HC Deb 26 February 1964 vol 690 cc411-3
8. Commander Kerans

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will move the Post Office Savings Bank to The Hartlepools.

10. Dr. Bray

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the preference expressed by ballot of the staff of the Post Office Savings Bank, an early decision will be taken to move the Savings Bank to Tees-side.

11. Mr. W. T. Rodgers

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the majority vote of the Post Office Savings Bank staff in favour of moving their headquarters to Tees-side, he will now announce the date by which the move is to be completed.

Mr. Bevins

On the choice of location, I would refer the hon. Members to the replies which I gave to the hon Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) on 7th February, and the hon. Members for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), and Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) on 19th February. It will not be possible to announce any completion date for the move until much more of the detailed planning has been done.

Commander Kerans

Will my right hon. Friend say how long he expects this detailed planning to go on? Would he bear in mind that the movement of the Post Office Savings Bank to The Hartlepools would greatly help an area where unemployment is still 6½3 per cent.? Bearing in mind that Darling- ton, Durham and Newcastle have all had various Departments of Government, will he look at the needs of Tees-side?

Mr. Bevins

I will certainly bear those considerations in mind, but I ought to make it clear that the movement of the Bank will take several years to complete because it is a very big venture. I do not think that it will be possible to announce a final completion date when I announce the new location, as I hope to do, some time during March. There is an immense amount of planning on the new buildings, new organisation and staffing to take place.

Dr. Bray

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the local authorities, like everybody else on Tees-side, are very anxious to provide for and to welcome the Savings Bank, that plans are being made for the future development of the area and that an early announcement would be very helpful?

Mr. Bevins

Yes, indeed. There are several parts of the country which are equally anxious on this matter as Tees-side. I assure the hon. Member that there will be no delay in announcing a decision. It will probably be in a matter of two or three weeks.

Mr. W. T. Rodgers

While appreciating that the final decision must take into account many factors, and while not wanting to make too firm a claim on behalf of many areas of high employment, may I ask the Postmaster-General whether he does not agree that the views of the staff in this matter are most important? Apart from his immediate responsibility, would he draw the attention of his colleague the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development to the view expressed by the staff so that this view may be conveyed to those industrialists who are considering the North-East as a place for investment and who are under the impression that the amenities there are inadequate to attract the staff they need?

Mr. Bevins

This is being handled in close collaboration with my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour and with Treasury Ministers. The feelings or preferences of the staff are a very important factor in this matter. The hon. Member knows, as probably does the House, what are the feelings of the staff at the moment, but since they were first sounded in this matter the staff associations have visited these three areas and I think that a meeting with the associations is today taking place to find out their final preferences.

Mr. Gower

May I ask a question about the movement of headquarters? Does my right hon. Friend envisage any devolution of the administration of the Post Office Savings Bank? Does he contemplate that the functions of the Bank in Scotland, Ulster and Wales may be decentralised?

Mr. Bevins

Not at the moment. For reasons of efficiency and cost I do not think that that is a starter at present.