Margot James: Almost all Royal Mail’s 142,000 staff are on permanent contracts and earn above the living wage. Employees own 12% of its shares, and it has been a Times top-50 employer for women for four consecutive years. The Government will protect workers’ rights, ensuring they keep pace with the changing labour market.
Margot James: I heartily agree with the hon. Gentleman’s celebration of our postal workers today. As he says, they will deliver in all weather to 29 million addresses across the country over the festive season. I cannot agree, however, that renationalisation is the answer. Royal Mail is in negotiations with the Communication Workers Union, and progress has been made following mediation by Professor...
Margot James: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The pension scheme, if left unchanged, would result in virtual bankruptcy for Royal Mail. It would require an injection of £1.3 billion annually, against profitability of approximately £700 million. I think he can do the maths himself.
Margot James: I understand that Royal Mail’s offer of a pay increase to its workforce is far from frozen. I do not propose to comment much further, however, other than to say that the figures the hon. Gentleman refers to are misleading, because they go way beyond the chief executive’s base salary and include performance-related benefits, which are in line with a position of that stature.
Margot James: I certainly would not, Mr Speaker.
Margot James: As I said earlier, Royal Mail contributes £400 million a year to the pension scheme and, since privatisation, has provided access to capital of £1.5 billion and converted losses of £49 million into profits of £700 million. I would say that that was a pretty successful record.
Margot James: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. When Royal Mail was privatised, Amazon was one of Royal Mail’s biggest customers; Amazon is now one of its biggest competitors. So he is absolutely right. More investment in technology and modernisation is required if Royal Mail is to maintain its market position.
Margot James: I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the workforce own 12% of Royal Mail, which is a fact that the leadership of the Labour party should consider as it contemplates a round of nationalisation.
Margot James: The hon. Gentleman should accept that Royal Mail needs to maintain its position in the marketplace. It already provides employment conditions that are the envy of delivery workers employed by its competitors.
Margot James: The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. Royal Mail is regulated by Ofcom, which benefits everyone involved in the service. The universal postal service includes a parcel service. Companies must have regard to fairness in setting delivery charges, and any failure to be clear to customers before bookings breaches consumer protection law.
Margot James: I stand by it 100%. Royal Mail would have had no future had it not been privatised.
Margot James: It is important that this much-needed report gets the consideration it deserves and that we take action where needed. In the industrial strategy, the Secretary of State took responsibility for improving quality of work in the UK and continued an important dialogue on this issue. We will publish our full response shortly.
Margot James: That will be something that we consult on as we consult on the vast majority of the other proposals in the Taylor review. Taylor acknowledges the excellent track record of employment in terms of new jobs, but as the right hon. Gentleman rightly points out—and the TUC endorses this—there is an issue with insecure work and far too much risk being transferred to the employee.
Margot James: I thank my right hon. Friend for her excellent question. We will review the matter that she raises in tandem with the rest of the review of Taylor’s recommendations, but she makes a very good point indeed.
Margot James: We will consult on the remainder of the recommendations, particularly those relating to employment tribunals and the enforcement of awards that go unpaid.
Margot James: My right hon. Friend gets to the nub of many of the Taylor review’s recommendations. It is important that decent employment standards are maintained and that consumers are offered new opportunities, and we will be reviewing the proposals.
Margot James: The hon. Lady puts her finger on precisely why the Prime Minister commissioned the Taylor review in the first place. When employers are indulging in practices such as those the hon. Lady outlines there will definitely be a deleterious effect on employees’ health, and they should be roundly condemned.
Margot James: I await the publication of Sir David’s strategy for dealing with labour market enforcement, which we expect to see in the first quarter of next year. I am pleased with his appointment, and he is doing a great job so far of bringing together the enforcement agencies at the Government’s disposal to ensure that they work even more effectively in the pursuit of non-compliance with the law.
Margot James: Through the industrial strategy we will drive over £20 billion of investment in innovative and high growth businesses. We will increase the national productivity investment fund to £31 billion. We are working to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises win more public sector contracts to enjoy the benefits of that investment.
Margot James: The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued clear advice to councils that will enable them to calculate the relief that is payable to businesses in the current year. I urge them to pay heed to that advice and implement it. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that Merton council has been allocated £459,000 of business rates discretionary relief in the current year.