British minister attacks banker 'spivs and gamblers'

22nd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

British business minister Vince Cable attacked "murky" corporate behaviour and condemned excessive bankers' bonuses paid to "spivs and gamblers" in a speech Wednesday.

Cable said markets were "often irrational or rigged" and complained that unfettered capitalism "kills competition", to warm applause from the party conference of the Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

"Markets are often irrational or rigged," he said. "So I am shining a harsh light into the murky world of corporate behaviour.

"Why should good companies be destroyed by short-term investors looking for a speculative killing, while their accomplices in the City make fat fees?"

In the speech in Liverpool, northwest England, he also attacked bankers' bonuses, saying the "spivs and gamblers" who had taken several British banks to the brink of collapse "deserved" all the public anger aimed at them.

Cable is an outspoken member of the Liberal Democrats who has made no secret of his uneasiness with his party's role in a coalition government with their former political foes, the Conservatives.

But he defended the deep programme of public spending which the coalition government has said is necessary to cut the record deficit it inherited from the former Labour government.

"The deficit must now be corrected. Public spending was ramped up using tax windfalls which have gone," he said.

"We are a poorer country than two years ago and the budget must reflect what we can afford."

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, welcomed Cable's recognition "that not enough has been done to wean the City (financial district) off its addiction to the high risk, high bonus practices."

But business leaders attacked his comments, with the head of the Confederation of British Industry employers group, Richard Lambert, saying it was "odd that he thinks it sensible to use such emotional language."

Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute, said Cable had "misinterpreted" the theories of Smith, the father of free-market economics.

"Unfortunately, we have a business secretary who doesn't understand business and who misinterprets the founder of modern economics too," Butler said.

"It is not capitalism that kills competition. It is regulation, and regulated capitalism."

© 2010 AFP

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