A global levy on banks to pay for the cost of future bailouts is more likely now than it was six months ago, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling said Tuesday.
Ahead of a general election that must be held by June 3, the opposition Conservative Party has said it will impose a levy on banks if it forms the next government, regardless of whether there is international agreement to do so.
Testifying before lawmakers on the budget he outlined last week, Darling said the U.K. cannot go it alone, because banks will move to locations where the levy is not in force. But he said a global agreement on a bank levy is closer than many had thought possible.
"I'm more optimistic now that we can get an international levy or tax than I was six months ago," he said, adding the issue will be discussed at a meeting of finance officials from the Group of 20 leading economies in Washington next month.
Darling said a levy would not be workable unless the U.S. and the U.K. agreed to impose it.
"You would have to have the U.S. and ourselves on board," he said. "Our financial centers are by far the biggest in the world."