§ Mr. Webb
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 20 May 2002,Official Report, column 48W, on the new direct bank, for what reason she was unable to provide information on whether all benefit claimants will have access to the new direct bank; when she expects the new direct bank to be established; which (a) banks and (b) building societies have agreed to deliver the new direct bank services; and with which company a contract has been signed for the benefit payment card account. 
§ Mr. Timms
My hon. Friend, the former Minister for Competitiveness and E-Commerce, was unable to provide information on "the new direct bank" because there was and is no such entity on which to provide information.
Universal banking services consist of two elements, post office access to the banks' own basic bank accounts and a simple card account at Post Office for benefit and tax credit recipients. These are scheduled for delivery in advance of the migration of benefit payment to ACT which begins in April 2003.
Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland/ Nat West, HSBC, Abbey National, HBOS, Alliance and Leicester. NAG, the Co-operative bank and the Nationwide building society have agreed to make their 998W own basic bank accounts accessible at post offices and to support setting up a simple card account accessible only at post offices.
Post Office Ltd. has contracted with EDS for the outsourced services for the card account.
The Government are developing a detailed migration and marketing strategy for the transition to ACT. The emphasis of the ACT migration and marketing strategy will be to ensure that each customer has the best bank account for his or her circumstances. Conventional and basic bank accounts offer more services and do not have the limitations of the card account and so are likely to be the best option for the vast majority of people. There will, however, be no eligibility criteria or cap on card account numbers. And whatever type of account is used, we remain fully committed to meeting the Prime Minister's pledge that those who wish to do so will be able to continue to get their benefits in cash at post offices, in full and without charge.