Labour accuses Govt of planning ‘pre-election firesale’ of RBS

Chris Leslie

Labour has attacked the Government for planning a “pre-election firesale” of the Royal Bank of Scotland after Stephen Hester’s departure as chief executive yesterday.

Speaking in the House of Commons today after a Government statement on RBS, shadow Treasury financial secretary Chris Leslie said the Government’s handling of RBS has been “shambolic” and “uncertain”.

Leslie highlighted comments from RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton indicating the Treasury wants a sale before the end of 2014.

Leslie said: “Is it purely a coincidence that the end of 2014 would fit neatly into the chancellor’s pre-election timetable? Should the timetable not be driven by the best interests of the taxpayer and the British economy instead?”

Treasury economic secretary Sajid Javid said the Government’s only target is to get the best value for the taxpayer and it will unveil plans at a later date.

The parliamentary commission on banking standards is set to publish its report any day, which will focus on the future of RBS.

Chancellor George Osborne is also set to focus on the future and privatisation of state-owned banks in his annual Mansion House speech next week.

Policy Exchange and the Centre for Policy Studies have unveiled plans for a share giveaway to millions of taxpayers, which is understood to have support in the Treasury.

Javid said: “There should be nothing surprising about RBS having an ambition to return to the private sector, it is perfectly reasonable and normal.

“The Government has always made it absolutely clear there is no target price for selling RBS and no fixed timetable, including the general election. Our major concern is getting the best value possible for the taxpayer.”

Leslie also accused Osborne of intervening to dismiss Hester as he did not fit in with Government plans. Javid denied any involvement from Osborne but admitted he met Hampton last week so the chairman could inform him of the decision.