some default text...
Previous SectionIndexHome Page


The Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness (Mr. Stephen Timms): We have had a good debate with some thoughtful contributions. However, I do not know whether the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) has seen the memorandum produced today by the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, expressing disappointment at the way in which the Conservative party has tried to pursue the issue in party political terms. That has indeed been a disappointing feature of the debate. Nevertheless, as I say, we have heard some thoughtful contributions and the successful launch—

Mr. Robathan rose—

Mr. Timms: I have very little time, but I shall give way once.

Mr. Robathan: As it happens, more Labour Members' names are appended to that motion than Conservative Members' names.

Mr. Timms: The point is that the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters has today expressed disappointment at the fact that his party has sought to exploit the motion. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take that to heart.

Mr. Robathan rose—

Mr. Timms: No, I will not give way again.

Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: I am sure that this will not be a point of order.

Mr. Heald: Is it right for the Minister to say that the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters is against us proposing the motion, given that when I spoke to its general secretary, Mr. Colin Baker, earlier today, he congratulated me?

Mr. Speaker: Let us return to the debate before the House.

Mr. Timms: The successful launch of universal banking services on 1 April fulfilled our commitment to ensuring that people can continue to collect their benefits in cash at the local post office if they choose to do so. Customers now have three account options under the direct payment arrangements for how to they want to be paid. The first is an existing account, bank or building society. The second is one of the new bank or building society basic accounts for those who are new to banking and simply want to pay money in and get cash out, and perhaps pay bills automatically. That includes direct debit: it was said earlier that that is not possible with a basic bank account, but it is. The third is a Post Office card account—a simple account for the receipt of benefits, pension and tax credit payments.

In opening the debate, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary made it clear that, of the responses received so far from pensioners—a particularly important group of customers for the Post Office—half requested a Post

11 Jun 2003 : Column 792

Office card account, and they will get one. They are making up their own minds and deciding on their choice. About 45 per cent. of Jobcentre Plus customers requested a Post Office card account as well. The proportion of child benefit customers is much lower, but that is no surprise. It demonstrates that people are successfully choosing the account that meets their circumstances best, precisely as we intended. It is also clear that many of those who are not choosing a Post Office card account will—as my hon. Friend said earlier—continue to use their local post office to obtain benefit cash from their bank account. There is also every prospect of those who have not used the post office before being able, for the first time, to access cash with a card at the post office.

The Post Office card account is an important element of the new framework. For many on benefits, it will be the best account for them. It is simple and problem-free and, on the evidence we have seen so far, it is particularly attractive to pensioners. It is, of course, essential that those who deliver the service do so professionally, efficiently and effectively. It is because of its importance that it features in line 3 of the leaflet that the DWP has issued to explain clearly how the new procedures will work.

Some people have said that supporters of the Post Office should be pushing people towards the Post Office card account, whether they want it or not. That would be a serious mistake. First, customers should be able to choose the best account for them. Secondly, the card account does not contribute much to increasing financial inclusion, in the way that having a bank account does. Thirdly—and this is the point that I wish to emphasise—the real opportunity for the Post Office going forward is offering access to bank services more widely. It could become, as my hon. Friends the Members for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) and for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) suggested in their thoughtful contributions, the people's bank. Banking is a service that everybody in the country will use and that will allow the Post Office to expand its base of customers, rather than locking it into the diminishing group who only ever want to draw weekly benefit cash. Being locked into that shrinking group is at the heart of the Post Office's problems. The Post Office has to break new ground and win customers who use bank accounts and, thanks to the £500 million investment that we have made in universal banking services, we have put it in a position to do so and to capture new and growing markets, instead of being trapped in declining ones.

The Post Office already provides banking services on behalf of several banks. It provides a paper-based service that enables customers to cash cheques at post offices free of charge. From 1 April, in a further development of network banking, Alliance and Leicester began providing electronic access to all their bank accounts at any post office. Barclays began doing the same on 23 April. That is a significant development because it means that 11 million current account holders, using their existing cards, can now draw out cash free of charge at every post office from Land's End to John O'Groats. That is 11 million people with a compelling reason, many of them for the first time, to use their local post offices regularly, thanks to the Government's investment in the technology to make it all work, which was—incidentally—delivered on time to every post office.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 793

The Post Office is talking to other banks to extend access to their current account holders, and several hon. Members have supported that move, too. The Post Office is uniquely placed to provide the banks with additional outlets and that is where its future success will lie. It means that every post office in the country can now say, "Do your banking at the post office." And the Post Office has the technology platform to offer a host of new services that can win a new generation of customers for the Post Office.

Several specific points have been raised in the debate but because of time constraints I cannot address all of them. However, I wish to deal with a concern raised several times in the debate, about carers with responsibility for several people. It has been suggested that those people might have to remember a different PIN number for every person whose money they collect through a Post Office card account. That is not the case. There is a facility on the Post Office card account so that people can change the PIN numbers and, if they wish, use the same PIN number to access each card account.

David Maclean (Penrith and The Border) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 314.

Division No. 228
[6:59 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Barrett, John
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Beith, rh A. J.
Bellingham, Henry
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Malcolm
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Butterfill, John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Cameron, David
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James (Beverley)
Curry, rh David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Dorrell, rh Stephen
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Annabelle
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, rh William
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, rh Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Keetch, Paul
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Lilley, rh Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Mates, Michael
Maude, rh Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Portillo, rh Michael
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wishart, Pete
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Mark Francois and
Mr. David Wilshire


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, rh David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, rh Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, rh John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James (Glasgow Baillieston)
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Gillian Merron and
Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe

Question accordingly negatived.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 797

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 307, Noes 178.


Next Section

IndexHome Page