Cheques could be poised to make a surprise return to the British high street.

Plans to scrap cheques completely by 2018 have been dropped, the Payments Council announced yesterday. It said cheques would be now available to bank and building society clients for “as long as customers need them”.

Retailers – most of which stopped accepting cheques several years ago – could come under pressure to reintroduce them as a valid method of payment.

Conservative MP David Ruffley called the decision “a victory for Middle England”.