15. What his policy is on the retention of post offices in villages. (100035)
Government funding of £1.34 billion is in place to modernise and maintain a national post office network of at least 11,500 branches, with particular regard to retaining village post offices in recognition of their important social and economic role in the communities that they serve.
The Minister will recall that we went over this in some detail on Tuesday, relating to the closure of the sub-post office in Torphichen village. Can he assure me that he will contact Paula Vennells, the chief executive, and her counterpart in Scotland, Sally Buchanan, and make it quite plain that when they intend to close a post office or change the service to a Post Office Local, they must have the courage to meet the public and discuss with them what they intend to do within a month of any change becoming apparent? It appears that at the moment they are hiding from my constituents.
First, may I say that I appreciated the kind words of welcome from the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray)? I guess that wishing me a modicum of success is about as good as it will get, so I thank him for that.
I appreciated the chance to debate the issue of post office closures, and particularly the temporary closure, because of the sudden resignation of the sub-postmaster, in the village of Torphichen in the constituency of the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty). I absolutely confirm that Post Office Ltd will always abide by the code of practice to ensure that action is taken quickly to restore post office services wherever possible. In his village community, everything is being done to restore those services.
I welcome my hon. Friend to his new position.
Under the last Government, post offices closed in my constituency in Courthill, Auchinairn, Westerton, Killermont and elsewhere, so I very much welcome the Government’s £1.3 billion of investment in the post office network. Will the Minister outline what the next steps will be in modernising the network so that we can all be certain that it will have a secure and sustainable future in all our constituencies?
I thank my hon. Friend. I am proud of the fact that the Government are investing £1.34 billion in ensuring that we retain the post office network, in marked contrast to the Labour party, which spent public money on closing down great chunks of the network. There is a lot of work to be done, and we particularly need to ensure that the post office becomes the front office of both local and national Government services. Post Office Ltd has already had significant success in that regard.