A High Street bank has blocked a gender-critical parents group from opening a new account amid a row over its political views.
Metro Bank refused to open a new business account for Our Duty, a group of more than 2,000 parents who believe that it is harmful for transgender children to undergo a medical transition.
The group’s founder, Keith Jordan, claimed that a manager told the group it could not open a business account because “the content of your website conflicts with the culture and ideas we are pushing”.
The not-for-profit group’s website says it supports parents who believe children coming out as transgender could suffer mentally or physically from transitioning.
It marks the latest in a wave of Brexit supporters and gender-critical commentators to claim their accounts have been closed with no explanation after Nigel Farage said last week his account was being shuttered.
Mr Farage on Tuesday warned he would sue Coutts for breaching his privacy after reports that the prestigious bank had closed his accounts because he had insufficient funds.
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, told City minister Andrew Griffith and the Financial Conduct Authority, the city watchdog, to investigate the blacklisting issue while Rishi Sunak intervened.
“The Chancellor has been very clear about this and spoken to the regulator,” the Prime Minister said.
“Obviously, we have to respect people’s right to free speech and that should not be an excuse to close anyone’s account and that’s not what we would expect.”
Metro is Britain’s seventh-largest bank with 2.5 million customers.
Last month the bank joined Stonewall’s Diversity Champion scheme. The controversial charity’s guidance suggests describing mothers as a “parent who has given birth” and calls for the removal of gendered language, as well as allowing those who self-identify as a woman to use female toilets and changing rooms.
The Information Commissioner has previously said the scheme has a “significant degree of influence”, though Stonewall has said it does not seek to influence operational decisions.
He has asked the bank for a recording of the call. However, he later received an email telling him that following an “in-depth review” they had blocked his application for a new account.
Emails seen by The Telegraph show that the same manager also told Our Duty that an existing community account, used to fund members’ meetings, violated their guidelines which prevent such groups “to be linked to, or influence political policies or legislations”.
It said that this was because this type of account did not allow donations unless it was held by a registered charity.
Metro was launched by American billionaire Vernon Hill in 2010 amid much fanfare as the first High Street bank to launch in the UK in more than a century, but has since been beset by problems.
Mr Hill quit in 2019 over an accounting scandal which saw the bank’s share price fall 90 per cent from its all-time high after it miscalculated £900 million worth of risky loans.
Now valued at £200 million, it was last year fined £10 million by the FCA for misleading investors with false information in its third quarterly results in 2018. It followed a £5.3 million fine in 2021 for other failures in its reporting and governance failures by the Prudential Regulation Authority.
‘Bank trying to bully group members to share staff views’
Mr Jordan said that the bank had made a “big mistake” and was effectively trying to bully his organisation’s members into sharing the views of its staff.
“People are starting to call this debanking and it really is frightening and it should be frightening, for everybody. The withdrawal of such a basic service is in itself coercion,” he said.
Mr Jordan added that shutting accounts was forcing people to “adhere to a certain set of beliefs”.
“It is like dictatorships where you were expected to display your loyalty to the regime. It is an attempt to suppress freedom of speech and will have a chilling effect on people if they are allowed to succeed.”
It came as Mr Farage threatened to sue Coutts after claiming the prestigious lender leaked his personal financial details to the BBC.
Mr Farage, the former UKIP leader, said last week that his personal and business accounts with a major retail bank had been closed because of a “commercial decision” and other High Street firms have refused to allow him to transfer his funds to them.
He said he was engaging lawyers to establish “next steps” following reports that Coutts shut his accounts because he was not holding enough cash.
Farage says Coutts ‘obviously scared and desperate’
“They’re obviously scared and desperate,” he told The Telegraph. “They completely lied. They gave my private banking information to their Remainer friends at the BBC and the FT – where else will they go?”
He added: “I’ve got a top law firm looking at whether I’ve got a case or not. Given we are moving towards a cashless society – you’d be living in Stalin’s Russia without a bank account.”
Coutts – a NatWest-owned brand that banks the ultra-rich and Royal family members – requires its customers to borrow or invest £1 million with the bank or hold £3 million in savings when they become a client.
The BBC reported that Mr Farage’s account was withdrawn because his funds had dropped below the required threshold and that the funds would be shifted to a NatWest account. However, the Brexiteer said this was “absolute cobblers”.
Coutts declined to comment but a source close to the bank said it was policy not to share the personal details of customers.
Metro Bank said it “is and will remain politically neutral”.
A spokesman said: “The decision to close or review any account is made for commercial reasons.”