Cash Acceptance Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Monday 20th March 2023

(1 year ago)

Westminster Hall
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Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am perhaps giving my age away, but I came in with decimalisation. I recall the ready reckoners that my elderly relatives had for me to play with as a toy many years ago. An education programme would be helpful. In 20 to 30 years from now we will be in a different place, but here and now there is a real demand for cash, particularly for many vulnerable groups, such as disabled users who need cash and may not even have their own bank accounts.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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Just in case the hon. Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan) was referring to those of us with more experience, I should say there was a time in 1971, when I was selling coin-operated tea and coffee machines, when someone wrote in saying, “The elderly will find the new coins difficult. The elderly don’t live forever; could the change be postponed until they’re all dead?”

The more serious point, which will be shared throughout the House, is that people should not be excluded from being able to buy or pay for things just because they do not have a card or an account. Many people rely on the use of cash. Those businesses that do not need their custom ought to be told, “You should have it because you should not exclude people just because they aren’t up to date or a 14-year-old with a debit card.”

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day
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The Father of the House makes a valid point, and one that I shall echo a number of times as I make progress through my speech—if there are no other interventions.

Zachary Stiling, creator of the more recent petition, told me:

“We must protect the individual’s right to use cash in all physical transactions. While there are many obvious advantages to digital payments, it is not suitable at all times or for all people…There are dangerous political implications with going cashless, as instances of banks and financial service providers closing accounts for political reasons are not unprecedented and are clearly at odds with liberal society’s cornerstone of freedom of belief.”

As we have heard from a number of interventions, freedom of choice is a central tenet of this issue. To be clear, the choice to use cash is still one that many people wish to make. Indeed, 95% of respondents to the Petitions Committee survey ahead of this debate stated that they preferred to use cash to pay for things over other means of payment. I know from my own experience that I would be happier using cash when I am in a pub or a restaurant than when I am shopping. It is different horses for different courses.

Figures from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce 2022 cash census showed that 96% of people withdraw cash at some frequency, with 83% having cash either in their wallet or at home. Furthermore, figures from the Financial Conduct Authority’s 2022 “Financial Lives” survey showed that 6% of adults in the UK had used cash to pay for everything, or for most things, over the 12 months from May 2021. That is a significant number of people.