Clause 73 — The bank levy

Part of Bill Presented — Police (detention and bail) bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 5th July 2011.

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras 5:45 pm, 5th July 2011

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.