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Methodists defend their ‘inaction’ over Flowers

29 November 2013

PA

Scrutiny: Mr Flowers in front of the Treasury Select Committee earlier this month

Scrutiny: Mr Flowers in front of the Treasury Select Committee earlier this month

THE Methodist Church has denied that it ignored complaints about the former chairman of the Co-operative Bank, the Revd Paul Flowers, who has been embroiled in a scandal after he was filmed allegedly buying drugs. Mr Flowers was arrested on Thursday of last week by West Yorkshire Police as part of an investigation into "drugs supply", police said (News 22 November).

Following an exposé in the Mail on Sunday, on Wednesday of last week the Methodist Church announced that it had suspended Mr Flowers indefinitely. But the Church said that it would wait until the police investigation and any court proceedings had finished before conducting its own complaints process.

The assistant secretary of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Gareth Powell, denied that the Church had been slow to pick up on complaints about Mr Flowers's behaviour.

Last Frida, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think we were incurious. The difficulty about this tragic case is the extraordinary level of allegation and conjecture. It's very difficult to distinguish between those concerns based on hard evidence and those based on speculation. We cannot act on comments on a person's behaviour without any firm evidence." Mr Powell did acknowledge that a conviction for gross indecency in a public convenience from 1981 had been brought to the Church's attention, but it had decided not to take disciplinary action.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced on Saturday that an inquiry would investigate events at the Co-op Bank. "The investigation has been jointly agreed with the two regulators - the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority - who agree there is a public interest in a statutory investigation," a Treasury spokesman said.

A separate review by the Co- operative Group into any "inappropriate behaviour" has also been established.

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