Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 27th October 2010.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 5:13 pm, 27th October 2010

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and I think that he, like me, would support the new chief executive of Royal Mail, who is taking steps in precisely the direction he describes.

My second point relates to the expansion of opportunities for our post offices, which hon. Members on both sides of the House agree are such a vital feature of our communities. The Bill paves the way for a much greater opportunity for post offices to be Government front offices, offering them as outlets for services for those in our communities, especially people who do not use the internet. That could include the certification of documents, hard copy form applications and access to all our banks, which I shall discuss in a moment. I very much look forward to the newly formed Gloucestershire Credit Union's services being available to the poorest and most vulnerable in Gloucester through our post offices.

There is still work to be done by all parties involved, and I wish to make several specific recommendations. First, the Government should be able to confirm as soon as possible that the Department for Work and Pensions will renew the green giro service or the access to benefits in our post offices for communities. Secondly, Ofcom should agree a significant increase in the current 12p to 14p pricing of the final mile of delivery, which has been under-charged for too long. Thirdly, Royal Mail should confirm its own support-I hope that this will also have Government support-for a new 10-year contract for the inter-business agreement with Post Office Ltd. Fourthly, Post Office Ltd should come up with detailed plans for its own mutualisation. Fifthly, large banks, especially those that are partly or significantly nationalised, should confirm that post offices will be able to access all their services over the counter. Lastly, it will be incumbent on all of us in our constituencies to ensure that we give maximum support to our post offices.

There is one last point to make. We know that only a third of post offices are profitable and that more than 6,000 are not making profits. Of course, the Government's one-off injection of £1.34 billion will help enormously and we should all be very grateful for that, but none the less these are small businesses. If a sub-postmaster decides to retire or to give up the business, this Government and this Bill can offer no guarantee that the post office will stay open. What they can do is provide a guarantee that there will be no further Government-driven programme of post office closures. It will then be incumbent on us all to try to ensure that the post offices are attractive enough to have a wave of new applicants.

I hope that I have shown where I believe there is work still to be done by all parties involved and also that this Bill offers a real way forward to respond to the three things that we all support: a flourishing collection, sorting and delivery service by Royal Mail; the universal delivery; and thriving community post offices. That is what we want to achieve, that is what the Bill offers and that is why I shall support it. There should never again be the shambles of the Kingsholm post office scenario.