Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 27th October 2010.

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Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe 5:37 pm, 27th October 2010

Following the remarks of Mr Weir much earlier in the debate, I begin by pointing out that in some ways the Bill is too good to be true. He raised concerns that people in rural areas, especially in Scotland, would no longer have a universal service if the Bill is passed. However, the answer is that of course they will. People who live in built-up areas will continue to subsidise the post of people who live in rural and distant areas. People who live in constituencies in the south-east of England, such as mine in Folkestone and Hythe, will continue, relatively, to subsidise people who live in remote areas, because we all believe in universal postal provision, and that is included in the Bill.

Our concerns are that Royal Mail will run out of money to sustain its current universal six-days-a-week service unless its pension deficit is solved and, crucially, the business is transformed. That view is not unique to Government Members; it was expressed by the former Secretary of State, Lord Mandelson, when the previous Postal Services Bill was introduced in the House of Lords last year. There is a degree of common ground. It is a question of how we go forward in a way that gives value to customers of Royal Mail and the Post Office, and the taxpayers who must pick up the liability for the Royal Mail pension pot. Under the provisions of the Bill, the taxpayer will take on a considerable liability, so it is right that in return we should consider how the Royal Mail business can be transformed and work better.

Hon. Members have spoken about all aspects of the Bill; I shall touch on only a couple of them. Going back to the remarks made by Mr Weir and my hon. Friend Mr Reid earlier in the debate, clauses 35 and 37 provide that if Ofcom considers that the efficiency of the universal system can be better delivered with additional suppliers coming in to support that service, it will have the opportunity to advise the Secretary of State accordingly. That can only strengthen the quality of the universal provision. A number of hon. Members on the Government Benches would not see that as a bad thing.