British finance minister Jeremy Hunt announced on Monday that he was going to tighten banking regulations to ensure that clients’ accounts could not be cancelled based only on the opinions of others.
After previous Brexit party leader Nigel Farage claimed that his account at commercial bank Coutts, a division of NatWest, had been terminated because of his political stances, a procedure known as “debanking” become a political hot topic.
A later discovery by Farage of an internal bank document revealed that the decision was made in part over his opinions and for business motivations.
Hunt said at the annual conference of the ruling Conservative Party in Manchester that “nobody ought to have their financial accounts closed because someone else believes they’re not politically correct.”
“We are going to tighten the law to prevent people from losing their banking privileges because of incorrect political views.”
Banks will have to provide consumers with “make clear and customized explanation” for why a bank account has been canceled, and the notification time for closing an account will increase from a period of two months to 90 days, per moves signaled in July.
How these reforms would be implemented was outlined by the finance minister on Monday.
As a component of the government’s effort to eliminate de-banking for grounds related to freedom of speech, the finance ministry stated in a document that “a public inquiry will be launched immediately to determine how these modifications can be best delivered, prior legislating next year.”
By the end of 2023, the government will release proposed secondary legislation, with the goal of getting it approved by the legislature in 2024.
The government stated that authorities would additionally receive “the go-ahead to take firm action” if any banks were discovered to be undermining or failing to protect their consumers’ rights.
The government is collaborating with regulatory and law enforcement organizations to guarantee that bankers have “limited flexibility” when it comes to not giving 90 days’ notice or a specific explanation for cancelling an account when doing so could put them in violation of other regulations.
In order to prevent “tipping off” consumers that they are under investigation for money laundering, banks need to have the freedom to do so.
Regulators claimed last month that there had been no evidence of registrations being closed because of political beliefs. Farage mocked this conclusion.