July 10, 2012 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson


 

The Prime Minister should not sweep public concern aside. Only a proper inquiry will rebuild trust in banks. The scandal of the Barclays LIBOR affair where bankers manipulated inter-bank lending rates for their own gain has revealed the scale of the crisis in the banking industry. 
 
People in Formby, Hightown, Crosby and Maghull are right to expect tough action and penalties for those involved. 
 
But David Cameron and George Osborne just don’t get it, trying to sweep this affair under the carpet with an inquiry run by politicians.
 
They’re completely out of touch with the gravity of the situation and the scale of the public’s anger.
 
In the debates in parliament, the government did not convince me that a narrow parliamentary inquiry, limited in scope, is better than a full independent judge-led inquiry.
 
The question is why are the Conservatives resisting an independent inquiry. What are they afraid of? 
 
The truth is that David Cameron can not, and will not, stand up to vested interests in the banks because his party is deeply linked to those very same vested interests.
 
There are many wider questions, from mis-selling to small businesses to the wider culture and practice of the banking industry, which are outside the scope of the narrow parliamentary inquiry established by the Government.
 
At present, the public serve the top banking executives by paying the fees which go to make up their exorbitant bonuses. The public need us to put the banking industry straight and to make sure it serves the public not the other way round. Very few MPs have the skills or expertise of the complex world of high finance. That’s why I thought a judge should run the enquiry into banking in the same way as a judge leads the enquiry into the media - Lord Justice Leveson.
 
Labour  will co-operate with the inquiry that has now been voted on by Parliament, but we will also continue to make the case for a full, open judge-led public inquiry.
 
This is the only way to respond to the public’s anger, get to the bottom of what has happened and put things right for the future.
 
The vote in parliament has shown that David Cameron and the Conservative Party cannot deliver the change we need in the banking industry because they are too close to a powerful few and out of touch with everyone else. Otherwise they would have supported Labour’s calls for a full enquiry.


After U-turns under pressure from Labour on petrol, pasties, caravans, churches and charities, on behalf of people in Sefton Central, I’m asking for three more U-turns this week from this out of touch Tory-Lib Dem Government.
 
With Britain in a double-dip recession, long-term unemployment at a 17-year high and borrowing going up not down, it’s clear that the Government’s economic plan is now failing. That is why, first of all, we need a U-turn on David Cameron and George Osborne’s failed economic policies and to urgently put in place Labour’s plan for jobs and growth – including a bankers’ bonus tax to fund youth jobs.
 
Second, we need a U-turn on the tax cut for millionaires, so that in tough times the richest pay their fair share. 
 
And third, we need a U-turn on the ‘granny tax’ so that pensioners aren’t unfairly hit – paying more while the highest earners pay less.
 
The Government voted down Labour’s amendments on these issues in the House of Commons this week – Tories and Liberal Democrats failing to stand up for their constituents by voting against amendments to create jobs for young people, reverse the ‘granny tax’ and reverse the tax cut for millionaires.