There was an urgent question in the Commons today on bankers’ bonuses. Here’s the full transcript of the debate – AJ was very good, Osborne didn’t like it at all when he was accused of ‘sneering arrogance’, or when we dared suggest that a Code of Practice wasn’t quite the firm action against the banks most people expect and want from this Government. Here’s AJ’s question:
Alan Johnson: We are here to hold the Government to account. I have with me the coalition agreement, and I believe that I can still sense the scent of the rose garden upon it. This is what it says in paragraph 1: “We will bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector”.
Where are those detailed proposals? When will we see them? Here is what the Chancellor said in his spending review statement in October:
“Fairness also means that, across the entire deficit reduction plan, those with the broadest shoulders will bear the greatest burden; those with the most should pay the most, and that includes our banks… Today we set out very clearly, for all to take note of, our objective in taxing the banking industry going forward… Our aim will be to extract the maximum sustainable tax revenues from financial services.”—[Official Report, 20 October 2010; Vol. 516, c. 951-956.]
But he has given the banks a tax cut from £3.5 billion to £1.2 billion and they will benefit more than any other sector from the cut in corporation tax. Cuts affecting children will contribute well over £5 billion and students will contribute £2.9 billion. Does the Chancellor think that children and students have the broadest shoulders? The man who said in opposition that no bonus should be higher than £2,000 will not even implement legislation forcing transparency about those receiving more than £1 million.
Where is the Deputy Prime Minister who, when not signing student pledges not to increase tuition fees or unveiling posters about VAT bombshells, was saying: “Doesn’t it make you angry that the banks have been allowed to ride roughshod over our economy, and are still handing out bonuses by the bucket load?”?
So in just seven months, the coalition goes from the scent of the rose garden to the stench of broken promises. The Chancellor who said, “We’re all in this together” bows to the rich and powerful while bearing down on everyone else. His sneering arrogance will not get him out of this one.
And Edward Leigh’s contribution was particularly, er, insightful.
Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Is not the problem with the leading bankers that they are often arsonists and firemen rolled into one? The trouble with the previous Government is that they left the arsonists in charge of the haystack. They bailed them out, but they did not protect the depositors adequately, and now they want to shoot the firemen. What is that going to achieve?
Anyone got any idea what he’s talking about?