Postal Services Bill

Part of Planning (Developer Bonds) – in the House of Commons at 6:39 pm on 27th October 2010.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 6:39 pm, 27th October 2010

No, I am sorry.

My hon. Friend Lorely Burt raised concerns about the conditions for mutualisation. Of course we will have to ensure that there is a viable post office network, otherwise we could not make mutualisation work, so that is one of our conditions. Clause 7 makes it clear that a mutualised post office network would have to be "for the public benefit", so that is also a clear condition.

Despite the fact that our Bill is better for Royal Mail employees, Royal Mail, the Post Office, customers and the taxpayer, the Opposition still oppose it. What is their problem? The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East, the former Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, said that it is about ownership but he did not ask the next question: what is the difference between the shareholdings to which the previous Government and this Government were prepared to agree? That principle concerns about 0.2% of the shares-the extra shares that they were not prepared to sell but we are. The sale of those shares will free Royal Mail from Treasury control and will enable it to be the master of its own fate and to invest for the future without coming cap in hand to the taxpayer. New Labour has been dying for some years but with the opposition to this Bill, old Labour has returned. I thought that I would be in danger of being called Red Ed with the bail-out of the pension plan, but the real Red Ed is on the Opposition Benches-ideology before reality, dogma before common sense and, worst of all, vested interest before national interest.

The idea that public ownership has delivered a successful Royal Mail and post office network clearly is not right. Perhaps Opposition Members are aware that Royal Mail shed 65,000 jobs during the 13 years of Labour government, so public ownership did not deliver for workers. Let us consider the experience under privatisation around the world. Since Deutsche Post was floated in 2001, it has seen investment of £11.6 billion. That just will not be possible for Royal Mail if it remains in the public sector, but through our measures, it will become possible.

Mr Denham made another accusation against the Bill-it would lead to post office closures. What a cheek! Ten post offices closed in his constituency under the previous Labour Government and about 5,000 post offices were shut in total. As so many colleagues have made clear throughout this debate, Labour is the party of post office closures. This Government will not make those same errors. That is why my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary today announced our £1.34 billion investment programme for the post office network. That money will not pay for a closure programme-we will not throw money down the drain as Labour did-but it will bring a lasting change to the network and will tackle the underlying economic issues it faces. That is why the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will see, when we make our full statement on policy for the post office network shortly, a Government working as one-joined-up government is what they used to call it.