Sub-post Offices

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 12th April 2000.

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Photo of Geraldine Smith Geraldine Smith Labour, Morecambe and Lunesdale 5:28 pm, 12th April 2000

The more expensive option? To protect what? Let me go through some of the points in case Conservative Members have forgotten. Do they recall that, between 1985 and 1995, the Post Office was forced to hand over £1 billion of profits to the Government and that, despite having announced in March 1995 that they would reduce the burden on the Post Office, they subsequently hugely increased it and demanded a further £1 billion from the Post Office? Do they not realise that that money could have been invested in the Post Office network? We could have had computerisation of sub-post offices years ago. We should have had it years ago. The Conservative party caused unnecessary delays and, of course, there is the privatisation shambles.

Perhaps the Tories will remember that, during their 18 years in office, about one fifth of the Post Office Counters network was closed. They seem to have forgotten all about that. I worked in the industry throughout that period and I can recall no significant Tory Government measure to prevent the widespread closures. I recall no comments from Conservative Members at that time. They now have the cheek to say that we have no strategy or policy on the Post Office. What is their policy? Perhaps the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) will tell me.

Perhaps Conservative Members will tell me what their plans were for the Post Office. Were they going to privatise? During discussions on the Postal Services Bill, they said that they wanted privatisation. Today, Conservative Back Benchers have said they were not going to privatise and would not privatise if they got back into power. They seem confused about the whole issue of the Post Office.