Business Secretary Vince Cable says it is “pretty unrealistic” to think the Government’s stake in Royal Bank of Scotland will be sold off within the next five years.
His comments, made in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, appear at odds with Prime Minister David Cameron who has said he wants the sale to start “as soon as possible”.
Cable says: “I do not think it would be sensible for the Government to set a rigid timetable, but given where we start from I think it is pretty unrealistic to think of RBS going back into private ownership this Parliament or probably within five years.”
The Government owns 83 per cent of RBS and pressure has been increasing to break RBS up into a good and a bad bank, a move now being investigated for the Government by UK investment bank Rothschild.
Cable says: “I think there is a very strong argument for saying the bank got too big and indeed that was the source of its undoing. But we are having to balance the benefits of breaking up the bank [and] the potential benefits for competition [with] the significant costs, particularly in terms of disrupting IT systems.”
Attain Wealth Management managing director Gordon Crothers says: “This sounds like posturing designed to pressure Cable’s Conservative coalition partners into a U-turn. He cannot actually do anything to stop the sale.”