§ Mr. Rendel
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the reduction in revenue to post offices under the proposed swipecard. 
§ Mr. Ian McCartney
[holding answer 14 June 1999]The Horizon platform, which is planned to be installed throughout the Post Office network by 2001, is compatible with both magnetic swipecard and smartcard technology.
As announced on 24 May 1999, Official Report, column 21, the project will no longer incorporate the magnetic swipe benefit payment card. Existing paper based methods of paying benefits in post offices will continue until 2003 after which the Benefits Agency intends to move over a period of two years to a more modern and efficient way of paying benefits using the existing automated credit transfer system. This will enable payments to be made into bank accounts. A number of banks already allow access to personal accounts at post offices, and the period to 2003 will allow the Post Office to develop its relationship with the banking industry and the range of services it offers to personal customers.
The contractual arrangements between the Post Office and its banking partners for providing access to bank accounts at post offices will remain a commercially confidential matter between the parties.