HC Deb 13 December 1976 vol 922 cc946-7
7. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what proposals he has to discontinue the statutory Post Office monopoly in the collection and delivery of letters.

Mr. Kaufman

None, Sir.

Mr. Gow

May we take it from that answer that the Government favour monopoly, and a statutory monopoly in certain instances? How does the Minister reconcile the Government's view that the statutory monopoly for solicitors in conveyancing matters is unjustified—as I believe it is—with their view that there should be a statutory monopoly for the collection and delivery of letters?

Mr. Kaufman

Many countries have a statutory monopoly for the postal service. The reason for that monopoly in this country is that the Post Office is obliged to operate services in areas where such services are lucrative as well as areas where they make a loss. That being so, it is right that the Post Office should be able to recoup in the profitable areas the losses it has to make elsewhere. Whenever the hon. Gentleman has sought to persuade the House on these matters he has always failed abysmally.

Mr. Lipton

Is it not quite crazy for the Opposition to suggest that the collection and distribution of letters should be left to private enterprise? I am sure that the retired gentry of Eastbourne are not in favour of that.

Mr. Kaufman

If the delivery of letters was left to private enterprise, I suppose that my hon. Friend's constituency would have a quite reasonable service, as would the constituency of Eastbourne. But our hon. Friends who sit for outlying Scottish and Welsh constituencies and for other rural areas would not have postal services at all, because private enterprise would not find it commercially attractive to provide such services.