§ 25. Mrs. Angela Knight
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a further statement on his plans to introduce a social security card for the payment of benefits. 
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
It was announced last year that a new system would be developed to automate the payment of benefits at post offices. Order books and girocheques will be phased out and replaced by a benefit payment card which will allow access to payment information held electronically. This will reduce costs for taxpayers, be more secure for customers and support the future of the post office network.
This important project is being taken forward under the private finance initiative. In December 1994, five companies or consortia were invited to develop their proposals and all five have now submitted detailed plans. These are being evaluated by a team of experts from both Post Office Counter Ltd. and the DSS to determine which of the suppliers will be invited to take part in the next stage of the development; detailed demonstrations and contractual negotiations.