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UK lawmakers to quiz Osborne over Lloyds branches sale

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, leaves number 11 Downing Street, before delivering his budget to the House of Commons
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, leaves number 11 Downing Street, before delivering his budget to the House of Commons

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's parliamentary treasury committee has asked finance minister George Osborne if he or colleagues put undue pressure on Co-operative Group <42TE.L> or Lloyds Banking Group over the sale of more than 600 Lloyds branches.

The committee, chaired by Andrew Tyrie, is looking at how Lloyds divested 632 branches in a project known as Verde, required by the European Union regulators after Lloyds' rescue by taxpayers during the financial crisis.

"A variety of views have been presented in evidence to the committee regarding the alleged extent of political involvement in this divestment process," Tyrie wrote to Osborne in a letter dated March 26 and made public on Thursday.

"Did Treasury Ministers or any Treasury officials at any time bring undue pressure to bear on the Co-operative Bank or Group, or Lloyds Banking Group, in respect of the sale of the Verde branches?"

Paul Flowers, the former chairman of Co-op Bank, which nearly collapsed last year, said this week that Osborne had pressured the lender to buy the branches from partially state-owned Lloyds.

Tyrie said the committee will explore this issue when it quizzes Osborne on the Budget on April 3.

(Reporting by Huw Jones, editing by Steve Slater)

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