The hon. Gentleman may have a point about the use of those profits, but I would rather they went to the Treasury or to the Royal Mail, not to a private company whose owners lie overseas. The defence of the national interest lies with public ownership.
Today's Bill provides, for the first time ever, for the breaking up of the Royal Mail, with different organisations providing the universal postal service in different parts of the country. It breaks the umbilical link between the Royal Mail and the network of local post offices prized by residents and communities up and down the country, and does so in a way that threatens the future of thousands of local post offices. It is a very serious Bill, and it must be considered seriously and in detail in the weeks and months ahead.
Of course, serious discussion of the Bill must acknowledge why the coalition Government have concluded, as the previous Labour Government did, that doing absolutely nothing is not an option. The competition for the services offered by Royal Mail, including from new ways of communicating, has changed more dramatically than anyone envisaged even 10 years ago. Last year, it reported a drop of 7% in letter volumes. Other operators have been taking business upstream faster than expected. Some 87% of all mail in the UK is sent by businesses to people at home or to other businesses, and competitors have already won more than 60% of the upstream, pre-sorted bulk mail market, delivering their customers' mail into the Royal Mail system for final delivery.
Over the fast-approaching horizon will come the full impact of technological change-e-mail, web-based advertising, text messaging, mobile phones and all the other modern ways of communicating. The worldwide postal market is expected to decline by 25% to 40% over the next five years. The problems with the pension fund, which had their origin in the 13-year pension holiday until 2001, have mounted. There was, therefore, a consensus that action needed to be taken.