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Post Office

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

14. What the criteria are for awarding the contract to operate the successor to the Post Office card account; and if he will make a statement. (140304)

As I made clear in my written statement of 17 May, the new account will be available nationally, and eligibility for the new account will be on the same basis as for the Post Office card account.

May I suggest to the Minister that when the franchise for the new card account is let, he looks closely at the BBC’s experience of letting the franchise for the sale of television licences to PayPoint? That has left literally hundreds of constituents from the smaller islands in my community with no access to an over-the-counter service. Will he give me an undertaking that whatever form the new account takes, it will be accessible to all communities in the country?

Yes. As the hon. Gentleman will see from the written statement that I issued on 17 May, we have set out the criteria under which we have asked interested parties to submit an expression of interest. We made it clear that there must be national coverage, and that the account will have to be available in rural areas. That should reassure the hon. Gentleman that the facilities currently enjoyed by his constituents with card accounts will continue to be provided; in fact, there will be additional activity under the account provided by the successor account.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that there are sufficient security measures in place for the successor card account, so that we can prevent a type of fraud that I dealt with recently in a constituency case? A couple in my constituency in South Yorkshire were threatened with the loss of jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and other benefits because a couple in Canary Wharf were claiming funds using a Post Office card account that was opened with my constituents’ details. Will he ensure that extra security measures are brought in with the successor card account?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. Thankfully, generally speaking we have very few problems relating to fraud with the Post Office card account. From the sound of it, the case that he raised with me is more an issue of identity theft and of course, as he will be aware, the Government are taking many measures to try to bear down on that. The existing card account has been largely devoid of opportunities for fraud, and I am certain that we will carefully consider such issues when we award the contract for the successor product.