MPs grill bailed-out banks chief over RBS climate chaos funding

9 Mar 2010

A select committee hearing today into RBS's use of public money described as “one of the angriest” ever. MPs quizzed Treasury and UK Financial Investments directors over failure to stop bailed-out RBS financing fossil fuels instead of low-carbon lending.

Protesters with banners outside RBS AGM

People & Planet students demonstrate outside RBS’s last AGM

In a highly charged session today a committee of MPs grilled the Chief Executive of UK Financial Investments (UKFI) over his failure to stop bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) financing the projects driving climate change. The Environmental Audit Committee enquiry to investigate how UKFI could help the transition to a low-carbon economy came on the back of pressure from People & Planet’s Ditch Dirty Development campaign about the bank’s misuse of public money.

Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham and Environmental Audit Committee member, described the sessions as:

“one of the angriest select committees I can ever remember attending.”

Members of the Environmental Audit Committee – an official Westminster select committee - fired increasingly exasperated questions at UKFI and the Treasury team responsible for the government’s massive stake in the bailed-out banks. This followed revelations by campaigning groups People & Planet, PLATFORM, and the World Development Movement that bailed-out RBS has continued funding projects and companies responsible for more climate pollution than the whole of the UK.

Cashing in on tar sands

A report from PLATFORM last week revealed that, since the bail-out, RBS is the UK’s biggest financier of Canada’s destructive tar sands projects. RBS has been involved in financial arrangements worth nearly $2.5 billion with companies operating in Canada’s “blood oil” sands.

Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham and Environmental Audit Committee member, said:

“The Government must stop RBS using our money to drive the most damaging projects on earth. RBS is using taxpayer’s money to finance projects and companies that are driving climate change all over the world. These projects include tar sands extraction in Canada that is trampling on the rights of indigenous communities and destroying pristine wilderness. I saw no indications today that UKFI or the Treasury even fully understand the problem.”

Another EAC member, Colin Challen MP, who likened RBS’ dirty investments to the tobacco industry profiting from the developing world, said high returns for shareholders did not mean it was “the right thing to invest in”. He also said there was something “intellectually incoherent” about a publicly-owned bank investing in coal-fired power plants.

Ian Leggett, director of People & Planet, said:

“The Royal Bank of Scotland have been using taxpayers’ money to fund some of the most destructive projects on the planet. The Government should be using the bailed-out banks to ensure young people can get green jobs building the low carbon economy we need. Instead they’re allowing them to gamble our future and our cash in Canada’s ruinous tar sands and African resource-fuelled war zones.”

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