§ Mr. Heald
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Post Office Card Accounts he estimates will have been opened by 2005; what the cost to the Government of this number of accounts is; and what the cost would be if five million such accounts were to be opened by this time. 
§ Mr. Pond
[holding answer 11 July 2003]: Our working assumption is around three million Post Office card accounts will have been opened by 2005. However, there is no cap on numbers and anyone who wants to open an account can do so. Present indications are that the final number will be significantly above three million. The precise cost at any given level of take-up is commercial in confidence to Post Office Limited and is not released in line with paragraph 13, part 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government information.
§ Mr. Heald
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 19 June 2003,Official Report, column 412W, on Post Office card accounts, if he will break down the figures in respect of each benefit of the customers (a) who were invited to take part in direct payment and (b) who have failed to respond to the invitation; and for what reasons the answer did not contain the information requested. 
§ Maria Eagle
[holding answer 26 June 2003]: I regret that the information given in my previous answer was incomplete due to an error.
As at 6 June 2003 the precise break down of figures is 2,797,879 customers have been invited to convert to direct payment.250W
Of those, 2,354,313 are child benefit customers, 108,837 are Veterans Agency customers, 148,148 are pensions customers and 186,581 are Jobcentre Plus customers.
We are awaiting a response from 705,699. This consists of 514,235 child benefit customers, 11,775 Veterans Agency customers, 61,320 pension service customers and 118,369 Jobcentre Plus customers.
Pensions and Jobcentre Plus customers began their conversion process with controlled pilots. Their full conversion commenced at the beginning of May 2003. This corrects the information given in my answer on 19 June 2003, Official Report, column 412W.
§ Mr. Drew
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost of automatically creating Post Office Card Accounts for those benefit and pension claimants who choose not to open a bank account following contact from his Department as part of the migration programme. 
§ Mr. Pond
We have made no such estimates. The Post Office card account is one of the banking options available to customers. The choice of account is a matter for the customer. It would not be appropriate for the Department to open a Post Office card account on a customer's behalf, in the same way as it would be inappropriate for us to do so for any other sort of bank account.