By Claire West

Responding to the news that Barclays Bank has agreed to pay fines for breaching US sanctions against Burma, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'It's a disgrace that Barclays has been violating US sanctions and doing business in Burma. Foreign financial services are helping Burmese generals to loot the country's natural wealth and to fund a military accused of committing horrendous crimes against humanity.

'Barclays must come completely clean on whether it has been a part of this, or no amount of London Cycle Hire schemes can save its reputation.

'It is a cause for concern that it took the US sanctions system to discover the shameful activities of a British bank. The UK and the EU urgently need to fix our weak rules. We need to put in place US-style financial sanctions and a rigorous monitoring system to prevent these sorts of scandals from happening again.'

National Officer for the Financial and Legal Sector of Unite Rob MacGregor said: 'Ordinary workers have taken a huge hit to keep our banks afloat. The Government needs to make sure that these banks are helping workers and small businesses get back on their feet, not propping up dictators.'

General Secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions in Burma (FTUB) Maung Maung said: 'My country is the worst place in the world to be a worker. The regime uses slave labour, rape, and torture to stay in power. Unions are banned and the jails are overflowing with those who have dared to speak out.

'With sham elections happening in November, the military looks like being there for decades to come - especially if foreign financial institutions are keeping them afloat.

'This scandal must be a wake-up call for the UK Government. We already know that insurance syndicates within Lloyds of London have been doing business in Burma, and now Barclays. What else has the City of London been up to?

'The UK Government needs to investigate this fully and cut off all financial and insurance links to the regime.'