James Daley: Who's to blame for the Icelandic banking mess?

When Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling were talking tough to Iceland a few weeks ago – seizing the UK assets of Icelandic banks and promising to stand behind all UK savers with money in those banks' accounts – I felt a great national pride. After all, the Icelandic Government had apparently told us that they had no intention of honouring their obligations in the UK – even though hundreds of thousands of savers had deposited money in the UK subsidiaries of their banks.

Once the assets had been seized, of course, both banks inevitably collapsed. But with UK savers' money secure, it felt like our Government had done the right thing.

Over the following days, however, it started to become clear that there were a number of victims who were not going to get much, if any, of their money back. For a start, the dozens of local authorities who had stuck council taxpayers' money into Landsbanki and Kaupthing were told they would not be reimbursed by the UK Government. Then there were the thousands of individuals who had put their money in Landsbanki and Kaupthing's offshore operations – most of whom were UK nationals, but who would also not qualify for the British Government bail-out because the Isle of Man and Guernsey are independent territories.

As these angry groups realised that they may be hung out to dry, they began to question whether Britain had taken the right decision to seize the Icelandic banks' assets in the first place.

The answer appears to come down to whether the Icelandic government really ever did threaten to walk away from its banks' UK liabilities. Iceland now claims it said no such thing, and has challenged the British to provide proof that it did. Furthermore, some Icelandic bankers have suggested that had Britain not intervened in the way it did, these banks would not have collapsed at all – and no one would have lost a penny.

The savers who lost money in the offshore subsidiaries of Kaupthing and Landsbanki understandably feel aggrieved. Though offshore banking tends to be associated with wealthy tax dodgers, many of the savers in question were simply ordinary UK citizens who worked overseas and could not open UK savings accounts while they were not resident here. Instead, they opted for banks as close to home as possible – and paid dearly for making the wrong choice. Many now stand to lose their entire life savings, and are furious that their own Government will not stand behind them.

However, if the British Government had not intervened, I would quite agree with Darling's decision to turn his back on these savers. After all, if you put your money in a French bank that went bust, you wouldn't expect the British Government to bail you out. So why should it be any different for the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, which are not really any more a part of the UK than France is? Savers should have checked what protection their money would be afforded. And if they were advised to put it there, and were told it was safe, then they should sue their adviser. But why should Britain bail them out?

If, however, the British Government's actions – which included the use of anti-terrorist legislation to seize the Icelandic banks' assets– were part of the problem, then we must certainly bear the responsibility to compensate these people. Sadly, it may take class actions and years in the courts to ever prove such an accusation, by which time some of those affected will have been forced to declare themselves bankrupt. A sorry situation.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Law Costs

    Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

    Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

    DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

    £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

    Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution