Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 27th October 2010.

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Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle 4:32 pm, 27th October 2010

I thank the hon. Lady for that point. I believe that we need to get the right balance in regulation between protecting consumers and ensuring that we create a stable company. I therefore welcome most of the Bill's provisions, particularly on protecting the Royal Mail's universal service obligation.

We need to get regulation right, and I should like to ask the Secretary of State for any further assurances that he can give the House that the Bill will deliver the open, transparent, fair and competitive postal service market that is needed to allow the Royal Mail to prosper in future. I also ask Ministers to ensure that the Bill allows Royal Mail to introduce new products without always having to consult its rivals publicly for three months, as the current regulations require. That severely limits the company's ability to innovate and compete.

It seems to me that there should be regulation and price control only where there is little or no competition. Currently, 80% of the Royal Mail's revenues are covered by regulation, although rivals handle at least 40% of the mail, and 60% of bulk mail. Personally, I should like competitors to be given access to its network on commercial terms and at a commercial price, rather than the Royal Mail being forced to deliver its competitors' mail at a loss.

The Royal Mail and the Post Office are key national institutions, and we must ensure that they are both on a secure and stable footing. Securing the future of the post office network is absolutely vital to me. Pendle lost 17 sub-post offices under the last Government, including, most recently, six branches in 2008. Many parts of the country fared even worse than my constituency, with the number of post offices decreasing from 17,845 in 2000 to only 11,905 today. I welcome the fact that the Post Office is not for sale as part of the Bill, and that there will therefore be no further programme of closures. That will come as a huge reassurance to numerous elderly and disabled residents in Pendle who rely on the local post office on a daily basis.

I was encouraged by what the Secretary of State had to say about investing in the network and exploring future business opportunities, and particularly by the £1.34 billion extra that he announced today. I welcome the Bill and fully support the moves that will help the Royal Mail to flourish in an open and competitive marketplace in future. I look forward to supporting the passage of the Bill, with the aim of delivering a strong and stable company for customers, the 155,000 employees, and potential future shareholders.