Local Bank Closures — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 2:30 pm, 12th June 2019

I agree wholeheartedly. That is an issue for the Government, but not for the Minister; I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend Kelly Tolhurst, has been discussing it. I want our post offices to be rewarded for doing the tasks that the banks are currently doing, because they are not being rewarded at the same level as banks for the jobs that they do.

My final point about closures goes back to the figures on footfall. In Lossiemouth, we have been told, “Your nearest branch is in Elgin, which is not too far away.” It is not far away in mileage, but getting there can be quite difficult because our bus services are not as good as they once were. People are expected to get the bus from Lossiemouth into Elgin, but ironically the branch there is not as accessible: people cannot park very easily on the high street, so they have to pay to use a car park and then troop round to the bank. Customers of the same bank used to go from Elgin to Lossiemouth because it was easier to park outside, and now we have closed the branch that they actually wanted to go to. Again, that shows how ill thought-out these plans are.

I know that many hon. Members want to speak in this debate, but I will just highlight access to cash. I have already mentioned the scenario in Lossiemouth where there was no cash available over the weekend. There has been a decline in the use of cash, but research undertaken in 2018 showed that 73% of people used cash frequently—that means once or twice a week.

The next figure that I will cite is interesting: 60% of 18 to 24-year-olds use cash frequently—again, that is once or twice a week. I am looking around me in Westminster Hall; before my hon. Friend Kirstene Hair came in, I thought I was the youngest Member here, but she has beaten me to it. My hon. Friend Paul Masterton may have a complaint to make about that. Generally, we think that younger people—those in their thirties, or younger—are more likely to use smartphones, other technology or contactless payment, but we are told that 60% of 18 to 24-year-olds still use cash. Access to cash is not just something that affects the older population; it affects everyone in our communities. Industry figures predict that in a decade’s time, cash will still be the second most popular payment method.

A further concern that was mentioned today in a press release from Which? is that 7 million people were unable to use a payment card last year because of IT glitches. We can encourage people to use different payment methods and move away from cash, but people will still be affected if there are IT glitches, and such problems sometimes cost them money. We need to bear in mind that in the last year, 7 million people were affected by IT glitches.