Lord Turner is the head of the FSA (that’s the Financial Services Authority, not the Food Standards Agency).
If the Tories win the next election, he’s toast and so is the FSA which will be abolished, its powers returned to the Bank of England.
So that’s probably why he’s giving strong views on taxing banks – the kind of talk that gets frozen out of polite society in the City, I expect.
The kind of reforms Turner suggests could save the capitalists from their chaotic system – but would hurt them in the short term by imposing costs to implement the regulation of apparently speculative or dangerous activities.
Transnational corporations are lobbying against proposed EU regulations on derivatives which would require deals to go through a clearing house.
In the UK, however, there’s nothing tough planned for the transnationals. The government might be talking up food sovereignty, the transition to low-carbon manufacturing, and so on, but there’s no plan to put the casino-capitalists on a diet.
Response to Turner’s views are revealing:
The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, asks what would replace the City as a source of employment and tax revenues. So, at least he’s willing to consider alternatives if laid out before him.
The Shadow Chancellor has remained silent. For obvious reasons. No one would believe a Tory Chancellor would crack down on big business.
London’s buffoonish Mayor, Boris Johnson, is perhaps the only UK politician willing to leap to the defence of the City.
An unnamed London banker is quoted in the FT as saying “It is just illogical to want to shrink one of your most important industries,” unless it happens to have led to the destruction of all your other industries, I suppose… He goes on to say: “If you want to turn London into a Marxist society, then great.”
Yes, comrade. Great! Full marks for hyperbole.
“Saint” Vince Cable of the Lib Dems has welcomed what Turner has said, stating that that “competitiveness” arguments cannot be used to defend the status quo:
“If you are engaged in behaviour that is dangerous to the wider British economy, it is right some sectors may have to contract,”
However, Nick Clegg, the Liberal leader, has said that taxation would be unworkable as a way of shrinking the City as global agreement would be required.
It was interesting to observe President Nicholas Sarkozy of France revealing his tough plans for reform to bank remuneration – which will only be implemented if there’s a global agreement. Which in political terms, is a win-win deal. If the rest of the world says non, he wins; if the rest of the world says oui, he wins.
What changes do I suggest, then?
Well, given that the financial services sector could not exist without the taxpayer support that has been given, the government should ensure that restructuring takes place with the following modest reforms:
* Voluntary redundancies only, and terms and conditions respected for the pay and pensions of bank staff on low- to middle-incomes. Workers in the financial services industry should not be made to pay for the greed of their employers.
* Executive pay, pensions, and other benefits should be capped at all financial institutions – even those in which the government has no shareholding. If executives want to flee elsewhere, let them – there are plenty of talented people willing to take their place and be justly rewarded.
* To prevent future banking crises, the nationalised banks should be mutualised rather than be privatised. Mutual financial institutions – the credit unions, building societies, and Cooperative Bank – have served their members/customers and behaved responsibly.