Thursday, 12 February 2009

MP Savages Government Plans for Post Office

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP Geraldine Smith joined other MPs in a heated debate on the future of the Royal Mail in Parliament yesterday, roundly condemning the Government's handling of the Post Office and continuing her strident opposition to its part privatisation.

Although noting the problems facing the Post Office, including its growing pensions deficit, Geraldine nevertheless experessed her delight at being able to have an opportunity to vote against the part-privatisation of the service.

"There is great strength of feeling about this matter," she commented during the debate, in part promoted by the findings of what she went on to describe as the "flawed" Hooper review of UK postal services.

"130 Members of this House, most of them Labour, have signed an early-day motion opposing postal privatisation, but the strength of feeling is not confined to Parliament. An independent public opinion poll recently found that 75 per cent of people who had heard of the possibility of Royal Mail being privatised opposed the idea. When respondents were asked about the possibility of foreign ownership, the proportion strongly opposing the partial privatisation of Royal Mail rose to 89 per cent.

Condemning plans for the part privatisation of the service, Smith added "...There has been talk of dinosaurs, but the only dinosaurs are those people who do not realise that privatisation is going out of fashion.

"We have had to rescue the fat cat bankers who got us into so many difficulties and we are nationalising the banks, so privatisation is not the British public's flavour of the month."

During the debate, she and others pointed to the numerous errors of judegment made by Government, PostComm and other bodies that have all contributed to the current problems facing the Post Office.

"There needs to be greater investment and modernisation," she acknowledged. "That can be achieved if Royal Mail starts spending the £600 million that it has already borrowed from the Government to modernise."

With angry comment from both sides of the house on the plans, the debate ended with votes in favour of a motion supporting any plans that would place the Royal Mail on "a sustainable path for the future" while recognising the current six day a week universal service obligation (USO) must be protected.

MPs also urged the govenment to address the growing pensions deficit, called for ongoing modernisation in the Royal Mail and a new relationship between management and postal unions.

It's clear that the Government's proposals for the Royal Mail's part-privatiation will continue to be opposed by many MPs, reflecting the public's anger at the plans.

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