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

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:35 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 2:35 pm, 14th February 2019

I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman, because I just do not think that enough thought is being given to this process. Naturally, it says in this letter I received from Santander that its customers in Axminster are able to go to the post office for cash, to put in cheques and to make withdrawals. Again, however, it is not like having a banking service. That is the other reason that I wanted to speak in this debate.

My hon. Friend Simon Hart made the point that we should not just highlight Santander. If I go back to the issues in Axminster, we have had branch closures there for Barclays and NatWest, and the one we have left is Lloyds. Let us hope that Lloyds stays in the town and indeed I hope that all the Santander customers pile along to Lloyds. As Members well know—putting my farming hat back on—it is not always easy to change banks. I used to have a very large overdraft with NatWest, and they did not always want me to transfer it. When a person has a business, they want some personal attention; they want to be able to see somebody; and they want to get some sort of decision on not only their everyday banking, but their business building or their business. That is just not there anymore.

I wonder, as the banks contract, whether there is one bank out there—they all advertise that they are going to listen to us more and have more local services, but they all close them—that will listen to this debate and think, “Perhaps we can work in the other direction. We will offer some sort of personal attention and look after people and businesses, and actually be there. We might open on a Saturday morning after 12.30.” Most of us work, but the banks close their branches at 12.30. Some of my Axminster constituents can go to Honiton, which is quite difficult to get to but is not that far away, but that branch will be closed at 12.30. What is the point? If a bank is going to provide a service, why does it not open and provide it?