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

Is that the voice of heritage Labour-at last?

Let me summarise the substance of the Bill. As the discussion so far has revealed, Members will find much in the measure that is familiar. As I said, when drafting the Bill we drew on much the same evidence as the previous Government. The facts are not in dispute, and we have reached much the same conclusion: the company needs private sector investment, the pension deficit must be tackled and the regulatory regime must be reformed. However, this Bill is not identical to the previous Government's Bill.

We have taken the opportunity to learn from what has gone before and to develop a new Bill that builds on this Government's commitment to employee participation. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East made a major contribution to advancing the debate on the modernisation of the Post Office. When he was Minister for postal services, he said:

"We need a longer-term plan, with a proper buy-in from the work force".

-[ Hansard, 11 February 2009; Vol. 487, c. 1449.]

That is exactly what the Bill hopes to deliver.

First, let me turn to specific issues relating to the Post Office. As I have said, the Post Office and Royal Mail are different businesses. They face different challenges, which means that our approach has to be different. The post office network is unique. There are about 11,500 branches across the country, and it operates in places where other retailers do not. It offers services that other retailers do not. Above all, the Post Office plays an essential social and economic role in our communities. For that reason, the Post Office is for sale. The Bill is absolutely clear on that point.

I am concerned, however, that the current structure of the company is holding the network back. It seems to me that the Post Office is ideally suited to a Co-operative Group style of structure, where employees, sub-postmasters and communities get a greater say in how the company is run. The Bill includes a provision that would allow for a possible future mutualisation of the Post Office. Let me be clear that no firm decision has been taken on mutualisation; there would be a full public consultation before we moved to a mutual structure. In the meantime, I have asked Co-operatives UK to explore options for how a mutualised Post Office would work best.

Annotations

Richard Taylor
Posted on 31 Oct 2010 5:03 pm (Report this annotation)

At the time of making this annotation the speech above includes the statement:

".. For that reason, the Post Office is for sale."

This is a mistake in the original Hansard text

What Mr Cable actually said was:

".. For that reason, the Post Office is not for sale."

This can currently be seen at 18 minutes 19 seconds in the video available at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_commons/news...

I expect eventually the video will also be available on this site.