I thank hon. Members for taking part in this debate; I was encouraged to see so many people first thing on what promises to be a very long day indeed.
I also thank the Minister for his response. Unfortunately, for some of it I felt like I was hearing the LINK briefing that I have heard a thousand times being repeated back at me, but there were some interesting things in there that I agreed with. I was encouraged to hear him say that the authorities were investing in cyber security, but I suggest to him that the people who are seeking to undermine our security are also invested in that endeavour.
As we witness the rise of digital technology, which the Minister mentioned, we have to consider the experience of other countries, such as Sweden, that are now retrospectively looking at Government intervention. We have a chance in this country to get ahead of that by considering intervention now.
I agree with the Minister when he says that this issue is about consumer choice; he is right about that. However, having listened to the concerns of Members here today, he will understand that that choice is being taken away from some people, due to the lack of availability of free cash. He can quote some favourable statistics showing that the situation is better than we might have suggested, but on the ground the picture is very different for the communities that we represent.
We all recognised what Douglas Ross said about going to other ATM machines if he finds one that is charging a fee. I am exactly the same. Unfortunately, as he said, not everyone has the ability to go to another ATM.
The hon. Gentleman made an interesting point about business rates, which must be looked at. I have heard these concerns expressed many times by shop owners in particular. They are concerned not just because ATM machines attract business rates; as I understand it, an ATM machine in a store actually increases the rateable value of that store overall, which brings additional costs for that business. We need ATMs to be there if there are no bank branches offering ATM provision.
Jim Shannon said that cash transactions were still in high use. From memory, when I spoke to Tesco it told me that over 60% of its transactions in store are still cash, and that there is a withdrawal from one of its ATM machines every 10 seconds. So, it is simply not right to say that cash is on the way out yet. As I have said, we are in a transition towards a cashless society, but we are not there yet and we have to get that transition right.
My hon. Friend Ruth Smeeth said that services such as ATM provision were a lifeline for our communities, and spoke about the percentage of someone’s income that they could pay out in charges if they withdrew £10 from an ATM machine and were charged. Of course, if that person has only £10 in the bank, they will be unable to withdraw that from one of these ATM machines that charge.
I conclude by giving my private Member’s Bill one final plug. I am pleased to report that the inventor of the ATM machine and the PIN code, James Goodfellow, is alive and well in Scotland. Mr Goodfellow supports my private Member’s Bill. So, if the Minister is unwilling to take my word for how important this issue is, perhaps he will consider taking the word of the inventor of the ATM machine.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House
has considered the effect of ATM closures on towns, high streets and rural communities.