If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I shall open the card a little later. I am also looking forward to the present that comes with it.
I know that the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) and many other hon. Members have had the opportunity today of discussing with sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses and representatives of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters their concerns about the future of the post office network. I want to use this opportunity to deal with some of the concerns that have, quite understandably, been expressed by those individuals who often have committed many of their own resources to their business—a sub-post office. We are a Government who listen to the concerns of the communities that have been affected. We have also listened, and we shall continue listening, to the concerns of those who are responsible for running the post office network.
We recognise the vital role that local post offices play not only in rural communities, but in our inner cities. Many thousands of post offices in our inner cities and in our rural communities perform a useful and important community function. We recognise that they have that important role to play.
Very often, the post office is the focal point of the local community, providing access to cash, postal services and other daily items. Very often, for the elderly and those who are less mobile, the post office is where their benefits are available. We recognise that.