Bank Branch Closures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 30th June 2016.

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Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 4:47 pm, 30th June 2016

The hon. Gentleman is right to pay tribute to the wonderful staff up and down the land who staff our bank branches. The older members of our communities really value that interaction. It can be very important in protecting them against some of the online fraud, which, we have to acknowledge, targets older customers.

It is clear from the points raised today, and from the regular discussions I have with Members, that we are all in agreement that bank branches are an important part of the solution when it comes to access to finance for our local communities. It is one of my top priorities as Economic Secretary to ensure that financial services work for everyone and that they are on the side of people who want to work hard, do the right thing and get on in life. Having a good branch network is part of that. The role of banks in society is essential. I am glad that that has been acknowledged today.

In the interests of time, I want to just highlight some of the issues raised in the debate. First, in the past year we have made significant progress on access to banking services by improving access to the basic bank account. Many more banks now offer that. We have also reduced the practice of charging for failed payments, which was unacceptable. The industry has moved forward on that. I pay tribute to Stella Creasy. She has not participated in this debate, but she made such an impact in terms of bringing payday lending under the regulation of the FCA and the progress we are making on that. There has been much discussion about the access to banking protocol.