I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He and I are the “Faithers of the Hoose”, given that we were both elected in 2001. [Interruption.] I know that he signed in before me, but I still claim that I was elected before him—we will fight that one out at some point in the future.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I think we are all concerned about the intervening period and what happens now to the legislation being introduced. There are several things that I believe the Government could do. A “cease and desist” instruction could be enacted to tell banks very clearly that there is an expectation that no branches should be closed in the period between now and the legislation being introduced. The Government could make it retrospective and say that the clear intention of the legislation is that there should be no branches closed until the Bill has been considered. Again, this is something that could be done in advance of the legislation being introduced. It is really a matter for the Government, but I think the Minister is hearing very clearly.
Looking around the Chamber, most of us represent rural or semi-rural constituencies, and we have this very clear problem. We remain greatly concerned about what happens now. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there now seems to be a rush to close branches ahead of the legislation coming in. It is almost perverse that the banks would choose to do so, knowing that we are coming to some sort of solution about how this matter could be taken forward. I really hope that something can be done in the intervening weeks and months.