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David Cameron says Ulster Bank crisis 'unacceptable'

Category: Northern Ireland

Published: 4th Jul 2012 14:09:38

Prime Minister David Cameron has told the House of Commons that the crisis at the Ulster Bank is unacceptable.

Northern Ireland MPs are meeting senior management at RBS to discuss the bank's problems.

Customers at Ulster Bank are still affected by a computer failure at the bank's parent company RBS.

Service has been restored to RBS and NatWest customers but Ulster Bank is still experiencing problems over two weeks later.

Ulster Bank said in a statement on Wednesday that it hoped to have normal service returned by 16 July for most customers.

The bank said next week would be the last week of "significant delays".

Speaking in the Commons, in response to a question from the Strangford MP Jim Shannon, Mr Cameron said: "I can quite understand why the honourable gentleman raises this on behalf of his constituents.

"What happened isn't acceptable. Clearly it's an operation matter for the bank, but the Financial Services Authority has been monitoring this very closely.

"My right honourable friend, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland spoke on Tuesday to the chairman of RBS, lessons must be learnt."

Mr Shannon told MPs: "We the people have an 82 per cent share in RBS, therefore the government has a major say in what happens in the Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland.

"Can the prime minister give an assurance to the 100,000 Ulster Bank customers that they will have a direct input from the prime minister and government to address this issue and that normal banking will resume immediately."

Mr Cameron said he had received assurances that RBS would reimburse Ulster Bank customers for penalty charges or overdraft fees, or anything else that was incurred because of the difficulties.

A cross-party delegation of MPs from Northern Ireland is meeting senior RBS executives in London to discuss the continuing crisis at the Ulster bank.

They want RBS to send more staff to Northern Ireland to help clear-up the backlog.

The meeting, attended by DUP and SDLP MPs, will take place at lunchtime at the RBS offices in London.

Speaking ahead of the London meeting, north Belfast MP, Nigel Dodds, said Northern Ireland customers were "querying why customers of NatWest appear to have been given a greater priority than those of Ulster Bank".

"It is completely unacceptable that customers are kept in limbo for weeks without any hope of resolution in sight and very little by the way of information being given to customers," he added.

Ulster Bank management are also expected to appear before the Northern Ireland Assembly's enterprise committee on Wednesday.

A technical failure on 19 June has affected many customers' accounts across the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) group since then.

The backlog at RBS and NatWest has been cleared but is still affecting thousands of Ulster Bank customers.

On Tuesday, the Ulster Bank said it had made steady progress on a huge backlog of transactions and hoped that normal service would be restored by next week.

Its head of retail banking, Stephen Cruise, explained that Ulster Bank customers were experiencing longer delays than those in the rest of the RBS group because transactions had to be dealt with in "sequential order" which was determined by the timeline in which the businesses within the group had been acquired.

He said problems at the RBS had been resolved first, then NatWest accounts were fixed, but Ulster Bank staff were having to deal with knock-on delays from the other banks' backlogs.

The RBS group also said that Ulster Bank payments followed in sequence after those of NatWest and RBS due to the way the technology was set up when the three banks were integrated.

It said it "in no way" reflected any priority given to customers.

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BBC News, 2012. David Cameron says Ulster Bank crisis 'unacceptable' [Online] (Updated 4th Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1438588/David-Cameron-says-Ulster-Bank-crisis-unacceptable [Accessed 2nd Sep 2014]

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