Dr Julian Lewis: Will the Secretary of State accept that there is genuine concern about the validity of the consultation process? The Southern Daily Echo is a politically impartial newspaper but nevertheless felt it necessary to publish a leader entitled, “Post Office plan was a farce from the beginning”, pointing out:
“In many ways it would have been better if those in authority had simply announced their targets and then closed the book. All that this exercise has achieved is to deepen the anger amongst so many communities who now feel doubly cheated over this issue.”
One of the MPs whom the article quoted in support of that view was the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (John Denham), the Secretary of State's Cabinet colleague, who is protesting about the ridiculous closure of a post office in his constituency, where the alternative, as he points out, is at the top of the steepest hill in that constituency.
[The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr John Hutton): I am sure that there is such a thing as a genuinely independent newspaper. I personally have not read one, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has found one. I do not think that his argument is the same as that of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton [Alan Duncan] – that we should have just closed the post offices without any consultation. Today's argument is about the consultation process.]