Sunday, 1 July 2012

The uncaring banks

I've been reading A view from the Foothills by my former MP, Chris Mullin, and I was interested to see that in April 2000, he was the subject of headlines for his remarks about the social responsibility of Barclays Bank. His words on corporate responsibility of banks show that even 12 years ago, Barclays was the subject of controversy. What he actually said was:-

At the end of the day, the banks' customers must themselves make a commercial decision. If their bank fails to continue to meet their banking needs, they may consider transferring their business to one that does, either directly at a local branch, or through an agency agreement with the local post office. That sort of market pressure sometimes works. Some hon. Members will recall that in the 1970s, Barclays was forced to rethink its investment in South African defence bonds. Many local authorities that had bank accounts with Barclays and many individuals--including me, although I doubt whether the withdrawal of my modest account made a great deal of difference to the bank's corporate strategy--forced the bank to review its attitude towards its investment policy.
That sort of popular uprising can sometimes work, when appealing to the better nature of the banks might not. I note that Members of the National Assembly for Wales are calling for the closure of the Assembly's £3 billion account with Barclays. That ought to ring a bell or two in the appropriate quarter, even if what we say in Parliament does not have quite the same impact. That could easily spread, unless Barclays starts to take more interest in the welfare of its customers...
I am only too happy to add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney and the other hon. Members who have spoken this morning, in calling on Barclays bank to reconsider its strategy. However, I am under no illusion--the most effective pressure on Barclays is likely to be customers voting with their feet.

 Hansard reference

Although Mr Mullin was primarily interested in the role of Barclays in damaging small communities by bank closures, his words still have a lot of merit.

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