Miliband keeps up the pressure on Stephen Green

Former HSBC head and Tory trade minister should answer questions in the Lords, says Labour leader.

In the Q&A session following his speech on policing this morning, Ed Miliband intensified the pressure on Conservative trade minister Stephen Green, who was head of HSBC at the time of the money laundering scandal. He called for Green to answer questions in the House of Lords (he sits as a Tory peer) on what he knew about the affair, which saw the bank used as a conduit for "drug kingpins and rogue nations".

"What happened at HSBC is frankly shocking," Miliband said.

In a similar vein, a leader in today's Times (£) notes that "It would be interesting to hear from Lord Green, a man who has great personal integrity and a strong ethical code, an account of how things at the bank went awry. The issues at stake here go beyond the role banks play in the economy to the role they play in society. Do they facilitate or inhibit crime? Do they enhance or undermine international security?"

But Downing Street is insistent that Green's position is safe. One source told the Telegraph: "As far as we are concerned, he’s not going anywhere – there are no allegations against him and all this information was already in the public domain."

But emails released by US senators as part of their investigation into HSBC show that Green was kept informed by the bank's then compliance chief David Bagley. In 2005, he was told there was "little doubt" that a transaction from Burma breached US government sanctions, raising the prospect of "a significant risk of financial penalty".

David Cameron may feel that the government can continue to brush aside questions on the subject, but as his handling of Andy Coulson and Lord Ashcroft showed, he has a tendency to underestimate scandal.

Trade minister and Conservative peer Stephen Green led HSBC from 2003-2010. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496