A former senior Barclays executive has justified his decision to order his staff to manipulate interest rates during the 2008 banking crisis because he believed he was acting on the instruction of the Bank of England.

Jerry del Missier also spread the blame throughout the embattled bank by revealing that its compliance department had been told about the instruction to reduce the Libor (inter-bank lending rate) level – and that no action was taken.

Del Missier, who last month was promoted to chief operating officer, told MPs on the Treasury select committee that he had issued the instruction after a conversation with his then boss, Bob Diamond, in October 2008, when the financial system was on the brink.

Diamond was then running Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm, before being promoted to chief executive. He has already signalled that he is willing to reappear before MPs as his original evidence continues to be called into question.

Del Missier, who said he was cleared by the Financial Services Authority in September 2011 of any wrongdoing, passed on the instruction he believed he had received from Diamond – to reduce Libor submissions – to the “head of the money market desk”, whom he later named as Mark Dearlove, who remains at the bank. “It did not seem an inappropriate action given this was coming from the Bank of England,” Del Missier said.

He revealed for the first time that he and Diamond, who has resigned, had spoken about a conversation Diamond had held with Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England, about the high levels that Barclays was submitting to Libor.

“What was communicated to me by Mr Diamond was that there was political pressure on the bank regarding Barclays’s health, and that we should get our Libor rates down,” said Del Missier, adding he was in “regular communication, but not always daily” with Diamond.

The conversation between Diamond and Del Missier took place the day before Diamond wrote an internal memo that has caused confusion about whether the Bank of England was instructing Barclays to cut its Libor rate. Both Diamond and Tucker deny this is the case.

This article was written by Jill Treanor, city editor, for The Guardian on Monday 16th July 2012 21.44 Europe/London

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image: © Barclays