HC Deb 08 March 1995 vol 256 cc322-3
5. Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions he has had with the Post Office concerning proposals to employ additional part-time staff to replace full-time staff.

Mr. Eggar

My right hon. Friend has had no such discussions. Staffing levels and working patterns within the Post Office are a matter for Post Office management, not the Government. I understand that the Royal Mail wholly refutes the allegations of target cuts in full-time postal jobs made in recent press reports.

Mr. Prentice

Is not the accelerating casualisation of the work force of the Post Office directly attributable to the uncertainty about the future of the organisation and to the Government's unwillingness to make plain what they intend to do about the Post Office in the future? Should not the Government give the Post Office commercial freedom to expand its business and to create new full-time jobs instead of allowing it to twist in the wind with no clear idea of where its future lies?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman appears to be totally unaware that the Post Office employs 115,000 full-time staff, that it is committed to improving the standards of services delivered both to households and to businesses, and that it has a fine record which is second to none in the world.

Sir Peter Emery

In considering staff matters, will my hon. Friend look at the problems of staffing in contracted-out post offices in relation to motor vehicle licences? However much we may welcome the new sub-postmasters, something is very wrong when many of them cannot issue vehicle licences. A constituent of mine had to motor 60 miles to get a licence, and that is nonsense.

Mr. Eggar

I shall look into my hon. Friend's specific concern. As a matter of general policy, we are encouraging Post Office Counters and sub-post offices in particular to expand their business opportunities and to improve the width and breadth of the services which they can offer to constituents.

Mr. Hain

The Minister must know that the switch from full-time to part-time staff has come about because of the cost-cutting that has been forced on the Post Office as a result of the Government's dithering over its future and their failure to give the Post Office commercial freedom. Will he come clean on the fact that one of the results of that will be a decline in the number of second deliveries? There has been a contraction in second deliveries, but, as more part-timers are employed by the Post Office, the Government's long-term objectives of getting a once-over-the-ground service and sacrificing second deliveries will be the result.

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman appears to be unaware that the reason why fewer letters are delivered on the second delivery is that the Royal Mail has so improved its service that the vast majority of letters are delivered on the first delivery. If there are no letters left, it is hardly surprising if few are delivered.

Madam Speaker

Mr. Dykes.

Mr. Dykes

May I thank my hon. Friend—

Madam Speaker

Order. I was calling the hon. Gentleman to ask Question 6.