I have spoken with colleagues at the Treasury who assure me that in these difficult times they have by no means forgotten that cash remains extremely important, and in many cases a necessity, in the daily lives of millions of people around the country. I understand that ministers remain closely engaged with financial regulators during this time to monitor and assess risks around cash acceptance and access resulting from COVID-19. This includes working closely with industry to ensure that good practice in this regard.
I am aware of the Post Office’s Save our Cash campaign, and I am continuing to work with colleagues to address the valid concerns that are raised by this campaign. The Treasury is committed to protecting access to cash for those who need it and I welcome that a Call for Evidence was published in October 2020 which sought views on the key considerations and regulatory oversight of the cash system. The Call for Evidence has now closed and on the basis of responses a consultation has now been launched as the next step in legislating to protect access to cash and ensuring the sustainability of the UK’s cash infrastructure. The Access to Cash consultation sets out proposals to further legislation, and I look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of the consultation.
Although schemes such as Community Access to Cash have been very successful, I hope that future legislation will ensure the needs of cash users are understood and continue to be met by industry, including large and small retailers.
Recent legislation has included the Financial Services Act 2021 which facilitated the wide-spread adoption of cashback without a purchase. This legislation was drawn up with the engagement of not only the Payment Systems Regulator, Financial Conduct Authority, and Bank of England but also stakeholders across industry.
While cash acceptance is important, it is also vital to make sure that card transactions are as safe as possible during the pandemic. That is why I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that the legal limit for single contactless payments will be doubled from £45 to £100.
Finally, I welcomed the announcement of the establishment of a Joint Authorities Cash Strategy (JACS) Group which brings together representatives of our key financial regulators to provide joined-up and comprehensive oversight of the UK's cash infrastructure. The JACS Group will place a particular emphasis on user needs and the changing nature of cash usage.