I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The discussion I had at my local sorting office on Monday suggested that these companies pick all the low-hanging fruit. They are quite happy to deliver to the more urban areas where they can get these parcels out very quickly, but they leave the more challenging areas to Royal Mail, or, as we are speaking about the private couriers, they just refuse to deliver to some of these areas at all. That is unacceptable.
I have spoken about a number of products that I expected to speak about in this debate, such as showers. I did not think I would be speaking about pigeon racing, but I have a constituent from Elgin, whose hobby is pigeon racing. He is a member of the North of Scotland Federation and the Elgin and District Racing Pigeon Club. He tells me that all the members of the Elgin club send away for various products for their pigeons and most of the companies that sell to them believe that Moray is not attached to the UK mainland. As soon as you punch in “IV30” to the address section, up pops an attachment saying that special terms apply. He tells me that there is in fact a website from Spain that will deliver cheaper to Scotland than the biggest online pigeon supplier in the UK, which trades from Scarborough. That is surely not acceptable.
Finally, I want to mention Rebecca from Stacks Coffee House and Bistro in John O’Groats, who started a change.org campaign in July to help bring to light the widespread issue of delivery costs to the highlands and islands, and Scotland as a whole. As of this afternoon, that petition had attracted 13,600 signatures. The website they have set up is a great way of presenting the case against these rip-off charges and to show people that the politicians are taking their views seriously. One quote on the website summed up the situation well. It said:
“If a company can deliver to Land’s End for free…they can also deliver to John O’Groats.”
A gentleman called Alan, who had seen me raising this at Prime Minister’s questions, contacted me. He had tried to get a kitchen worktop delivered to the Kyle of Lochalsh. The delivery was £475. However, when he put in his in-laws address in Fife, it reduced to £40.
Someone I know from Wick contacted me about how it was cheaper to get something for his business delivered further south in Scotland, but it also had a delivery guarantee for the next day. When it did not arrive on time, he complained and sought a refund. The company refused. When he said he would pursue this, he was told that they would cancel his whole order and take back all the goods. In other words, a very blatant threat of blackmail: “Don’t speak up about delivery prices and standards, and if you do, we will punish you.” It is simply not good enough.
This does not just impact individuals. I have heard from a small business in Moray, which regularly gets better service from a supplier in Lower Saxony, Germany, than from the United Kingdom. The point is that high delivery charges contribute to a relatively high living cost in remote and rural areas. It acts as a disincentive to entrepreneurs setting up businesses, which could mitigate depopulation caused by declining employment opportunities in traditional sectors. I hope that the Minister will agree with me that this should be of concern to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and I am very keen to work with it to ensure that we can move this campaign forward.
In the last few minutes, if hon. Members will allow me, as the mover of this debate, I will finish with some personal experiences. My wife is celebrating her birthday today in the north of Scotland, separated from me by 500 miles. While I cannot be with her, I was hoping that if I mention her in the debate tonight, that may make up for my absence. That allows me to say that given that her birthday is on