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Post Office

Volume 979: debated on Monday 25 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to complete his review of the Post Office's mail service monopoly powers.

My right hon Friend has received the reports which he asked for by the end of last year and is considering them. He will make an announcement as soon as possible.

Will my hon. Friend the Minister comment on his basic willingness to open the post and telephone services of the present monopoly to competition from private enterprise? Will he consider that proposal in the light of the Rayner recommendations and the special problems that sub-post offices may face?

As regards telecommunications, my right hon. Friend has made the Government's position clear in principle. We hope to liberalise the monopoly. We have an open mind about the postal side. That is the purpose of the reports that we have asked for. I assure my hon. Friend that the postal monopoly is not inviolate.

I do not expect any change in the monopoly to affect the position of the sub-post office network. If the network is likely to be affected, we shall take that consideration into account.

Does not the Minister understand that there is a connection between the derogation of the monopoly in the London area and the fate of post offices in other parts of the country? Conservative Members should understand that. If the hon. Gentleman cannot understand that, does he realise that many of those from sub-post offices who came to lobby the House last Wednesday were not reassured by his remarks during the debate on the previous evening?

This question does not directly arise from the monopoly. I attended the lobby in Westminster Central Hall. The question of monopoly was not raised. Judging by the reception given at the end of my remarks, and those of my right hon. Friend, the sub-post masters and sub-post mistresses were satisfied.