Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 27th October 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Denham John Denham Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 3:00 pm, 27th October 2010

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will happily take another intervention from him when I come to my point on protecting the public interest during the sale.

I said that the Bill excludes the public from any potential long-term gain from a transformed Royal Mail, but in addition the benefits could go entirely to overseas interests. Frankly, I am surprised how sanguine the Secretary of State is at that prospect, because faced with the sale of Cadbury to Kraft, he said:

"It is particularly galling...that state-owned RBS should part fund this takeover when it is clearly not in the interests of the UK economy."

I must point out that the Secretary of State is today effectively using taxpayers' money to transfer the ownership of Royal Mail overseas.

There are good reasons to worry about the public interest during the sales process. On one side will be potential buyers, who will have every interest in lobbying for the maximum commercial freedom for the operation and for the minimum of social obligation. The other side-we might like to think this means the Secretary of State, but it means the Treasury-has an interest in gaining the highest price. Both sides, therefore, will argue to cut social obligation to a minimum. It is not difficult to anticipate the outcome of that situation. I suspect that one reason why the Secretary of State was able to say so little on the long-term interest of Royal Mail in the post office network is precisely that he is caught uncomfortably in the vice between the Treasury and potential buyers.