HC Deb 30 June 1971 vol 820 cc369-71
3. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will now make a further statement about the future of the National Giro.

7. Mr. Rost

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether the National Giro is now trading profitably.

Mr. Chataway

I am still reviewing this service, which is currently incurring losses.

Mr. Huckfield

While I am grateful to the Minister for giving us some assurance that he is still considering the matter, does not he think that the time is long overdue for him to do something to inject a small measure of certainty into the future of Giro? The large accounts have been teetering on the brink for a long time and the ordinary man in the street does not know whether he will be able to use Giro. The service can never be profitable while it continues in that kind of uncertainty, which is the Minister's own fault.

Mr. Chataway

I note the hon. Gentleman's views and assure him that there will be no unnecessary delay.

Mr. Rost

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the losses are still running at about £6 million a year? At what stage are we expecting the losses to end now that the system has reached about the halfway mark towards its initial launch target? What has been the total capital investment in the Giro since it started? How long will it be before the taxpayer sees a return on that capital? Is not it about time we called an end to this extravagance, which only a Socialist Government can afford, and not a Conservative Government determined to have their priorities right?

Mr. Chataway

When the review is concluded, I will make available all the facts for which my hon. Friend asks. I hope that he will agree that it would be more convenient to the House to debate the question on a later occasion.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Is the Minister aware that any statement he makes on the future of Giro is of tremendous concern to my constituents, in whose area the Giro head office is situated, and also on Merseyside, where we have an unemployment rate of 5.6 per cent., which is very serious? Will he assure the House that he is receiving every co-operaion from the staff of Giro in Bootle and that the industrial relations are of the highest order?

Mr. Chataway

I can say that I am getting every co-operation from the staff of Giro in the review that is being undertaken.

Mr. Money

I hope that in this connection my right hon. Friend will also bear in mind the position in Suffolk, where Giro is relevant to our high unemployment and the fact that we are a low-wage area.

Mr. Chataway

I certainly take that factor into account.

Mr. Richard

May I revert partially to one of the Minister's earlier answers? Is he saying that whether or not Giro is making money, he has given the House an undertaking this afternoon that postal tariffs will not be raised to the extent which his hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) put to him and which some of us have cause to fear? Is he telling us that he would not sanction a proposal for an increase to 4p and 5p?

Mr. Chataway

Yes, Sir. I was telling the House that I see no prospecst of increases in postal charges on the scale feared by my hon. Friend.

16. Mr. Rost

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many cheques drawn on accounts in credit with National Giro have not been honoured; what is the estimated cost of damages claimed by account holders; and what action is proposed to prevent such errors.

Mr. Chataway

These are matters for the Post Office.

Mr. Rost

Has my right hon. Friend inquired into the recent case publicised in the newspapers of a small business man with a credit on his Giro account who presented cheques in the course of his business which were not honoured, as a result of which he suffered considerable embarrassment and damage to his business standing and is, I understand, taking legal action against Giro? Cannot something be done to prevent that type of occurrence?

Mr. Chataway

As my hon. Friend says, there is a legal action pending at the moment, and I do not think, therefore, that it would be proper for me to comment.