Postal Services Bill

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

Of course it does need to be done anyway, but as I explained a few moments ago, the key point about bringing in private capital is that it brings in investment as well as new and better methods of management. There are separate issues involved. However, the right hon. Gentleman is quite right: the pension fund deficit needs to be dealt with. If it were not dealt with-if the thing just continued-there would be a real danger that it would contribute to the collapse of the company: that is why we have had to intervene.

I apologise to the House for going on for such a long time, but a large part of that has been taken up with interventions, as I was anxious to ensure that Members who had concerns were able to raise them.

The last section of my speech relates to reform of the regulatory regime. At the heart of this Bill, just like the last Bill, is protection of the universal postal service. The Bill will maintain the universal postal service at its current levels-that means six-days-a-week delivery and collection at uniform, affordable prices. I would like to reassure the House that I have no intention of downgrading this service. I know that some Members have been concerned about their constituents receiving a reduced service, and I share that concern. I have therefore ensured that the Bill contains new and stronger protections around the service than is currently the case-stronger protections, too, than were in the Bill put forward by our predecessors.

Members may not be aware of this, but the Government already have the power to reduce the minimum requirements of the universal postal service without even requiring a debate in Parliament. Through the European Communities Act 1972, it can reduce them to the minimum requirements of the European postal directive-that means five- days-a-week delivery and no requirement for uniform pricing. I do not think that that is an acceptable situation. Another way of putting it is that we have European regulation to protect the universal service obligation. This is one occasion where we are arguing in favour of gold-plating; indeed, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has pointed out, we are platinum-plating this particular set of protections.