Treasury rejects move to reveal bank stress tests

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The Independent Online

The Government has refused to release details of the "stress tests" it has conducted on Britain's banks.

The Bloomberg financial news agency requested the data under the Freedom of Information Act, after the US government made similar test results public, but the Treasury replied that to do so would increase instability and force the Government to take further action to shore up the UK financial system. The Financial Services Authority said it would be too costly to retrieve the documents and that the results would not be released in any case because the information was confidential.

The FSA carried out its stress tests on UK banks earlier this year, designed to discover whether they could withstand the type of financial traumas that have brought so many financial institutions down, and to ascertain if they are sturdy enough to survive a severe economic slump.

Barclays is so far the only bank to voluntarily release details of its performance, arguing it will continue to meet the FSA's capital requirements under various credit risk, market risk and economic scenarios.

However, disclosure of the results for the other banks "at this time may lead to uncertainty in financial markets, either in relation to specific institutions or more generally," the Treasury said in its response to Bloomberg. "Such instability could require further action by the authorities."

Recent "stress testing" by the US authorities, and made public, revealed that 10 US lenders needed to raise a total of $74.6bn (£47bn). The American authorities, in sharp contrast to their British counterparts, said that publishing their findings would ease concerns about lenders.

Andrew Haldane, the executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England, said in a speech to in February that: "There is a case for having these results set out regularly in firms' public reports. Having a standardised, published set of such stress-testing results would help improve financial markets' understanding and hence pricing of bank-specific risk."