My hon. Friend illustrates clearly where the focus is moving as more people use contactless payment methods. Cash is still a widely used payment method. It is relied upon not just by consumers, but by those receiving payments, with 52% saying it is an important way of being paid. It is imperative that rural communities have access to these services, which I believe we must secure. That is why I support Which? magazine’s suggestion to deal with the ATM concern, which has been taken up by the magazine and other consumer bodies. It responded to the LINK review by pointing out that ATMs are only one part of the cash nexus that needs to be protected. It believes that without a wider strategy for cash, the closure of bank branches, post offices—Yvonne Fovargue referred to that—and ATMs could mean that the UK reaches a point where maintaining the current system of free-to-access cash is no longer viable. We have to look at the end result of what we are heading towards.
There are also potential risks to all UK consumers and businesses if we no longer have a sustainable cash network. Recent IT failures have underlined for many people who do all their transactions by card and are almost in a cash-free environment that, whenever their card or bank fails, they are in big trouble. For example, IT failures at RBS highlighted that the distribution of cash can be critical to national infrastructure and is often the only viable alternative if a consumer or business cannot make an electronic payment.
That is why Which? has called on the Government to take urgent action to protect cash by placing a duty on the Payment Systems Regulator to protect access to cash and to ensure the sustainability of the UK’s cash infrastructure. Will the Minister address that and assure the House, Members here and people watching from elsewhere that that will be the case? It would support consumer choice, prevent financial exclusion, ensure that there remains access to a secure, non-digital form of payment and promote effective competition across all payments.
With all that in mind, I put that suggestion to the Minister for his consideration. I look forward to hearing from him and the Government on how we can ensure that services are available UK-wide, particularly in rural areas. I again thank the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West for securing the debate.