It is a pleasure to speak in the debate under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I thank my hon. Friend Philip Davies for securing this important debate on behalf of thousands of Bradford & Bingley investors. It finally gives us an opportunity to speak up for those among our constituents—and there are many in Calder Valley—who have been affected by the nationalisation.
The issue has perplexed and bemused many of my constituents who bought shares in the company in a rights issue in 2008, only eight weeks before the Government of the day nationalised it. They bought shares not because they were high rollers who invest in the stock market to make a quick buck, but because many of them are shrewd pensioners who thought they were making safe, long-term investments for their future in retirement. One might say, “Well, if you invest in the stock market, you should be aware of the risks. You should expect the peaks and troughs and be prepared to take the rough with the smooth.” Every one of my constituents who contacted me from Calder Valley has highlighted that very point; but they have gone on to say that the balance sheets of the bank were good, and were definitely in a stronger position than those of many banks that the Government of the day decided to bail out.
One might also argue, as Lord King did a year ago, that it was Britain’s faulty banking accounting rules that failed investors. My constituents would argue that in that case, the same faulty rules applied to all banks. Even so, the Bradford & Bingley was still showing a stronger balance sheet than many of the banks that were bailed out. We know that from the banking crisis post mortem published by the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum.
It seems ludicrous that within eight weeks of the bank’s rights issue in 2008, the Government nationalised it. It is even more staggering that within days they provided a further £60 billion of support to two Scottish banks that had weaker balance sheets than the Bradford & Bingley’s. As my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley mentioned, his constituents, like mine, and thousands of other investors from west Yorkshire and beyond, believe that the decision to nationalise the Bradford & Bingley was a flawed one, made in haste and not consistent with the treatment given to other banks.
How must those investors feel, after the revelations of the past week about low-cost loans secured by a political party and party political donations from yet another failed bank, whose chairman is disgraced? How must they feel when they read the allegations that the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the very Scottish banks bailed out by the previous Government, forced some customers out of business? Only yesterday I presented the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills with clear evidence of an attempt to do just that to the business of one of my constituents. How would you feel, Mr Betts, if you had invested in an organisation that was treated totally differently from other banks that have failed or are failing? I expect you would feel pretty miserable and furious. I expect you would feel abandoned by the previous Government and helpless before the current Government, who seem unwilling to launch an inquiry.
Perhaps I can sum up those feelings, in the words of a 65-year-old Calder Valley resident who invested for his retirement. He wrote to me and said,
“after being encouraged by the Bradford & Bingley rights issue in 2008 I was staggered at the nationalisation that took place only eight weeks later. Since the mortgage books are now in good health the treatment that I have received as a member of the public in 2013 with all of the talk of honesty and transparency does nothing to help me explain to my grandchildren why they should be good members of society. Especially when their role models in government have behaved so atrociously personally with regard to their use of public money for their own ends, in ensuring the protection of our societal structures and in taking accountability for establishing the truth about many travesties that have taken place over the last few decades.”