Banks 'will be told to protect free speech' after Nigel Farage's account claims


Nigel Farage: 'Establishment are trying to force me out'

The Treasury will tell banks and building societies that they must uphold and protect free speech, according to reports.

It comes amid a slew of accusations - spearheaded by Nigel Farage - that customers have had their accounts closed for expressing political views and opinions. Banks and building societies have said that decisions to close accounts are "absolutely not based on individual beliefs".

However, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is reportedly "deeply concerned" about the allegations. He is said to have tasked Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Griffith with investigating the issue.

Read more... Building society 'closed account after customer questioned Pride flags'

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt is said to be “deeply concerned” (Image: Getty)

A consultation on the subject - launched earlier this year after PayPal closed the accounts of the Free Speech Union - will be published within weeks, say Whitehall sources. And now The Treasury is reportedly set to call for a toughening up of rules around the notice period that must be given before an account is closed.

A senior Treasury source told The Telegraph: "It is absolutely a concern. No one should have their bank account denied on the grounds of freedom of expression. We expect to take action on this issue within weeks."

“Banks and payment providers occupy a privileged place in society and it would be a concern if financial services were being denied to those exercising the right to lawful free speech.”

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The sources said that even people with extreme views should be entitled to hold a bank account, so long as they have not broken the law. Under existing laws, banks must give customers at least 30 days’ notice if they intend to close personal bank accounts.

But less notice can be given in “exceptional circumstances”. This would include suspected fraud, or if the customer was abusive towards staff.

It comes after Nigel Farage suggested his bank accounts have been closed due to “prejudice” and because the “corporate world” has not forgiven him for Brexit. It has also been claimed that a customer who gave negative feedback about Yorkshire Building Society's website being festooned with Pride flags had their bank account closed.

Reverend Richard Fothergill, an Anglican vicar, claimed that his Yorkshire Building Society account was shut down days after writing to the bank to complain about its public messaging during Pride month. A spokesman said the company never closes accounts based on different opinions or beliefs, adding an account was only ever closed if a customer is “rude, abusive, violent or discriminates in any way”.

Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage says several banks refused his custom (Image: Getty)

Journalist Stuart Campbell, who runs the pro-Scottish independence blog Wings over Scotland, suggested his accounts with First Direct were closed because of his views on gender and sex. First Direct said "decisions to end a customer relationship are not taken lightly, but are absolutely not based on individual beliefs".

However, Journalist and former Conservative MP Toby Young, from the Free Speech Union, described banks closing accounts as "chilling", "sinister" and "like something from communist China".