§ Mr. Steinberg
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans exist for the distribution of electronic cards to benefit claimants as replacements for the present order books; what research has preceded such plans or is at present under way; and what rights of access will be granted to holders of such cards to the information contained on these.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
The Government have already announced plans to automate post offices and introduce a benefit payment card to replace order books. These plans were based on a feasibility study by the Benefits Agency and Post Office Counters Ltd. who are now developing detailed proposals with five potential suppliers. We will require the new system to be acceptable to customers, including elderly and disabled people, and consultation with their representatives is planned for the coming year. The system will be subject to the right of access provisions of the Data Protection Act.