UK Politics

Peers complain banks treat them 'like pariahs'

House of Lords Image copyright PA

Members of the House of Lords have complained they are treated like "deposed dictators or political pariahs" when they try to open bank accounts.

Peers said they were falling foul of money-laundering regulations because banks classed them as high-risk "politically exposed persons".

This makes them, and their relatives, subject to extra due diligence checks.

Treasury Minister Lord Deighton said banks were acting "disproportionately".

He said UK parliamentarians were not currently classed as politically dependent persons, which are restricted to members of foreign governments, but added that new global standards "will require that they are treated as such".

'Box-ticking'

However, he said extra checks should only be required in "high-risk" cases.

But Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones said even before the new Money Laundering Directive had come into force, his son had been unable to access a cash machine, while his brother was unable to exercise a joint power of attorney.

Other complaints included a member whose 12-year-old daughter was asked to provide a utility bill and her driving licence to get a savings account in her name, and another whose two sons tried to open accounts in Singapore and New York, only for the bank to turn them down, "on discovering who their father was".

Conservative Lord Flight said the rules were "completely out of control", and covered "almost all members of this House, and their spouses".

Lord Deighton said UK parliamentarians should be assessed as low-risk, "and treated exactly the same as any other customer", but that these assessments were not taking place.

The problem, he said, was when banks "revert to inappropriate box-ticking exercises", and encouraged members to complain to the Financial Ombudsman.

He called for a balance so "terrorists and criminals" were targeted, leaving "the rest of us free to go about our business".

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