Financial Exclusion: Access to Cash — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 21st May 2019.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 10:30 am, 21st May 2019

Thank you for calling me to speak, Sir Henry. I congratulate my hon. Friend Seema Malhotra on securing this critical debate at a time when our financial system is in flux. A decade ago, six of every 10 purchases were made in cash, but that figure has now halved and in a few years’ time it will be only one in 10, so there is a clear transition. Sometimes it catches me out; when I was in church a couple of weeks ago, I realised as the collection plate came round that I did not have any cash on me. The fear suddenly struck me that I would be humiliated in front of the congregation, so I am heartened to see that the Church of Scotland proposes to introduce cashless collection plates, which will save me that embarrassment in future. That is just one example of how the transition to a cashless society can catch us out suddenly and at the most unexpected moments, in a very public way.

The picture in my constituency is of a rapid removal of banking services. I represent one of the poorest constituencies in Scotland, which has seen a disproportionate decline in the number of bank branches and free-to-use ATMs. Indeed, one in five of Scotland’s 6,000 ATMs will soon be fee-charging, while ATMs are closing at a rate of one day. That significant decline is disproportionately affecting the poorest communities in Scotland, so it is critical that we address the issue.