Postal Services Bill

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

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Photo of Rebecca Harris Rebecca Harris Conservative, Castle Point 5:27 pm, 27th October 2010

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, as the future of the postal service is a long-standing interest of mine, not least as the director of a company that was reliant on a dependable, reliable and efficient postal service. I do not underestimate the public attachment to Royal Mail and the wide interest in the implications of its privatisation. Given its universal obligation, everyone-businesses and the public-has an interest in Royal Mail's continued success.

An objective look at the situation is necessary. Richard Hooper made it clear to the previous Government, and has made it even clearer to this one, that Royal Mail urgently needs investment to improve its service to make it more efficient, competitive and effective in a more crowded and shrinking market. I do not want to underestimate the progress that Royal Mail and the unions have already made in that respect, as Hooper has also made clear.

The key question is how that progress can be accelerated. Investment is the key, and we need to ask ourselves how Royal Mail can bid for extra Government investment against the background of the economic inheritance that the previous Government left this Government, and other pressing claims on public funds such as defence, health and education. Royal Mail's pension deficit is growing all the time, and the situation is becoming increasingly urgent, if Royal Mail is, in the Secretary of State's words, to "survive and thrive".

The key proposals in the Bill cannot come soon enough, if we are to secure the future of our national postal service. These include committing to protect the universal service obligation, clearly demerging Royal Mail, protecting the post office network, taking over the burgeoning pension liabilities and enabling Royal Mail's 150,000 employees to have share rights. The share deal will give employees a leading role in the privatised new company. They will be able to bring their combined experience to bear in ensuring its success under new management. That deal is also important if an investor is to be attracted to Royal Mail to provide the fresh cash injection that we urgently need, because any investor will want reassurance that moves to improve the business will be strongly supported by employees. The generous share deal will give investors precisely that confidence, and it is one reason why the Bill is far more attractive to potential investors and Royal Mail employees than the failed attempt by the previous Government to part-privatise.

I am extremely pleased that the Government are also protecting consumers by ensuring that the Post Office is not included in the privatisation and by categorically stating that there will be no repeat of the mass closures that almost everybody across the UK had to endure under the previous Government.