Oral Parliamentary Question (OPQ)
Date of Answer: 03.05.2007
Column References: 459 c1638
Member Tabling Question: Lilley, Peter
Topic: Rural Post Offices
Question: The Secretary of State rightly recognised that the best way to support local post offices is to encourage people to use them. Will he admit that before the Government started actively discouraging pensioners and others from drawing their pensions from the post offices, post offices benefited not just from the remuneration that they received from the Department for Work and Pensions for handling those transactions, but from increased use by pensioners and others? Consequently, it will cost the Government more to preserve the post office network by subsiding it than it would have done if the Government had continued to use them.
Answering Department: Dept of Trade and Industry
Member Answering Question: Darling, Alistair
Answer: No, I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He may recall that in the last year of the Conservative Government, when he was Secretary of State for Social Security, his Department was already considering how it could encourage more people to put money into their bank accounts. It was doing so partly because that would cost the Department less, but it was also concerned about the fact that the old giros were open to fraud-as he will recall, because he made lots of conference speeches about that. The only reason why he can say, “Well, that didn’t happen very much under my regime” is because he left office a few months later, but the process started when he was Secretary of State, and indeed before that, in relation to child benefit-so I do not agree with what he is saying.
All Conservative Members of Parliament must recall that they stood for election on the basis of a manifesto that endorsed the David James report, which called for an even greater transfer of money directly to people’s bank accounts. The right hon. Gentleman may not want to admit it publicly, but there is recognition that there have been profound changes to the way in which people do business and choose to receive their pensions or benefits. We need to respond to that, and we are prepared to back the Post Office financially, as well as in other ways.