My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry outlined a package of measures on 14 December 2006 to put the Post Office network on a stable footing, Official Report, columns 1026-28, volume 454.
In that statement he said:
The Government remained committed to allowing people to get their pension or benefit in cash at the post office if they chose to do so, and a range of accounts were already available at the post office that made that possible;
The current Post Office card account contract ended in March 2010 and that the Government had decided to continue with a new account after 2010. The new account would be available nationally and customers would be eligible for the account on the same basis as they are now;
That European Union procurement rules required the Government to tender competitively for this new product.
My Department has now started this process by submitting a notice which will appear in the Official Journal of the European Union. I will arrange for a copy of the notice to be placed in the Library. The key elements of the notice are:
The procurement will cover the provision of end to end services (e.g. card acquisition and maintenance, and payments of cash) for a simple card-based customer owned account;
The customers should be able to access their cash at an ATM and personal teller outlets (across a counter) located throughout the UK;
The size of the personal teller network is expected to be in the region of 10,000 outlets.
We will be joined in the procurement exercise by HM Revenue and Customs, the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency and the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency.
Details of the successful bidder(s) will be announced in due course with our aim being to sign contracts in the first part of 2008.