§ Mr. Illsley
To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many post offices in rural areas have been closed in Northern Ireland since 1979. 
§ Mr. Oppenheim
[holding answer 22 April 1996]: I understand from Post Office Counters Ltd that records are available only from 1987. The total number of post offices in rural areas of Northern Ireland in March 1987 was 515. In March 1996, the corresponding number was 460, a net change of 55. Some of this change was due to some rural offices being reclassified as urban offices. The majority of rural closures are due to the difficulty of finding a suitable applicant to take over the office.