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Govt defeated in House of Lords over Rock bill

The Government has been defeated in the House of Lords over parts of the bill to nationalise Northern Rock.

The Lords voted for an independent audit of the bank’s accounts within three months, followed by annual checks, after it was revealed the Government was not planning to include the Granite fund, which holds 40 per cent of the bank’s best assets, in nationalisation.

The Lords voted against exempting the bank from the Freedom of Information Act. The Government defended its plans to exclude the bank, while all other publicly owned companies are subject to FOI enquires, claiming it would put it at a disadvantage to other banks.

The Lords also agreed the stricken bank should be subject to regular assessments by the Office of Fair Trading to ensure Government backing did not give Northern Rock a competitive advantage over other banks.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Lord Matthew Oakeshott said: “Taxpayers must know the full picture at Northern Rock, including Granite and the £8bn of dodgy unsecured loans. Making Northern Rock subject to freedom of information requests will stop any Treasury cover-up. Why shouldn’t taxpayers know if Northern Rock bosses get massive bonuses or golden goodbye payments?”

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