John Maples is stepping down as Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon. Here are three highlights from his final speech to the Commons, made during the Budget debate.
Banks need to re-moralise themselves: "The banks have been one of the causes of the problems we have been experiencing, but, remarkably, they seem to fail completely to appreciate how unpopular they are, the problems they have caused or the need for any adjustment in how they are regulated and how they behave. They have gone back, remarkably quickly, to what seem to me to be their bad old ways. It is absolutely right for the Government, as the guarantor of retail deposits and the lender of last resort in terms of system risk, to say, "We're never going to have this happen again… "The big point that I wish to make is that the ethics and morality of
the banking business need to change. When the closed shop of English
gentlemen who ran the City for a couple of hundred years was broken up
30 years ago, we got an eat-what-you-kill philosophy from the Americans
instead. It is pernicious, because it encourages an individual to take
a very short-term view of what he or she does, in the interests of
maximising his or her own bonus. Nobody is looking after the firm or
much concerned about the customer. Bankers need to start thinking about
the purpose of what they do, and they need to reintroduce strong ethics
to it. They need to deal with conflicts of interest over proprietary
trading, and they must put the good of the customer and the
organisation that they work for much higher up their agenda."
Banks should have strong internal walls between riskier and safe activities: "The Americans have suggested bringing back the Glass-Steagall division between investment banking and commercial banking-the casino and the utility. I find that a pretty attractive idea, although I worry, on the other side, that big companies need banks that can do a lot of things for them. If we are not to go the whole hog, I do not see why we cannot put banks into silos. The bank could run its mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance business in one silo, with a certain amount of capital committed to it but not putting deposits at risk. If it wanted to run a proprietary trading operation-frankly, I do not believe it should, because it would basically be betting against its customers-that should be in a separate silo. The only thing that the Government should guarantee is the retail deposits in a separate subsidiary of the banking group, and we should regulate very tightly what it did with that money. If a bank wanted to run its own internal hedge fund and lost money on that, it would lose a certain amount of capital, but it would not put the rest of the business at risk, as Lehman Brothers did."
A windfall tax on banks is a good idea: "I believe that the idea of a transaction tax on banks is terrible, as it would just get passed on to customers. However, the idea of taxing the banks' profits a bit more might be good. The reason why they are making so much money at the moment is that they can borrow it from the Bank of England for next to nothing. The argument for a windfall tax on the banks is pretty overwhelming, and if my party is in charge of these affairs in a couple of months' time, as I hope it will be, I hope that it will take that on board."