Who said: “…when we introduce the new lending agreements, which banks have to enter into if they want any Government help in the future, that will tied to stringent conditions, not just in terms of lending, but also in return, in respect of the payments they make to their staff.”?
It was Chancellor Darling, talking to Andrew Marr back ten months ago, just after he had handed the Royal Bank of Scotland twenty billion pounds of taxpayers’ cash in return for a 60% stake in the bank (“Have a Jolly Stiff Word with the Banks, Chancellor Darling”, February 8 2009).
But today, Harriet ‘Lehman Sisters’ Harman, Leader of the House of Commons expressed her concern over plans by RBS to award its financiers another billion and half pounds in bonuses. This figure, of course, is half as much again as it gave them last year before the Government bailed them out.
Apparently the Government is considering whether to veto the payments through the Treasury, and the mere threat of this has triggered a pledge by RBS board members to resign. In response, Gordon Brown has now promised a press conference at Number 10 that RBS “will not be singled out for unduly harsh treatment”.
It just gets worse. As taxpayers, we’re all shareholders in this fiasco. Our Government seemed really quick to criticise councils who invested in good faith in Icelandic banks which subsequently collapsed, yet without our cash RBS, HBOS and Lloyds would have been in precisely the same position. So having used £20bn of our money (oh, plus the Government’s ‘secret’ emergency loan of £36.6bn last year) to buy the majority shareholding, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling seem powerless to prevent a continuation of the very greed that brought these institutions to the brink in the first place.
But whilst this largesse with our cash continues, how many small businesses have been closed down this week for a few thousand when their bank has pulled the plug?