The heads of Britain’s biggest banks have committed to the principle of “non-discrimination based on lawful freedom of expression”, following a meeting with the financial services minister Andrew Griffith.
The news comes in the wake of Coutts’s politically motivated de-banking of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, an incident that captured the media’s attention and has shone a spotlight on the growing problem of politically motivated financial censorship in western liberal democracies.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Griffith said that the bank bosses had committed to bring their policies into line with planned government reforms as soon as possible.
The reforms in question relate specifically to the UK Payment Services Regulations (i.e., the regulatory framework applied to over 1,000 banks and payment processors licensed to operate in the UK).
Some months ago, the government put in motion a review of the Regulations and sought evidence about politically motivated financial censorship. This followed a meeting between the FSU and Mr Griffith (see above) to discuss our own experience of being de-banked by PayPal. The Minister invited us to submit evidence to the Treasury about how widespread the de-banking phenomenon is. We duly did that, citing numerous cases – many of them members of the FSU.
The consultation culminated in the government’s announcement last week of new measures to protect customers. Under the new rules, banks will be forced to explain any decision to close an account and the notice period for a closure will be extended to 90 days, giving customers more opportunity to challenge the decision. The payment services providers have also agreed not to de-bank people simply for exercising their right to lawful free speech.
The government deserves a lot of credit for acting quicky and decisively. We started campaigning on this issue, the government listened – Nigel Farage also kicked up a stink when he was de-banked – and I’m happy to say it has done something about it.