Santander Closures and Local Communities — [Philip Davies in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:24 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 2:24 pm, 14th February 2019

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. In my first year and a half here in Parliament, there were a number of banking breakdowns—one would say—within the Ulster Bank. It happened not once, but twice, and perhaps even three times. Honestly, customers could not access their accounts by any means and it was absolutely ridiculous.

I am coming to an end, Mr Davies; I am very conscious of the time. Santander will retain a network of 614 UK branches, with its customers also having the option to bank using more than 11,000 post office sites across the UK. It is very important to have the post office. I have to say that the post offices in my constituency have been geared up to fill some of the gaps—in Ballynahinch, Killyleagh, Portaferry, Kircubbin and in Newtownards town—where there are post offices. Credit unions have also filled some of the gaps; it has been incredibly important to have the credit unions, as well.

I still have a real fear that this consolidation of banks to cities further isolates rural communities and adds to people’s sense of being alone, with no one to talk to and no one to help, and I believe that we are further isolating an older generation, which cannot be acceptable. That is the critical fact for me. I look to the Minister, as I always do, for a comprehensive response to the issues that we are all bringing collectively to his attention today.

I conclude by saying that I believe we must put in place a minimum expectation of service provision for customers, and if we do not ask the financial institutions to step up and step in, the service provision will continue to dwindle, jobs will be lost and the only winners will be the shareholders and those who get the dividends. I believe that reform must take place and that banks must fulfil obligations to people, and not simply to profit margins.