- By Tom Espiner and Noor Nanji
- Business Reporter, BBC News
Jul 23, 2023 at 12:32pm BST
Updated 53 minutes ago
Image source: Getty Images
The Treasury Department has called a meeting with bank bosses over account closures following the dispute between Nigel Farage and NatWest.
Minister Andrew Griffith said there was “significant concern” that claims accounts would be closed because of people’s political views.
Natwest leader Dame Alison Rose has apologized to Mr Farage, who has called for MPs to be questioned.
He says his account with Coutts, which is owned by NatWest, has been closed because of his views.
The government has already addressed concerns that some people’s accounts have been closed or suspended because of their publicly expressed views, but the row over the former Ukip boss has drawn public attention to the allegations.
In a letter to banks seen by the BBC, City Secretary Andrew Griffith said recent allegations of “customer debanking” had “raised significant concerns in both houses of Parliament”.
He said the government will “take the necessary measures” to protect legal freedom of expression.
According to the BBC, Mr Griffiths’ letter will be sent to 19 banks and financial services firms on Monday.
He said he would call for a meeting with bank chiefs “at the earliest opportunity”.
The government’s latest reaction came after the Treasury announced it would subject UK banks to tougher rules on closing customer accounts.
Banks must explain why they are closing accounts and they must give 90 days’ notice before closing an account, giving people more time to appeal the decision.
According to the BBC, the new rules are expected to be introduced after the summer.
Banks must tell customers why they are closing their account – and give at least 90 days’ notice to make it easier for customers to appeal the decision.
When Coutts decided to close Mr Farage’s account, he said he was not given a reason for doing so.
Mr Farage then received a document verifying his eligibility as a Coutts customer.
It said that having Mr Farage as a client was inconsistent with Coutts’ “position as an inclusive organization” given his “publicly expressed views”.
The document raised concerns that he was “xenophobic and racist” and also raised concerns about the reputational risk that comes with Mr Farage as a client.
NatWest Group boss Dame Alison Rose then apologized to Mr Farage for what she called “deeply inappropriate” comments.
She also said she would commission a full review of Coutts’ bank account closure processes.