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RBS Branch Closures

Volume 637: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2018

2. What discussions he has had with the Royal Bank of Scotland on the potential effect on local communities of the proposed closure of its branches in Scotland. (904137)

I have met senior RBS management in Scotland to discuss the decision. I made it clear that its plans were disappointing for customers and communities across Scotland, and I urged it to mitigate the impact of closures as comprehensively as possible.

Small businesses have already reported in Wales and across the United Kingdom that they are being refused if they try to pay in large sums of cash at the post office, as it presents a security risk and post office workers do not have the time to count such large sums of money. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that there is no disruption to small businesses or the public as a result of these ill-thought-out closures?

I certainly share the hon. Lady’s view that these are ill-thought-out closures, and I am very happy to take the specific point forward. I am sure that colleagues who serve on the Scottish Affairs Committee will also be prepared to put that view to the chief executive of the Royal Bank, who, I am pleased to say, has finally agreed to appear before that Committee.

The big issue for many rural communities, such as those in my constituency in the borders, will be the access to cash given that RBS is shutting so many branches on the back of previous bank closures. Can the Government do more to ensure that rural communities are getting access to the cash to support the local economies?

My hon. Friend raises a very good point. I would be very happy to meet him to discuss that issue further.

The decline in the centres of our Scottish towns is there to be seen. The closure of the branch of the Royal Bank will be a further nail in the coffin. What proposals does the Secretary of State have to try to arrest the decline of our vital little towns in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very pertinent point; the vast majority of these proposed closures, for example, are related to rural communities. We must focus on ensuring that people in rural areas can continue to receive services. There is the issue of cash, which my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) has just raised, and also things such as broadband, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we want the Scottish Government to roll out more quickly.

It has been the custom since 2015 that the SNP lead spokesperson gets two questions at Scottish questions.

The Scottish Secretary is obviously very much aware of the Scottish Affairs Committee’s ongoing inquiry into RBS closures. CEO Ross McEwan has now agreed to appear before the Committee. Bizarrely, the only people who will not go in front of the Committee are UK Government Treasury Ministers, even though they have a 70% share in our interest in that bank. Can he therefore join me in—

Order. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that I need no advice on procedure from him or any of his colleagues. I work on the basis of that of which the office has been notified—one question, and that was why I granted it. I am well familiar with the precedents; I know what I am doing, but I do require effective communication, which was lacking in this case. It is not appropriate for the hon. Gentleman to use his position to try to score some procedural point, which he has spectacularly failed to do.

On 6 February, RBS announced that it would give 10 branches in Scotland a stay of execution, on the basis that they were the last bank in town. However, one branch, in the Secretary of State’s constituency, was given a special reprieve but was not the last bank in town. Why should the Secretary of State’s constituents be given preferential treatment while the last banks in some of the poorest communities across Scotland are closed down?

I know that this is a hostage to fortune, but I would like the hon. Gentleman to name that branch, because the three branches in my constituency that were to be the subject of this so-called reprieve—which I agree with him is just a stay of execution—are all the last bank in town. I think he should do his research a little better.