I think that any financial institution that could have a systemic impact on our economy and UK financial services needs to be regulated from within the Bank of England and by our regulatory structures. I hope that there will be a match between our arrangements and the European arrangements. That has been part of my anxiety about the Government’s design of the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority in the context of the Bank of England and how they fit together with the supervisory structures in Europe. We have had that debate and I think it will continue to be played out over the longer term.
For the time being—for today—the time has come for the Government to get serious about a financial transaction tax. Doing whatever they can to put a spanner in the works and turning their back on the idea is just not good enough. At a time when deficits are persistently high because of rock-bottom growth, leading economies, including those of Britain and the United States, need alternative revenue measures from continuing financial market speculation to relieve pressures on lower and middle-income households and the public services they use.
There are many lessons from the banking crisis, the most obvious of which is that the sheer globalised might of financial trading can overpower the plans and defences of individual nation states. Governments should not just shrug and accept that fate, which is why the Opposition urge Conservatives and Liberal Democrats actively to champion a financial transaction tax and the reform agenda to harness international financial markets so that they serve our societies and our economies.
If ever there was a time to seek international consensus on a financial transaction tax it is now, as countries continue to deal with the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the large deficits it created. Deducting a tiny fraction of 1% of the value of trades in equities, bonds and derivatives could raise significant sums if introduced in a concerted way across the principal world financial centres.
The House of Commons Library has considered what would happen if we applied the EU variant of the tax in the UK and says that it would yield some £10 billion annually. I do not stand by that figure—I do not think that it is necessarily convincing or viable—but it prompts the question of what could be achieved in the UK by a tax with a more modest and sensible design.
I do not decry the 11 EU countries for forging ahead on the issue—it is a brave decision for those EU countries to go it alone. Even with the participation of Germany, France and Italy, there are still risks involved, and although we are not participating at present we should not withdraw from the debate, not least given the size and importance of the City of London.