross national income should be for aid. The hon. Gentleman is also right to highlight the importance of achieving the millennium development goals. He mentioned talking about education in a school in his constituency. On Friday, I met a group of pupils from Portchester community school who were very much behind the “Send my sister to school” campaign. These are important issues, but we need some discussion about whether the financial transaction tax model offers a stable and efficient mechanism to raise revenue. Such taxes remain the subject of ongoing debate at international level, and the UK continues to take an active role in the discussions.
The hon. Gentleman called for a review. There is no shortage of reviews on the issue. The IMF has had a review and the EU has had reviews, but they all come back to the fundamental problem with the proposal: a tax would need to be applied globally to prevent the relocation of financial services. If implemented only at UK or EU level, the tax would simply prompt the relocation of financial services, and so fail to deliver the desired outcome in terms of revenue. In doing so, it would have significant adverse impacts on employment and the wider economy.
The Government are willing to engage in further international discussions of such taxes. The French Government have announced that discussion of a financial transaction tax will be one of its priorities for its presidency of the G20 this year. Discussions have been taking place at a European level, and the European Commission is due to publish an impact assessment on further financial sector taxation, including transaction taxes, in the next few months. The House will be aware that, ahead of this, the Commission last week published its latest communication on the EU budget. This proposes that the EU budget could in future be part-funded through new taxes, including a financial transaction tax. I hope the House is also aware that this Government’s position is clear: we oppose any new EU taxes to fund the EU budget.
The Minister recently told me that the Government had made no assessment whatever of the money that might be raised by a transactions tax, as proposed by my hon. Friend John McDonnell—a Robin Hood tax. If the Government have made no assessment of the money likely to be raised, how can they have meaningful discussions with international bodies about what the impact of the tax would be?
Significant studies have been done by both the EU and the IMF on such a tax, how it would work and the pitfalls in the proposals. We will see an impact assessment on that emerging shortly. We have not ruled out a financial activities tax. We are engaged in discussion with our international partners and we have pressed for the Commission to consider such a tax. It is working on that. We are making progress. Another review is not needed; there is sufficient work going on to explore the issue in significant detail. The amendment would impose more burdens on the Treasury and it would be better to allow that work to take its course.
I would like to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I want to try and wind up the debate because there are other important matters to be discussed this evening.
On Government amendments 32 to 50, since our proceedings in Committee, it has been brought to our attention that in one area the legislation as drafted may not fully achieve the intended policy ambition. These are the rules relating to netting and in particular the rules concerning multi-lateral netting agreements in groups. These are essentially agreements that allow different members of the same banking group to enter into a net settlement agreement with the same counterparties.
We have sought as a public policy objective to ensure that banks should be able to net off certain liabilities against assets, and that the levy is charged only on the remaining balance of liabilities. The amendments clarify the purpose of the legislation and ensure that the netting rules apply so that some banks are not adversely affected. We want to make sure that we keep the provisions under review. That is why we have put into the amendments a power to allow the Treasury to amend the rules applying to netting arrangements going forward.
The hon. Member for Nottingham East asked whether there would be an impact on yield as a consequence of the amendments. There is no impact on yield, as the amendments reflect the policy objective that we have pursued.
In conclusion, we think it is right that banks should make a contribution reflecting the risks they pose to the UK financial system and the wider economy. That is why we introduced the bank levy. We expect the levy to raise more each and every year than the bank payroll tax did under the previous Government. All the Opposition have to offer in the debate is a tax that did not work the first time round. We have put in place a clear strategy to reform the banking sector. I believe that the actions we are taking are right, and I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to oppose the Opposition amendments.
I repeat my congratulations to my hon. Friend John McDonnell on at least getting the debate on the financial transaction tax on the table. We on the Front Bench also want to keep it on the table. It is appalling that the Government have ruled it out. My hon. Friend and I have already spoken about how we should revisit the issue in future legislative opportunities. The Front-Bench team has a qualm about the fact that the amendment does not mention sufficiently the need for international agreement on the subject, but broadly we agree that the matter needs to be taken forward. Unfortunately, we will not be supporting his amendment on this occasion, but it is an important topic which we must keep under review and keep a close eye on as it develops.
My hon. Friends the Members for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson), for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) and for Derby North (Chris Williamson) and my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson all highlighted the fact that there is no good reason for the Government’s inaction on bonuses. My right hon. Friend Stephen Timms and my hon. Friend Alison McGovern spoke about the massive blow to the self-esteem that young people in particular feel, and the sense of their role in society and of their value that they lose, if they do not have the opportunity of jobs and employment.
The Minister says that our amendment 13, which would repeat a bank bonus levy, is unnecessary and counterproductive. The Government seem content with the lack of transparency on bonuses. They are happy with high and growing remuneration for executive bankers. They think the banks are paying a fair share, and they scoff at the £2 billion that could be raised by a tax on bank bonuses. We feel that the public disagree with the Government. The amendment would be a fair approach and it would help to create employment. That is why I urge the House to support amendment 13.
Question accordingly negatived.
Amendment proposed: 31, page 42, line 30, at end insert—
‘(2) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall review the possibility of incorporating a bank financial transaction tax within the bank levy, levied on trading in financial products including stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, futures and options and publish a report within six months of the passing of this Act, on how the additional revenue raised would be invested to tackle unemployment and reduce poverty in the United Kingdom and to assist in tackling deprivation in the developing world.’.—(John McDonnell.)
The House divided:
Ayes 25, Noes 279.