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The Minister for Textiles and part-time E-minister, Patricia Hewitt, has refused to take part in an online debate about e-commerce in the run-up to the general election.

Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC), Chris Shaw, challenged the Minister because he believes New Labour's record on e-issues is simply not up to scratch.

Shaw is contesting the same seat as Ms Hewitt in the general election and wants to go head-to-head with Ms Hewitt as part of his fight for the Leicester West constituency.

"In 1997 New Labour suggested that it was the modern party and the natural party of the Internet generation" said Shaw

"Nearly four years on, the E-minister's policies have done more harm that good".

Shaw reckons that under the New Labour Government the growth in Internet access has been slow making the UK uncompetitive. He also believes that the Government has been slow to break the BT monopoly and open up competition to provide cheaper Internet access.

A spokeswoman for Ms Hewitt's constituency office in Leicester told The Register: "Patricia will not be taking part in the online debate because she feels she will be too busy continuing to talk to people in Leicester West."

Shaw first challenged the Minister for Textiles and E-minister to a debate last year although Ms Hewitt's constituency office claims that Shaw never formally issued the challenge. ®

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