Nia Griffith MP has pointed out the dangers of privatising the Royal Mail. Questioning the government minister in parliament last week Nia said,
“In the fattening up for privatisation we have already seen price hikes and the ending of 7 pm collections in many towns. What guarantees can the Minister give that there will be no further erosion of collections, such as the getting rid of post boxes, fewer collections later in the day and some rural post offices not even having collections every day? What guarantees can he give about the delivery of parcels six days a week? None of those issues are fully covered by the legislation.”
“In his answer the Minister tried to reassure us that the regulator would safeguard our service, but people just don’t believe that. We have already seen the government shy away from giving the energy regulator the powers needed to clamp down on the outrageous price rises energy companies have introduced, and the total mess they are making of the railway franchise agreements.
As my colleague Ian Murray MP, Labour’s frontbench spokesperson on the post office, said, the case for the privatisation of Royal Mail has not been made. Its recent annual profits were more than £400 million and we should be allowing it to flourish in the public sector, but the Government is pushing ahead with this politically motivated sale to fill the hole in the Treasury created by George Osborne’s failed economic plan.
The Government has failed to answer critical questions on guaranteeing the six-days-a-week, one-price-goes-anywhere universal service obligation. Despite the legislation to protect the service, it will come as no surprise to anyone if a privatised Royal Mail puts pressure on the Government to alter the universal service obligation; otherwise, what is there to prevent the privatised Royal Mail from handing back that obligation to Government, just as we have witnessed with the east coast main line? The result will be that the taxpayer will, ultimately, pick up the costs.
The privatisation of the Royal Mail threatens the future of the post office network, because the 10-year inter-business agreement can be reviewed in four years, and a privatised Royal Mail is bound to want to cut down on costs, and will therefore look to reduce the number of post office branches from which it has to collect mail. Even Prime Minister Thatcher said that the privatisation of the Royal Mail was a step too far.”