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Royal Mail Privatisation

Volume 570: debated on Wednesday 6 November 2013

5. What assessment he has made of the effects of the privatisation of Royal Mail on people in Scotland. (900883)

The privatisation of Royal Mail will protect the universal mail service for the people of Scotland. The Government, with their 30% stake, remain a substantial shareholder committed to the future growth of the company. By transferring the liabilities of the Royal Mail pension plan in April 2012, the Government have safeguarded the benefits for postal workers in Scotland and across the UK that had accrued up until that date.

But can the new Secretary of State provide answers to the many people living in rural Scotland, along with the dwindling band of Scottish Lib Dem supporters, who believe that the coalition Government’s privatisation of Royal Mail is wrong and will lead ultimately to the end of the universal service obligation?

If this privatisation was a threat to rural Scotland I would not support it. This is a privatisation born not from ideology but from necessity. Without it, the real threat would be Royal Mail losing business hand over fist, as it has since his Government liberalised the letter-post market.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the privatised Royal Mail, free from state aid restrictions and competition rules, offers the best opportunity of promoting the last-mile delivery service and securing the jobs of our dedicated local posties?

My right hon. Friend has a rural constituency that I know well. The points that he makes are very well made. This was necessary to save the universal service and, for the first time, legislation privatising Royal Mail brought with it meaningful protections for that universal service.

Does the Minister agree that the privatisation of Royal Mail is likely to increase the cost of letters to Govan shipbuilders? Does he therefore agree that action must be taken to guarantee the future of Govan shipbuilders as quickly as possible? Does he also agree—

I commend the hon. Gentleman for his ingenuity in getting a reference to Govan shipbuilders on the record. He will have to wait to hear the full extent of the announcement. I assure him that Govan shipbuilders will benefit from the same mail delivery protections from Ofcom as everyone else.

Under the Postal Services Act 2011 the only protection for consumers is from Ofcom. Given the less than stellar performance of other utility regulators, why should consumers in Scotland have any confidence that their services will be protected?

As I think the hon. Gentleman knows, but as he continues to ignore, the difference is that this time we have included meaningful protections that give Ofcom the power it needs to protect communities such as mine and his.