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Ministers Demand New Bank Lending Data

(c) Sky News 2013

Britain's banks should publish details of their mortgage and personal unsecured lending on a postcode-by-postcode basis, Government ministers have demanded, as they step up pressure for greater industry transparency.

In a letter to the major high street banks, a copy of which has been obtained by Sky News, Michael Fallon, the business minister, and Greg Clark, his Treasury counterpart, urged them to publish the data in order "to provide a greater level of understanding between the public, SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses) and banks".

Reports last week suggested that the coalition had focused solely on extracting small business lending data from the banks.

However, the letter from the ministers, sent last week, goes further:

"Once the commitment on SME transparency has been delivered, we believe that there is merit in broadening the level of disclosure to encompass other forms of credit, including mortgages and personal unsecured lending," it said.

"Therefore we would ask whether your institution would be willing to show leadership in this regard and enhance the level of your disclosure.

"We are sure that as part of your (year-end financial) results you will be eager to show not just the return your institution offers to its shareholders and employees, but also the utility the banking sector can provide to society and the economy more broadly.

"A commitment to publish your institution's lending by local area will no doubt support this case."

The intensifying pressure from ministers comes amid signs that the Government's Funding for Lending Scheme has begun to channel funds into the real economy, although Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has urged more action to support SMEs.

In a speech last week, Mr Cable threatened "regulatory action" if banks failed to meet disclosure objectives, although the Government has not outlined the specific sanctions that lenders would face.