Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 27th October 2010.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham 6:00 pm, 27th October 2010

I will show some restraint, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I should declare an interest. I am not a member of the CWU, but I am the daughter of a former sub-postmaster whose post office business was closed down under the previous Labour Government during their ruthless post office closure programme. It will come as no great surprise to the House that I support not only the Bill but the need for root-and-branch reform of Royal Mail. We need to innovate to make Royal Mail not only economically viable but sustainable in the long term and efficient.

We heard from the Secretary of State that Richard Hooper's report earlier this year pointed to the dire financial position of Royal Mail. Clearly, that is unsustainable. He also said that the injection of private capital to modernise Royal Mail was vital. I have sat through most of the debate, and I am stunned by Opposition Members' lack of enthusiasm for reform and modernisation, particularly given their legacy.

There are some very good points in the Bill. It is worth noting that the pensions of Royal Mail workers will be safeguarded. After all, earlier this year, a CWU publication entitled, "Time to Deliver-Royal Mail Pension Fund Deficit", stated that the previous Government's

"decision not to proceed with the Postal Services Bill has meant this vital pension reform has been shelved. This position is untenable. The government must take responsibility for the deficit if the industry is to succeed."

Our Government should be congratulated on their boldness. They have taken on that commitment and the liabilities for the record and historic deficit, which is vast.

Much more in the Bill should be welcomed not only by my hon. Friends but by Opposition Members, including safeguarding the universal postal service and the provisions of clause 30. My constituents will be reassured by the commitment to the universal postal service. As the daughter of a former sub-postmaster, I know how vital that is. I have a very rural constituency, and many of my residents will be reassured.

My constituents will also welcome the measures that safeguard the future of the Post Office in clause 4, which states that no more closure programmes will be introduced. I find the hypocrisy of Opposition Members astonishing. They are scaremongering and trying to mislead the public, but it is about time that they faced facts. We are committed to ensuring that there are no more post office closures. It is utterly disappointing to hear their tone and some of their criticisms. However, Government Members should not be surprised. We should remember that the Labour Government had the chance to reform and modernise the Post Office, but because of their union paymasters, they simply bottled out and failed.

There is a lot to be grateful for in the Bill. The accusations of ideology are utter nonsense. I welcome the Bill because it will lead to much needed, crucial reform in terms of competition and deregulation. We are getting rid of an over-regulated service and bureaucracy, and we are empowering Royal Mail workers-share ownership is absolutely vital. On that basis alone, I support the Bill. I think this is a marvellous Bill going forward.