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Post Office Network

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:24 pm on 14th December 2006.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 12:24 pm, 14th December 2006

On my hon. Friend's last point, of course the Government will listen to representations made in the consultation. However, I emphasise that nobody—well, I cannot say "nobody" because my hon. Friend disagrees—but most people, including the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, recognise that the problem needs to be tackled. Ignoring it, hoping that it will go away or that something will turn up will not do.

My hon. Friend mentioned Government business. If I said at the Dispatch Box, "From now on, people will not be allowed to have their money paid directly into their bank accounts", people would justifiably complain. The problem that the Post Office faces is that many people who used to go to the post office to cash their giros, get their pensions and so on are choosing to do things differently. Another example is renewing tax discs on cars. People can choose to do it in the post office or online. Choice is right but the fact that the Government are making £1.7 billion to support the network shows our determination to maintain a national network, which will have 12,000 branches—more than the total of all the bank branches in the country.