Mark Hoban under pressure over meetings with Co-op executives

 
Kate McCann
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CONSERVATIVE MP Mark Hoban is under pressure to reveal how many meetings and phone calls he had with Co-op bosses during the doomed sale of Lloyds bank branches.

The Co-operative made a bid for the branches in 2011 in the hope of expanding its presence on the UK high-street, but withdrew its offer citing a difficult economic environment. It was later discovered that the bank had a capital shortfall of £1.5bn.

Rival bidder Lord Levene, founder of NBNK bank, maintains that a political decision was made to back the Co-op’s bid, despite warnings that the bank was financially unstable.

Hoban told Levene that he had “no involvement” in the process during a private meeting with two other senior figures.

Yet Paul Flowers, former chairman of the Co-op, told a committee of MPs that Hoban “encouraged” the failing bank to buy the branches in “many, many telephone conversations and meetings”.

Now the former financial secretary to the Treasury has been put on the spot after Lord Myners pressed the government for an answer over his relationship with Co-op during the bidding process.

Myners, a former city minister in the Brown government, has tabled a question in the House of Lords, requesting information on how much contact Hoban had with the Co-operative during his time at the Treasury.

Myners told City A.M: “Lord Levene and NBNK have every right to feel that they weren’t treated in an equal way.”

He added that 30 calls would be “a very high number for a minister to make” and that it would be “very inconsistent” with his own experience in the Treasury.

Myners said he expects to get an “evasive” response from the government.

“An evasive answer would be consistant with them having something to push to one side and I fully expect an evasive answer,” he said.

A Co-op insider confirmed that Hoban and other senior Treasury figures had “regular conversations” with senior bosses at the bank.

Hoban did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.