To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the £450 million subsidy announced for the rural Post Office network requires parliamentary approval; and when she expects to receive state aid approval from the European Commission. 
In answer to a question tabled by the hon. Member himself, on 2 December I announced to parliament, the Government's intention to make available 450 million from 2003 to 2006, to help the rural post office network through the transition of benefit payment to ACT. The package will be funded from Royal Mail Holdings accumulated surpluses, as part of a package to put Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd. on a commercial footing. There is therefore no requirement for parliamentary approval.The funding is subject to State Aid approval and we submitted our notification to the Commission in December for clearance. The timetable for state aid clearance is a matter for the European Commission. DTI is working to ensure that the questions and issues raised by the Commission are responded to as quickly as possible. We are confident we have a strong case and we hope to have approval in due course.