The city minister said it would not be “useful” for NatWest’s chairman to resign over Nigel Farage’s Coutts bank account crisis.
Andrew Griffith said the resignation of Sir Howard Davies would not improve the situation, NatWest having already lost its chief executive, Dame Alison Rose, and Peter Flavel, the head of Coutts, its private banking arm.
On Thursday, Rishi Sunak declined to offer his support to Davies. However, on Friday night Griffith said on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions: “I don’t think Sir Howard Davies leaving now would be helpful.”
Davies is due to leave next year, with his departure announced before the row broke out. Griffith said: “Alison was the chief executive responsible for the day-to-day running of this organization. Sir Howard is Chairman of the Board. He is already leaving; they are looking for a new president… The important thing is that there is an independent investigation. I want to know what was going on.
The banking group has come under intense pressure in recent days after it emerged that an account at Coutts belonging to Farage, the former Ukip leader, had been closed without explanation.
Farage claimed it was because of his political views, while a BBC report cited an unnamed source as suggesting it had more to do with his personal finances. He then obtained internal documents showing that the bank had taken into consideration both what it called his “xenophobic, chauvinistic and racist views” and his belief that he had fallen “below commercial criteria for a period of time. “.
The BBC was criticized for its reporting and apologized to Farage. Rose admitted to being the broadcaster’s source and, despite initial support from Davies to stay in his job, resigned in the early hours of Wednesday after the Prime Minister and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt intervened.
The row over the issue highlighted other cases that had received far less publicity. On Thursday, the chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, claimed there was a “double standard” in the treatment of his organization, compared to that of Farage.
Almost a decade ago, three Muslim organizations – including the North London Mosque – had their HSBC bank accounts closed. There was little recognition or public support at the time, Kozbar said, leaving him frustrated that British Muslims struggling with the issue were left alone.
It also emerged that the True and Fair party, led by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, was told this month by Monzo that its bank account would be closed in September. Miller said that if new political parties couldn’t access banking services, “we don’t have a functioning democracy” and that was a “bigger issue” than closing Farage’s bank account.