Sub-post Offices

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:09 pm on 12th April 2000.

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Photo of Stephen Byers Stephen Byers Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry 4:09 pm, 12th April 2000

I have already given way generously, and I want to draw my remarks to a conclusion.

The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton said that I can look forward to 18,000 birthday cards arriving tomorrow. I understand that this is also good news for post office workers in Victoria SW1, who are likely to receive a bonus—negotiated by the Communication Workers Union a few years ago—as a result of the high volume of cards that I am likely to receive. They will have cause for celebration as well.

The network of post offices has never been static, but the Government must acknowledge the important community and social role played by individual post offices to which we should provide new opportunities. We can use the great strengths in the post office network to reach out to people and to give them access to information and services.

I want to see how we can use the local post office as the first source of information on central and local government services. We need a new vision for the Post Office of the 21st century. I want the local post office to interact directly and electronically with business, and to be a channel of delivery for electronic government. With the new technologies that we are giving to the post office network, all that is possible.

By giving the Post Office greater commercial freedom, investing in new technology and providing safeguards to ensure reasonable access to Post Office Counters services, we are helping the Post Office to adapt to change, expand its services and respond to changing consumer demands. We intend to work with the Post Office. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said this morning to Colin Baker, the general secretary of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, we intend to work in partnership to meet the challenges that lie ahead.