Sub-post Offices

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:39 pm on 12th April 2000.

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Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Conservative, South Norfolk 5:39 pm, 12th April 2000

It is obvious why I think that the privatisation issue is a red herring in this debate. However, I and many of the sub-post offices that have responded to me understand the importance of keeping pace with technology. They welcome the arrival of computers under the Horizon programme, for example. The problem lies with the loss of payments that were previously coming through the benefits system.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden went for a solution that would have cost the taxpayer or the Treasury, however one likes to put it, about £200 million. I am talking in broad figures. The remainder of the £200 million under the £400 million would have been saved by moving away from the paper system to a swipe card, so there would be a cost to the taxpayer.

I now come to exactly the point that the hon. Gentleman raises.