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Banking Industry (Taxation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th September 2011.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 2:30 pm, 6th September 2011

What recent assessment he has made of the level of taxation levied on the banking industry.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs published details of total pay-as-you-earn and corporation tax receipts from the banking sector for the first time on 31 August. The official statistics show that tax receipts from the sector increased from £17.3 billion in 2009-10 to £21 billion in 2010-11. A number of other taxes are incurred by the banking sector that the Office for National Statistics did not include in the figures, including the new bank levy introduced by this Government, which we expect will raise an additional £2.5 billion net each year, which is more in each and every year than the previous Government raised in their one-off payroll tax.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I am grateful to the Chancellor for that answer, but the truth is that the High Pay Commission has just published a report demonstrating that high executive pay bears no relation to the performance of companies and that nowhere is this more starkly illustrated than in the banking sector. Meanwhile, youth unemployment is going up. Is it not time we made the banking sector pay its fair share in order to do something for the young unemployed in this country, as advocated by the Opposition?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

That is why we introduced the bank levy, which Labour had 13 years to introduce but did not. It raises £2.5 billion. We are also taking action to clamp down on tax avoidance. We recently proposed a measure to tackle something called disguised remuneration, whereby high earners, often in the financial services sector, disguise their income to avoid tax, but the Labour party voted against the measure.

Photo of Peter Tapsell Peter Tapsell Father of the House of Commons

As we are discussing banking, may I again put it to the Chancellor that further delay in ring-fencing retail banking from investment banking can only perpetuate the appalling shibboleth that big banks cannot fail? Until we debunk that shibboleth, the capitalist system will remain at risk.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My right hon. Friend makes a powerful point. We must learn the lessons of what went wrong in the regulation of our banking system and ask deep questions about how, as an economy, we underwrite that system. That is why the Government asked John Vickers and his fellow commissioners to look at the structure of the banking system and at how we can ensure that Britain can be home to global banks but, at the same time, the British taxpayer can be protected should those banks fail. Of course, John Vickers will publish his final report next week and I am sure that there will be plenty of discussion about it.

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

With the future jobs fund and education maintenance allowance abolished, Labour Members have been urging the Chancellor to repeat the bank bonus tax on top of the bank levy in order to get young people into work. The Chancellor claims that the economy is recovering, unemployment is falling and that such action is unnecessary, so will he tell the House how many more young people, compared with a year ago, are now not in education, employment or training?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The number of 16 and 17-year-old NEETs has actually come down, and more than 500,000 new jobs have been created in the private sector over the past year. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the bonus tax, and I will use not the advice I have been given by Treasury officials to respond, but the advice I have been given by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, someone we know he is very close to. The previous Chancellor said this of the bonus tax, and he after all is the man who introduced it:

“It will be a one-off thing because, frankly, the very people you are after here are very good at getting out of these things and... will find all sorts of imaginative ways of avoiding it”.

That is why he did not want it to be anything more than a one-off tax, and that is why we introduced a much more permanent and sustainable tax on the banks, which the right hon. Gentleman never introduced when he was City Minister. It is a permanent bank levy that raises more net every year than the one-off bonus tax did.

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Unemployment is rising and the stock market is plummeting—it is no surprise that the Chancellor does not want to answer the question about youth unemployment. Let me tell the House that the number of young people between 18 and 25 out of work and not in education, employment or training has gone up in the past year by 18%: 119,000 more young people are unemployed. Let me tell the Chancellor what my right hon. Friend Mr Darling said on “Newsnight” last night:

“The government, by going so fast, is really strangling the economy…if you go too fast you stall”—

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

The argument that I am making is that the Chancellor is ignoring the case for repeating the bank bonus tax for a second year, even though youth unemployment has gone up by 18%—119,000 more. Let me ask him a second—

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

The question that people will be asking is if the Chancellor will not change his mind on the bank bonus tax, on VAT and on the pace of deficit reduction, why is he now changing his mind on stalling bank reform? He said that we were all in it together. Why is there one rule for the banks and another rule for everyone else?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Now we can see why the former Chancellor has said that the Labour party had no credible economic policy. The shadow Chancellor had all summer to think of that question, and the best he came up with was that we were not regulating the banks. He was the City Minister when the City exploded. We have taken action better to regulate the banks. We set up the commission that will report next week. As for downgraded numbers, the fastest falling numbers around here are his economic credibility numbers.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

It would be good to get more tax out of RBS, a state-owned bank, but unfortunately it is still loss making. Will the Chancellor or a relevant Minister have an urgent meeting with its executives so that they can have a better plan for cutting risks, selling assets and making some money for the taxpayer?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My right hon. Friend is, of course, right that the British banking system has had its challenges—not least over the summer, with its share prices. We are in regular discussion with the banks about that, of course, and we will of course have many discussions about the future structure of banking. We need a profitable banking sector that lends to the real economy. We have in place targets to see an increase in lending to small businesses. But my right hon. Friend is absolutely right that a key part of the recovery is a return to health for the financial services industry and the financial system.