When I read the first words of the motion—
That this House condemns the Government's failure to provide a coherent strategy for the future of sub-post offices—
I could hardly believe my eyes, because those words come from a Tory party which, throughout its 18 years in government, was responsible for a colossal reduction in the numbers of sub-post offices, and indeed post offices, in this country.
During the Tories' period of office—more specifically, between March 1979 and just before the most recent general election—the number of Crown post offices declined from 1,580 to 606 and the number of sub-post offices from 21,213 to 17,731. In other words, over the 18 years of Tory Governments, there was a reduction of about 3,500 post offices. I therefore find it a bit rich that the Tories now have the audacity to suggest that they are the friends of the sub-postmasters. It was they who wanted to sell 51 per cent. of the shares in Royal Mail—in other words, to privatise Royal Mail—and no doubt it was the widespread outrage that was expressed at the time by employees and customers that caused the then Government to retreat. Frankly, they were more concerned with providing for profit than for public service.