Rural Banking Services

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 20th July 2021.

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Photo of Fay Jones Fay Jones Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire 11:00 am, 20th July 2021

I completely agree with my hon. Friend Robin Millar, too. I will cover later in my speech the issues that have been raised. They are common issues, and that is why we all need to work together. This involves not just the UK Government, but the devolved Administrations in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Northern Ireland.

This proves the point that cash is extremely important. The Lloyds group talks about a group of 3 million cash-critical people. These are not the people that we might expect: 41% of this group are aged between 35 and 54; they earn less than £20,000 a year; and they often rent their home or live in social housing. Therefore, we are not just talking about the elderly, the vulnerable and those who live on their own. We need to ensure that this extremely important group in society has access to cash.

Let me turn to my ask of Government. As I have mentioned, the Government have taken some really positive steps towards addressing the challenges, and there is currently a consultation open on access to cash. The proposals include the Treasury granting powers to require certain firms such as retail banks to provide deposit and withdrawal facilities for customers within certain distances, and the Financial Conduct Authority would have oversight for monitoring and enforcing those requirements. I very much welcome that. Those proposals suggest that the Government are introducing a legal guarantee for consumers and businesses to be able to withdraw and access their cash. That is absolutely what we need. I think that the point about certain distances will be critical for people in my constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire. We are the largest constituency in England and Wales—the constituency is bigger than Luxembourg—and I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to bear that in mind as the consultation goes forward. I will certainly respond to it, but it is imperative to remember that miles are not the same in urban areas as they are in rural areas.

Brecon has four banks, and that is great news, but Ystradgynlais, the largest town in my constituency by population, has only one. Builth Wells has one. Hay-on-Wye, as I have said, has none. Crickhowell has none. Rhayader has none. Knighton has none. Since the mid-1990s, the number of bank branches in the UK has been falling steadily.