Politicians have rounded on the Treasury's pledge to underwrite the £50m of fees run up by bankers, lawyers and accountants for managing the crisis at Northern Rock. Daily Telegraph

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable and Tory MP Michael Fallon, deputy chairman of the Treasury Select Committee inquiry into the ailing mortgage lender, claimed the spiralling costs raised new questions about the Government's handling of the crisis.

Cable said: 'Although it is a relatively small sum alongside the [£30bn] the Government is already lending to the company, it does tell us that the Government is being rather casual with public money and is absolutely desperate to sell, and may well sell on terms that are not that good for the taxpayer.'

Fallon, who has described the crisis - now into its fourth month - as a 'fees jamboree that the taxpayer looks like picking up', blamed the escalating cost on the Chancellor's 'dithering'.