HC Deb 22 March 2000 vol 346 cc609-10W
Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the impact on the number of post offices in Gloucestershire of the provisions of the Postal Services Bill. [115701]

Mr. Alan Johnson

The Postal Services Bill is primarily about the letters and parcels market and is not itself expected to have an effect on the number of post offices in Gloucestershire or elsewhere.

The Government are committed to ensuring that post offices are equipped and re-designed to face the future, and that they are thereby able to continue to play their role as an essential part of the country's social fabric. The Bill, therefore, has a requirement (at Clause 31) for the new regulator, the Postal Services Commission, to provide (in consultation with the new Consumer Council) advice and information to the Secretary of State about the number and location of public post offices and their accessibility to users of postal and other services. There is also provision (at clause 32) for the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance to the Commission on social and environmental matters. It is envisaged that these will include access criteria for public post offices.

The PIU in the Cabinet Office is carrying out a study on the post office network to identify the contribution made by post offices to the vitality of local communities; to consider how the post office network can best contribute to the Government's objectives for the future; and in the process to formulate objectives for the post office network, including recommendations on access criteria. Conclusions are expected in the spring.