HC Deb 17 May 1989 vol 153 cc311-2
11. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he is taking to make the Post Office more competitive from 1992.

Mr. Newton

The financial and other targets that we set or agree for the Post Office are designed to encourage improved competitiveness, efficiency and quality of service both before and after 1992.

Mr. Bowis

In the light of the perceptive assessment by my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade of the abysmal delivery record of letters by the Post Office, is it not high time that the Post Office letter service had a little competition from the private sector? In particular, will my right hon. Friend make a clear declaration that he will resist any attempt by the Post Office to stitch up a European monopoly with its counterparts abroad, the purpose of which would be to keep out private enterprise competitors, to the detriment of the public of this country and the European nations?

Mr. Newton

I would neither add nor detract from what my hon. Friend described as the perceptive comments of my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade in the Adjournment debate on Friday. As to the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, I imagine that he is referring to the paper prepared by a group of European postal administrations as an input to various Commission discussions. Those do not represent a commitment by the Commission, the Government or the Council of Ministers. There is a great deal to discuss in the approach to 1992.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Why does not the Minister just deliver his hon. Friend a punch, and flatten him? The Government regard the Post Office as being so successful that they use it to deliver, albeit inaccurate, leaflets about the poll tax. Why does not the Minister just tell the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) that the Post Office in Britain is the most efficient in the world, and that that is why the Government use it so much?

Mr. Newton

I do not wish to behave towards my hon. Friend in a fashion different from that in which I would behave towards the hon. Gentleman. I will try to curb any instinct of aggression. As to the Post Office and the leallets, it is commendable that, within a couple of hours of having been asked to do so by the Department of the Environment, the Post Office had issued instructions all round its network.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the unfortunate and spreading practice of the Post Office sealing boxes secondary to industrial action. Can my right hon. Friend imagine any private company getting away with offering such an appalling service to its customers?

Mr. Newton

I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to observe that I am reluctant to let him get away with asking that question, the subject matter of which relates to a question that appears later on the Order Paper.