HC Deb 13 December 1976 vol 922 cc945-6
6. Dr. Edmund Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many sub-post offices in rural areas of England have been closed in the last 12 months.

Mr. Kaufman

This is a matter for the Post Office. It tells me that in the year ended 31st March 1976 171 scale payment sub-offices in rural areas were closed in the United Kingdom. About half of these were closed because a vacancy arose and there was no suitable applicant to fill it.

Dr. Marshall

Is my hon. Friend aware that the sub-post office in the village of Hillam in my constituency closed last Thursday in spite of very reasonable representations made on behalf of local residents, particularly retirement pensioners, who are faced with an inconvenient journey to the next nearest sub-post office? Does the Post Office intend to ignore the Good Neighbour campaign?

Mr. Kaufman

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall) has made the most strenuous efforts in support of his constituents in this case, as he has done in other cases. I sympathise with him in seeking to assist pensioners and others in his constituency. However, the Post Office has the duty to operate commercially, and within that it is doing all it can to help in the Good Neighbour campaign and matters of that kind. Arrangements can be made for pensioners in difficulty to receive their pensions either by someone else collecting them or in some other way.

Mr. Lawrence

Will the Minister of State say why he supposes that half the vacancies that have arisen in sub-post offices in rural areas have not been filled? Does he think that this is in some way due to irresponsible Government policy in respect of the Post Office in particular?

Mr. Kaufman

The irresponsible Government policy towards the Post Office, as the hon. Gentleman describes it, is designed to allow the Post Office to recover from the disastrous effects of price restraint imposed upon it by the Conservatives and to allow it to operate commercially and with economic pricing. As a result of that, the Post Office is coming back into balance on the postal service and is making large profits on the telecommunications service. I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen would support that instead of being totally inconsistent and demanding expenditure cuts except on subjects which affect their own constituencies, where they want expenditure increases.