It is a great pleasure to be able to respond on the Government’s behalf to this really excellent debate. I congratulate the hon. Members for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) and my hon. Friend James Heappey on securing it, and thank them for giving me the opportunity to update the House on what is going on in this area. I also thank the Backbench Business Committee for scheduling such an interesting debate on a Thursday afternoon. I also thank John McDonnell. It is a great honour for me to have the shadow Chancellor respond to the debate. He only lost one member of his team during it, so congratulations to him.
I need to start with a confession. I am a rural Member of Parliament. I spend four days a week up here in London. If I think about it, I actually cannot remember when I last went into a bank branch. I have been to the cashpoint, here and in my constituency, but I also ask myself when, these days, do I even use cash? The only place seems to be in the House of Commons Tea Room. I understand contactless is coming there soon, so where will we all be then?
Customer behaviour is clearly changing. The number of times that we all use a branch in any given year has dropped almost 30%. The most recent data that I have from the BBA show that branch transactions have fallen to 270 million branch customer contacts in 2016. If my maths is right, that is an average of four per year.