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14 May 2008 : Column 479WH—continued

In respect of service on the ground floor, my understanding is that there is a mobile unit on the ground floor and that it can be operated by a post office staff member if customers are unable to access the first floor for any reason. It comprises a Horizon terminal, which is the IT system that the Post Office uses, and customers can access the full range of Post
14 May 2008 : Column 480WH
Office products from it. It may be that more needs to be done to make people aware that that option is available in the store.

Mr. Kidney: I am intrigued by that. Perhaps we would not be having this debate if there were such a facility on the ground floor. In preparation for the debate, I sent my hon. Friend a copy of my letter to Post Office Ltd about my campaign to bring the post office down to the ground floor, and I attached an e-mail from Derek Boult from last month in which he said that he and I remembered that we had been told about trolleys on the ground floor in other stores, and that we could have one in Stafford. I have been there twice and never seen one, and Derek says in his e-mail that we were promised a trolley but that the Post Office has reneged on the promise. He has been to the store much more often than I have, and nobody has seen a trolley.

Mr. McFadden: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. As I said, he will of course be closer to the detail of what is on the ground floor in a particular store in his constituency. I have been told that a trolley is available in this store, so I can only say that in good faith.

To cut to the chase, some improvements have been made. My hon. Friend and local campaigners have raised more fundamental questions about whether the lift is large enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Again, I have been told that it is. It appears from what he said that the accommodation is not always satisfactory.

I agree with my hon. Friend that accessing services should not involve getting through an obstacle course. That is important. He is absolutely right to say that it is in no one’s interest if customers are discouraged or put off from conducting their business at a post office, whether it is in WH Smith or anywhere else. The issue is what can I do for him. The detail must be handled by Post Office Ltd. I contacted it yesterday about the generality of what I expected in this debate. Having heard what my hon. Friend said today, I am happy to contact Post Office Ltd again on his behalf to ask it to review disability access arrangements at the branch. He may be fed up with meeting representatives of Post Office Ltd and WH Smith, but I am happy to ask for another meeting to see what we can do to ease the problem.

It being Fifteen minutes past Five o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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