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Cable reveals Co-op meetings

Treasury ministers held a "fairly substantial number" of meetings with the troubled Co-operative Bank over a plan for it to take over branches of Lloyds, Business Secretary Vince Cable has said.

Earlier Chancellor George Osborne sought to play down the Treasury's involvement with the bank, denying claims that the then financial secretary Mark Hoban had met its scandal-hit former chairman, Paul Flowers, on 30 occasions.

However Mr Cable, a Liberal Democrat member of the coalition, said that there had been around that number of meetings between ministers and the bank - although he did not specify whether either Mr Hoban or Mr Flowers was involved.

Speaking on BBC2's Newsnight, he said it was a "fairly substantial number", adding: "I think it was around that number (30)."

He went on: "I am not a Treasury minister, I was not involved, but they were having detailed discussions, certainly."

Mr Cable stressed that at the time the talks were taking place, no one in government had been aware of the scale of the problems at the Co-op.

He did however appear to distance himself from attempts by Mr Osborne and other Tories to make political capital over Labour's links to the Co-op.

Appearing on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Osborne said the party was taking "money and soft loans" from the bank at a time when bond holders - including pensioners who relied on the income from those bonds - were having to make sacrifices and jobs were being lost.

However Mr Cable said: "I have never seen this as a political issue."

The bank has been under renewed scrutiny following allegations that Mr Flowers, a 63-year-old Methodist minister, bought and used illegal drugs.

He is currently on bail after being questioned by police officers "investigating allegations of drug supply offences", having been suspended by both the Methodist church and the Labour Party.


From Belfast Telegraph