My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I met the PSR, it seemed wholly satisfied with listening to what LINK, rather than everyone else involved in the industry, had to say about the issue. That was surprising and disappointing.
The closure of free-to-use ATMs highlights the significant problem we have with the way access to cash is managed in the UK. There seems to be no effective oversight of the issue, and responsibility sits across numerous Departments, regulators and private companies. We need a regulator to have the powers to take a rounded view and implement effective measures that will ensure access to cash is protected. It seems likely that the PSR either does not have the power it needs or has not utilised fully and effectively the abilities it has. I should be grateful if the Minister would comment on that.
We are in a transition towards a cashless society, but we are not there yet. We need to be careful about how the transition is managed. Most importantly, we have to think about the impact on people who still rely on cash. Access to cash remains an important part of many of our constituents’ lives. Research from Which? has highlighted the fact that four in five people said that access to the free-to-use network was important in their daily lives and in paying for goods and services. Removing free access to cash would leave one in 10 people struggling to make payments, and would shut many consumers out of local shops and services.
We also need to think about what happens when the technology fails or in the case of hacking. This year the Visa payment system crashed and there were major online banking issues for TSB customers, many of whom of course did not have a local branch to visit as an alternative. The experience of other countries further along the journey towards a cash-free society, such as Sweden, where there has been a huge rise in the number of places that simply will not accept cash, is that there are now serious concerns about the lack of cash in the economy, so that the Government are looking at ways of addressing that retrospectively.