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10 Nov 2008 : Column 547

10 Nov 2008 : Column 548

10 Nov 2008 : Column 549

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith , pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):


The House divided: Ayes 289, Noes 216.
Division No. 312]
[7.16 pm



AYES


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin

Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, rh John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike

Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, rh James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Helen Goodman and
Ms Diana R. Johnson
NOES


Afriyie, Adam
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Bottomley, Peter
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clark, Greg
Clegg, rh Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias

Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Hosie, Stewart
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lidington, Mr. David
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Maples, Mr. John
Mason, John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penrose, John
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles

Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Bob Russell and
John Hemming
Question accordingly agreed to.
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10 Nov 2008 : Column 551

10 Nov 2008 : Column 552

10 Nov 2008 : Column 553

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,


10 Nov 2008 : Column 554

Post Office Card Account

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. In view of the compressed time available for the debate and the number of hon. Members who have indicated their wish to speak, I am reducing the time limit on Back-Bench speeches to 10 minutes with the aim of securing as wide a representation as possible.

7.29 pm

Jenny Willott (Cardiff, Central) (LD): I beg to move,

The motion highlights the inconsistency between what the Government have said and what they are doing. One example of that is the fact that the Government amendment describes the title of the motion as “Removal of the Post Office Card Account”. In fact, it is entitled “Renewal of the Post Office Card Account”.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but that is nothing to do with the Government. I am afraid it is a misprint that arose in the preparation of the Order Paper.

Jenny Willott: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It could have been a Freudian slip, but clearly it was not one of the Government’s.

Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): It may amuse the hon. Lady to know that a recent response on the future of the post office network from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to the BERR Committee—of which I am a member—was headed “The Failure of the Post Office Network”. The hon. Lady is not the only Member to encounter Freudian slips.

Jenny Willott: There are clearly a number of ways in which the debate could be classified. However, there are also a number of inconsistencies between the Government’s actions and their words. They said that they would sign new contracts for the replacement of the Post Office card account at the beginning of 2008, but it is now November, and we still do not even know who has won the tender. They said that the managed closure programme
10 Nov 2008 : Column 555
would ensure a viable future for the post office network, but Ministers have campaigned against post office closures in their constituencies while voting in favour of closures elsewhere. They said that they believed in the future of Royal Mail Group, while doing all that they could to run down the business. That business made a profit of £577 million in 1997, but, after a decade of what the Government describe as unprecedented economic growth, Royal Mail Group’s profit was just £86 million in 2007-08.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): Many Labour Members are very concerned about the future of the Post Office card account, but I shall not be voting for the Liberal Democrat motion. At the time of the local elections in Newcastle-under-Lyme, the Liberal Democrats implied that they could save every post office, irrespective of whether it was uneconomic, whether the postmistress wanted to retire and whether anyone wanted to run it.

May I ask the hon. Lady a question about consistency? Will she confirm that at a Liberal Democrat party conference not too long ago, her party voted in favour of separating Royal Mail delivery from the network, privatising it, and then subsidising the network whatever the cost of doing so?

Jenny Willott: If the hon. Gentleman reads the motion he will see that it raises specific complaints, and echoes the wording of an early-day motion signed by a number of members of all parties. There is clearly support for the motion across the House.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (UKIP): Has the hon. Lady an estimate of the number of additional post office closures that may result if the Government remove the Post Office card account?

Jenny Willott: That is a very good question, to which I shall return later.

The reason why post offices and Royal Mail Group have suffered such hits on their profits is that the Government are removing a wide range of services from the Post Office, while also trying to scare away the loyal custom that the Post Office already enjoys. In 2006, they announced that people could no longer pay for their television licences at post offices. In the same year, they told people who received their benefits and pensions through the Post Office card account that it was being withdrawn, and that they would have to open bank accounts to continue to receive their benefits. In 2008, the DVLA sent out reminder notices asking people to pay by direct debit, making no mention of the possibility of paying via the Post Office. Step by step, the Government are taking business away from the Post Office.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): This is a track record that dates from the start of the Post Office card account. People had to fight to open a Post Office card account: the Department for Work and Pensions put every possible barrier in their way, including a call centre that they had to telephone where attempts would be made to talk them out of it. People had made a conscious decision to use the Post Office because they wanted a nice simple way of getting their money. The Government tried to put all possible
10 Nov 2008 : Column 556
hurdles in their way, but millions of them chose the Post Office despite that, and they should be allowed to do so again.

Jenny Willott: Opening an account was certainly a difficult option, and the positive response to the Post Office card account shows how important it is to a wide range of people.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Is this not a particular issue in rural areas? The post office really is the only service available to my constituents. The attempt to close post offices such as Abermule constitutes the wholesale removal of not just the Post Office card account but services which, although taken for granted in towns, are simply not available to rural residents who have nowhere to go except their local post offices.

Jenny Willott: The hon. Gentleman is right. The issue that he has raised has been raised by other Members on both sides of the House, and I shall return to it later, because it is important.

Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): The hon. Lady is being very generous with her time. Does she agree that if the Government made the woeful decision not to grant the new contract to the Post Office, that would be yet another nail in the coffin of the existing post office network? Would not the logical financial reaction of individual householders be not to use a replacement service, but to use cards from other banks in the Post Office—banks such as Alliance and Leicester, Bank of Ireland, Barclays, Cahoot, Clydesdale, Co-op, Nationwide, Lloyds TSB and Smile, some of which will in fact be owned by the Government?

Jenny Willott: The range of services available at post offices is obviously relevant. It is clearly beneficial for people to be able to take advantage of other services at the post office. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that people want Post Office card accounts as well.

Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): The hon. Lady has mentioned difficulties in rural arrears. She will know that one of the companies bidding for the account is PayPoint, which took over the television licence. That has caused huge problems to people in rural areas who wish to renew their licences.

Jenny Willott: That is true.

Nearly all my speech is being made by other Members, so I shall make some progress now. I shall allow further interventions later.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Jenny Willott: I will give way once more.

Malcolm Bruce: First, PayPoint may have more outlets, but they are not as well distributed as those of the Post Office. Secondly, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland, which are about to become Government-owned, do not allow people to use cash at post offices. If we lose this service in Scotland, it will be a huge disadvantage to most people living in virtually every rural area in the country.


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