Three of Britain’s biggest banks have been asked to prepare for 'national service' by taking over Bradford & Bingley if a buyer for the struggling lender cannot be found.

According to banking sources close to the authorities, a contingency plan is being drawn up to rescue B&B if it is threatened with a run on the bank. HSBC, Barclays and Santander – the Spanish owner of Abbey that is buying Alliance & Leicester – have been asked to play a role.

Bankers close to the deal said the three banks have been selected because they are large enough to absorb B&B’s £52bn of assets. Because none would choose to do the deal, which may take the form of a carveup of B&B’s portfolio, it is being described as 'national service' to help maintain Britain’s financial stability.

Daily Telegraph