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Royal Mail

Volume 564: debated on Thursday 13 June 2013

10. What progress he has made on making shares in Royal Mail available to its employees; and if he will make a statement. (159362)

16. What progress he has made on making shares in Royal Mail available to its employees; and if he will make a statement. (159370)

We are designing an employee share scheme that will honour the commitment made by Parliament in 2011 that 10% of Royal Mail shares should be reserved for employees. We are still considering the details, but it is very much the Government’s intention to make the offer attractive to employees, while balancing the overall value for money for the Government and the interests of other stakeholders.

John Lewis, under the inspired leadership of Andy Street, who I should declare is a friend of mine, is synonymous with quality and service. Does my right hon. Friend agree that John Lewis, which uses the mutual model, might provide an appropriate model for the privatisation of Royal Mail?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are currently considering the way the privatisation proceeds, and we have committed to Parliament that 10% of shares will go to employees. There are different ways of doing that and we have not prejudged exactly how it will occur. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is the largest worker share ownership in any privatisation that has occurred, and it will be the largest for several decades.

More than 90% of BT’s employees registered to participate in shares when the company was privatised. Does my right hon. Friend agree that everybody in this House, and outside, should encourage as many Royal Mail employees as possible to participate in and benefit from shares from a sale?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. We wish to work with employees, and particularly the union that represents them. My colleague the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), and I have regular conversations with that union, and wish it to be positively engaged with the share sale process.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House how much will be paid in commission to banks or handling agencies for the sale of those shares to people who are buying things that they actually already own?

The process will be competitive, as is right, and designed to achieve value for money for the taxpayer. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, it is practice to enclose details of those fees in the prospectus, and he will see that in due course.

I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in congratulating all Royal Mail staff for producing a doubling of profits this year, and we send our best wishes to the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), for a speedy recovery.

The Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks, who I am surprised is not answering this question, is seen as a fire fighter in Government, but rather than putting out the fire at Royal Mail, he has lit the fuse and put the fire sale signs up. He is, of course, rushing that through to spare the blushes of his Chancellor, who is borrowing £245 billion more than he said in 2010 and is desperate for pre-election cash in the coffers. The Minister signed a letter in 2009 in which he said he was opposed to privatisation, so why are the Government now rushing a sell-off that is opposed by right-wing think-tanks, the unions, the National Federation of SubPostmasters, small businesses, the Liberal Democrats, and people up and down this country who will receive a poorer postal service as a result?

The Opposition have a strange but perhaps rather revealing idea of speedy decision making. The process of bringing private capital into the Post Office started in 2008 under my Labour predecessor. It was one of our first pieces of legislation—I introduced it in the House, it was agreed, and we are now following through in an orderly way designed to get good value for the taxpayer and a good outcome for Royal Mail.