I am not sure whether the figure of 500 that the hon. Gentleman cited is correct. He would probably be more convincing if he were able to offer options other than privatisation, because that would cause high Post Office prices.
We must remember that industrial relations in the Post Office have been transformed in recent years. [Laughter.] I do not know that the departure of the Minister for Competitiveness had anything to do with that. I am sure that he would have contributed to the improvements that have resulted from the measures to enhance competitiveness which arose from the negotiations between John Roberts, the Post Office chief executive, and Derek Hodgson, the secretary of the Communication Workers Union.
The union members readily accepted the new measures that were introduced by the union and management combined, but I do not believe that that acceptance will continue if we move away from the payment of benefits to recipients through post offices. Indeed, industrial relations are likely to suffer.
There are 15 post offices in my constituency. I fear that if the measures are implemented, those in areas such as Muirhead avenue, east and Baycliff road—as well as the Dog and Gun post office—will not survive for long because there are high rates of high unemployment and sickness and they depend on the payment of benefits such as disability benefit.
I hope that the Government will take heed of what I have said. The Tories' contribution to this debate is irrelevant, given their ideological commitment to privatisation, which is opposed by almost every Post Office employee. I have received representations from many people in my constituency, where this is a hot issue. I have also received representations from the Communication Workers Union, postmasters, the Liverpool chamber of commerce and, of course, the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, which is leading the lobby today.
It is not enough to defeat the hypocrisy of Conservative Members, who have shed crocodile tears. I beseech the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary to listen to the people in our heartlands, where there is real opposition to the proposals on benefit payment changes.