My Lords, this country used to have many regional mutual banks. One still remains, in name anyway: the Yorkshire Bank. That is a testimony, I think, to its importance within the great county of Yorkshire. What has been a sad reflection of what has happened in the country in terms of banking is that it is now dominated by the five great big banking consortiums. That is partly why the presence of so-called high street banks in our towns and small towns across the country are disappearing, to the detriment of many people who live there and certainly many businesses there.
Regional banks play a huge role in North America and in many parts of Europe, where they flourish. So this is a really important amendment to ask the Government to look again at what they can do to stimulate regional mutual banking once more. Think how lucky you would be if you lived in Surrey and had a Surrey Bank that might be as powerful as the Yorkshire Bank—and the Yorkshire Bank is in Yorkshire. The big benefit of regional mutual banking is that it can focus its attention to the benefits of the businesses within its region. They can provide capital to small businesses on terms on which they can flourish. That cannot and does not happen with the big banks. The scale of what small businesses need is not really catered for by the big banking consortiums.
I do not want to repeat all the arguments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, in favour of regional banking, except to say that I agree with her. I hope that, when the Minister responds, she will be able to say how important it is for levelling up—which, funnily enough, is what this Bill should be about—to have a way in which there is better access to capital by a bank which understands the regional economy and understands the businesses that work within that region and how they can better perform by having access to capital on terms determined by an understanding of the geography, economy and society of that area.