UK Politics

Labour suspends former Co-op bank chief Paul Flowers

Paul Flowers
Image caption Paul Flowers was a Labour councillor and remains a Methodist preacher

Former Co-operative Bank chairman Paul Flowers has been suspended by Labour for bringing the party into disrepute after he was reportedly caught buying and using illegal drugs.

He has already apologised after a newspaper showed him apparently handing over £300 to purchase cocaine.

Mr Flowers was chairman of the Co-Op Bank from April 2010 to June this year.

The chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee said he had been "manifestly unsuitable" for the role.

The Co-operative Group has launched an investigation into "any inappropriate behaviour" at the group or the Co-operative Bank and a "root-and-branch review" of the structure of the organisation.

Mr Flowers, 63, who lives in Bradford, has been a Methodist preacher for almost 40 years and served as a Labour councillor for Bradford Council for a decade.

'Difficult year'

The Mail on Sunday alleges that he handed over money for cocaine last weekend. His acquaintance Stuart Davies, who made a film of events, told the newspaper he had exposed Mr Flowers because he had been disgusted by his hypocrisy.

Mr Flowers has already apologised, but a Labour spokesman said: "In the light of recent reports, we have today suspended Paul Flowers as a member of the Labour Party for bringing the party into disrepute."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "He was involved in the Co-op and that is no longer the case. I think we will leave it there.

"You appoint people from a whole range of backgrounds to look at a whole range of issues and we have a range of business people working with us.

"The police are looking into the matter and I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation. Suffice to say that group no longer exists. We should let the police inquiry take its course."

Mr Flowers gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on 6 November - a few days before he allegedly bought the drugs.

The questioning followed Co-op Bank coming close to collapse after pulling out of a deal to buy hundreds of Lloyds Bank branches.

It blamed the economic environment and increased regulations for its withdrawal in April but was later found to have a £1.5bn capital shortfall.

The committee's chairman, Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "It's fair to say that the majority of my colleagues had already concluded he was manifestly unsuitable well before the weekend's revelations."

Mr Flowers has also been suspended from the Bradford church where he is minister for three weeks pending an investigation.

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