New Clause 17 - Reporting requirements

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 7 December 2022.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 4:15, 7 December 2022

I apologise in advance to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to the Minister, and to Siobhain McDonagh, who tabled new clause 7, as I may not be able to be present at the conclusion of the debate, but I wanted to speak on the issue, having campaigned on it since I returned to the Back Benches, principally with my hon. Friend Paul Maynard. I am very pleased with what is proposed overall in the Bill, because during the period of covid it became clear that the system of use of cash could have collapsed. It was incoherent in the way it was managed and regulated, and we saw the potential pressures of not using cash or its usage not being permitted.

I am disappointed that my right hon. Friend Kit Malthouse has left the Chamber, because I could not disagree more with the points that he made in interventions. We cannot simply move in an unstructured way to a cashless society. We are not ready for that. As I pointed out in an intervention, about 8 million people, whether they are rural dwellers or those living in deprived areas, rely on cash and will continue to do so. I declare that I still have a chequebook, because there are circumstances, particularly when dealing with small voluntary organisations, where a cheque is accepted. Cheques may be on the way out, but there are still circumstances where they are required. Therefore, we have to move forward at the pace of the slowest in our society.

I believe that the prospect of regulation has been very positive, in terms of forcing the banks and others in the sector to become a lot more constructive in the debates and discussions. As the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden mentioned, the banks have been pretty disingenuous over the period. I have had many closures in my constituency, and they have often been made with undertakings that certain things would happen. For example, in the community of Lochmaben, the branch closed and the free auto-teller was to remain; now it is to be removed, two or three years on. Often the promises given are not worth very much, but I am sure that the threat of legislation, and hearing the Minister say that the Government’s position is a commitment to free access to cash, will ensure that the industry stays on board and delivers for people.

As has been set out, there has been a significant drop in the number not only of bank branches but of free-to-access ATMs, while the number of ATMs that require a fee has risen. As the Minister would expect from our lively discussion, I am in favour of consumer choice—if people want to pay for convenience, that is fine by me—but they should not have to pay several pounds to withdraw £10 from an ATM. At the core of this issue is the fact that many transactions are small transactions, not the ones that we might think of that are made of larger cash sums, which is why we have to stick to the free-to-access commitment.

There are two points that I would like the Minister to address, as I asked him to do when we met. First, the FCA should have an overview of the ability to use cash. There are many anecdotes about whether cash can be used in particular circumstances, but we need to know the facts about the current reality of locations where people can and cannot use cash, and the FCA should have a role in that. Secondly, I would like more detail about what the geographic requirement will be for people to have an ability to access cash. I have one of the largest constituencies in the United Kingdom—indeed, it is larger than any constituency in England or Wales—and its needs are clearly different from central London. We need to get that right.

We also need to get the situation right with the post office. In the earlier statement, I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend Duncan Baker highlight the fact that it is not working in the way that we would want and it is not an attractive prospect for many businesses. In my constituency, when a post office is cited as being close by, that often means a small van going to a community for two hours a week; it does not mean that there is a post office in that community.