Clause 200 — Bank Levy: rates from January 2013

[1st Allocated Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 17th April 2013.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 4:30 pm, 17th April 2013

I beg to move amendment 2, page 118, line 22, at end add—

‘(14) 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 additional revenue raised would be invested to create new jobs and tackle unemployment.’.

Photo of David Amess David Amess Conservative, Southend West

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 200 to 202 stand part.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

We now turn to the issue of bank taxation. Amendment 2 seeks to commission from the Chancellor a review of the possibility of incorporating a bank payroll tax within the bank levy and the publishing of a report, within six months of the passing of the Finance Act, on how additional revenue raised would be invested—in particular, to create new jobs and tackle unemployment.

Our approach to bank taxation cannot be looked at in isolation from the economic consequences caused by the banking crisis or from the deficit left for the taxpayer as a result of the failures of the UK banking system. Despite signs in 2012 that the recovery was under way, the extreme-austerity path pursued by the Chancellor has led to stagnation and falling living standards, as well as to growth of only 0.8%, compared with the 5.3% that was promised at the 2010 spending review, and to downgraded forecasts for this year and next year. On top of that, wage levels are flatlining at a time of inflation, resulting in real-terms wage cuts for millions of people, and millions more are struggling to find work in the first place. The typical family is worse off by £891 a year as a result of the cumulative effect of the decisions taken since 2010.

Our amendment offers a new route for the economy and a policy decision that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take, focusing in particular on the bank bonus tax that ought to be implemented. Only today the International Monetary Fund has warned the Chancellor that he should change course and we have learned that unemployment levels are soaring—70,000 more people are now on the dole compared with last month, youth unemployment has risen by 20,000 and long-term unemployment is up yet again. [Interruption.] The Economic Secretary may not have seen the statistics, but the complacency he voices from a sedentary position is appalling.

Despite all those problems, there was little attempt in the Budget to suggest any solutions. The Office for Budget Responsibility considered the cumulative effect of all the Budget’s measures and said that its impact on growth in 2013 would be negative and that growth would retrench.

At the same time that this Government are presiding over a millionaires’ tax cut, ordinary people are being hit from all sides. Middle and low earners will be hit hardest, while those who need it least will get the big payouts. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the average single parent in work will be worse off by £1,225 and couples with children where both parents work will be worse off by £1,869. At the same time, hundreds of bankers earning more than £1 million will get an average £54,000 tax cut, according to some of the latest analysis, which I will come to in a moment. All this is from a Chancellor who said in his 2012 autumn statement that we have to have

“a tax system where the richest pay their fair share”.—[Hansard, 5 December 2012; Vol. 554, c. 877.]

He obviously has a very different idea of what “fair share” means from the majority of people, who recognise that the Budget measures in this Finance Bill will make life more difficult for the vast majority and much easier for the very rich. That is a disgraceful state of affairs.

The Government’s unfairness is not just about the millionaires’ tax cut, so we felt it necessary to table this amendment, which asks the Chancellor to reconsider his approach to bank taxation. The Chancellor has been consistently weak and reluctant to make banks pay their fair share. Despite their promise to the contrary, the Government’s Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill has failed to implement fully the structural reforms recommended by the Vickers report, which are vital for our long-term economic interests.

On top of that, the Government’s bank levy has raised far less than the £2.5 billion they promised. In the financial year just ended—2012-13—the bank levy raised just £1.6 billion, from which a further £200 million has to be deducted because of the generosity of the corporation tax cut that the Chancellor has lavished on the banks. All in all, the banks have paid £1.1 billion less than they were supposed to pay in the last financial year. This is a tremendously generous Chancellor, but only to the banks.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health) 5:00 pm, 17th April 2013

Was my hon. Friend as amazed as I was at the corporation tax figures produced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs? We were told—indeed, the Chancellor informed the House—that the corporation tax cut would be offset by the Government and that there would be no benefit to the banks.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

This is the curious thing about the Government’s approach to the bank levy. They have consistently said, “Don’t worry, we’ll set the rate”—let us bear in mind that the levy is a charge on the balance sheets and a proportion of a certain set of liabilities—and said that it was designed to yield £2.5 billion, so it has taken some doing for the Treasury to have managed to net only £1.6 billion in the past year and to get the bank levy so wrong. If it had been my hon. Friend’s constituents who were due to pay a certain level of tax through PAYE or national insurance, does he imagine that the taxman or Treasury would have been so lax and said, “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll let you off that massive liability for the time being”? That is essentially what the Minister and his colleagues in the Treasury have been doing and saying to the banks.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Had it been my constituents who owed HMRC any sum of money, HMRC would have been down on them like a ton of bricks, whether they were businesses or individuals. Is not that the inherent unfairness? The Government say that the banks will not prosper from these changes, but clearly that is not the case.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I am afraid that the situation is even worse than my hon. Friend thinks. It is not only the past financial year in which the Minister and his colleagues took their eye off the ball on the bank levy: they did so in the financial year before that, too. In 2011-12, the combined shortfall from the bank levy, netting in £1.8 billion or so and added to the corporation tax cut, was £800 million less than Ministers promised. It is not good enough to say, “Oh well, this is an aberration, and it is something that we can tweak and correct.” Ministers are not going back as far as they should and correcting that shortfall in the steps they are taking in the Budget. It is just not good enough. They have not thought through the design of the bank levy carefully enough.

It is not as though Ministers were not warned. I am sorry that the Exchequer Secretary is not in his place, as I warned him in a debate in July 2010—it seems like only yesterday, but it was nearly three years ago—when I said, “The bank levy is too weak. It will not work and it will not have those yields.” It does not give me any satisfaction to say, “I told you so”, but I did tell them so, and Ministers cannot therefore claim that it was something that happened by chance.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

That is an option, and we certainly need to go back to the drawing board and make sure that we design the bank levy in a way that actually works. The proposition we have made in the amendment is to repeat the bank bonus tax that worked very successfully in 2009. That could be incorporated into the bank levy process—that is one option—to ensure that we get a fair share for the taxpayer, who has suffered as a consequence of the requirement to bail out the banks.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify whether his policy is for a one-off payroll tax or a permanent one?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

This is where we need to look at the interplay with the bank levy. Clearly the levy should be a permanent way of ensuring that we net the right level of resource for the Treasury in recompense for the deficit that the banks created. It is possible to have a bank bonus tax that is more sustainable, but I am open to discussion with the Treasury about how that might work. Even if we netted less than the £3.5 billion that the first bank bonus tax brought in, it would still be considerably more on top of the bank levy, which clearly needs to be topped up. It is important that we look at that—

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Given that the hon. Gentleman clearly does not know whether it would be permanent or temporary, can he at least give an assurance to the

Committee that he will not commit any spending to be funded by that levy that goes beyond any particular year?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I can tell the Minister that in this financial year it would be necessary for us to repeat that bank bonus tax. We will set out our tax and spending proposals when we write the manifesto for the general election. Heaven knows what kind of mess we will have to untangle after a further two years. It would be invidious to make decisions at this point in the cycle when the Minister will not tell us what is in the spending review in just two months’ time. We will make an assessment in two years’ time. I can certainly tell him that, from our point of view—this is a serious policy distinction—a bank bonus tax would be necessary now, particularly to help fund a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people. That is a necessity, given the unemployment figures we saw earlier today.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee exactly how much extra he wants his proposal to raise?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

We feel that £2 billion could be raised this year from a repetition of the bank bonus tax. That would be an important contribution from those who are doing particularly well. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman moves in those circles and whether he has seen, as though nothing much has changed in the world, how high bonuses continue to be. Yes, changes from the European Union and elsewhere are being forced on to the bonus culture, but bonuses are still excessively generous to the very lucky few. There are a number of reasons why the bank bonus tax would be good not just for the taxpayer, but in changing the culture in the sector itself. The tax raised £3.5 billion when it was last tried in 2009.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

At what rate would the bonus tax be to raise that amount of money this year?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I was anticipating that question from the Minister. This is the Minister who has tweaked and changed the rate, I think, five or six times in various Finance Bills, all to fit the £2.5 billion figure that he has totally failed to address. We need to go back to the drawing board on the bank levy and find a way of calculating it so that it properly yields the sums that we envisage. Of course, the bank levy has to be thought through, so that we get that resource in. It is totally unacceptable to have lost nearly £2 billion for the taxpayer in the past two financial years. Just think what that £2 billion could have achieved in that period. This is not small money. There is the classic chancellorial phrase, “A billion here, a billion there and very soon it starts to add up to real money”, but this is significant resource. It is to the great shame of Ministers that they have allowed that money to slip away from them.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again; he is being generous with his time. I just want to understand one thing. If, say, he raised £2 billion in the way he proposes, what would he say to the person who finds it harder to get finance for the borrowing that they need, because of the regulatory requirements on banks and because he had taken a whole load of money out of the banking system, reducing the ability of the banks to lend money?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Why should a constraint on the bonus pool have a constraint on the lending capacity of banks? The hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting—this is the classic Conservative attitude to banking—that the one inviolate part of a bank’s balance sheet is remuneration, or “compensation” as they sometimes like to call it: “Do what you like to the banks, but for goodness’ sake don’t affect that bonus pool and don’t change that compensation pool.” Well, I am sorry, but we take a totally different point of view. In fact, if there is one area of bank finance that needs a culture change, and which proves that stronger capital adequacy is not anathema to bank lending, it is management remuneration. It is too bloated and needs to change.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

My hon. Friend has been thinking creatively about how banks can make a contribution to getting people back to work. In light of the previous debate, has any consideration been given to the idea of banks being guided into investing in social housing, which could then become part of their assets? Rather than just taking money from banks, which then complain they do not have any money left, their assets could be interwoven with job creation, asset generation and a lowering of the housing benefit bill. We all know that the 17% rise in housing benefit is due to the private sector and a lack of public housing.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

There is a debate to be had—possibly a separate one—about how we can make a certain kind of socially useful asset class more attractive to private investment. If we as a society want to boost housing investment, we need to attract investors to make those decisions. That would certainly be a more sophisticated way of devising public policy, instead of the dreamed-up approaches in the Help to Buy scheme and the NewBuy scheme, which, as my hon. Friend Andrew Gwynne said, delivered only 1.5% of the expected additional housing.

We think that the bank bonus tax should be repeated also because it would help to address the culture of risky short-termism in the banking sector. Large bonuses were certainly one of the triggers behind the global financial crisis. Indeed, the Turner review said that

“bankers have been encouraged by the promise of big bonuses to take excessive risks with other people’s money”.

Tackling that is crucial for our future economic stability and was one of the main reasons we introduced the bank bonus tax back in 2009. Sadly, very little has changed between then and now. A timely example of that was Barclays’ announcement, slipped out on Budget day, of £40 million of bonuses. I think it had a bonus pool of £1.85 billion for 2012.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith 5:15 pm, 17th April 2013

It is useful of my hon. Friend to remind us of the coincidence of Budget day, which meant misery for many ordinary people, and millions of pounds of bonuses announced by that bank. That indicates another reason why the bank bonus tax is so important: we have to do right by the public, who cannot understand how, in spite of all that has happened, some bankers get multi-million-pound bonuses at a time when most other people are having to tighten their belts in a big way.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

As I was saying, Barclays has talked about confronting some of the necessary culture changes. It commissioned the Salz report after its involvement in the LIBOR scandal and the fines it received as a result, yet still that oil tanker of bonuses continued to float on, even in that particularly difficult year.

Photo of Mike Thornton Mike Thornton Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I sympathise, obviously, with the point about the overpayment of bonuses. I have three quick questions. First, how does the hon. Gentleman propose to prevent the banks from passing on the cost to their customers? Secondly, at what level of bonus would the tax start? I hope it would not affect ordinary retail staff earning their £50 bonus. And thirdly —no two will do!

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Well, that is still more than we normally get in one intervention. You are very generous in the Chair, Mr Amess. I do not think there was any evidence of the bonus tax being passed on to customers before, because regulation can ensure constraints on how the remuneration pool works. The Bank of England itself, through the Financial Policy Committee, is now sending the strong message that banks should stop prioritising that bonus pool and level of compensation. The world has changed, and the banks have to recognise that their behaviour also has to change.

We want specifically to target the highest-paid individuals in the banks, not the clerks or ordinary staff. The tax would be aimed at large, discretionary bonuses above £25,000, which continue to be paid out even in the state-owned banking sector. RBS and NatWest paid out bonuses worth £607 million in 2012, despite making a £5 billion loss. Of course, it was the Prime Minister who promised to ensure that any state-owned bank did not pay out a bonus of more than £2,000.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I am sure that hon. Gentleman remembers that promise from his great leader.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

The hon. Gentleman is right: we all want to see pay restraint on the part of banks and the banking system. However, that is a separate argument from the issue of imposing taxation. If he took £2 billion out of the banking system at this time, it would mean less finance or pricier finance, which would be bad for the economy and bad for the recovery.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

We are repeating the intervention and the response I gave earlier. I just disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not think it is an inalienable right of bankers to continue to receive multi-million pound bonuses. The world has changed, as even many Government Members recognise. Defending the indefensible will not do him any good.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

May I suggest an alternative hypothesis to my hon. Friend? The runaway bonus inflation that we are seeing once again suggests that the top earners are almost anticipating a bonus tax, in which case we may as well give it to them and fund jobs for the young unemployed.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

That is the other crucial part. We are often criticised by the Government, who ask, “Where are your policies? What are you proposing to do about the economic situation?” but here is a pretty good suggestion for them. Let us learn from their mistake of scrapping the new deal and the future jobs fund, which my hon. Friends will remember, and do something to help to get young people in particular back to work. There is a separate issue with the long-term unemployed. We have talked separately about changes to the highest rate of pension relief, which could help to fund something for the long-term unemployed, but we could use the bank bonus tax to help to get young people back into work. It is essential that we get people back into the habit of working and paying taxes, and if they turn down those job opportunities, they should forfeit benefits as a result. The proposal has to be part of a tough policy, to ensure that we always focus on work as the best antidote to an inflated welfare budget, but to get our economy moving again too.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

Picking up on the point made from the Government Benches about some of our measures taking money out of the economy, is my hon. Friend concerned that the local economy in Plymouth, for example, is losing £16 million because of the Government’s benefit changes? Does he not see some contradiction in that?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The study commissioned by the Financial Times which showed the massive impact of the extreme austerity being pursued by the Government will bring home to many communities where some of the poorest people live the fact that that money and those resources are being taken out of their local economies.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I am sorry to press the hon. Gentleman on this point, but can he answer a conundrum for me? He has helpfully said that he wants to raise £2 billion this year through his payroll tax. The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that this year’s bonus pool would be £1.6 billion in total. How will he raise £2 billion from that?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I do not recognise that figure. [Interruption.] The Minister is making various projections about the bonus pool, but even if the changes meant that we did not manage in years to come to yield what we now feel we can yield—he could equally make the argument that said, “Well, the European Union is making changes to limit bonuses,” which would obviously mean changes to salaries and elsewhere—what we are proposing would add considerably to the bank levy revenues that he has managed to generate. As we have set out in the amendment before the Committee, we need to incorporate a repeat of the bank payroll tax. It is important to recognise that, although I am happy for the Treasury to commission further research on the issue. If the Government are interested in this agenda and are starting to move in that direction, that might be useful.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

I am slightly confused about one thing. Is the hon. Gentleman trying to reduce profligacy and excesses in bankers’ bonuses or is he trying to raise revenue? The problem is that if he gets rid of bonuses or drives them down—a great many of us, and certainly the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, have said that we do not like this at all—he will not get the payroll taxes, namely national insurance and income tax, on those bonuses, so the revenue will go down. I am not too sure what position he is trying to get to.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Of course that argument could be made about any demerit activity or level of taxation. People have been making that argument about cigarette taxes over the years, saying “Well, if people give up smoking, will the Treasury not lose a lot of money from it?” I do not want to divert too much into the wider principle, but I would say that a very considerable tax cut has been given to bankers by reducing the 50p rate of income tax to 45p—a cut that is providing a very significant bonus to those individuals in this year. The hon. Gentleman need not worry too much about these poor maligned executives in the banking system. I know that things must be very difficult for them—they may even have to defer the purchase of their yachts for that little bit longer—but we must start capturing and getting a grip on this issue in a way that the bank levy has not worked to achieve so far.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith

On my hon. Friend’s last point, given that many of the banks are substantially owned by the public sector, what does not go in bonuses to the top bankers might come back to the taxpayer in other ways. On the question of the European dimension, we often hear that a bankers’ bonus tax could not be introduced only in the UK because all the top bankers would flee to Luxembourg, France, Germany or wherever. Is that not a good reason why a Europe-wide policy should be considered—precisely because there would be less opportunity for people to get away from UK taxation, which is sometimes used as an objection to a bankers’ bonus tax?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I know that Members of the European Parliament have debated some of these issues earlier this week; indeed, they have this week instituted a cap on the bonus level. We will need to reassess behaviour under that new arrangement, but I reiterate that we are confident that the revenue could be used for the purpose of helping the young unemployed.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I want the Government to do the same, and I challenge the hon. Gentleman to support us.

Photo of Brooks Newmark Brooks Newmark Conservative, Braintree

That will never happen.

I apologise for missing the Minister’s opening remarks, but I was so excited by the shadow Minister’s remarks that I wanted to intervene. I understand that mathematics is not a strong point when it comes to Labour party policy. We have heard from the Minister that bonuses have come down from approximately £11 billion to £1.6 billion. He is proposing a 130% tax on people who receive bonuses, in respect of the current statistics. We have heard from my hon. Friend Mark Garnier that the shadow Minister has not thought about the implications for the reduction in take-home from achieving the changes he wants to bankers’ bonuses, which will reduce the money coming in for the Exchequer, which I suspect means that his numbers will not add up. The question I really want to put to him, however, is whether his proposed reduction in bonuses relates purely to cash. If not, is he saying that if employees are given shares, which might have a vesting period of more than five years, the vest for that period will be taxed? Is it about cash, or is it about cash plus shares?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I get the sense that the hon. Gentleman is starting an accountancy line, perhaps thinking how best to advise these bankers of ways around that nasty Labour Government’s bankers’ bonus tax. I am sure that whether it be in Bitcoins, gold or shares, bankers will be ingenious in how they pay and reward themselves. We have to get a grip of it, though, because however much they lavish rewards on themselves, the Exchequer needs to keep pace with the arrangement. I accept that this is a fluid situation, with policy and banker remuneration changing at the European level, but we must capture this particular issue and not adopt the lackadaisical attitude that the Treasury has adopted so far.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Labour, Sefton Central

A number of figures have bandied around in the debate, and it is difficult to know exactly which ones are right. Surely that is why we need the review that the amendment proposes. Such a review will, using the resources available to the Treasury, show how the scheme would work. That is surely the best way of answering the questions. We are hearing too many different arguments and different figures—even from the Members who have spoken over the last few minutes.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

My hon. Friend is correct. However, even if we assume that, as the Minister will no doubt say when I give way to him in a moment, cash bonuses have been changing and the revenue yield will not be the same as it was in 2009, the fact remains that in 2009 we brought in £3.5 billion, and we calculate that this year we could bring in £2 billion. I have not seen any figures to the contrary. As for the Minister’s predictions of what may happen to bonus arrangements in the future, we can come to that in time.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I want to move on, but I will give way to the Minister first.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way; he said earlier that he would do so.

The hon. Gentleman said that he had based his assumption on calculations. The authoritative source on these matters is the CBI, which has published figures consistently over time. It says that the bonus pool was £6.5 billion in 2010 and is £1.6 billion in 2013. Will he share with the Committee the calculations on which he has based his assumption about the bonus pool, and the source that he used? If he cannot do that, I hope he will desist, both in this debate and in future, from making any spending commitments that rely on a source that is fanciful.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I would be happy to enter into correspondence with the Minister about the matter. However, we feel that, according to a conservative estimate

—I use the term, on this occasion, in a relatively pleasant way—£2 billion could be netted for the Exchequer, as opposed to the £3.5 billion that was netted in 2009.

Our amendment would require the Chancellor to

“review the possibility of incorporating a bank payroll tax within the bank levy”.

I am delighted that the Treasury has conceded that it wishes to engage in such a review. I am delighted that there has been a bit of movement in that regard. I would quite like to ask where the Liberal Democrats are on the issue, but then I would quite like to ask where the Liberal Democrats are generally—although I shall not dwell on that.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I would like the hon. Gentleman to be more precise about the figures. He said that last time the payroll tax raised £3.4 billion—

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The hon. Gentleman says that it was £3.5 billion. I am sure he will confirm that he has read the analysis published last year by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which clearly states that £3.4 billion is a gross receipts figure and that the net yield was £2.3 billion. He will agree with that, I am sure.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

No. The figures given in the HMRC study were estimates—and, incidentally, it was not a study by the Office for Budget Responsibility. For “HMRC”, read “Ministers”. They may well pooh-pooh the payroll levy and the bank bonus tax, but we feel that there is ample evidence to demonstrate how it operated before and how it could and should operate again. If only Ministers would adopt a more “can do” attitude, rather than trying to deflect attention from the massive embarrassment of having promised to raise £2.5 billion from a bank levy and having brought in only £1.6 billion in the last financial year. Although we said year after year that the levy would not be strong enough, they turned a blind eye, and indeed they have turned a blind eye to their banker friends for far too long.

The Government have provided tax cuts amounting to £19 million in the last week by reducing the 50p rate to 45p. A massive number of bank executives are earning more than £1 million this year. A cursory study of the annual reports and accounts of some of the banks concerned—Opposition Members may wish to listen to this rather than talking among themselves—reveals that this year’s bonus results created a staggering number of millionaires. In the Royal Bank of Scotland, 93 bankers were given bonuses of more than £1 million. Given the tax cut, they will benefit to the tune of more than £6 million in the current financial year. Barclays originally reported that it had 428 millionaires, given bonuses. I have been told that only a third are UK-based, but that would still mean that 140 Barclays executives are benefiting from nearly £23 million in tax cuts granted by the Minister because of the reduction in the top band of income tax. Seventy-eight millionaires at HSBC have received a combined tax cut of £3.3 million. Nineteen individuals at Santander are receiving a giveaway of more than £800,000. Twenty-five millionaires at Lloyds are receiving from the Treasury a combined tax giveaway in this financial year of £1.3 million. So they are doing very well, thank you very much, from this Government.

Photo of Mike Thornton Mike Thornton Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The hon. Gentleman is discussing banks paying this tax. Why limit it to banks? Many other organisations, such as hedge funds and insurance companies, pay very large bonuses. I understand that at one point, we perhaps needed to punish them; by why not tax extra anyone that has a bonus of £25,000 or above?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have a chapter in the pamphlet that Stephen Williams is writing; we would all be interested to read it. [Interruption.] From a sedentary position, I am offered a signed copy of that pamphlet. We are all interested in political memorabilia, and it would certainly be an historic document.

We wanted to retain the 50p top rate of income tax for this year. It should not have been cut, and we think that doing so is unfair. I know—well, I think I know—that in their heart of hearts, the Liberal Democrats do not really agree with the cut, which will of course apply to those earning £150,000 or more. We have to recognise the special responsibility that banks and banking executives have to wider society, given the massive cost to the taxpayer of the banking crisis and the resulting deficit, the consequences of which many of our constituents are still suffering. We still have not got justice for what happened in 2008, which is one reason why we think it important to take this step now.

Photo of Brooks Newmark Brooks Newmark Conservative, Braintree

Does the hon. Gentleman distinguish at all between those financial institutions over which the Government have some sense of control—a sense of public ownership—and which the taxpayer had to bail out, and those that did not need taxpayer support? Following that logic, if he really wants to have complete control of compensation and bonuses, does he therefore want to nationalise RBS?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

No—that is a preposterous suggestion. The hon. Gentleman also needs to recognise that all banks have benefited from the implied guarantee of the taxpayer, even if they did not need to be bailed out. He knows very well that the whole banking sector has benefited for a long time, and continues to benefit, from the market expectation that, should a retail bank get into difficulty or become insolvent, the taxpayer will come to its rescue. That is an implied subsidy, for which the banks ought to compensate the taxpayer. That is part of the argument I am happy to make.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

My hon. Friend is incisively highlighting that the Government have effectively given the banks a tax cut, because of the levy’s failure to bring in the resources they initially said it would. Moreover, bankers themselves are still receiving these eye-watering bonuses, while at the same time the Government are giving them a tax cut—the tax cut for millionaires. Is that not absolutely why we need this bank bonus tax to sit alongside the bank levy, so that we can reinvest that revenue in a jobs programme? Have we not shown that a bank bonus tax works?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Exactly, and never let Government Members claim again that we do not have a positive approach that would get young people off the dole and back into employment. This is the route that needs to be taken, and the choice presented to the public that they can see most starkly, particularly on a day when unemployment is rising.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, as he has only recently come into the Chamber, but we will see—[Interruption.] Oh, go on then, as he is one of my favourites.

Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Conservative, Stroud

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for giving way; I thought there was a compliment coming along there, too. Not all banks have a bonus system; Handelsbanken is a good example. If we are to have such a separation between banks, with all the difficulties that that would bring about, what would the shadow Minister say to the suggestion that his proposal is a huge complication that will cause more difficulties than it will solve?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I would like nothing more than for our banking sector to move to a more enlightened and responsible approach to remuneration. I would not want to see a bloated and unfair bonus arrangement continuing in perpetuity simply as a result of a function of the tax system. For the time being, we need to start to send a signal on behalf of public policy makers that the current arrangements, which have not changed sufficiently since before the financial crash or during it, continue to be difficult. The banks often say that they want catharsis and that they want to move on, and I do not want to spend the rest of my life in banking legislation, for goodness’ sake, but we are still not there and the bonus levy is part of that process.

I do not want to talk for much longer, but I want to challenge the Minister specifically on the bank levy arrangements as we are debating stand part for clauses 200 to 202. We have had six different bank levy rates and they have failed to raise the right amount. We have talked about this time and time again, and I do not want to keep coming back in our debates on the autumn statement next year or on the 2014 Budget to a similar discussion on retrospectively tweaking the bank levy. I want to hear from the Minister when he replies that he can guarantee that in this financial year £2.5 billion will be netted in by the bank levy. If he cannot guarantee that, he must admit that we must reconsider the policy, which is haemorrhaging money when it should be boosting the Exchequer far more significantly.

As I said before, parliamentary rules prevent the Opposition from tabling amendments that would tweak the bank levy upwards. There is a convention of the House that only Governments can table amendments to a Finance Bill that would increase a charge on individuals or companies. The process is incredibly frustrating, as we need to ensure that we get into the detail of how the bank levy should work and what the rates should be. For the time being, we feel that tabling amendment 2 so that we can consider a review of how a bank bonus tax could help the young unemployed, in particular, and of how to incorporate it in to a bank levy that nets the amount it should is the right way forward. I commend the amendment to my hon. Friends.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I make my comments in light of the fact that today’s unemployment figures showed an increase of 42% in the number of people on jobseeker’s allowance in my constituency of Swansea West. That comes in the aftermath of the financial tsunami of sub-prime debt that hit our shores in 2008, which was largely a result of the banking world taking unhealthy risks in the knowledge that the state would ultimately stand behind it. On the upside, people can take enormous gambles and make tremendous bonuses in the knowledge that if it all goes wrong, the taxpayer will cough up. The net impact of all that is that we are now doddering along on the bottom of the sea of growth and people do not have opportunities.

The strategic challenges for the Government are how to ensure that money is focused on job creation and that the banking community pays its fair share. We know that from this April, the top rate of tax was reduced by 5 points—from 50p to 45p. I realise that the Prime Minister gets up on his hind legs and says, “Oh, but we will raise more from the 45p rate than was going to be raised from the 50p rate,” but we all know that the reason for that is that people with large amounts of money can move their income between tax years. Bankers and others will simply move money to a different tax year when the rate was 45p instead of 50p and avoid the tax. If the 50p rate had been sustained, we would have generated a lot more money, particularly from the banking community. My hon. Friend Chris Leslie did a great job of highlighting the multi-million pound giveaway to the richest in our communities from the reduction. Our modest proposal would deal with people who are being shielded by the taxpayer from proper competition.

We want to avoid a situation where we cannot get our money out of the hole in the wall. During the banking collapse of Northern Rock and the like, some Government Members might have said that we should stand back and let the banks collapse. That would have led to financial anarchy, and would be completely irresponsible. I accept that there are some right-wing anarchists who want that, but most sensible people want to maintain stability in the banking community, which implies that ultimately a certain proportion of the downside risk is taken by the taxpayer.

We should control the risk of people using money invested in good faith and making enormous amounts from reckless and irresponsible gambles on strange derivative products. Why should we not recover at least some of the money that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister gave back to them in the Budget?

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest 5:45 pm, 17th April 2013

The hon. Gentleman speaks from the heart about the 50p tax rate and I can understand why Labour Members do so, because during 13 years they spent 12 years and 11 months thinking deeply about introducing it.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Should we have brought it in earlier?

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

It would have been wonderful if it had been brought it in earlier because it would have shown more resolve from the Labour party.

Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten the Committee about what is behind the proposal? Is the intention of the levy to reduce the risk of perverse incentives through what can be an obscene bonus system, or is it to generate revenue? One or the other, which is it?

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I will come to that point. In his preliminary commentary, the hon. Gentleman asked why the Labour party failed to bring in the 50p tax rate, and indeed the Prime Minister boasts that he is taxing the rich more than Labour ever did, and that is great. The Labour party does not exist to introduce high taxes; it exists to give people opportunity and employment. Higher levels of employment bring prosperity and opportunity, so there is enough tax yield from a lower tax rate to fund public services. Between 1997 and 2008, the economy grew by 40%.

If one is concerned, as I am—as we all are—about the debt to GDP ratio, which is the total debt divided by the value of the economy, there are two ways to get it down. The first is to cut the debt directly, cutting most from the poorest as the Tories do. The other is to increase the size of the economy. In 2010, after we had gone through the financial tsunami, but luckily on the back of 10 years of unparalleled increase in growth under Labour, the debt to GDP ratio was 55%; now the forecast is 85%. The reason is not just that the Tories are keen on cutting money for the poorest and getting money from people who do not have it, but that they cannot get their act together strategically to generate a growth strategy that reduces the ratio so that we do not need higher tax rates. We do not want people who are making obscene bonuses to pay higher taxes for the sake of it; we want people in work.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

Is not the biggest inequity that it is not Government debt that is the real problem, but household debt? In the period from 1997 to 2008, household debt as a percentage of household income went from 80% to 140%, and the boom in the economy was paid for by a colossal bubble of household debt. That is the real problem.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

That simply is not the case. I was at the Bank of England relatively recently looking at the profile of debt in the run-up to 2008 and from 2010. From 2010, the ratio of the debt between the Government and the banking community was 1:2. Two thirds of the debt was that of the banking community. Do not misunderstand me: there has been a problem with the general public ratcheting up more private debt through the availability of low interest rates, which in themselves are a good thing, thanks to the fact that my right hon. Friend Mr Brown introduced Bank of England independence and all the rest of it, and thanks to a feeling that there would be a continuation of growth. People were investing in houses and they were growing in price and so on.

Since 2010, when the Chancellor said, “We will have half a million people unemployed in the public services” and did not say who they were or when they would lose their jobs, there has been a sharp rise in savings rates and a fall-off in consumer demand. We have seen consumer demand basically flatlining, which underlines the reason why we do not have growth, which is why we do not have a reduction in the debt to GDP ratio.

We need confidence to get back on a growth path so that people can spend in the knowledge that they will have jobs in the future. Part of that is to re-engineer the financial world in such a way that money is channelled into productive capacity. Although, allegedly, we have an extra million people in work, overall output is the same. Average production has fallen and average productivity is down, which is very worrying. So we need to think how to ensure that the banking community pays its fair share and how to direct money, in a meaningful way, into job creation and public and private assets.

I was not in the Chamber for the previous debate, but part of that thought process would be, how to encourage the banking community, not in a high-risk way, to start helping people to build desperately needed housing—to get people who have been out of work, many of them in the construction industry, back into work to provide social houses?

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I will give way in a moment.

After all, one of the big issues that is waved around by the Government is, “We must get the welfare bill down and Labour will not do anything about it.” The flagship of that proposition is, “Housing benefit has doubled to £20 billion in the past 10 years. What is the Labour party going to do about that? We are going to introduce the empty bedroom tax.” In fact, 70% of that increase has come about through escalating private sector rents, and local councils being forced to use the private sector for people in need of housing, because not enough social housing is being built.

If we could somehow get the banks to build social houses, perhaps by allowing them to partly own some of those assets, and by doing so create jobs for people, who would pay tax, people would have houses, and the housing benefit bill per household would go down because rents would go down—housing benefit is linked to rent levels. We need to think about how to put this together, and part of that debate clearly relates to the banks. When there are obscene bonuses and the recipients are receiving tax cuts, it is not fair, certainly from where I stand, when I am seeing local unemployment up 42%.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Labour, Sefton Central

My hon. Friend is conducting a very thorough examination of the causes of the financial problems that we face. He mentioned housing. Does he agree that the housing bubble is part of the cause of the problem, because people borrowed against the value of their property, which is not a long-term, sustainable way of producing growth in the economy? One reason why the proposal that we are debating is so important is that we need a sustainable model of taxation to underpin the growth in the economy with the type of investment that my hon. Friend is talking about, rather than using assets as a way of investing, which is not sustainable. Actually, there is some evidence that that problem is recurring now.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I agree that part of the previous problem was the false assumption that the value of property would continue to escalate. Lenders would grant 110% mortgages on the presumption that, within a couple of years, the equity would catch up and there would not be negative equity. Therefore, borrowers would start with negative equity. The issue of sub-prime debt is a big problem.

One of the flagship proposals of the current Budget is for the state to come in and subsidise deposits by lending up to four fifths of the 25% deposit. There are people in the financial community who are thinking, quite reasonably, “Hold on; this could be the start of another sub-prime debt problem.” The problem we have is that people cannot afford to save the deposit that would enable them to become an owner-occupier. They are paying a rent that is too high because there are not enough houses, so they cannot save the deposit. There is a logic that asks, “Can we help them with that deposit?” I agree with that logic that far, but we must be very careful. People have said, “Oh well, no one is taking up the offer,” but if this suddenly becomes a very significant amount of money and it is not properly balanced as a risk, we could be going down the path that started the problem in the first place.

That said, ultimately communities are desperately in need of houses. Historically, council houses were invented because the marketplace was failing to deliver affordable, quality housing for very large parts of the community, and we had Rachmanism. I fear, actually, that we are witnessing the start of its re-emergence. So investing in assets in which people can have stable family lives, as a platform to get jobs, is good. We will not solve the problem today, but part of this debate is clearly about reviewing whether we can do some extraction from the banking community. That community have just been given back a lot of money, they have been causing many of the problems and there is a risk premium. They should be paying back to the taxpayers who are covering their back. Then we can think creatively about how to engage the banking community in small business development, housing development and so on.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Conservative Members have asked whether this is a tax-raising scheme or a scheme to create jobs and homes. I put it to my hon. Friend that I am bemused as to why it cannot be both. Surely a scheme that takes from where there is disproportionate wealth and redistributes, not simply in terms of cash in pocket, but into jobs, and taxes paid by people in those jobs, has such a glorious splendour about it that I struggle to find out what the dilemma is.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

That is precisely right, because the creative challenge is how to get the banking community to invest in jobs and small business, and one way is to take some money from them and create some jobs and small businesses. If they cannot work out how to do it, that seems a reasonable thing to do.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Through the hon. Gentleman, perhaps I may express the dilemma that was raised by his hon. Friend Huw Irranca-Davies. I fear that a cruel deception is being perpetrated on the unemployed. They feel that a sum of money will be available to them, but it simply is not possible to raise £2 billion when the total bonus pool is less than that. I think they should know that.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

Yes. Well, obviously, we clearly need to look at aggregate sums, but what is being debated here is—[Interruption.] What is being debated here is, is whether it is right that a community of people—I am talking particularly about people in the upper echelons of the banking community—who are making obscene bonuses should be given more and more money for doing no more work and having the taxpayers covering their backs in terms of risk, at a time when we are seeing an escalation of unemployment in various communities, including some that I represent, and when the very poorest are being asked to deal with obscene levels of pain in order to reduce the deficit problem?

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

May I suggest, through my hon. Friend, by way of riposte, that the cruel deception that is being perpetrated is that there is a lack of ingenuity within the Treasury that could extricate some of the undeserved wealth and redistribute it to put people in jobs. I fail to agree that there is a lack of expertise or resourcefulness there; that is an admission of supineness, of surrender. We should be looking for imaginative ways, like the amendment before us, to get people back to work, by taxing those who are disproportionately wealthy and undeserving.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member) 6:00 pm, 17th April 2013

That is right, and there would be widespread support for that across our communities and probably in the banking community. People are taking home an extra £1 million and asking themselves whether they should be paying income tax at 45p or 50p, at a time when we hear cases of people earning, say, £20 a week. As I mentioned at Prime Minister’s Question Time, a constituent who recently came to me was a chronically ill man who had £20 a week after paying his utility bills and his bus fare. This month he is down to about £14 a week due to benefit cuts. If such cases were brought to the attention of some of those wondering whether to buy their second yacht, I do not think they would mind paying a little more.

It has been insinuated that a 50p rate would discourage such people and be so painful for them that they would all get in their yachts and go off and live somewhere else, but in Britain today many people already pay more than 50p. Anyone who is earning more than £32,000 and less than £42,000 is paying 40% tax plus 12% national insurance. That is 52%. The only reason that they have to pay more than 50p and the millionaires do not is that they do not have their own personal accountants. That is not fair, is it?

These are sustainable levels of marginal taxation and it is right that they should be paid. It is right that members of the banking community, who have their backs covered, should pay more than their fair share. It is also right that the Government should get their act together to stop abuse by many members of that community who are taking the mickey.

Yesterday I had a meeting with a lawyer who specialises in giving advice to people facing charges of insider dealing and the like from the Financial Services Authority, which is now the Financial Conduct Authority. We were talking enormous amounts of money that people are trying to avoid paying. The point that she made to me is that the people in the FSA, now the FCA, do not have the resources and the clout, and have to deal with dozens of cases, while the defence lawyers deal with only a few cases because the amounts of money are so great. What is more—the Minister might want to do something about this—there is no system of precedent.

If the FSA says to a bank, “You have committed this offence and we are going to charge you £1 million”, which is small change for a bank, the FSA cannot set a precedent. The banking community knows that, if they do it, they will be charged; the FSA has to rehearse the same action again and again. I hope the Minister will look into this as it comes from the horse’s mouth—from people who are giving advice to people who are being defended. They also poach staff from the FSA or the FCA to work for them. They say, “We’ll give you three times as much. You’ve been charging us and you’re very good at it. You’re not paid enough for your success. Come over to our side. Have some of our bonus and we can do some insider dealing. The people at the Exchequer are making cuts at the tax office to save money, so we can have more.”

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

My hon. Friend should be a little more charitable towards the Government. There has been a thread of consistency in their approach. Had he been present for the first part of the debate, he would have heard my hon. Friend Chris Leslie say from the Front Bench that the Prime Minister promised that under the Government’s new buy scheme, 100,000 families would be helped and only 1,500 families were eventually helped through that scheme. In this debate we heard that the Prime Minister said that £2.5 billion would be raised by the bank levy, whereas we heard from my hon. Friend on the Front Bench that £1.1 billion was raised. Is there not a degree of consistency here? The Government are consistently incompetent.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

That certainly would be a charitable way of putting it. If financial targets are set and are under-achieved, the Government clearly need to redouble their efforts to deliver those targets. We need to continue to focus on generating joined-up systems to ensure that the money that is available delivers economic outcomes such as opportunity and jobs. The amendment is designed to create imaginative ways of generating opportunity and jobs for the future by using the money that is recovered. We should join together to do that. It is a modest amendment that we should all agree on. We should work together to build a stronger Britain.

I fear that the Government will say, “Oh no, we can’t possibly consider that.” That, alongside their failure to raise the money, would show that they do not have the focus to ensure that those with the broadest shoulders pay their way towards a more prosperous Britain. I fear that the Government will go back to the old Tory ways and say, “Let’s use this as an opportunity to crush the so-called undeserving poor” and pretend that there are workers and shirkers, whereas people just want to get out and get a job. Let us move forward and create a united Britain—a one-nation Britain, dare I say—to create a future that works and a future that cares.

Photo of Brooks Newmark Brooks Newmark Conservative, Braintree

I apologise, Mr Amess, for popping out. I wanted to make sure that we had the right statistics at hand. I agree with Geraint Davies that those with the broadest shoulders should pay the largest amount of taxation. After the last Budget, notwithstanding the 5% cut, the top per cent. of earners are paying more because of the other tax rises that we have brought in for them.

Unemployment is a tragedy for anyone who loses their job, and I am sorry for the individuals in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency who have in the past month lost their jobs. He spoke about the productivity puzzle, and I agree that that is a challenge. What is important to each of our constituents is surely that they have a job. The facts are that, year over year, unemployment is down by 71,000. Employment nationally is up 488,000 year over year. On jobseeker’s allowance, the figure that he looked to, year over year it is down by 60 people. That is not many, but the figure is down year over year in Swansea West.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

In Swansea West jobseeker’s allowance numbers have grown by 40%. We have heard of employment levels going up and we have seen that overall output has not gone up, so there is the productivity puzzle, which is a kind way of saying that productivity—production per head—has gone down. All I am saying is that we should look at ways of giving people the tools to do the job, be it skills, building houses, or super-connectivity.

In the run-up to the Budget I got the business community in Swansea together to lobby the Chancellor to invest in a wi-fi cloud and super-connectivity for Swansea. Why should an inward investor come to the congestion and cost of London when they could hook up to the worldwide web in superfast time overlooking the wonderful Gower and the sun and sands of Swansea? That was worth while doing. We were not successful, and subsequently the biggest company in Wales, Admiral, wrote to the Chancellor pointing out that it is a global company and wants super-connectivity on a global basis to its clients and suppliers. That is the sort of investment that we want to make from the extraction from the excess profiteering of certain individuals in the banking community. The modest amendment would enable us to continue that dialogue with a view to taking action to deliver positive change for people who currently do not have enough opportunity.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South

Is my hon. Friend as concerned as I am—I hope that Government Members are concerned—about the increase in the number of people who have been unemployed for 12 months? In my constituency, the figures today show that the number of those unemployed for more than 12 months has gone up by 17%. Tragically, the number of young people unemployed for more than 12 months has gone up by 40%. Having talked to other hon. Members here this afternoon, I know that they have similar if not higher figures. That is the real tragedy. Here is a generation of young people who will be scarred by unemployment. We need, and we need soon, proper measures, which the amendment addresses— innovative and different measures, not the Work programme, which is not working for people. That generation will be scarred if we do not find them work soon.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

That is completely right. Clearly, the economic model that must work is to have people making a contribution by being in work. There has been some debate about tax thresholds—with everyone saying how great they were—versus working families tax credit. Let us put ourselves in the position of someone starting a business who can only afford to employ someone for £10,000—£15,000 would not be viable; that is just the way that business works. Along comes working families tax credit, and a single mother, for example, can afford to work for £15,000, but not for £10,000. If the state makes up that difference, we end up with someone who can afford to work and make a contribution, and a business that is now viable. That is good. If that is simply stripped away and the tax threshold is increased to make it more worth while, it does not add up. That is one explanation for why we had such considerable job growth under the Labour party from 1997 to 2008.

Most people do not really understand working families tax credit. It is a way of integrating tax and benefits so that we cannot divide people into those in receipt of benefit and the workers, which is what Conservatives want to do for political reasons. They want to say that there are the workers and the shirkers and they are for the workers and the Labour party simply wants to support people sitting at home. That is the opposite of the truth. The Labour party is about enabling people to have pathways to prosperity through jobs. We should be using the fruits of engaging with the banking community, who make obscene amounts of money, and investing in skills and in communications, whether it be electrification of the railways or high speed rail, in wi-fi clouds, or in creating a global infrastructure in terms of R and D and our universities.

We have heard a lot of talk about the reduction in corporation tax from 21% to 20%, but that makes no difference to multinationals if the comparators are France at 33%, Germany at 29% and the USA at 40%. We are already competitive. But that 1% reduction is a 5% reduction in our tax yield from corporation tax. Would it not be better to spend that on helping universities to grow with industry? There is a good example of that in Swansea, which could be the fruits of what we are talking about today, where the second campus is being underpinned by £250 million from the European Investment Bank, and where Tata Steel, BP, other multinationals and the Welsh Government are engaged. Research shows that that sort of cluster of R and D attracts more and more big business and jobs, rather than just a marginal bit of corporation tax. We need to think cleverly about how to generate R and D engines. Brazil, for example, is spending £5.3 billion from development banks on getting into the global field of biotech. China and other countries are making similar investments. That is the way to organise ourselves in a joined-up way, rather than the laissez faire social and economic Darwinism of the Tories, where we see the weakest die and the greediest become more bloated as they exploit the world.

Photo of Brooks Newmark Brooks Newmark Conservative, Braintree

I am enjoying the hon. Gentleman’s fascinating speech, and a philosophical divide is clearly developing. Does he really believe that it is best for a company to pay an extra 1% to Government, because they know how best to spend that money to create jobs? Or is it best to leave it with the company? Let us leave bankers aside, because I know that one is obsessed with those. Let us talk about the Tatas of the world, the manufacturers who historically have done a great job in Wales in creating jobs. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that it is best that that 1% extra goes to Government, because they are in a better position to create those jobs, than a company such as Tata, which would take that extra 1% and use it efficiently for R and D or job creation?

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member) 6:15 pm, 17th April 2013

You, Mr Amess, probably have one of these sophisticated iPhones. I bring it out of my pocket because all the heavy lifting of the technology in this phone, which is a multi-billion pound product in a global marketplace, has been done by the public sector. We invented the internet, but GPS, touch sensitivity, voice sensitivity and most of those things were done by the institute of technology in California, which is why the Californian government are suing Apple for £26 billion to try to recover some of the money earned. Apple did a bit of packaging and marketing, produced the goods in a lower cost place, and paid tax somewhere else. We have global companies, which we all know about, which do not pay tax where the economic activity takes place. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question whether it would be better to give money back to companies for R and D is that companies want to do a bit of R and D, but they want to do it on the back of the heavy lifting of the public sector. That is the reality. Part of our challenge is to attract those companies to where we have public sector activity, to engage in partnership, and to ensure that we tax where the economic activity and marketplaces are, so that we get our fair share of the added value and a return from our taxpayer investment. So the answer is yes, yes, yes.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Labour, Sefton Central

With regard to why Government have to intervene, my hon. Friend mentioned Swansea, but around the country there are regions with big problems, particularly youth unemployment—Merseyside is a key area where that is a problem—where we need such intervention. We are talking about a levy on banks, not on Tata, and we need that money to be directed where the job shortages are for young people. A small number of my constituents who have not been able to find work locally travel to London to obtain work, with all the inherent problems of high housing costs. It is not an attractive option. It is not what they want to do, but they have no choice. However, the vast majority are not in a position to do that, and that is why youth unemployment in the regions is going up, and that is why we need the kind of intervention that my hon. Friend is talking about.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

Yes, and my hon. Friend makes an important point about the growing regional imbalance in the British economy. I realise that the Government have paid lip service to that issue, but if the only place to get a good job is London, that inflates costs, and young people come to London to live in squalid conditions in the hope that they can get the experience to go home at some point. There is a brain-drain as well, so this policy does not make any sense. One of the first things the Government did was to get rid of the regional development agencies. They said that they were no use and cost too much.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I will give way in a moment.

I went to visit UK Trade & Investment, which has 83 offices around the world. Its mission is to market Britain for trade and inward investment. I was in its office in Dusseldorf and it told me that typically it would market Britain as a great place to come to—a low-tax, stable society with a platform into various markets, a skills base and great universities.

For example, a German distiller might come along and say that it wanted to set up a factory in Britain. That would go on to UKTI’s computer platform and the RDAs would then bid for it, saying, “We want that in Yorkshire” or “We want that in Lancashire” and setting out their case. Immediately after the RDAs were destroyed, there was a queue of companies looking to invest in Britain through UKTI, but there was no one to bid for that investment. It was crazy to destroy them, especially at a time when we want growth and regional balance.

The Government said the RDAs were too expensive, but now they ask why we have growing unemployment, zero growth and increased housing benefit costs in London. It is because rents are going up, we are not building houses and we do not have regional balance. Therefore, the amendment is partly about thinking of creative ways to move forward and engage the banking community in a sustainable growth plan that has a regional dimension.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the life sciences cluster at Swansea university, which brings together the best of the private sector, with micro-businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises and technological innovation, is working also because the project is supported by local and national Government in Wales? It is not about one or the other; it is about both. I have visited a company in Maesteg, at the top of the Llynfi valley, a former coal mining area, which is investing in life sciences. Does he also agree that the sort of intervention that that company would love to see is in a jobs guarantee to help it increase its manufacturing base? That is the sort of clever intervention the state can make to grow SMEs and micro-businesses, not just the Tatas of this world.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I completely agree. There are clearly certain growth markets within the global market environment, and life sciences is one that is of great interest in Swansea, as are biotech and green technologies and all the rest of it. What the public sector can allow is a critical mass of research that benefits from economies of scale and a shared risk that would not be taken by individual operators, and that can attract inward investors. What we want is a benign partnership, as we have in

Wales, with a Labour Government and local authorities working with universities, perhaps on a city-region basis, which is the future, to deliver benefits for all. That is what we want, rather than the laissez-faire approach.

I will have to bring my comments to a close in a moment, because obviously other Members wish to speak, but I promised first to give way to Neil Carmichael.

Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Conservative, Stroud

I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman. Does he welcome the fact that in the long term Hitachi has invested £6 billion in some of the regions he has referred to, such as the north-east, where trains will be made, and in my area, where nuclear power stations will be built? He refers to “heavy lifting”. Does he not agree that through his industrial strategy the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has introduced the aerospace centre, which will be a massive investment, essentially in the public sector, to promote the development of aviation? That will also be repeated for the automotive sector. That is precisely what he is talking about, so the Government are doing that already.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I certainly welcome those things. The trouble is that it is very much a U-turn—although that is fine. One moment the Government were withdrawing and saying, “We don’t have to do anything, because the market will spontaneously grow.” Then nothing was growing in the garden, so they go and put in some pot plants and that sort of thing, which is great. Hitachi is very welcome, and Tata has been mentioned. Some of those big companies, such as Tata, will make strategic investments, particularly because of the quality of the coal and the history of skills and the innovation, such as the partnership with Swansea university, where they are developing a new type of steel that has six layers, generates its own electricity and, when used to clad buildings, lowers the carbon footprint. It is the future.

With regard to aerospace, we of course have Airbus in Wales and, again, a supportive Welsh Government. Any support from the UK Government for strategic investment to boost our export and manufacturing base in modern and growing markets is very welcome. That is something we can certainly support. The more active the intervention from the Government with regard to an industrial strategy, the better. We want to see jobs, rather than people sitting on their hands—that is how the Government see it—and rather than watching bankers take loads of money for doing very little while people in Swansea and elsewhere who want to work are blamed for being unemployed but are not given a hand-up.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I will take one final intervention before bringing my remarks to a close, because I know that other Members wish to speak.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way at this stage in his long and fascinating peroration. He made several references to the fact that bankers are obscenely overpaid and that they should pay more tax. Does he think that people who earn up to £250,000 a week are underpaid, reasonably paid or significantly overpaid, and should they be making a greater contribution to the sort of problem he has been discussing? I am talking, of course, about premier league footballers. I look forward to his comments.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I do not want to be drawn into talking about football, because there is a rivalry between Swansea and Cardiff, and Cardiff, to be fair to them, have just been promoted. I feel that people who earn more should pay more towards the public good. Whether or not the cut-off point is £250,000, we all have a contribution to make and those with the widest shoulders should pay more and at a greater rate. There is a debate about what that rate should be, but certainly those people who advocate a poll tax that would mean the poor paying the same as the richest for local services are at the far extreme of reasonableness. Most of us, I would like to think, want the rich to pay more.

Sadly, what we saw in the Budget was the poorest paying most to pay for the bankers’ recklessness, so that a certain amount of money could be thrown to the squeezed middle in order to buy votes. That is not the way forward. We need a unity of purpose to grow in prosperity for a future that cares and a future that works. On that point, I must sit down, because I know that colleagues and others want to speak. Thank you, Mr Amess, for indulging me.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Geraint Davies, who gave an absolute tour de force. I rise to support amendment 2. We have heard it said repeatedly, both in interventions and in my hon. Friend’s speech, that bankers who earn large sums of money in this country continue to receive huge bonuses, irrespective of whether the institutions they work for have improved their performance, and meanwhile unemployment persists and the Government attempt to create full-time jobs. It has failed.

Indeed, in a week when we saw low-paid working families affected by the bedroom tax—or spare room subsidy—we also saw large numbers of top bankers awarded obscenely large bonus payments and, in some cases, benefiting from the tax cut for millionaires. Some have deferred paying income tax until this financial year to avoid paying at the 50% rate, thereby making additional gains on the back of the poor, a point that was terribly well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West.

That is yet another Government economic plan that has been poorly evidenced. It is part of an endless package of ill-thought-through policies. The Government had 13 years to work up those policies. We expected them to have worked up deliverable policies, but clearly they have failed miserably. They do not even have a plan B for the economy—the one that the International Monetary Fund now suggests they switch to—which is shocking.

In the financial year 2010-11, the bankers’ bonus tax introduced by the Labour Government raised around £3.5 billion. It was a sensible tax on the country’s top earners. It was scrapped within weeks of the coalition Government taking office and replaced by a bank levy, which the Prime Minister has consistently claimed would raise £2.5 billion a year. The simple truth is that it has not, so one could say that the Prime Minister’s accuracy at the Dispatch Box has been found wanting. Do not take my word for it—the Office for Budget Responsibility evidence, published alongside the Budget, confirmed the figures. The OBR has said that the coalition’s bank levy will bring in just £1.6 billion from the last financial year—almost £1 billion less than the Prime Minister said it would, and less than half that raised under Labour’s bank bonus.

The Prime Minister has made the claim not only once, but repeatedly. In January 2011, being quite specific, he said:

“The bank levy will raise £2.5 billion each year once it is fully up and running”.—[Hansard, 12 January 2011; Vol. 521, c. 280.]

In June of the same year, he said:

“I will tell you what this Government have done, and that is to put in place a £2.5 billion bank levy”.—[Hansard, 22 June 2011; Vol. 530, c. 319.]

Later in the year, he said that

“it is this Government who have put in place a bank levy that will raise more every year than Labour’s one-off bonus tax raised in one year.”—[Hansard, 14 December 2011; Vol. 537, c. 788-789.]

It is interesting: the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, sitting on the Government Front Bench, seems to have conveniently forgotten what the Prime Minister has been saying. In his winding-up speech, perhaps he will tell us whether the Prime Minister was simply inaccurate—he got it wrong on the day—or whether the advice he got from the Treasury was flawed.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health) 6:30 pm, 17th April 2013

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the differences between the Prime Minister’s statements and reality. May I give her a third example: the cut to corporation tax? We were told by the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer that the banks would not benefit from that cut and that there would be some offsetting arrangements. Yet we now learn from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs that the banks have benefited to the tune of £200 million.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

I thank my hon. Friend for flagging up what is factually correct and can be substantiated, rather than something resulting from living in some fantasy land of figures, as Government Members seem to do.

The amendment seeks simply to have a review in six months’ time on whether a bank bonus tax within the bank levy would raise significant additional income that could then be reinvested in creating jobs—especially among young people, who have been so hard hit by the Government’s economic failure.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The hon. Lady will have heard Geraint Davies, her colleague, refer at the end of his very long speech to his belief that people in his constituency are paying more tax as a result of the recent Budget. First, does the hon. Lady believe that her constituents are paying more tax? Secondly, does she know how many people in her constituency are now paying less tax as a result of the changes made in Budgets since 2010? The figure for my constituency is 43,969; I am sure that she knows the figure for hers. Thirdly, how many people in her constituency have been taken out of income tax altogether as a result of the Budget? The figure for Gloucester is 5,000 people; the one for Plymouth will be similar.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

That is an interesting question and I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is so well informed about his constituents. However, he seems conveniently to forget that my constituents, like his, are also being hit by increases to VAT, which takes a significant chunk out of their incomes. Furthermore, particularly if they are low-paid workers, they are being hit by a flat-rate pay freeze and in turn by housing benefit changes. I am talking about working members of my constituency. If someone was to knock on the doors of Plymouth, Moor View, that person would find that people said they were significantly worse off and finding life very hard indeed.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I had better intervene, because the rendition given by Richard Graham of what I was meant to have said was completely inaccurate. I did not say that tax had increased for people but that the working families tax credit had been massively cut, as well as other opportunities.

The average person would lose £14 a week under the bedroom tax because their children had grown up and they had an empty bedroom. That is that same as the £13.50 that somebody might get from the raising of the tax threshold to £10,000. There are swings and roundabouts. Only £400 million will be saved from crushing the poor but it will cost £12 billion to put up the tax threshold. The judgments are difficult, but the Tory instinct is to crush the poor and help the squeezed middle, while ours is to help everybody. However, I made no insinuation that tax was being increased.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

My hon. Friend has put his position on the record, so I will not take further interventions on that point.

I come back to the amendment and its call for a review.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My hon. Friend has raised the issue of the disparity between the £2.5 billion that the Prime Minister said on repeated occasions would be raised by the bank levy and the nearly £1 billion that is now missing. Does she share my hope that when he responds the Minister will identify where that £1 billion a year is? If we could find it, it could go towards the job creation schemes that we are talking about. Some £1 billion is being nicked from the Treasury every year.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in suggesting that if there is a £1 billion gap, it should be explained. I am sure that the Prime Minister would like to know, given that he has repeatedly stood at the Dispatch Box using that figure, which seems to have been plucked from the sky.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

It would be completely remiss of anybody in the House even to suggest that the Prime Minister was in any way misleading the House when on repeated occasions he cited the figure of £2.5 billion a year. But could it be possible that he has been misled inadvertently by Treasury officials or other Ministers?

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

That is exactly my point. Has the Prime Minister been given duff information? If he has, that is pretty shocking. Ministers should take responsibility if that is the case.

I come back again to my point. The amendment is calling for a review, which is absolutely right. Stephen Williams, who spoke in the previous debate, is not in his place, but I hope that this time the Liberal Democrats will not pursue the line taken by the hon. Gentleman, which was that it is unreasonable for the Treasury to carry out a review—of a mansion tax, in the context of the previous debate. He seemed to have forgotten that the Government are carrying out a review, at taxpayers’ expense, into the future of Trident. Obviously, that is basically a review for future Lib Dem policy. As I said, it is a shame that the hon. Gentleman is not here, because there was a bit of a contradiction between the two positions from the Liberal Democrats.

In Plymouth and the rest of the south-west, we are still lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to finding the full-time jobs that young people desperately need. The number of unemployed is still higher than in 2010 and the number of long-term unemployed is growing. Although the Government keep telling us that more people are employed—the mantra has come from them again today—their figures hide the simple fact of the contrast with the position in 2008.

Then, when people were asked whether they felt they were working excessive hours, the answer came back as a resounding yes; people felt that they were working more hours than was reasonable. Now that figure is different—in large numbers, people are seeking more hours to work. It is estimated that there is a shortfall of 20 million working hours, which equates to a real unemployment figure that runs closer to 3 million. Questions have also been asked of people who work part time and want to work full time. The number who want to switch from part time to full time is 1.5 million—that is just in the three months running up to February.

There is clearly a problem. People are working part-time; indeed, some are trying to hold down two or three part-time jobs, as was evidenced during a street surgery that I held in Whitleigh a couple of weeks ago. Some people have used their redundancy money to set up as self-employed, and those figures are slightly skewing the evidence on what is happening on the ground. Some people have been transferred from the public sector to the private sector, often on reduced hours. That shift partly explains the rise in the number of jobs in the private sector; they are not new jobs but simply transferred jobs.

The tax proposal in the new clause would fund a job for every young person who had been out of work for a year or more. That number is up, year on year, by 37%. They would have to take up that job or risk losing their benefits. This is no soft touch but a serious attempt to give hope to young people and to help them get a foot on the ladder and contribute to society. Unemployment among young people is higher in this country under this coalition Government than it was at any time under Labour. The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in my constituency remains above the national and regional average. Reinstating Labour’s bank bonus is therefore the right thing to do.

Photo of Mike Thornton Mike Thornton Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The hon. Lady seems to be saying that one of the problems is that there are no jobs in the economy while at the same time proposing a policy to find jobs for people—jobs that are presumably not there. How does she reconcile talking about finding a job for somebody with saying there are no jobs?

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

The hon. Gentleman has completely misconstrued my remarks.

We need to invest to grow jobs. We need to grow our economy, and as we do that, there will be more jobs. People want to work, but the evidence is that the jobs are not there. People are having to work part-time, even to have multiple part-time jobs, in order to keep body and soul together. We need an economy that is growing, and we are not getting that from this Government. We need Labour’s bank bonus to invest in jobs, to tackle unemployment across the country, and to help young people.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Although we have not heard many speeches by Government Members, I am a bit surprised by the attitude they have adopted to this proposal in view of one of the Government’s declared objectives in the Budget book. Under the heading, “Fairness”, it states:

“The Government’s economic and fiscal strategy is underpinned by its commitment to fairness”.

I would have thought that anyone looking at the proposal would find it very difficult to say that it does not have a core of fairness within it. It is directed towards an industry, the banking industry, which was partly responsible for the economic crisis we face, the impetus for which was people in that industry being given incentives to behave in a reckless way that led to the kind of borrowing and lending that created our current difficulties. They were bailed out by the taxpayer, with bonuses then being paid out of that bail-out. I would have thought that on the grounds of fairness alone, Government Members would see at least some merit in the arguments for the proposal which have been advanced.

I have often heard it said, not only by Labour Members, but particularly by Government Members who are close to small businesses—perhaps many of their supporters are small business owners—that the banking industry has strangled those businesses in the middle of the recession, refusing to lend to them even when there are good, viable propositions and putting the squeeze on them when they most needed liquidity. I would have thought that Government Members would have some sympathy for a proposal that said to them, “We cannot reward people at the top of an industry who are destroying, squeezing and making it difficult for the businesses that many of you would regard as your supporters”, yet they seem to be opposed to it.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:45 pm, 17th April 2013

The hon. Gentleman is making a very powerful speech. Has he had the same conversations as I have with lower-paid bank clerks and bank staff who are equally appalled by the excesses of their extremely well-remunerated paymasters right at the top of the organisation? They would look at this amendment and think that it is completely fair and should be delivered for them, as well as for us.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The hon. Gentleman brings me to my next point. Even some within the banking industry would say that there is no economic rationale for the obscene bonuses that are given at the top of the industry, and that there is no necessity for those bonuses to make it work efficiently. On a weekly basis, businesses and individuals come to me and say that if anything is strangling growth and the potential for it, in the economy today, it is the performance of the banking industry. When I hear about of some of these bonuses, I wonder what they are being paid for. They are certainly not being paid because the banking industry is performing well in helping to grow the economy and lift us out of recession.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

The hon. Gentleman is making a very powerful point. However, that is exactly why some of us have spent the past nine months on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards examining the problems he is talking about. It is why the Government introduced the Financial Services Act 2012 in order to repair the regulatory environment and to establish the Financial Policy Committee to look at the instability in the system that can come about as a result of perverse incentives from bonuses. It is why the Government are currently taking the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill through Parliament. A huge amount is being done for exactly the reasons he mentions.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

And yet the situation continues. Despite all that, we do not see any change.

Some of the arguments advanced by Government Members, mainly through interventions, as to why the proposal is a bad idea, have become increasingly desperate as the debate has progressed. I believe that this should be done, first, on the basis of fairness, and secondly, because it has some potential for changing behaviour, and that ought to be given serious consideration.

The first argument was to say, “If we do this, we will be taking money out of the economy.” What do these people who get the bonuses do with them? Are they generating additional expenditure in the economy? If someone gets a bonus of £1 million, are they likely to spend it? We all know, and it is well evidenced in economic theory, that the more money we get, the higher the proportion of that additional income we tend to save—it does not contribute to the economy. During the Budget, the Chancellor said that the poor performance in the economy was because consumer spending had been suppressed and was not what had been anticipated. When I hear the argument that discouraging these bonuses, or taking them back in the form of tax, removes spending power from the economy, I find it rather bizarre.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

The hon. Gentleman is reinforcing a point that I touched on earlier. In Plymouth, we are losing £16 million a year in benefits, and the people who usually get those benefits are poor and would spend the money in their local areas, not on foreign holidays or by putting it into bank accounts.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Although saving is, of course, good in any economy, the important question at the moment is: how do we generate spending? The hon. Lady has reinforced the point that if money goes to unemployed people they are likely to spend 100% of that income, but someone who gets a £1 million bonus is likely to save 90% of it—perhaps more—so it will not be injected into the economy. I do not think that the argument that the amendment would remove money from the economy and, somehow or other, deflate it stands up to scrutiny.

The second argument, which was made by Charlie Elphicke—he tried to promote it in a couple of interventions on Chris Leslie—is that all this levy would do is make finance either pricier or less available. As has been said, that implies that the only part of bank spending that is sacrosanct is the amount of money spent on bonuses. Making an activity more expensive tends to direct people away from it, and I cannot see how the banks would be any different. If we make it more expensive and more costly for them to give bonuses, they will be driven away from using those funds in that way and it would create a behavioural change. If that change did not happen, however, and bonuses continued to be paid and the tax on them recouped from customers, the alternative would be regulation. The customer should not have to pay for them—if banks do not change their behaviour, we should ensure that the taxes cannot be passed on to customers.

The third argument—I found this one bizarre, especially with regard to the bank levy—is that since we cannot be sure how much money will be raised, we should not pursue it. If that were true, we probably would not tax anything. How often do we hear the Government predict the amount that will be raised in tax revenue, only then to revise the figure within six months, either because behaviours have changed and the expected amount has not been raised, or because the economy performed in a different way than expected?

It is Mark Garnier who made that argument, but on that basis we would not have the bank levy, which was supposed to raise £2.5 billion this year, but raised only £1.1 billion. I do not know why that revenue was not raised—perhaps there was some change in the economy—but whatever the reason the bank levy did not raise the money intended. Moreover, the Government made spending plans on the assumption that that revenue would be available. I do not think that the amendment can be argued down on the basis that it may not raise the money and therefore no commitment should be made.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

On that point, the hon. Gentleman does not seem to have read the amendment, the whole point of which is to raise money specifically to be invested in creating new jobs and tackling unemployment. If the Opposition want to invest a specific amount, they need to know how much money they will raise.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The hon. Gentleman has missed my point; perhaps I did not make it very well. When the Chancellor declares what taxes he intends to levy in the Budget, that announcement is accompanied by what he intends to spend that tax revenue on. Sometimes that revenue materialises and sometimes it does not.

The only requirement that I would make of an amendment of this nature is that it does not throw out a reckless figure and say, “We will make £x billion from this provision and spend it.” The Minister was right to ask on what basis the amendment’s calculation was made, but it cannot be argued that, because there is a degree of uncertainty, this is not a good proposition. I would have been very unhappy had the amendment said, “Let’s raise the money and then we’ll see what we will do with it.” It is much easier to make an argument on the grounds of fairness: “Let’s raise the money and this is what we will do with it.” Knowing where the money comes from, the purposes for which it was being used and the purposes for which it will be used once collected would enable us to judge whether the proposition is fair. It is not possible to divorce how the money is raised from what will be done with it.

Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Conservative, Stroud

Does not this line of argument represent the thin end of the wedge with regard to hypothecation? Raising taxes is a general activity and the decision on how they should be allocated for expenditure purposes has to be made on other grounds. The obvious example is the health service.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I agree that a general proposition that every specific tax raised should be hypothecated for a certain purpose would be very dangerous, but this is not a general proposition; it relates to one specific case and that case has to be made.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

In following the logic of the hon. Gentleman’s eloquent argument, am I right in saying that he agrees that what banks should really be doing is supporting small businesses that have large order books and successful products and that want to upsize and build their business, but that do not have a lot of collateral and houses? That is what the banks should be focusing on in our local communities and economies, not on massive bets against share price changes and derivative bundles, which will develop multi-billion pound bonuses in an almost virtual world. What we want is a real economy supported by banks, not a bonus culture backed up by the state.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

That is one of the arguments for separating retail banking from the riskier banking activities described by the hon. Gentleman.

The fourth argument is totally different from the others, but I think that Government Members were getting increasingly desperate as they clawed for arguments against what is a reasonable proposition. One Member asked several times whether the amendment was designed to change behaviour, to act against perverse incentives or to raise revenue. All taxes tend to have behavioural consequences anyway; it is in their nature to change behaviour. Some are specifically designed to do so, while some are more genuinely revenue-raising because they do not affect behaviour as much. If the revenue from the tax goes down because fewer bonuses are paid, that does not necessarily mean that it is bad for the economy. For example, if banks decide not to pay bonuses and to keep the money as profits, corporation tax revenue will go up; or if they decide to put the money back into the bank and thereby increase liquidity, that will have a beneficial effect on the economy, because banks will be able to make more loans to businesses. Just because it may change behaviour does not necessarily make it a bad proposition. In fact, the proposition stands, as it could have other tax revenue-raising consequences or induce changes in bank behaviour that mean they have more money to do what the public expect them to do, rather than simply giving huge bonuses to their top-ranking employees.

The final argument concerned the specific targeting of banks. It was argued, “If you want to do this, why not do it to everybody?”. There may be an argument for that, but the Government have already targeted banks. Why do we have the bank levy? It is because the Government have decided that banks are a unique case in this situation. If there can be a bank levy, why not have a tax specifically on bank bonuses? The Government have already made the case for specific treatment.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 7:00 pm, 17th April 2013

The hon. Gentleman is contributing to the anti-bank ranting that we have had for the past couple of hours. What about the second part of the amendment, which provides that the levy shall be used to create jobs and employment? As a former economics examiner, does he believe that it is the business of the Government to create jobs? If so, what sort of jobs—Government jobs or state aid that would fall foul of EU rules? What does he think of the Government’s performance on employment? Is he surprised that unemployment is not higher?

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I hope that my speech has not been interpreted as an anti-bank rant. Indeed, I made the point at the beginning that banks are essential to the working of the economy. They provide the oil for the economy, and we want to find ways to make them do the job they are meant to do. If a bank bonus tax is one of the ways in which we could get them back on track and away from providing perverse incentives for particular employees to behave in certain ways that have not been helpful to the economy, that would be beneficial.

A properly functioning banking system is important for the economy. Rather than this proposal being anti-bank—[Interruption.] From a sedentary position, the hon. Gentleman says, “Answer the question.” He asked me two questions and I am answering the first. Banks are an essential part of the economy and we want to ensure that our proposals address that.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether it is the role of the Government to create jobs. It is the role of the Government and the private sector to create an environment for jobs and in which economic growth can take place. In some cases, that will mean direct involvement by the Government in job creation. Even some of the most right-wing members of the hon. Gentleman’s party, who are adherents of supply-side economics, would accept that it is the role of Government, for example, to provide opportunities for people to train. That creates jobs. It increases the skills base of the economy, which makes it easier for the private sector to create jobs. It is a question of co-operation. It is not a case of either/or. It is a simplistic view of the economy to suggest that only the private sector creates jobs and the Government sit on their hands—

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is a timed debate that will end at 7.15 pm. I hope that he will forgive me for interrupting, but it would be good to hear what the Minister has to say.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I will conclude on that basis. I hope that I have addressed some of the points made by coalition Members. The amendment should be supported on grounds of fairness, of improving the banking system and of ensuring that the money that the Government raise from this provision could be used to help to stimulate the economy.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I am grateful to you, Ms Primarolo, for allowing me to get a word in edgeways in this debate. It has been a most illuminating debate. We have discovered that it is the policy of the Opposition to raise £2 billion from a bank bonus tax when the pool of bank bonuses this year is forecast to be £1.6 billion. The Opposition Front-Bench team was commended for proposing an imaginative measure. It certainly is imaginative. Indeed, it is the stuff of fantasy that more could be raised in revenue through a tax than is contained in the tax base to which it applies.

The Opposition have done this before, as I shall say later, and this is a familiar debate. We had this debate in 2011 and in 2012, and now the Opposition have tabled a more or less identical amendment on a policy that was introduced in the dying days of the last Labour Government for one year only—a payroll tax on banks. When the then Chancellor introduced it in December 2009, he insisted that it would be a one-off tax. Indeed, it was not even for a full year, but from December 2009 to April 2010. But in the Finance Bill Committee of the whole House almost exactly a year ago, Owen Smith revealed to the House:

“If Labour had won the election, it may have changed its view and continued the bank bonus tax.”

On reflection, he said,

“I think a Labour Government would have continued it”.—[Hansard, 18 April 2012; Vol. 543, c. 391.]

The annual reappearance of this temporary Labour tax should remind us all that whenever Labour proposes a temporary tax, it is best to assume that it is for life—

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The hon. Gentleman spoke for 45 minutes and I have about seven or eight minutes. I shall make some progress and try to give him an opportunity later.

The bonus tax raised a net amount of £2.3 billion for the Exchequer, and that was supposed to be that. Amazingly, the Labour party had no other plans to make the banks make any further contribution to the costs they imposed on taxpayers. I agree with Sammy Wilson on that point. After that £2.3 billion, it appeared that the banks had discharged their responsibility to the taxpayers. To be fair and to acknowledge the consistency of the Labour Government, they showed no indication during their 13 years in office that they wanted to extract a contribution from the banks, even when the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that bonuses amounted to £11.5 billion in 2007.

As we know, the Labour party was “intensely relaxed” about people getting filthy rich. We have taken a different view. We believed from the outset that it was right for banks to contribute more to the taxpayer than other companies which did not pose a risk to the Exchequer and to the taxpayer. We agree with the point about fairness, and that is why the Government introduced a permanent levy—not a one-off—on the balance sheets of banks in the first Finance Bill of the new Government.

Because we intended that it should be permanent, rather than—as Labour preferred—for a single year, it was important to design it in a way that would raise money every year. The trouble with a bonus tax, as the former Chancellor eloquently put it, was that

“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 was why it could only work for a single year.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Has the Minister looked down the back of the Treasury sofas to find the £900 million a year that is missing? What has gone wrong?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I will come on to that point, and the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with my answer, as I hope he will acknowledge.

Balance sheets, unlike bonuses, cannot be hidden. They are more stable than bonus pools and so offer a far better way to collect a levy to benefit the public. Moreover, balance sheets are a better reflection of the risks, to the banking sector and to taxpayers, than remuneration, as set out by the International Monetary Fund in its 2010 report to the G20. That is why France and Germany quickly joined us in applying bank levies. They have subsequently been joined by Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and others. It is fair to say that those countries have not chosen to charge as much as we have. Relative to the size of our financial sector, our levy raises five times that raised by the French levy and two and a half times that raised by the German levy, but not one of these countries has thought fit to introduce a permanent bonus tax.

A permanent bonus tax would, of course, have been a catastrophically unreliable source of revenue, which is why I am very concerned that the spending commitments proposed by Chris Leslie seem to be based on it. When the Labour tax was imposed, the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that the total pool of City bonuses was £6.7 billion. As I said earlier, it estimated that last year bonuses were £1.6 billion—less than a quarter of the 2010 level. With regard to the proposals from Europe, there might be some expectation that the levels will fall further.

A balance sheet tax is obviously a more stable, sustainable and sensible revenue base. However, to address the points made by the hon. Member for Nottingham East, balance sheets are not entirely invariable, which is why we have introduced a second element to the policy. We have specified that the bank levy should raise at least £2.5 billion a year, which is why we have clauses 200 and 201. The clauses increase the bank levy from 0.088% to 0.142% from 5 January 2014. The reason for these increases is simple: the forecast published by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility in December implied that without amendment receipts for future years would fall short of the £2.5 billion required and to which we are committed.

We announced in the autumn statement, as soon as these forecasts were published, an increase in the rate, which the Bill implements, to correct the shortfall. The March 2013 forecasts made by the OBR show that the levy is now forecast to raise more than £2.5 billion this year, and in all subsequent years. When the bank levy was first set, in Budget 2010, it took account of the planned reductions to corporation tax that were announced at the same time. Since then, as hon. Members know, the Government have been able to make further cuts to corporation tax. We have taken the view that this should not be passed on to the banks. Accordingly, clause 201 increases the bank levy to recover the benefit that would have been received from the cut in corporation tax.

To answer the point made by Huw Irranca-Davies, the effect of these changes would be to cause the bank levy to yield not £2.5 billion in future, but £2.7 billion this year, and £2.9 billion for every year into the future. This extra revenue more than makes up for the shortfall in revenues experienced during the first two years.

Let me say something about clause 202, the other measure in the Bill relating to the bank levy. The clause removes an anomaly that would have been exploited, whereby banks could have claimed both a tax credit and a deduction for the same foreign bank levy. The view of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is that the existing corporate tax rules prevent such a deduction, but the case law is old and we saw fit to put the matter beyond doubt.

I fear the Opposition have made a mistake in preferring a payroll tax to a bank levy. As countries across the world demonstrate, a bank levy is a better reflection of systemic risk: it is permanent, it raises more money and it is sustainable, not being undermined by avoidance. If the Opposition persist in basing their spending plans on such a flimsy source of revenue as the bonus tax, which actually exceeds what is paid in bonuses this year, then I fear that they have not learned the lesson that they surely must: jeopardising our public finances would take this country back to the edge of ruin from which this Government have hauled it back. If the hon. Member for Nottingham East had any embarrassment or rigour, he would withdraw this ridiculous amendment. I commend clauses 200, 201 and 202.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The Minister’s smile could not be stifled by the ridiculousness of his last comments. This is déjà vu all over again. We have heard it before from this Minister time after time, year after year. “Our bank levy,” he said, and the Prime Minister has said from the Dispatch Box, “will always raise £2.5 billion.” Last year, however, it was £1.6 billion; this year it is £1.8 billion. The amount of money lost is staggering. We will, therefore, want to test the view of the Committee. The Minister has to get a grip on this issue. He has been haemorrhaging money, and the £2 billion that has been lost should have been put to the better purpose of helping young people get off the dole and back into work. That is what we on the Labour Benches believe.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 234, Noes 294.

Division number 212

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Aye

No

Question accordingly negatived.

Clauses 200 to 202 ordered to stand part of the Bill.