The beleaguered banking sector has been given a boost as Chancellor George Osborne announced that the Government is seeking a buyer for Northern Rock.
Television pictures showing savers, worried about their financial security, queueing outside the bank in order to withdraw their money became iconic images of the problems faced by the financial industry following the credit crunch.
However, the decision to seek a buyer for the Rock from the private sector shows that confidence has returned to the industry more than three years after the bank was nationalised, according to the Chancellor.
Mr Osborne said the move was "an important first step" in the Government's bid to sell its stakes in the banks it helped bail out with British taxpayers' money.
It is understood that Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Money, the Coventry and Yorkshire building societies, investment groups NBNK and Olivant and Tesco Bank will put their hats in the ring to buy the business.