Royal Bank of Scotland: Small Business Customers

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th November 2017.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn 12:00 am, 7th November 2017

What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the conclusions of the recent Financial Conduct Authority report on the Royal Bank of Scotland and small business customers.

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has frequent discussions with the Chancellor on a range of matters, including financial regulation. The Financial Conduct Authority has published a summary of Promontory’s skilled persons report, to which I think the right hon. Gentleman refers. The FCA is now considering the report’s conclusions, including whether there is any basis for further action.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

Constituents of mine have, in good faith, used Government-based schemes such as the enterprise finance guarantee scheme to grow their businesses, only to find the Royal Bank of Scotland using the very same scheme to close down their businesses. Given that there is a litany of such cases throughout that report, is it not now time that the Minister and the Treasury conducted a proper investigation and perhaps even a judge-led inquiry?

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The enterprise finance guarantee scheme was exactly designed to enable businesses to borrow when they lacked collateral, with taxpayer support. If a bank is closing down overdraft facilities to claim on the guarantee—as in the case to which I believe the right hon. Gentleman refers—that would clearly be a gross abuse of the scheme. Any evidence of that will certainly be looked at very carefully by my Department.

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Does the Minister not agree that the response to the finding that 92% of the bank’s restructuring group’s small business customers were mistreated has been pathetic and is unworthy of a publicly owned institution?

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman hold fire until the Financial Conduct Authority has decided on what action it may still take. It is empowered to take action, and I totally agree with the sentiments behind his question.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (International Trade)

What happened at RBS’s Global Restructuring Group is a scandal of the highest order. Businesses were ruined; families were torn apart; and people took their own lives. The Minister must know that the FCA cannot deliver justice for the GRG’s victims on its own, because most business banking is unregulated. I have asked Ministers this question six times already, and I will ask it a seventh time: will the Government set up a judge-led inquiry into RBS GRG, or do they have something to hide?

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have nothing to hide. I share the concerns about the practices of the Global Restructuring Group at RBS and the devastating impact on people’s businesses, which represent a lifetime’s work for many people. I am sure that we have not yet heard the last of this inquiry.