Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Royal Mail sell-off good for taxpayers, argues Morecambe MP

David Morris MP
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris has been reassuring constituents the Royal Mail privatisation is not being rushed as campaigners claim – and that there will be no closure programme of local post offices.

"As one of Britain's biggest companies it is relied upon by businesses and communities throughout the UK," he says of the privatisation plans. "However, with the number of letters we send declining and online shopping increasing, Royal Mail needs to have the freedom to compete with the internet, smart phones and international postal operators.

"It is important that people have the facts right about what privatisation means. By allowing Royal Mail access to private capital to invest, hard-pressed taxpayers will no longer have to provide the money for investment," he argues. 

"Also, a change in Royal Mail ownership does not trigger any change in the provision of the universal postal service," he claims. "Royal Mail will continue to be obliged to deliver six days a week to urban and rural areas alike at the same, affordable prices. Free services for the blind and the armed forces will also not be affected by a change in ownership. Any changes to the uniform nature of the service or its minimum requirements would require new primary legislation.

"The Government have no plans for such changes and any suggestions otherwise are completely unfounded.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that the Post Office is not for sale," he insists, noting that the Royal Mail and the Post Office are separate entities. "Unlike Labour, there will be no closure programme under this Government which is providing £1.34 billion in funding over four years to maintain a network of at least 11,500 branches across the UK. Royal Mail and the Post Office are natural partners and the post office network will continue to provide services to Royal Mail under a ten year agreement signed last year.

"Furthermore, the Chief Executive of Royal Mail has also said it would be 'unthinkable' that there would not always be a strong commercial relationship between the two companies.

"Royal Mail and the Post Office are separate companies with independent Boards. Royal Mail is the company that delivers parcels and letters and is the provider of the universal service. The Post Office is a nationwide network of branches offering a range of postal, Government and financial services.

"There will be no Post Office closure programme and the Government is investing £1.34 billion of funding to revitalise the network and make sure it is sustainable in the long term.

The Communication Workers Union is none too impressed with the Government's plans, as this cheeky leaflet indicates...

"I am pleased the Government is giving people the opportunity to buy shares in Royal Mail and is providing free shares to 150,000 employees," he added. "I strongly believe it is right to enable the chance for those hard working employees to share in the success of their company.

"The Communication Workers Union has accepted that modernisation of Royal Mail, for example more automation, means the company needs fewer people. In the last ten years of public ownership, 50,000 jobs have been lost in the company. Of course, nobody wants to see job losses but, regardless of ownership Royal Mail must continue to modernise and become more efficient."

Mr Morrise also denies the Government is rushing a sale, a claim made by the National Federation of SubPostmasters, which has asked  the Government to safeguard the future of thousands of post offices by halting the sell off.

"It has been two years since the Postal Services Act 2011 was voted on by Parliament," he says. "It has also been five years since the Independent Review of The Postal Sector led by Richard Hooper recommended a sale as a means to access private capital and commercial disciplines.

"I can also assure you the Government is not selling off Royal Mail cheaply," he said. "It is committed to getting the best value for the taxpayer. As this is a commercial transaction, the Government will follow normal commercial practices in setting and publicising the share price.

"I know that Royal Mail provides a lifeline to people and businesses in rural areas. Regardless of ownership, Royal Mail will still be the UK's designated universal service provider and will continue to provide deliveries to all UK addresses, rural and urban, on a six days a week basis.

"Ofcom has made it clear that following a review of the needs of consumers and businesses, it is ruling out any changes to the scope of the universal service."

We post his statement here, near verbatim, and wait to see what happens – and we will most certainly highlight it should his reassurances prove misplaced in future months.

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