The Treasury also say that the Chancellor, George Osborne, received advice from UK Financial Investments yesterday that it would be appropriate to conduct the first sale of the government’s shareholding in the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Chancellor agreed with that advice and authorised the process to begin. The government say that today marks an important first step in returning the Royal Bank of Scotland to the private sector.
Commenting the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said: "I can confirm this morning that we have sold 5.4% of the Royal Bank of Scotland, raising £2.1 billion which will be used to pay down the national debt. This is an important first step in returning the bank to private ownership, which is the right thing to do for the taxpayer and for British businesses: it will promote financial stability, lead to a more competitive banking sector, and support the interests of the wider economy. Now is the time for RBS to rebuild itself as a commercial bank, no longer reliant on the state, but serving the working people of Britain."
Mr Osborne continued: "I wasn’t the Chancellor who bailed out RBS; but I am the Chancellor now responsible for doing the right thing for the British economy. So while the easiest thing to do would be to duck the difficult decisions and leave RBS in state hands; the right thing to do for the economy and for taxpayers is to start selling off our stake. So today that’s what we’re doing."
Branding the government's decision as a "fire sale" of RBS shares Shadow Chancellor, Chris Leslie, said: “RBS had to be bailed out urgently, but it doesn’t have to be sold off at the same speed. Labour has always supported the eventual return of RBS to the private sector but taxpayers who bailed out the bank will want their money back and will be suspicious of any fire sale. The Chancellor needs to justify his haste in selling off a chunk of RBS while the bank is still awaiting a US settlement for the mis-selling of sub-prime mortgages."
"Two years ago George Osborne said he would only countenance a sale of RBS when ‘the bank is fully able to support our economy and when we get good value’. Neither of these tests has yet been passed." Mr Leslie added.