Post Office Branch Closures

Scotland – in the House of Commons am ar 29 Tachwedd 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential impact of post office branch closures on the delivery of Government services in Scotland.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential impact of post office branch closures on the delivery of Government services in Scotland.

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

The United Kingdom Government continue to provide significant support to the national post office network, adding up to more than £2.4 billion over the last 10 years. This funding enabled 98% of individuals in rural areas to live within three miles of their nearest post office in 2022, with the overall network as large today as it has been for five years.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Our rural branches of the post office are at the very core, the very heart, of our rural communities. At present, His Majesty’s Government provide certain services to the public via the post office network. Does the Minister agree that it would be a good notion to encourage the Scottish Government to go down the same route and provide as many services as possible in that way, thus ensuring the future of those branches?

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I agree with the hon. Member. I recognise the vital importance of post offices for constituents in rural communities such as his own and also in my own constituency in the Scottish Borders. It is of course for the Scottish Government to assess how to make their services available to people across Scotland, considering accessibility as well as value for money for the taxpayer. However, I would be happy to facilitate a meeting with my colleagues in the Department for Business and Trade to see what further encouragement we could give the Scottish Government to use the post office network for the delivery of their services.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

Scotland has seen the closure of 40 post offices in the past two years, yet as Jamie Stone pointed out, the communities that still have post offices are losing access to Government services, particularly in rural areas. Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency services are due to cease being available at post offices from the end of next March. What conversations has the Minister had with the Department for Business and Trade about keeping DVLA services available from post offices?

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I should start by correcting the hon. Gentleman in that the post office network is not in decline. More post offices have been opened than closed over the past year. We do see fluctuations in different parts of the country, with many postmasters running a franchise business in their own right. Many face the same challenges as other high street businesses. The DVLA and the Post Office extended their contract until 31 March 2024. The post office network operates commercially at arm’s length from the Government and is responsible for taking decisions on commercial matters such as the DVLA contract.