Friday, December 17, 2010

Who is intending to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

OK, I admit it. I went to hear Mark Littlewood, Director-General of the Institute of Economic Affairs interview Nigel Farage the once and once again Leader of UKIP about his and his party's free-market credentials. It was, as readers can imagine, a very jolly affair and Our Nige performed rather well, though he did have to admit that when it came to some of his free-market, free-trade and just generally pro-freedom ideas, he had something of a fight on his hands with many members of his party. Younger members and supporters, however, as he told me afterwards over a glass of wine, tend to be of our sort of persuasion. On the whole that is true, give or take a few thousand hysterical teenagers who like to smash things in central London while shouting gimme, gimme, gimme. (Ooops, I promised not to write about them again.)

Inevitably there was talk about taxation and regulation and the City of London. Farage referred to an article I had read on my way to the IEA by Chris Blackhurst in the Standard, London's freebie newspaper.

Mr Blackhurst enumerates all the reasons why we, well, he viscerally hates bankers and the City, one reason being
The failure of the City to give more back is dismaying too. It suggests its workers really don't understand or, worse, don't care about the divisive society they are helping to create.
Before I could even begin to work out what that might mean I found the following information:
Yet those pouring scorn on the financial services industry (the City in its wider, non-geographical sense), and those who feed off it, need to think again. The unpalatable truth for those critics is that we need the City.

A report published today shows that total tax receipts from financial services in 2009/10 were £53.4 billion, or 11.2 per cent of the UK's entire tax take. The City is now far and away the highest contributing industry in the UK in terms of corporation tax, overtaking North Sea oil and gas. The 1.3 million employees in financial services across the UK paid £24.5 billion in employment taxes.

This, don't forget, was during a global recession — the previous year, 2008/09, the Exchequer received more than £61 billion. As recovery comes — and there are signs of a lift in the City again, with mergers on the increase and markets climbing — the City's overall tax bill will climb once more.
So, the City creates wealth and jobs as well as keeps large parts of this country going through its tax contribution. Remind me what should they give back and to whom?

As Mr Blackhurst points out the idea that we can somehow resurrect dead industries (killed by trade union activity, bad management and a complete inability to keep up with competition) is moonshine. Therefore, the government piling taxes and regulations on the City to the point when it can no longer function for apparently punitive purposes is, to put it mildly, short-sighted. Who is going to keep the huge public sector in funds if not the private sector? Of course, while we have politicians who enter the employ of their parties straight out of nursery that obvious fact will not be faced.

On the other hand, there appears to be one very obvious fact that Mr Blackhurst is not facing or, at least, not writing about and that is the ten-year old programme rolled out by the European Union of the Single Market for Financial Services in the name of which control of the City has been gradually handed over to all sorts of organizations in Brussels. What will it take for Mr Blackhurst and others of his kind to write about it and not just every now and then when it is a slow news day.

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