The Government has rejected calls from Labour for former HSBC chief executive Lord Green, now a key Government adviser on bank reform, to be called to answer questions in the House of Lords on the issue of money laundering by the bank.
Last week, HSBC’s head of compliance David Bagley resigned after a US senate report revealed the bank exposed the US to billions of dollars of money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorist financing. Green was chief executive between 2003 and 2006 and executive chairman between 2006 and 2010.
Green became minister for trade and investment in January 2011 and also works with Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban on financial services and banking issues and is a member of the Cabinet Committee on Banking Reform.
Over the weekend, shadow Treasury financial secretary Chris Leslie called for Green to “take the opportunity to explain what, if anything, he was aware of during his time at the bank”.
Speaking in the House of Lords this afternoon, leader of the house and Government spokesman Lord Strathclyde said if Parliament has questions to ask of Lord Green they should be asked by the new Banking Commission being led by Andrew Tyrie
He said: “There is no urgency in this matter. The investigation started over two years ago, the report in question was published two weeks ago. There was no evidence of wrongdoing by my noble friend, indeed there was no personal criticism of my noble friend whatsoever and the investigation is ongoing. No minister needs to be accountable to Parliament for their previous careers only for what they are doing as ministers.
“If a committee of this House to ask questions of Lord Green, they are entirely free to do so.”
Lord Butler advised the Prime Minister over ministerial resignations and was a non-executive director of HSBC at the time Green served as chief executive. Also speaking in the Lords, he said:”The chair and chief executive of a major international company is accountable for everything that happened in that company, but there is no possible way they can be responsible for everything that happens in a worldwide group the size of HSBC.”