HC Deb 28 June 2000 vol 352 cc901-2
Q4. Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire)

When he next plans to visit North-West Leicestershire.

The Prime Minister

I have no immediate plans to do so.

Mr. Taylor

As one of a north-west Leicestershire family who ran the post office in my home village for most of the 20th century, may I ask my right hon. Friend how likely it is that the extra income from community banking, electronic commerce and online government will compensate local offices for the losses that will result from automated credit transfer? When he does visit us, will he reassure rural and urban communities that the local post office network really is safe in his hands?

The Prime Minister

The proposals to be announced by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry later today will do that, and I think that they will be widely welcomed. It is important that we set out a plan for post offices that will allow them to modernise and develop, which is essential, and ensure that in every way possible, we protect rural post offices for the local communities that they serve.

I say to my hon. Friend that in this exercise we have had to work closely with people in both rural and urban post offices to devise a plan that accords not only with people's desire to keep their local post offices, but with reality. Every year, 500,000 more people get their benefits paid into their bank accounts. We have to take account of that in any plans for post offices, and we will. When my right hon. Friend sets out his plans later, the House will see that they will ensure that post offices have a future. That will be yet another dividing line with the Conservatives, because their tax policy would not allow them to fund the programme that we will be funding.

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