The squirming of the banks as they do everything they can to avoid complying with Vickers is salutary. The British Bankers Association Chairman Anthony Browne has said "This will create uncertainty for investors, making it more difficult for banks to raise capital, which will ultimately mean that banks will have less money to lend to businesses". To a point, Lord Copper.
Larger UK firms are currently sitting on something like £750bn of cash reserves, up to three quarters of it in overnight cash. Whilst this is partly down to the end of the old revolving credit lines with the banks and the uncertainties of the bond markets, it also reflects not only the inability of national governments to overtax commerce - golden geese can frequently just fly to alternative jurisdictions - but also the accumulation of battle chests to meet the wave of restructurings, mergers and takeovers that is overdue.
When Browne talks about "lending to business" this is the sort of game the banks like to play - with stakes in the big-money, big-profit games of global acquisitions and mergers. He's certainly not talking about lending to small businesses and new startups, micro-enterprises and co-operatives - the sector that generates the highest growth and has the quickest impact on the economy and employment. This is best done by local retail banks, by local managers making loan decisions.
And if the Vickers regulations restrict the banks from using retail balances to throw on the table as their stake in the big-boys' games of big-money business trading, then good. This kind of investment banking must stand or fall on its own merits, and its own ability to attract external investment for the banks' players to add to the stake. And if it takes a high voltage - an Act of Parliament that makes prosecution and imprisonment inevitable for breaking the rules, together with the compulsory re-structuring of bank operations - to electrify the fence, bring it on.