I beg to move,
That this House
is concerned about continued bank branch closures and the damage that this causes to local communities, small businesses and the welfare of senior citizens;
and calls upon the Government to help maintain access to local banking.
The motion stands in my name and those of the hon. Members for Wells (James Heappey) and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams). This has been very much a joint effort and I pay tribute to them. I would like to thank the Backbench Business Committee for the opportunity to bring this motion and debate before the House today. When the three of us approached the Backbench Business Committee, hon. Members serving on it graciously offered us the day of the local elections as a possible occasion. Knowing that there was wide support for the debate and not wanting it to get swamped by external events, we declined and asked for a later date. That worked out well, didn’t it?
I have a smartphone in my pocket that has an app—let me explain to more senior hon. Members that that means an application—through which I can access my banking services, pay my bills, check my balance and transfer money between my accounts, none of which, I hasten to add, are sited offshore. I can probably even apply for a loan. Banking is changing, and in many ways it is becoming more convenient and perhaps changing for the better.
Convenience, however, does not rely solely on the possession of a smartphone. The physical presence of a bank is still important. Today, I shall not call for a halt to all technological advances in banking. I do not want to go back to the days of accessing cash by having to cash cheques in a branch, and I certainly do not want to go back to the days of using credit card devices that the shopkeeper used to have to fill in by hand and then run a mechanism over to print the credit card details on carbon paper.