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Financial Services Consultation

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 1 July 2021

The Government are today publishing the “Access to Cash: Consultation” on legislative proposals to protect access to cash. Our society and economy are embracing the transition to a more digital world and as part of this the transition towards digital payments brings many opportunities, including the opportunity for faster and cheaper payments. None the less, cash remains an essential payment mechanism for many people and businesses across the United Kingdom.

The Government therefore committed at March Budget 2020 to bring forward legislation to protect access to cash and ensure that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable long term. The Government support and welcome innovation in payments; this is an area where the UK is at the cutting edge globally, and we wish to see that continue. The Government’s aim in protecting access to cash is consistent with this approach and seeks to ensure continued choice in payments solutions for all parts of the UK, and for people that rely on more traditional options.

In October 2020, the Treasury published a call for evidence, which sought views on the key considerations associated with cash access. The responses demonstrated strong and broad support for Government intervention to protect access to cash, and the Treasury is publishing a summary of responses to the call for evidence today.

Furthermore, the Government took action to make legislative changes to support the widespread offering of cashback without a purchase by shops and other businesses as part of the Financial Services Act 2021. Cashback has the potential to be a valuable facility to cash users, and play an important role in the evolution of the UK’s cash infrastructure.

The access to cash consultation is the next step to progress our commitment to legislate to protect access to cash.

The consultation sets out proposals for legislation to ensure that people and businesses can continue to make cash withdrawals and deposits within a reasonable distance. This will help to ensure that the cash system continues to meet the needs of businesses and consumers and that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable in the long term.

To achieve this, the consultation seeks views in three key areas:

Geographic access requirements for providing access to cash withdrawals and deposits

Designation of firms to meet requirements to provide access

Regulatory oversight, including proposals to ensure the FCA has appropriate powers and responsibilities to hold firms to account to meet requirements

The Government’s proposals for consultation seek to ensure a stable and resilient solution for cash access in the long term, where large current account providers are obliged to ensure their customers can access key cash services alongside new and convenient digital payments solutions. The decline in cash usage is a trend that is occurring in many countries across the world. The Government’s proposed approach is in line with international precedent. For example, Sweden, is one of the most advanced countries in terms of declining cash usage and it has placed legislative geographic access requirements for deposit and withdrawal facilities on its largest banks.

The consultation will be published on and will run for 12 weeks, closing on 23 September 2021.

Today’s publication helps to ensure that the financial system supports the real economy and delivers for businesses and consumers. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out at Mansion House today, the Government are taking action to deliver on our vision for a world-leading financial services sector, which includes this consultation. It is important that our financial services sector is open, green, technologically advanced and globally competitive and acts in the interests of our communities and citizens, creating jobs, supporting businesses, and powering growth across all of the UK.