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James Purnell: I do not know whether my hon. Friend can comment on this point. Does he think that there is merit in the Post Office investigating someone else taking over a franchise if that is possible? Does he agree that there should at least be discussions on that issue if the consultation is to be real?

Mr. Sutcliffe: My hon. Friend makes a good point, but if I dealt with it, it would confuse this matter. His point about franchises relates to directly managed offices and Crown post offices, with regard to which there has been lots of press speculation about what might or might not happen. I am happy to enter correspondence with him about the detail of the case that he wants to raise.

It is important that we have a viable post office network for the reasons that my right hon. Friend has given. The Government are committed to that, and we believe that it should be done in a planned way. We have offered financial support of £2 billion since 1999, and it is crucial that we have a viable network. It is also crucial that the consumer interest is looked after. With the provisos that I have outlined to him, I look forward to ensuring that we get to the bottom of what went on in his constituency.

10.2 pm

Sitting suspended.

10.20 pm

On resuming—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): The Question is, That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the matter dividable?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: No.



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