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I beg to move,
That this House
regrets the proposal to close up to 2,500 post offices;
recognises the vital role post offices play in local communities;
notes the concern and unpopularity amongst the general public of closing such a large portion of the network;
has concerns that the access criteria laid down for the closures consultation do not adequately take into account local geographical factors and public transport networks;
is concerned that the consultation period is only for six weeks rather than three months, as recommended by Cabinet Office guidelines;
believes that post offices must move with the times in the services they offer and that options for business expansion and developing business opportunities with local authorities should be explored further;
and calls upon the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Limited to suspend the compulsory closure of sub-post offices while these issues are re-assessed.
This matter affects both sides of the House in equal measure. I was concerned a moment ago that only two Labour Back Benchers were sitting in the Chamber but I see that the numbers are now swelling. I shall try to keep my remarks to a minimum, because I know that Members from all parties want to speak.
We are entering a critical phase of the Government's closure programme. Half of the country's constituencies have now gone through the process of consultation and as a result approximately 1,120 post offices are already destined to close. The network change is well on its way, yet the chorus of dissent that surrounded the then Secretary of State, now the Chancellor, when in 2006 he published his proposals for the most radical programme of cuts in the Post Office's history has not faded away, as his successor will have hoped. In fact, the more people encounter the process at first hand, the more they realise that it is not just unfair, but in many respects illogical; not just badly thought-through, but in some cases even avoidable.
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