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House of Commons Hansard
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RBS Branch Closures
17 October 2018
Volume 647
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2. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) on the potential effect on local communities of the proposed closure of RBS branches in Scotland. [907021]

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11. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) on the potential effect on local communities of the proposed closure of RBS branches in Scotland. [907030]

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With permission, I will answer Questions 2 and 11 together. Our position on branch closures is clear. These should be commercial decisions, not those for the interference of politicians, but equally, we do recognise some of the difficulties that constituents face when this occurs. That is why we support the access to banking standard, which takes a number of steps both to support and to inform customers in that situation.

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RBS often says that, to make up for its pulling out of a town, the local post office will carry out the services. However, in Bonnyrigg in my constituency, the post office has shut as well, and now many businesses fear that they are going to have to close. What is the Secretary of State doing to stand up for local communities in Scotland?

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The hon. Lady raises a specific case of a closure of a post office in her constituency. I believe the Post Office is engaged in that particular matter but, on the general matter of post offices, they do provide a number of financial services, supported by the banking framework agreement, such that 99% of individual customers will have access for their financial needs and 95% of businesses likewise.

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I call Rosie Cooper—let us hear from the hon. Lady.

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No. 11, Mr Speaker.

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The hon. Lady’s question has been grouped with No. 2, as the Minister advised, so we look forward to hearing from the hon. Lady on these important matters—she has now had time to think about it—now.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. Sorry for the confusion.

Given that RBS is 63%-owned by the taxpayer and the majority of branch closures are in Scotland or the north-west of England, could the Minister tell us: what does the taxpayer get for their money if not banks and banking services?

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The hon. Lady is right to raise the issue of the taxpayer supporting the Royal Bank of Scotland to the tune of some tens of billions of pounds. It is right that the Government therefore expect the bank to show profitability and to come back into economic health. Our overarching principle is that the best way of achieving that is to leave commercial organisations such as the Royal Bank of Scotland to be in charge of their own affairs, rather than being subject to political interference from Ministers.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that it was wrong of the Royal Bank of Scotland to turn its back on rural areas such as Angus, specifically when online banking is simply not viable because the SNP Government in Edinburgh have not been fast enough at rolling out broadband?

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My hon. Friend makes an important point about the speed of broadband roll-out. Of course, on the broadband issue, the Government in Westminster have recently made available £1 billion across the UK to stimulate market delivery of fibre and mobile coverage.

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Like rural Scotland, rural Cheshire has suffered from a number of branch closures that have left constituents without access to services that can be provided only by banks. What can the Minister do to ensure that my constituents can access those services?

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As I have outlined, we support the access to banking standard, but post offices have also received considerable support from this Government and are able to provide a lot of the financial services that individuals and businesses require. In rural areas, for example, 99% of residents are within three miles of the nearest post office.