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UK may force banks to lend to firms: media

UK may force banks to lend to firms: media

British finance minister Alistair Darling is considering tougher laws to force banks to lend to small businesses which are struggling with the global credit crunch, newspapers reported yesterday.
The reports said Darling was looking at measures which could include capping interest rates on loans to small firms, while a leading Labour politician accused the banks of "navel gazing" and even suggested full-scale nationalization as a last resort.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said government wanted to see banks delivering on their commitments to lend.
"In circumstances such as these, you have to look at all options," the spokesman told reporters. "But, of course, we want to work constructively with the banks."
Darling will deliver his pre-budget report on Monday, which will include measures to stimulate the British economy.
The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers both reported that Darling is expected to introduce a new scheme to underwrite small business loans, but if banks fail to loosen their lending policy he would legislate to make them do so.
A Treasury spokesman declined comment.
John McFall, head of parliament's influential Treasury Committee, said major banks must start lending to small business or face increased public pressure for nationalization.
There is growing anger at the apparent reluctance of banks to pass on cuts in official interest rates to mortgage holders or free up credit to small businesses - particularly after several participated in a 37 billion pound government bailout scheme.
"Despite having been pulled back from the brink, the banks appear reluctant to launch their sizable recapitalization lifeboat and start lending again to households and businesses," McFall said in a statement.
"It would seem that they are instead navel gazing and looking warily at each other instead of concentrating on their customers."
McFall said that if the banks fail to comply, there could be a "nuclear option" of full-scale nationalization.
However, the British Bankers Association (BBA) said tighter lending conditions reflected a combination of banks having to be more rigorous in assessing loans and businesses reining in their investment plans and lowering their overdraft needs.
BBA chief Angela Knight said loans would not be going to all firms because "not everyone has the right business model, not everyone has customers who are coming through their door."
"It does make absolute sense that what a bank must do is assess that the business that it is lending to is a viable business," she told BBC radio. "Most of the banks are getting proper arrangements in place to assist the small businesses through a difficult time."


Updated : 2021-10-17 07:46 GMT+08:00