I am so pleased that the Treasury Select Committee has decided to reopen its inquiry into the future of cheques, given the great uncertainty across many sectors about the impact if they were to be phased out entirely.
The TSC heard evidence in the last Parliament from a range of organisations, including the UK Payments Council which has responsibility for the general oversight of cheque clearance mechanisms, and was unconvinced by the Payments Council’s arguments that cheques were in “terminal decline”.
Coupled with the Council’s announcement that the cheque guarantee card scheme will end later this year, the other members of the TSC and I are of the view that this is the thin end of the wedge for cheques, and that the concerns of millions of elderly banking customers as well as charities and SMEs are not being considered.
We are not satisfied that the requirement announced last year for “adequate alternatives” to be in place by 2016 will in any way assuage these concerns, and we will be challenging the Payments Council to clearly evidence the benefits of abolishing cheques. If they cannot, then I will certainly be doing everything I can to ensure that those who use cheques – often some of the most vulnerable in society – can continue to do so for as long as they so wish.