§ Mr. Cousins
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many post offices, and in which locations, are using the magnetic strips benefits payments card service; and how many post offices he estimates will be using this service by 31 March 1999. 115W
§ Mr. Field
The Benefits Agency, Post Office Counters Ltd. and ICL Pathway are undertaking the automation of post offices and benefit payments. Order books and Girocheques will be phased out and replaced by a magnetic stripe plastic card to provide a modern, secure and convenient method of paying benefits. This will involve the automation of over 19,000 post offices and the conversion of approximately 20 million Social Security benefit recipients who choose to collect payment at the post office. The project is being implemented under the terms of a PFI contract let to ICL Pathway under the previous administration in 1996.
§ Mr. Field
This Department and Post Office Counters Ltd. undertook a feasibility study before inviting tenders for the Private Finance Initiative contract, subsequently let in 1996, to automate post offices and benefit payments. This included an examination of the Anpost system in the Republic of Ireland both before and during the qualitative evaluation of the tenders.