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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R), speaks as his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper, listens during a news conference in the garden of number 10 Downing Street in London June 3, 2010. (TOBY MELVILLE/TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R), speaks as his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper, listens during a news conference in the garden of number 10 Downing Street in London June 3, 2010. (TOBY MELVILLE/TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)

Harper signals G20 battle over bank levy Add to ...

Stephen Harper is preparing to do battle at the upcoming Toronto summit as the new British Prime Minister, David Cameron, signalled today that he is coming to Canada to fight for a G20-wide bank levy.

And Prime Minister Harper acknowledged the bank levy issue will provoke a "lively debate" at the summit that is to take place later this month in Toronto.

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Mr. Harper and Mr. Cameron do not agree on the measure. But the Prime Minister has been lobbying hard for against such a tax; he took his lobby to 10 Downing St today and will take it to Paris Friday.

British Prime Minister Cameron was not convinced, however.

At a press conference Thursday after his first meeting with Mr. Harper as the new British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron said that his government would like "to secure the maximum amount of agreement on this proposal" for a bank levy.

The press conference was held in the garden of 10 Downing St. marking the first time Mr. Cameron has held a press conference with a foreign leader there; he just moved into the prime minister's residence last Thursday.

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"The experience in Canada is different and I am not surprised that they take a slightly different view," said Mr. Cameron. "But that's the clear view we take and we'll be arguing for that in the G20 and we think many other countries will want to take a similar approach."

If that fails, however, his government will go ahead with a tax anyway. The public wants it after the banks were bailed out by taxpayers as a result of the economic downturn.

Britain, the United States, Germany and France are supportive of a levy.

"We are trying to deal here with a problem that relates, yes, to the fact that we had to bail out our banks in the UK but a deeper problem which is that effectively some of these large institutions have an implicit guarantee that they will always be saved," said Mr. Cameron. "And in return for that implicit guarantee it does seem to me that there is a logic in saying that there is a charge they should pay in respect to that."

Other countries, such as India, Brazil, Russia and China - countries that along with Canada did not have to bail out the banks - support Mr. Harper.

"As David said the experience of the United Kingdom and Canada are completely different," Mr. Harper told reporters. "We did not have a taxpayer bailout of our financial system, of our banks during this crisis.

"… Obviously given that we did not have to do that in Canada because we had a stronger system of regulation, obviously, I think that's the way to address the situation."

Although the focus of their meetings today was on the G8 and G20, their thoughts were also on yesterday's horrific shootings in a market town north of London that left 12 dead. One man, who was a licensed firearm holder, believed to be the shooter is also dead.

Asked by British reporters about improving gun control laws, Mr. Cameron said that Britain has among the toughest gun control legislation anywhere in the world.

"We shouldn't make any knee jerk reaction to think there is some instant legislative or regulatory answer," he said. "But you can't legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone's head and for this dreadful sort of action to take place."

For his part, Mr. Harper said that

Canada has its "own series of strict laws."

He also said that today is not a day for "policy discussion."

"Today is just a day to give our thoughts and prayers to those who are the victims and particularly to those who we hope will recover from this particular incident," he said.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

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