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Freedom of Speech: Financial Sector

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2023

The Government have been clear that debanking customers on the basis of political views is unacceptable. During recess I met banking executives to discuss debanking and lawful freedom of expression, and they have committed to comply with the changes I published on 21 July. In parallel, the Financial Conduct Authority is conducting an urgent review of debanking practices, which will report back to the Chancellor in the next couple of weeks.

Last week the Met Police chief finally seemed to confirm that the job of the police should be to police and not to seek to align themselves with entities or ideologies. Does the Minister agree with me that banks and the corporate world should follow that example and focus their efforts on their core business, rather than play the sinister cancelling agenda of the woke brigade that saw Nigel Farage have his account wrongfully closed?

My hon. Friend represents the views of his constituents in this place clearly. He is quite right; although they are private entities, banks benefit from a privileged place in society and they should focus on doing their core functions brilliantly, treating customers fairly and making a sustainable return for shareholders, rather than taking sides on politically contentious matters.

Today it is because some people may have a different political view; tomorrow it could be the fact that someone has a different religious viewpoint. I am a Christian, and as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief, I stand up for those with Christian beliefs, those with other beliefs and those with no beliefs, because I believe sincerely that they have a right to have that belief. If ever the day came when banks censured anybody because they had a different religious belief, I would stand up against that. Does the Minister agree?

Let me be clear: yes, the Government agree with that. No one should be debarred from access to banking facilities in our society because of a lawfully expressed view. If he and other hon. Members wish to make representations, the Financial Conduct Authority is currently conducting a review of this matter.