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George Osborne: The biggest bail out of any single bank in any country

Mr Speaker, once again the Chancellor tells the House of Commons what he has already spun to every national newspaper. Let us separate fact from government fiction.

We welcome the modest break up of some of these large banking conglomerates - a break up he wholly opposed when we Conservatives first suggested it six months ago, and a break up everyone knows was wholly imposed on him by the European Commissioner.

We also welcome the ban this year on all significant cash bonuses in these major retail banks, not least because we proposed that a week ago - and again the Treasury wholly opposed us.

Yet again we're setting the agenda and this lame duck government is following it.

But isn't the real story the sheer size of this bail out?

£39.2 billion pounds.

Equivalent to £2000 per family.

Bigger even than the bailout last autumn.

And with RBS, it breaks a new world record for the biggest bailout of any single bank in any country. 

He had no choice, for the alternative was seeing RBS unable to fulfil the basic requirements of a solvent bank.

But the RBS bailout is bigger than Citigroup's.  Bigger than Bank of America's.  All into a bank whose former Chief Executive was knighted by this Prime Minister for his services to the banking industry.

And in return for this huge slug of money, there is still no guarantee that it will get lending flowing in the real economy, or help real businesses stay afloat or keep people in work

The Chancellor wants us to believe that this is a new era for British banking.

When in truth the British people are being presented with yet another enormous bill to try clear up the mess from the old era of irresponsible banking supervision over which this Labour Government presided.

Let me press him on the details:

First, the enforced sale of branches and bank businesses.

When we Conservatives proposed using the government's stakes to enforce a break up and create smaller, more competitive banks, he dismissed it out of hand.

So will he confirm publicly what everyone involved in these negotiations will tell you privately: namely that this has been driven not by the Treasury but by the European Commissioner?

Indeed, this Government throughout its time in office has actively promoted the policy of creating a small number of large banks.

A policy that reached its zenith when the Prime Minister forced through the Lloyds/HBOS merger over a glass of champagne - and a policy which even after today's modest sell offs leaves the banking sector far more consolidated than two years ago, let alone ten years ago. 

Has the Chancellor forgotten what he said at the last Pre Budget Report: "consolidation [of banks] results in stronger and better capitalised institutions that will lead to greater financial stability, more protection for consumers and better availability of competitive financial products"?

Is that still his view?  That recent consolidation has resulted in stronger institutions?  Greater financial stability? More competition?

Can he really believe what he defended so adamantly last autumn?

Second, let me ask about the details of the £39 billion bail out.

Treasury Ministers are going around today saying this is simply what was announced in February.  That is simply not the case.

In February he told us RBS would get a £13 billion of capital and a £6 billion contingency reserve.  Today he tells us it's going to be £25.5 billion in capital and an extra £8 billion in reserve.   

Will he confirm in public what again everyone involved will say in private: namely that the Asset Protection Scheme he announced in January indeed proved almost impossible to price and to negotiate when they looked at the fine detail and incompatible with European state aid rules?

When did he realise he had come up with a banking plan that no one thought would work?

Why does he think the US has been more successful at using public stress tests and other incentives to lever more private capital into their distressed banks, so that unlike in Britain they are not now turning to the American taxpayer for a further bail out? 

Will he confirm that RBS will not be paying taxes even when it returns to profit - and what signal does that send to the rest of the global banking sector trying to minimise their UK tax bill?

Finally, on bank lending in the real economy.

Every time the Chancellor has got up to announce another bank bailout, he has promised that this would ease credit.

In October, they stood at that Dispatch Box and said their banking policy would "ensure the flow of money to small businesses and families"

In January they said their banking policy would "get lending going in the wider economy".

Yet will he confirm that the latest evidence shows the flow of lending to business falling for the seventh consecutive month and the money supply shrinking at the fastest rate since records began.

The Chancellor tells us of his changes to the banking system and promises yet another banking act.

But the verdict of the Governor of the Bank of England is that it has led to "little real reform".

Meanwhile credit and confidence remain in desperately short supply.

And still the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have no plan to provide either.

Indeed they have no answer to the most basic question: why is Britain still in recession while the rest of the globe recovers

That is the truth about this Government.

They boasted about saving the world.

But they are still trying to save the British banks - let alone the British economy.

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