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 hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that ACT is already happening. When new pensioners are asked how they would like their pension to be paid, very many of them already opt to receive it in their bank account. We cannot re-invent the wheel. The change is already happening. The Government are grasping the nettle by saying, "This change is going to happen, so we have to find alternatives for sub-post offices."

Those alternatives will have to be found, and timing is crucial in doing so. Sub-post offices must have new business before ACT is implemented. If that new business is not in place, ACT should be delayed. However, we have three years to go before implementation. The Horizon project is already up and running in most sub-post offices. The initial difficulties with the project have been overcome, and the project is working well. We are now moving to the second stage, when we have to find new banking and other work for sub-post offices to take on. I believe that that is achievable in three years. I am sure that, at the end of the debate, my hon. Friend the Minister for Competitiveness will be able to tell me what progress has been made.

I welcome the Government's access criteria, which will guarantee postal services for everyone. I realise that the status quo is not an option but, as I said, it is essential to get the timing right. New business needs to be in place before ACT is implemented. I believe that we can find that new business, and that sub-post offices have a bright future.