Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 2:05 pm on 27th October 2010.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 2:05 pm, 27th October 2010

The hon. Lady's colleagues in the previous Government would have answered that question for her, because they acknowledged, as we do, that the system is broken. I will take her step by step through the arguments in the original Hooper report and in the updated version, which are common to hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The country that pioneered postal services in the 19th century has been left behind in the 21st century. The rise of e-mail and the internet has led to a dramatic fall in the number of letters that we send. The previous Government were well aware of that problem, and they commissioned an independent review of the future of the universal postal service chaired by Richard Hooper. That review found that letter volumes were in structural decline, that Royal Mail was in great financial difficulty and that the universal postal service was under threat. The report's conclusion was encapsulated in its title, "Modernise or Decline". All parts of this House accepted the conclusion that the current system was broken; that relates to the previous intervention.

The company, the union, businesses and commentators all agreed with the Hooper conclusion that the status quo then was "untenable". What was the status quo then is still the status quo now, and Richard Hooper is clear that Royal Mail is now in a worse position. How has that happened? The previous Government endorsed Richard Hooper's recommendations and acted on them. They brought forward a Bill that the Liberal Democrats and our coalition partners supported. Sadly, it never reached this House, so the future of Royal Mail was not secured. That Bill would have allowed private sector investment in Royal Mail. It would also have enabled the Government to tackle the pension deficit, and reformed the regulatory regime for postal services. Those are all measures with which we agree, and they form the basis of this Bill. We agree with those measures because, as Richard Hooper says, they are essential if the universal postal service is to survive.