Sub-post Offices

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 12th April 2000.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Trade and Industry) 6:45 pm, 12th April 2000

I do apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. As I understand it, the National Audit Office has access to papers that the Trade and Industry Committee was entitled to see on a confidential basis, and that means that that report is extremely important.

The Opposition still labour under the misapprehension—this is crucial to the point made by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan)—that the Post Office Counters network is in the private sector. It is not. For the absence of doubt, let me explain to Opposition Members that sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have sunk £1 billion of their own money in in total, as private business people, subcontracting to a publicly owned organisation, driven from the centre in terms of policy, and actually driving forward a system where there is already cross-subsidy, so that the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses are not in control of the arrangements for subsidising post offices, or for cross-subsidising post offices, which is an essential element of keeping half the network open.