HC Deb 08 April 1968 vol 762 cc858-9
3. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Social Security what plans she has for closing local offices of her Department in small country towns; and whether she will take into account the importance of a local office to those living in rural areas.

The Minister of Social Security (Mrs. Judith Hart)

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on 7th March to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). I can assure him that account will be taken of the needs of those living in rural areas.—[Vol. 760, c. 158–9.]

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the great concern that exists in the South-West because the Government appear to give so little attention to the interests of country people? The British Legion in particular is very disturbed at these rumours.

Mrs. Hart

There are no absolute proposals at the moment for anything in the region of the hon. Member's constituency. I can give him an assurance that we take the utmost account of two factors—first, that the great mass of our arrangements are now done by post and, secondly, that there is frequently a need for a caller office whatever kind of reorganisation we make, and this need is given a very high priority.

Mr. William Price

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of the larger towns also being allowed to keep their offices, especially in view of the fact that the amalgamation of the Rugby office with the Coventry office has been a total disaster?

Mrs. Hart

I am sorry to hear that. My hon. Friend must tell me more about it. I emphasise that two factors are involved—first, reorganisation of what might be called the backroom work and, secondly, the need to ensure that we supply whatever is needed by way of caller facilities for the public. When we reorganise the backroom work it does not necessarily follow that there is any deprivation whatever to the public in terms of caller facilities.