§ Dr. Cable
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assurances have been given by Barclays and other banks committed to installing cash terminals in branch post offices as regards(a) access and (b) charges for customers belonging to banks and mutuals which do not have the same outlets; and what impact the decision of the LINK group of banks to allow ATM charging will have on the assurances. 
§ Mr. Alan Johnson
My right hon. Friend considers that the imposition of such charges will impact disproportionately on the socially excluded and those in rural areas. People on fixed budgets, particularly pensioners and the unemployed, should not be charged £2.50 a time to withdraw small amounts of cash. If charges are to be introduced, we will ensure that consumers know what they are before they proceed with a transaction. If the banks will not do this voluntarily, my right hon. Friend has powers under the Prices Act 1974 to compel them.
Under the new Competition Act 1998, the Director General of Fair Trading can investigate whether the LINK agreement on surcharges is in any way anti-competitive and he now has powers to impose severe penalties for infringements of the prohibitions of the Act.
I understand that the Post Office does not have a commercial agreement with Barclays regarding the installation of cash machines in post offices. Contract arrangement with the proposed partners have not yet been finalised.
No assurances have been provided by potential partners, nor have they indicated yet how they will react to the LINK decision on charging which is under review. Access and charging arrangements will, in the first instance, be commercial matters for the Post Office and its partners.