HC Deb 23 January 1991 vol 184 cc312-3
8. Mr. Barry Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he next intends to meet the chairman of the royal mail to discuss the quality of postal services in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Leigh

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meets the chairman of the Post Office, Sir Bryan Nicholson, regularly to discuss various matters of mutual interest.

Mr. Field

Is my hon. Friend aware that some post offices have run out of forces air mail letters? Will he promise to look into that shortage? Does he agree that the Post Office is doing an admirable job and playing a proper part in maintaining the morale of the forces in the Gulf, and none more so than the sub-post offices in our rural communities? Will he therefore ensure that those offices can compete on equal terms with Crown post offices in future?

Mr. Leigh

On the latter point, we have received assurances from the Post Office that the sub-post offices will offer the full range of services provided by Crown post offices. Indeed, the Post Office Users National Council report seems to suggest that there is more satisfaction with the service at sub-post offices than with that at Crown post offices.

As for my hon. Friend's first and important point, I emphasise that the Post Office has a comprehensive service of providing free aerogrammes to the Gulf—the blueys —and parcels can be sent to the Gulf at the same rate as the inland parcel rate. I was disturbed to hear what my hon. Friend said about some post offices not having blueys. When our troops are prepared to pay the supreme sacrifice, the Post Office must ensure that their loved ones can communicate with them easily. I shall write to the Post Office today.

Miss Hoey

I am sure that the Minister is aware of this week's report by the Post Office Users National Council, which welcomes the significant improvement in people's feelings about how capably the post office has been handling first-class mail. Will he use this opportunity to state clearly once and for all—and to keep morale in the Post Office high—that the Post Office will not be privatised under this or any future Government?

Mr. Leigh

The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to the Post Office Users National Council survey which shows that 86.2 per cent. of first class letters are being delivered the next day. As for her other point, the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) gave a commitment, which stands for the present Parliament. As regards the future, however, we are open minded and will consider all suggestions.

Mr. Soames

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the reasons for the fairly dismal performance of the first class letter service is the extensive restrictive practices still carried out by the trade unions represented in the Post Office? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what steps he intends to instruct the chairman of the Post Office to take to break this union power?

Mr. Leigh

There have been some alarming cases of trade union industrial action which have resulted in a less than perfect service to Post Office customers. We keep these matters constantly under review. All options are open.

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