Post Office Network

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 28th June 2000.

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Photo of Stephen Byers Stephen Byers Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry 3:30 pm, 28th June 2000

My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. In today's announcement, we draw particular attention to the important role that post offices play in deprived urban areas such as his constituency and mine, not just as a post office but as part of probably the only commercial retail outlet serving some of our most depressed estates. He is right to point out that they are the most vulnerable on the question of benefit transactions. We will be providing financial support to underpin post offices in those areas.

Many of my right hon. Friend's constituents and mine will be among the 3.5 million people who are unbanked and therefore cannot take advantage of direct debits and the cuts in bills for electricity, gas, the telephone and so on that that brings. The universal bank will, for the first time, allow those 3.5 million people to enjoy those benefits. The ability to enjoy the advantages of reduced basic utility bills, which many in this House take for granted, will make a huge difference to families and people on low incomes. Extending such benefits will be beneficial to individuals, communities and the Post Office as well.