Nick Clegg warned bankers they would never again be able to "point a gun" at the British economy, as he fuelled a dispute inside the Coalition Government over bank reform.
The Deputy Prime Minister vowed that the Liberal Democrats would not allow intense lobbying by the banks to derail plans to force them to ring-fence their high street and riskier investment operations to prevent the need for future taxpayer bailouts.
Throwing his weight behind Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, Mr Clegg said: "It is not a question of if there is going to be reform to the banking system. There has to be reform because we can never again allow ourselves to be held hostage by irresponsible behaviour in the banking system."
Mr Clegg added: "The principle must be structural reform to ensure the banking system never again points a gun to the head of the rest of the British economy. Our duty to future generations is to ensure that what happened to us, partly because of appalling behaviour in the banking system, never happens again."
But senior Tory figures confirmed that the recommendations to be announced by the Independent Commission on Banking on 12 September might not be introduced until after the next general election in 2015. Comments made by the Prime Minister David Cameron also suggested yesterday that banks might escape any major restructuring in the immediate future.
"I think the key thing we want from banks is lending into the economy so we can support growth and jobs," he said. "We need to make sure we are not taking risks that put jobs at risk."