Michael Fabricant appealed to the Secretary of State for Business today to keep rural post offices open. "I am particularly concerned about the post offices in Hammerwich and Longdon which play such a vital rôle in village life" says Michael Fabricant.
In Questions to the Secretary of State for Business (John Hutton) in the House of Commons today (28th February), Michael asked:-
Michael Fabricant: The Secretary of State will know that in the past 10 years there have been 3,200 post office closures. He knows that another 2,500 post offices are under threat. I join the Secretary of State for Justice, the Home Secretary and others in the Cabinet who have all said that the importance of post offices should not be underestimated and that Government policy is wrong. In particular post offices such as Longdon and Hammerwich in my constituency, which are the only shops in those small villages, are vital. If they close, it will have a devastating effect on the rural economy.
Secretary of State, Mr. Hutton: One of the matters that must be considered in the closure programme is whether there are viable alternatives to closure for local sub-post offices. If the hon. Gentleman and his constituents want to make such proposals to the review team, I would strongly recommend that he do so, and that all my right hon. and hon. Friends take the same advantage of the consultation process to make such representations.
Later, Charles Hendry MP took up the battle:
Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): Is the reality not that the closure programme has been forced on the Post Office by the Government? The Government have determined that 2,500 post offices will close; the Government have set the access criteria that will decide which ones are put forward for closure; the Government have forced through an unacceptable consultation programme against Cabinet Office guidelines; and, worst of all, the Government have insisted that if one post office is saved, another in the same location must close in its place. Yet Ministers are now arguing why their constituencies should be exempt.
The Secretary of State is a fair and decent man. Does he not understand why people will be so angry about a Government who decide to force through a massively unpopular closure programme, when members of that Government believe that only other people’s constituencies should be affected?
Mr. Hutton: No, I do not accept that. The one thing that I do accept is that the closure programme is unpopular—of course it is. It is a very significant change to push through at this moment in time, but it has to be made if the Post Office business is to enjoy a secure and proper future. It is right and proper, however, that individual Members of this House should, on behalf of their constituents, make representations to the Post Office about the closure programme. There are those who say that that is not responsible; that is patently ridiculous.
Michael now says: "This is complete buck passing by the Government. They have caused the crisis and now they are asking people to find a financial solution to the mess the Government have created. The fact is that it is Government Policy which has forced pensioners and others on benefit to stop using the Post Office and that has damaged the whole retail network. The Government should reverse that policy."