Is the banking inquiry now a "total joke"?

Inquiry criticised after outspoken MPs are left off its membership.

The parliamentary inquiry into banking hasn't even begun but it's already being dismissed as a "whitewash". The reason? The two most combative MPs on the Treasury select committee, Labour MP John Mann and Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, have been left off its membership.

Mann has already responded on Twitter, angrily denouncing the commission as a "total joke" and vowing to set up his own inquiry into the rate-rigging scandal. Here's his statement:

Both Andrea and I were available for the Inquiry and because we are too outspoken we have been blocked

This exposes the Inquiry as a total whitewash with Andrew Tyrie reaching his conclusions in advance of the meetings.

We need to get to the bottom of this scandal and I’m therefore setting up my own inquiry into this dreadful mess.

It was Mann who said of Bob Diamond at last week's hearing: "Either you were complicit in what was going on, or you were grossly negligent, or you were grossly incompetent. That is the only conclusion".

We haven't heard from Leadsom yet, but her 25-year career in the banking sector, including 10 years at Barclays, was widely thought to have made her the most effective inquisitor. In addition, she demonstrated her independent-mindedness earlier this week with her call for George Osborne to apologise to Ed Balls for suggesting that he had "questions to answer" over the Libor scandal. (A fact that some are suggesting may lie behind her absence.)

Those who have made the cut, other than inquiry chair Andrew Tyrie, are Conservative MP Mark Garnier, Labour MPs Pat McFadden and Andy Love, and Lib Dem MP John Thurso, all of whom were reportedly selected on the advice of their parties. They may yet prove an effective line-up (and QCs will question witnesses on the inquiry's behalf) but given their "useless" performance against Diamond (in the words of Leadsom) they begin from a position of weakness. The hand of those who argue that only a judge-led inquiry will do has been considerably strengthened by the exclusion of Leadsom and Mann.

The Canary Wharf headquarters of Barclays Bank. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Leave will leap on the immigration rise, but Brexit would not make much difference

Non-EU migration is still well above the immigration cap, which the government is still far from reaching. 

On announcing the quarterly migration figures today, the Office for National Statistics was clear: neither the change in immigration levels, nor in emigration levels, nor in the net figure is statistically significant. That will not stop them being mined for political significance.

The ONS reports a 20,000 rise in net long-term international migration to 333,000. This is fuelled by a reduction in emigration: immigration itself is actually down very slightly (by 2,000) on the year ending in 2014, but emigration has fallen further – by 22,000.

So here is the (limited) short-term significance of that. The Leave campaign has already decided to pivot to immigration for the final month of the referendum campaign. Arguments about the NHS, about sovereignty, and about the bloated bureaucracy in Brussels have all had some utility with different constituencies. But none has as much purchase, especially amongst persuadable Labour voters in the north, as immigration. So the Leave campaign will keep talking about immigration and borders for a month, and hope that a renewed refugee crisis will for enough people turn a latent fear into a present threat.

These statistics make adopting that theme a little bit easier. While it has long been accepted by everyone except David Cameron and Theresa May that the government’s desired net immigration cap of 100,000 per year is unattainable, watch out for Brexiters using these figures as proof that it is the EU that denies the government the ability to meet it.

But there are plenty of available avenues for the Remain campaign to push back against such arguments. Firstly, they will point out that this is a net figure. Sure, freedom of movement means the British government does not have a say over EU nationals arriving here, but it is not Jean-Claude Juncker’s fault if people who live in the UK decide they quite like it here.

Moreover, the only statistically significant change the ONS identify is a 42 per cent rise in migrants coming to the UK “looking for work” – hardly signalling the benefit tourism of caricature. And though that cohort did not come with jobs, the majority (58 per cent) of the 308,000 migrants who came to Britain to work in 2015 had a definite job to go to.

The Remain campaign may also point out that the 241,000 short-term migrants to the UK in the year ending June 2014 were far outstripped by the 420,000 Brits working abroad. Brexit, and any end to freedom of movement that it entailed, could jeopardise many of those jobs for Brits.

There is another story that the Remain campaign should make use of. Yes, the immigration cap is a joke. But it has not (just) been made into a joke by the EU. Net migration from non-EU countries is at 188,000, a very slight fall from the previous year but still higher than immigration from EU countries. That alone is far above the government’s immigration cap. If the government cannot bring down non-EU migration, then the Leave argument that a post-EU Britain would be a low-immigration panacea is hardly credible. Don’t expect that to stop them making it though. 

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.