Sub-post Offices — 12 Apr 2000
I beg to move,
That this House condemns the Government's failure to provide a coherent strategy for the future of sub-post offices; expresses concern that nearly a year has elapsed without any solutions to the problems created by the arbitrary announcement to withdraw income from community post offices in return for the payment of benefits; believes that the acceleration of post office closures in 1999-2000 will continue as a result of the Government's policies; applauds the determination of the last Conservative Government to maintain a national network of post offices; supports the computerisation project started by the last Conservative Government to tackle fraud and improve technology available in post offices without cutting their income; calls upon the Government to recognise the social value of post offices to local communities; and now requires the Government, as a matter of urgency, to identify new income streams for sub-post offices in the future and to end the confusion for benefits recipients about the future payment arrangements at local level.
the decision of the previous Government to automate the delivery of benefits payments using the benefits payment card was based on the need to reduce costs, eliminate fraud and ensure beneficiaries would be able to continue to receive their payment in cash from the post office, thus ensuring they retained a choice as to the method of payment which best suited their individual circumstance . . .
this was recognised to be the only way to ensure the future survival and prosperity of the post office network.
When I moved to the Department of Social Security, my interest deepened further, as I saw how essential the network was to the effective delivery of benefits to many of the most vulnerable people in our communities. I helped to ensure that that delivery mechanism and the network would continue by agreeing to the horizon project, about which the Government are now trying to rewrite history . . .--[ Official Report, Westminster Hall , 12 January 2000; Vol. 342, c. 52WH.]
Therefore, sub-postmasters' remuneration is a matter between POCL--
and the post-masters themselves.
For your benefit, give us today the answers that will benefit sub post offices--before it is too late.
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
'welcomes the fact that the Government is committed to a national post office network and is taking steps to secure this; welcomes the Government's moves to plan the introduction of automated credit transfer; welcomes the Postal Services Bill which will enable the Post Office to modernise, so building up new business for the network; welcomes the investment of £500 million to ensure the network is computerised, so enabling a successful and modern network to emerge; welcomes the Government's introduction for the first time of criteria for access to Post Office services; welcomes the commitment to give benefit recipients the choice of having benefits paid in cash via a post office even after the switch to automated credit transfer is complete in 2005; and applauds the work of the sub-postmasters and postmistresses and condemns those who make their lives harder by talking down the network.'.
The Government will consider very closely the need to include a provision that would enable a subsidy to be provided where appropriate to do so. Indeed, there will be a Government amendment to that effect.--[ Official Report , 15 February 2000; Vol. 344, c. 805.]
I feel confident that the project will be properly completed..?
That this House condemns the Government's failure to provide a coherent strategy for the future of sub-post offices--
The weekly pension I collect gives the cash to pay the milkman, the coalman, and buy my paper and bread. If the Government's proposed changes are implemented, I will have to travel 12 miles to the nearest bank, which means I will spend less money in my local shop.
There is a time bomb currently ticking away in Britain's villages and towns.
The amount that subpostmasters will receive will depend on the contracts that the Post Office Groups strike with banks and on negotiations between the group and the NFSP. These are commercial matters and it would not be appropriate for the Government to become involved.
People are increasingly accustomed to receiving payment into their bank accounts: 70 per cent. of claimants have bank accounts, and many find payment into their accounts more convenient and safer.--[ Official Report , 19 May 1993; Vol. 225, c. 259.]
Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--
The House divided: Ayes 139, Noes 364.
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