HC Deb 20 December 1999 vol 341 cc380-1W
Mr. Alasdair Morgan

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the effect on rural post offices of plans to pay benefits directly into claimants' bank accounts; and if he will make a statement. [102710]

Mr. Alan Johnson

The automation of the Post Office Counters Ltd. network, which is due for completion by the spring of 2001, will enable the Post Office to extend its arrangements with the high street banks to offer a range of banking facilities at post offices. This will mean that benefit recipients who wish to access their benefits in cash at post offices will continue to be able to do so, both before and after the migration of benefit payments to automated credit transfer from 2003, while other bank customers will benefit from the wider availability of banking facilities, particularly in rural areas.

Mr. Webb

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will estimate the unit cost to Post Office Counters Ltd. of processing a benefit payment by(a) voucher, (b) Girocheque and (c) payable order. [103143]

Mr. Alan Johnson

This information is in commercial confidence between the Post Office and the Benefits Agency.