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18 Nov 2002 : Column 484—continued

Dr. Ladyman: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for offering that apology to Mr. Woodbridge. I think that it was the right thing to do and it is very magnanimous of him to do it on the Government's behalf. The one piece of advice that I might offer, if he does not mind, is that during that five weeks when I was waiting for a response, if somebody had picked up the telephone and said, XWe are working on it and doing our best", an awful lot of the problems could have been headed off.

Mr. O'Brien: I am sure that my hon. Friend is entirely right. All I would say is that most officials are doing their best throughout the working day, and they work enormously hard under a great deal of stress and pressure. Sometimes, the stress and the pile of work can mean that the sort of telephone call to which he referred is not made, and I appreciate that in individual cases such this one, there can be a price to be paid by the constituent.

Question put and agreed to.

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