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

I am not familiar with the details of the argument in that case. I was referring to the fact that there has been a constructive relationship between the union and management on modernisation, but such issues do exist, and they are essentially commercial ones that must be dealt with by management and their employees in the normal way. None the less, I would be interested to know whether there is a specific role in the matter for the Government, and I shall respond to the hon. Lady on that.

So, I acknowledge that there will be job losses. The company is losing money and the market is declining, and that is regrettable, but it is unavoidable. The question that we need to pose is, what happens if we do not take action? What happens if Royal Mail fails and the market collapses? That is the current trend. I know that the CWU has been in Parliament today, talking to many hon. Members about their views, and I and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who has responsibility for postal affairs, met the CWU to discuss Royal Mail. We look forward to continuing to talk to its representatives as the Bill goes through Parliament.

However, I have one thing to say to the union directly today: the worst thing for its members, Royal Mail's employees, would be to do nothing, because that is the real threat to jobs in Royal Mail. The employees of Royal Mail also deserve better than constant battles between the union and the management. They deserve to be properly engaged in the business that they work for, and to have a real stake in its future. That is the only way in which we will break for ever the cycle of antagonism and mistrust that has bedevilled the company. The Bill therefore requires the creation of an employee share scheme, which will hold at least 10% of the equity in Royal Mail in future. That is very far from being a token gesture; it is nothing less than the largest employee share scheme of any major privatisation.

The employees of Royal Mail will also be concerned about their pensions, and they have good reason to be, because Royal Mail's pension deficit is huge, growing and volatile. Put simply, it is not sustainable. Even the recent agreement between the pension fund trustees and the company is fragile. It requires that Royal Mail pay off its deficit over 38 years, which is at least twice as long as any other UK company's repayment plan, and the pensions regulator has already said that it has substantial concerns about the agreement.