Labour to look at bank profits

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The Independent Online
The Labour party is pledging to widen the scope of regulation to cover banks amid estimates that their profits will show an increase this year of more than £3bn to over £10.6bn.

With a series of principal banks due to announce their figures over the next few weeks, Gordon Brown, the Shadow chancellor, yesterday promised regulation to bring in stiffer controls on charges, and treatment of customers.

The latest extension of Labour's planned use of regulation to the banking sector, as well as to the privatised utilities, was unveiled as Mr Brown made it clear the party would not agree to "trade-offs" by promising to take industries back into public ownership in order to secure union support for a new Clause IV.

The Shadow chancellor's robust rebuttal of covert union threats to insist on clear pledges that the water and rail industries would be re-nationalised came as he published a series of planned measures to make banks more consumer-friendly.

These included a full-scale Office of Fair Trading enquiry into banking treatment of small business, a legal requirement on banks to provide legally-enforceable contracts for bank customers, and measures to ensure greater competition, which would admit new entrants to the bank clearing system.

He said Labour would install a new banking regulator "setting higher standards for banking practices" against a background in which customers had seen charges rise by 50 per cent.

Edinburgh Financial Publishing will be supplying Labour with a list of estimated profits by major banks and building societies. Edinburgh estimates Barclays' profits will go up from £664m in 1993 to £2bn for 1994; Lloyds - £1,031m to £1,274m; NatWest - £989m to £1,566m; and, Abbey National - £704m to £879m.

Pressed on BBC 4's World this Weekend about suggestions that the unions were demanding pledges of re-nationalisation in return for support on a new Clause IV, Mr Brown declared: "There is going to be no trade-offs and no trading and that has been made absolutely clear under all circumstances."

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