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Post Office

Volume 979: debated on Monday 25 February 1980

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16.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when next he expects to meet the chairman of the Post Office.

My right hon. Friend will meet Sir William Barlow as the need arises.

When the Minister meets the chairman will he tell him that it took 2,000 more men last year to handle 1 billion fewer letters and parcels than it took in 1973–74? Will he urge on the chairman that when confronted with the problems of declining productivity the Post Offic should not always seek the soft option of, for example, withdrawing Sunday collections or deliveries to individual flats?

The question of low productivity is one of the main problems of the Post Office at present. I believe that the union and the management are equally aware of this. Also, I believe that the public will not stand for any further reductions in services, nor will they welcome any increase in charges.

When the Minister next meets the chairman, will he congratulate the Post Office on making a profit of £300 million? On the question of reorganisation, in view of the fact that the telecommunications side is capital-intensive and the postal side is labour-intensive, will he keep both sides together in future, because any break-up would not be in the best interests of the nation?

The profits of the Post Office are necessary for the massive investments needs for the telecommunications side. On the question of the split between the postal side and telecommunications, my right hon. Friend has announced the Government's policy in principle on this matter following the recommendations of the Carter committee.

When the Secretary of State next meets the chairman will he give him an assurance that, if the Government decide to break the monopoly of the Post Office, private carriers will be expected to compete with the Post Office on a national basis, and not simply be allowed to hive off the most profitable parts?

Clearly this is one of the things that we must consider when we make our policy decision on the question of the Post Office monopoly.

Has the Minister of State or any of his colleagues discussed with the Post Office chairman the latest proposals of the accounting body to impose current cost accounting methods without the agreement of the Government?

This is not a matter that I have discussed personally with the chairman, but it is under discussion in my Department. It will be taken up as appropriate with the chairmen of the nationalised industries.