Shadow Treasury financial secretary Chris Leslie says a letter sent to him by former HSBC chief executive Lord Green expressing regret over the bank’s failure to stop money laundering does not go far enough and he must answer questions in Parliament.
Last week, HSBC 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 works with Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban on financial services and banking issues. He is also a member of the Cabinet Committee on Banking Reform.
Labour has been calling for Lord Green to appear in the House of Lords before it rises at the end of today to explain what, if anything, he knew about what was going on at the bank.
The letter, sent yesterday, says the US senate report gives evidence of action taken by Green and the bank’s senior management when the issue was brought to their attention. It adds the Bank has expressed its regret over the failures, has committed to fixing any problems and that it would be inappropriate for Green to comment while there are “continuing discussions between HSBC and the US authorities”.
Leslie says: “”It is right that Lord Green has now expressed regret for the failures of HSBC to prevent money laundering during his time as chief executive and chairman. But his letter totally fails to address the detailed questions about what he knew and when about these very serious issues.
“As a British minister, an adviser to George Osborne on banking and a member of the Cabinet Committee on banking reform, he is accountable first and foremost to Parliament. He cannot and should not hide behind ‘continuing discussions between HSBC and the US authorities’ as a reason for failing to answer questions.”
On Monday, leader of the House of Lords and Government spokesman Lord Strathclyde said ministers are only responsible to Parliament for their work as a minister. He added that if Parliament had questions to ask Lord Green they should be asked by the the new Banking Commission being led by Treasury select committee chair and Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie.
Strathclyde said: “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. ”