Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 4:59 pm on 27th October 2010.

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Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Liberal Democrat, Argyll and Bute 4:59 pm, 27th October 2010

No. I am afraid that I have already taken the two interventions that I am allowed.

The Post Office is extremely important, and it is also important for the whole Government to back it. Given that it has branches throughout the country, it is in an ideal position to deliver Government services. I hope that we shall not see from this Government some of the silo thinking that we saw from the last Government. I am thinking particularly of the Department for Work and Pensions. Owing to the way in which government is structured in Departments, there is often an incentive for silo thinking, and for looking only at an individual Department's budget and not the wider budget. I can understand the pressures on the DWP to cut costs and therefore perhaps to allow services such as the payment of pensions and benefits to go to a competitor that does not have as wide a network as Royal Mail and the Post Office, but I hope that those pressures will be resisted, that the whole Government will back the Post Office, and that in particular when considering the contract for the payment of benefit cheques, the DWP will continue to give it to the Post Office. Any other private sector competitor does not have the same widespread network.

The key test of whether I would support the Bill was always going to be, "Does it protect the universal service obligation?" The Bill clearly passes that test. I intervened on Mr Weir, because he clearly had not read the Bill. I draw his attention to clause 28(1), which states:

"OFCOM must carry out their functions in relation to postal services in a way that they consider will secure the provision of a universal postal service", and to subsection (2), which states:

"the power of OFCOM to impose access or other regulatory conditions is subject to the duty imposed by subsection (1)."

That is the USO.