HC Deb 16 May 1990 vol 172 cc884-6
19. Mr. Harry Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he next intends to meet the chairman of the Post Office to discuss the future of the postal service.

Mr. Forth

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will meet the chairman of the Post Office, Sir Bryan Nicholson, on 21 May. They will discuss various matters of mutual interest.

Mr. Barnes

Will the Minister give an assurance that the national public monopoly on Royal Mail letters will remain? There is growing speculation that private companies are having discussions with his Department about that. We need to lay to rest once and for all fears that the Royal Mail and letters will go down the plughole, as water did.

Mr. Forth

The hon. Gentleman will be aware—as all Conservative Members are—of the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister during the last election campaign that the Royal Mail would not be privatised. We should bear that in mind.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that it is incumbent on Post Office management and on the Government to work together to ensure that the people of this country have the best mail service that the Post Office is capable of delivering. That is something which is constantly considered by Post Office management, as are its duty and responsibility. We are always prepared to look positively at any suggestions that it may make to ensure that the best possible services are delivered, now and in the future.

Sir Anthony Grant

When my hon. Friend meets the chairman of the Post Office, will he tell him in no uncertain terms that unless the Post Office can guarantee that a first-class letter will reach its recipient the next day, the Government will give it to someone else who can?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend is entitled to lay such a hard task upon the Post Office, but it would be unreasonable to ask the Post Office to do that in the near future. Not only is that not achieved in any other country of which I am aware, but it does not give tribute and credit to the Post Office for its stern efforts to improve the delivery performance, a target which the Post Office has set for itself. The Government and the Post Office management are looking closely at its performance, and I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall leave no stone unturned in seeking ever-better performance in the Post Office in future.