§ Mr. Waterson
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the latest estimates of the cost of the Universal Bank for(a) the predicted 2 million and (b) the 6 million prospective customers. 
§ Mr. Alexander
Universal banking services consist of two elements, namely access to the financial institutions' basic bank accounts at post offices and a Post Office Card Account (POCA) for the encashment of benefit and tax credits for those unable or unwilling to use even a basic bank account. The banking industry will meet the costs of providing post office access to their own accounts. The cost of the POCA, which will be met by Government, together with a fixed contribution from the financial institutions, is subject to commercial negotiations between Consignia and the Paying Departments and between Consignia and the potential supplier of the banking engine for POCA. The estimate of costs are confidential under
Lancashire—employee jobs by industry Manufacturing Section D of SIC (92) Services Section G-Q of SIC (92) Other industries1 Number (000) Percentage of all employees Number (000) Percentage of all employees Number (000) Percentage of all employees 19952 129 24.1 378 70.4 30 5.5 19962 130 23.8 384 70.6 31 5.6 19972 131 24.1 384 70.9 27 5.0 19983 139 23.8 411 70.8 31 5.4 19993 130 23.7 384 70.2 33 6.1 1 Other industries' include agriculture, fishing, mining and quarrying, utilities and and construction (sections A, B, C, E and F of SIC(92)). 2 As at September (1995–97). 3 As at December (1998–99).
Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, because they are subject to commercial negotiations.
§ Mr. Alexander
Barclays, Lloyds TSB, RBS/NatWest, HSBC, Abbey National, the Halifax, Alliance and Leicester, the BOS, NAG, the Co-operative Bank, and the Nationwide Building Society have signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing that they will make their PAT 14 basic bank accounts accessible through post offices, commit to simple and straightforward opening of those bank accounts at a post office and contribute £180 million to the costs of the Post Office Card Account (POCA).
Implementation of universal banking services is making good progress as detailed commercial negotiations continue between the banks, the Paying Departments and Consignia.