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8 Oct 2007 : Column 351W—continued

The Government will continue to work closely with UK refiners as they address these challenges. The Government have also established with industry an aviation fuel task group to analyse what supply infrastructure may be needed to meet future jet fuel demand at UK airports up to 2030. Finally, we have taken steps to ensure our oil emergency stocking system is better placed to deal with the increasing levels of oil import dependence we face.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 20 February 2007, Official Report, column 658W, on oil: reserves, how many years of oil supply the Government have estimated are available to (a) the international community and (b) the UK in the forthcoming (i) five, (ii) 10, (iii) 15 and (iv) more than 15 years at present rates of usage. [154355]

Mr. McFadden: The Department’s view is that global oil resources are sufficient to sustain not only current rates of global usage but also the expected increase in usage for the foreseeable future. Supplies will be made available to the international community and the UK through the market mechanism, with the exact level depending on the complex interaction of a number of factors, including technological developments, economic growth, the policies of Governments, and relative energy prices.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 20 February 2007, Official Report, column 658W, on oil: reserves, what assessment he has made of the affordability of oil supplies to the UK in the next (a) five, (b) 10 and (c) 15 years. [154356]

Mr. McFadden: Global oil market tightness is expected to ease slightly over the next few years as new production and refining capacity is brought on-stream. However, given the complexity of contributory factors,
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the implications for international oil prices are uncertain. However, most analysts do not expect oil prices to make a sustained return to the average levels seen during the 1990s (around US$25 per barrel in today’s prices), reflecting an expected increase in the market share of a relatively small number of producers, strong demand growth from developing countries, investment constraints, and a rise in marginal production costs outside OPEC.

One Northeast Communications Team: Information Officers

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many press officers are employed by the One Northeast communications team. [154148]

Mr. Timms: Five.

Post Offices

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether those served by outreach post offices and non-commercial post office outlets will count as part of the 90 per cent. of the population to be within one mile of their nearest post office outlet in the access criteria set by Post Office Ltd. [153868]

Mr. McFadden: In measuring compliance with the access criterion that 90 per cent. of the UK population be within one mile of their nearest post office outlet, proximity to all categories of post office including outreach sites will be taken into account.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what minimum level of service provision will be required of post office outlets for the 90 per cent. of the population who are to be within one mile of their nearest outlet. [153896]

Mr. McFadden: Decisions about local service offerings and opening hours at post offices are a matter for Post Office Ltd. and local sub-postmasters, reflecting the needs and demand in local communities. It is not appropriate to seek to set national standards for matters which are best considered at local level.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether Post Office Ltd is considering the use of church premises for new post offices to replace some of the post offices that are to be closed in rural communities. [153931]

Mr. McFadden: Post Office Ltd will consider any premises which are suitably located and accessible as prospective sites in areas where new or outreach post offices are to be established.

Post Offices: Closures

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will inform hon. Members, local residents and local authorities contemporaneously of consultations on post office closure plans; and if he will make a statement. [153780]


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Mr. McFadden: Post Office Ltd will inform Members of Parliament of its area network change proposals in the week before the start of local consultation and local authorities will be invited to engage with the company on its proposals before local consultation commences.

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether any local authority or hon. Member has been formally contacted on the consultation on post office closure plans; and if he will make a statement. [153781]

Mr. McFadden: Post Office Ltd wrote to all Members of Parliament and to local authorities in July explaining the process they will be following in implementing the network change programme and giving the expected timetable for considering the area plan in each constituency or local authority area.

Post Offices: Disadvantaged

Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions his Department (a) has had and (b) plans to have with (i) RNIB, (ii) RNID, (iii) Age Concern and (iv) Help the Aged on the implications of the transfer of Crown post office services to WH Smith branches for people with disabilities. [154534]

Mr. McFadden: The Department has held no such discussions. Under the Code of Practice agreed with Postwatch, Post Office Ltd. consults with a range of local representatives on the customer service implications of transferring the management of a specific Crown office to a franchise partner. In addition, Postwatch has a statutory duty to protect, promote and develop the interests of all customers of postal services in the UK and a special duty to represent vulnerable groups including the elderly and disabled. Postwatch therefore meets regularly with groups such as Help the Aged, RNIB, Age Concern etc. to understand the concerns affecting the network and report these to Post Office Ltd.

The Post Office Ltd. franchise agreement establishes a contractual obligation for WH Smith to comply with the requirements of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and appropriate health and safety legislation.

Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions his Department plans to have with the Post Office Ltd. and WH Smith on changes to chip and pin services in WH Smith branches to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired customers. [154535]

Mr. McFadden: Post office branches located within WH Smith will have the same pin pads as those found in all post office branches across the UK. To assist blind and visually impaired customers, these pin pads have a raised transparent dot on the 5 key, a plastic guard covering the function keys at the top of the pad and raised symbols alongside the clear, enter and cancel keys.

Post Office Ltd. have worked with the RNIB to produce a leaflet entitled “How to use the PIN Pad at a Post Office branch” which is available from RNIB, or
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from the Post Office on 0845 722 3344. The Post Office card account was one of the first cards in the UK to feature an RNIB recommended cut away indent on its trailing edge to help blind users orient the card. It also has a black arrow to help guide insertion, chosen as “easiest to see” by a group of visually impaired people.

Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the agreement between Post Office Ltd. and WH Smith involves WH Smith assuming a responsibility to publish a disability equality scheme and carry out a disability equality impact assessment. [154536]

Mr. McFadden: For the purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, Post Office Ltd. is not considered to be a public authority, does not have specific obligations under the Disability Equality duty and is not required to publish a disability equality scheme.

Disability access is a priority for Post Office Ltd., and they are working with WH Smith to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to ensure reasonable adjustments are made and that the Disability Discrimination Act is complied with. To meet the requirements of the Act, WH Smith carried out audits at all their sites to asses their accessibility for disabled customers and employees and have spent around £1.5 million on improving access to meet the regulations. In addition Post Office Ltd. and WH Smith are signed up to the website www.directenquiries.com--a register of the access available in all their stores. Customers are encouraged to give feedback on the standards of service and access in WH Smith stores. This feedback will be monitored to ensure that appropriate reasonable adjustments are put in place to ensure disabled access to post office services.

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make it his policy to ensure that alternative locations for post offices that Royal Mail propose for closure will not result in a deterioration in standards of access for people with disabilities. [155605]

Mr. Timms: Disability access to Crown post offices is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. acting in compliance with the requirements of the disability discrimination legislation.

Post Offices: Dorset

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make a statement on the planned location of new outreach post offices within West Dorset constituency. [153867]

Mr. McFadden: No proposals or decisions have yet been made on any new outreach post office locations in West Dorset. Post Office Ltd is now progressively developing proposals for network change in area plans based on groupings of parliamentary constituencies. These will then be subject to local public consultation after input from sub-postmasters, Postwatch and local authorities.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what
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proportion of post offices planned for closure within West Dorset constituency are in (a) rural and (b) urban areas. [153870]

Mr. McFadden: No proposals or decisions have yet been made on post office closures in West Dorset. Post Office Ltd. is now progressively developing proposals for network change in area plans based on groupings of parliamentary constituencies. These will then be subject to local public consultation after input from sub-postmasters, Postwatch and local authorities.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the timescale is for planned post office closures within West Dorset constituency in the period up to the end of 2009. [153871]

Mr. McFadden: Post Office Ltd. wrote to all Members of Parliament in July explaining the process they will be following in implementing the network change programme and giving the expected timetable for considering the area plan in their constituency. I understand from the company that it expects to engage with sub-postmasters in the process of developing specific proposals for West Dorset in April 2008.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many outreach post offices will open in West Dorset constituency during the planned post office closure programme. [153872]

Mr. McFadden: No proposals or decisions have yet been made on how many outreach post office locations may be established in West Dorset. Post Office Ltd. is now progressively developing proposals for network change in area plans based on groupings of parliamentary constituencies. These will then be subject to local public consultation after input from sub-postmasters, Postwatch and local authorities.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many post offices are planned for closure within West Dorset constituency. [153895]

Mr. McFadden: No proposals or decisions have yet been made on post office closures in West Dorset. Post Office Ltd is now progressively developing proposals for network change in area plans based on groupings of parliamentary constituencies. These will then be subject to local public consultation after input from sub-postmasters, Postwatch and local authorities.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the (a) opening times and (b) services of the new outreach post offices will be, with particular reference to the post offices to be located in the West Dorset parliamentary constituency. [153932]

Mr. McFadden: Decisions about local service offerings and opening hours at outreach post offices are a matter for Post Office Ltd and local sub-postmasters, reflecting the needs and demand in local communities both in West Dorset and across the
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country. It is not appropriate to seek to set national standards for matters which are best considered at local level.

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the timescale is for the opening of new outreach post offices within the West Dorset parliamentary constituency; and if he will make a statement. [153933]

Mr. McFadden: The opening of any new outreach post offices in West Dorset will be integrated with the implementation of the wider network change programme for the area. I understand that under Post Office Ltd's planned timetable this would be in autumn 2008.

Post Offices: Tyne and Wear

Mr. Kemp: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make a statement on the future of the post office network in Houghton and Washington East constituency. [154306]

Mr. McFadden: No proposals or decisions have yet been made on individual post offices in Houghton and Washington East. Post Office Ltd is now progressively developing proposals for network change in area plans based on groupings of parliamentary constituencies. These will then be subject to local public consultation after input from sub-postmasters, Postwatch and local authorities. Post Office Ltd wrote to all Members of Parliament in July explaining the process they will be following in implementing the network change programme and giving the expected timetable for considering the area plan in the constituency.

Postal Services

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether Post Office Ltd. has negotiated agreements with suppliers of goods or services which do not allow all branches to sell those products. [155444]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 17 September 2007]: The negotiation of agreements with suppliers of goods and services is a matter for Post Office Ltd. and the suppliers, who will seek to determine the most effective way of delivering those products and services. Post Office Ltd. provide more than 170 different products and services and the vast majority are available across the national network of post office branches and many services are also now available through the internet or to order over the phone.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the Post Office expects to publish information relating to the intention of sub-postmasters to leave the network during the local area plan consultation. [155445]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 17 September 2007]: The Post Office network transformation programme is required to meet the Government's access criteria and ensure a sustainable national network for the future.
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The programme will also consider the availability of public transport, alternative access to key services, local geography, local demographics and the impact on local economies. Closure decisions will not be determined by sub-postmasters' preferences though there will be cases where there is a strategic fit between a closure proposal and the sub-postmaster’s wish to leave the network. As such, this will not form part of the information provided during the local area plan consultation. Information on branches proposed for closure will be provided by Post Office Ltd and this will be displayed on posters in branches and also available on the Post Office Ltd website.


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