Cash Acceptance Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Monday 20th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day
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Absolutely, and I will come to that later in my speech. I hope the Minister takes cognisance of that well-made point.

There are also those who have valid privacy concerns about electronic payments. In an age of technology, algorithms, digital footprints and cyber-crimes, it is understandable that some—perhaps many—of our constituents would prefer the financial privacy offered by cash transactions. Some constituents wrote to me in recent weeks to make that point. Many stated that they regard barriers to using cash as a violation of their right to privacy. Cash clearly remains an important and valued part of our transactional landscape. As such, the ability to access and use cash must be protected.

In their response to both petitions, the Government state:

“The Government does not intend to mandate cash acceptance.”

They say that they will instead make provisions through the Financial Services and Markets Bill to ensure reasonable access to infrastructure such as withdrawal and deposit facilities. Of course, the availability of such infrastructure is clearly a concern for consumers and businesses. In Scotland, 53% of bank branches have closed since 2015, and since 2018 some 20% of Scotland’s free-to-use ATMs have closed. In many communities, banks have withdrawn completely, often leaving the post offices as the last place in town to do basic banking.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
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The hon. Gentleman is talking about banks closing; the bank on my high street is still open but will not give cash and directs people to the post office. Does he agree that it is appalling that we have banks on our high streets that are not providing the services that customers want?

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day
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Absolutely; the hon. Gentleman makes a good point, for which I thank him. I am flabbergasted that a bank is not dealing with cash—it beggars belief.

The issues raised need to be addressed, but protecting access to cash is not the same as protecting the right to use cash—a right that, for many, amounts to an absolute necessity. For some of our constituents, not being able to use cash is a profound barrier in everyday life. Cash can be a vital means of budgeting. As noted in the 2019 access to cash review, that is especially true for those on lower incomes. The 2022 cash census identified that there are cash users who are highly dependent on cash for budgeting and would struggle to swich to digital payments. It concluded that 15 million people in the UK use cash to budget. That is backed up by the responses to the Petitions Committee survey: 61% of respondents stated that they use cash to budget.

Earlier, I touched on the impact of cash refusal on vulnerable groups, to which I now return. The access to cash review drew a stark conclusion. It identified that more than 8 million adults in the UK

“would struggle to cope in a cashless society. For many people in the UK, using cash is not a matter of choice, but of necessity.”

It highlighted that

“poverty is the biggest indicator of cash dependency”.

Dependence on cash is closely tied to barriers to digital connectivity—for example, for those living in rural areas and those with low or no digital engagement.

In its 2022 policy briefing on the subject, Age Scotland raised the importance of cash for older people. It highlighted that many on low or fixed incomes prefer to use cash to budget. It also noted that

“140,000 adults in Scotland do not have bank accounts”,

and that

“34%...of over 60s in Scotland do not use the internet”.

Furthermore, a 2020 survey by the Financial Conduct Authority explored the relationship between cash usage and factors including education, health and wealth. It noted that 26% of those in poor health use cash to a great extent, and that some people with physical or cognitive disabilities find payment methods other than cash difficult to use.