To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, if his Department will conduct an assessment of the effect of RBS bank branch closures on free access to cash in Scotland; and what discussions he has had with the Payment Systems Regulator on potential intervention with respect to a reduction in the availability of free access to cash.
The Government does not make assessments of bank branch closures. The decision to open or close a branch is a commercial decision, in which the Government does not intervene. However, the impact on communities must be understood, considered and mitigated where possible. That is why the Government supports the industry’s Access to Banking Standard, which ensures customers understand the options they have locally to continue to access banking services, including specialist assistance for customers who need more help.
The Government recognises that widespread free access to cash remains extremely important to the day-to-day lives of many consumers and businesses in the UK. The Government has been engaging regularly with LINK and the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) to ensure that widespread free access is maintained.
The PSR, which Government set up as an independent regulator in 2015 with a statutory objective to ensure that the UK’s payment systems work in the interests of their users, is monitoring developments within ATM provision, and is conducting ongoing work on the impact that changes may have. The PSR has recently published a summary of their work to date, which can be found at https://www.psr.org.uk/psr-focus/the-UK-ATM-network.
The PSR has informed us that it is committed to using its powers to act should any of the firms it regulates behave in a way that conflicts with its statutory objectives.
LINK has assured us and the PSR that industry is committed to maintaining an extensive network of free-to-use cash machines, and to ensuring that the present geographical spread of ATMs is maintained. LINK intends to bolster its Financial Inclusion Programme, which ensures the provision of ATMs in areas of deprivation, where demand would not otherwise make one viable, and has also committed to protecting all free-to-use ATMs which are a kilometre or more from the next nearest free-to-use ATM.