[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair] — Tomlinson Report

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:08 am on 17th December 2013.

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Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Shadow Minister (Scotland) 10:08 am, 17th December 2013

I can only agree with my hon. Friend. I do not think there is any doubt that certain sectors have been targeted. I mentioned at the start of my contribution the caravan camping leisure sector, which Barclays had created a separate arm for, so there is no doubt there. Let us be honest: the types of businesses that can grow, even under difficult financial circumstances, appear to be targeted. There is an indication in the Tomlinson report that there have been elements, if I can put it this way, of predatory practice.

Again, I want to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for Aberconwy: this is about businesses being told what is good for them. It is about businesses, once they get into financial difficulties, being told, “We need a report. We need someone to come in and do some work on how you’re running your business. We need valuations—and, by the way, you’ll pay for them at our behest.” The cost is not a few hundred pounds, or a couple of thousand pounds. These are significant sums of money. In any other world, we would call what the banks are doing an absolute rip-off. They actually gerrymander the valuation of businesses. That is simply not acceptable.

On the last couple of occasions on which I have attended meetings of the all-party interest rate swap mis-selling group, chaired by the hon. Member for Aberconwy, I have made this plea. The Royal Bank of

Scotland—I should have declared at the beginning of my speech that I have banked with the Royal Bank of Scotland for more than 40 years; I try my best to keep on the right side of it—is 80% state controlled. We cannot release it back to where it was before the banking crisis. I have been pleading with the chair of the all-party group, and there is a Minister here this morning, so I plead with him: do not release the Royal Bank of Scotland and send it back to whence it came, because we need some kind of control over this bank until some of the problems that it has caused are sorted out.

I know that the hon. Member for Aberconwy was anxious about the language that we should use in this place, despite the cover that we have, but I think that there is a culture of predatory business that is destroying businesses and, more importantly, destroying people’s lives. I apologise if I have missed a piece of work that the Select Committee on the Treasury has carried out, but I think that we need some of these people back in front of the Treasury Committee, explaining some of the charges that they are imposing on business. They are crippling business, not helping it. These big banks are organisations that we all looked at years ago, before the crash, and thought, “These are decent people that we can all do business with.” Frankly, they have been wolves in sheep’s clothing. They do this nation and the economy of this country no good whatever when they take businesses down.