TapThe last cheque is in the post

I have written before about why cheques should not be allowed to die and yesterday there was an announcement that they are to be phased out by 2018. They say “but only if adequate alternatives are developed” but by what and whose criteria? The committee is mostly made up of bankers and we all know whose interests they will be looking after.

We were wondering, while walking across the downs last night, if it is actually possible for cheques to be discontinued. After all, a cheque is only a signed letter from you to your bank to make a transfer; either to a named individual if the cheque is crossed or in cash to bearer. The banks issue fancy forms pre-printed with your name, account number and other details but you don’t have to use them. As A. P. Herbert demonstrated, a cheque can be written on anything so long as it contains the essential ingredients—information to identify the account (the bank and account name or number), validation of authority to make the transaction (signature) an amount, a date and a payee.

Of course you can take this a step further and remember that bank notes are only a specialised form of cheque. It is a letter from the chief cashier of the Bank of England at the time to credit you with a certain sum of money. When invented this meant gold but I am not exactly sure what it means now.

Footnote: it is also funny to notice that bank notes now have a copyright notice “©The governor and company of the Bank of England 2000.” Not only is that unnecessary as there are other laws forbidding uttering (forgery) but copyright law doesn’t even need it. Perhaps it is to dissuade Johnny Foreigner from photocopying a stash.

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