Proprietors of sub-post offices in my constituency are very worried about the declining value of their businesses. They tell me that they want not subsidy but proper recognition for the valuable service that they provide, much of which is on behalf of the Government. The measures announced today will go some way towards alleviating their concerns, but there is likely to be some delay in their implementation, and the report states that the universal bank concept needs more work.
In the meantime, business is being lost, and not only because people are choosing to move away from post offices. Sub-postmasters and mistresses in my constituency tell me that their customers say that staff at the Department of Social Security are misleading people into believing that their benefits must be paid into their bank accounts, even though they would prefer to have them paid at the post office.
I notice that the Minister of State with responsibility for pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), is present, and I hope that he will talk to colleagues about how the Department can encourage its clients to opt for the universal bank. I hope, too, that the Department will recognise that there are security advantages to allowing people to collect benefits from a post office rather than from any branch of their bank.