The Government recognise that cash is crucial to the daily lives of millions of individuals and businesses across the UK, and we have committed to legislate to protect access to cash. The Government made legislative changes to support the widespread offering of cashback without a purchase by shops and other businesses in the recent Financial Services Act 2021 and this summer we will consult on further legislative proposals for protecting cash for the long term.
I welcome the announcement that there will be further consultation, but will the Minister confirm that any legislation introduced post consultation will include a requirement on banks to provide adequate access to cash withdrawals that are free at the point of service and meet the needs of local communities in both urban and rural areas?
I can commit that we will look very carefully at the evidence on the best possible interventions to make. I am pleased that, as of March 2020, 98% of the population could access free cash within 3 km, but we have to come to terms with the fact that from 2009, when 56% of transactions were by cash, we were down to 17% by last year. We have to come up with appropriate legislation to meet that change.
We now come to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Dame Meg Hillier.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
More than 1 million people still use only cash, and approximately 4 million use cash regularly, so it is vital that they have access to it. This is now the second consultation that the Treasury is going through, but as the PAC has seen, all the distribution of cash is in the hands of private providers. Can the Economic Secretary give any indication of the type of legislation that he can introduce to ensure that if people are very poor, they can get cash? That does not mean going to the supermarket and getting it out when they do not even know what is in their own account.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her recent elevation. I take her points on board, but this is a complex area. There will need to be a range of interventions from industry, working with regulators. The LINK scheme already has a £5 million fund to help areas of great deprivation and provide extra access points for cash, but we need to recognise that technology will have to play a significant role. We will also use the extensive network of 11,500 post offices to make good on our pledge to ensure that access to cash remains available across the country.