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Post Office Closures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 15th May 2002.

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Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander Minister of State (e-Commerce & Competitiveness) 3:38 pm, 15th May 2002

Certainly I am concerned by the example that the hon. Gentleman cites. I will be more than happy to make representations directly to the Post Office management, if information that rightfully should be shared with the community is not being shared. Only yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear in a newspaper article our ambition to see exactly that kind of innovative solution being devised to address the needs of the modern network.

Perhaps I could focus the debate by moving it on from the issue of spending, which I shall return to when I deal with the specific points raised. Alongside the commitment of resources, £270 million, we have in recent months moved decisively to strengthen the management of Consignia. As is well known, in March, the Secretary of State announced that Allan Leighton had been appointed the new chair of Consignia. He is now responsible for driving forward the management strategy to meet the challenges of stemming the company's losses, reforming its industrial relations and developing its strategy to strengthen and sustain the network. As a former chief executive of Asda, Allan Leighton has the proven track record of success in business that I think will find favour with the Post Office. He has the determination, drive and energy needed to transform the management of the Post Office. As the interim chair and a non-executive director of the company, he has seen at first hand many of the challenges that it faces.

In addition, last month we appointed David Mills to the newly created post of CEO of Post Office Counters Ltd., with a seat on the board of Consignia Holdings. He joins the network from HSBC, where he was general manager of personal banking. For far too long, the network's management failed fully to realise the commercial and retailing opportunities offered by the reach of the country's largest retail network.