§ Miss McIntosh
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the rural post office network. 
§ Mr. Timms
The Government are committed to the maintenance of a nationwide network of post offices and placed a formal requirement on the Post Office in November 2000 to maintain the network and to prevent any avoidable closures of rural post offices.1374W
The Government have already invested in modernisation comprising some £480 million to computerise the whole post office network. We have made available a £2 million fund to support volunteer and community initiatives to maintain or re-open post office facilities in rural areas where traditional services would otherwise close. Figures for end May 2002, showed that 64 applications—to a value of £500,000—had been assessed and approved and to that date payments of £231,000 had also been made.
In addition, we have received advice form the Postal Services Commission on transitional financial assistance and proposals for the rural network are being developed in the context of that advice.