HC Deb 16 September 2004 vol 424 cc1435-6
1. Mr. Michael Weir (Angus) (SNP)

What recent representations she has received in respect of postal services in Scotland.␣[189170]

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt)

The Department receives representations on postal services issues from a wide range of people and institutions, many of which concern services in Scotland.

Mr. Weir

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. She will be aware of the less than stellar performance of Royal Mail management in meeting delivery targets over the summer. Is she aware, however, of the reports in Scotland that the management have again floated the idea of abandoning the universal service obligation, which is so important to rural areas of Scotland? Can she tell us if she has had formal approaches on this point, and will she assure the House that she will not agree to any such proposal?

Ms Hewitt

The universal service obligation is written into law as a result of changes made by our Government. Of course we are not going to abandon that. I have had no formal representations on this issue.

Although, on the issue of quality of service, there was very poor performance earlier in the year—about which all of us are unhappy—I am pleased to say that in more recent months that quality of service has been improving significantly. In Dundee—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will share my pleasure about this—the delivery of first-class post on the following day has gone up to almost 93 per cent., which is one of the best performances in the country.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD):

The Secretary of State may be aware that the particular postal service of greatest concern to my constituents in Orkney and Shetland is the parcel post. Since deregulation of the parcel post, mail order companies in particular have increasingly either refused to deliver to addresses off mainland Britain, or have charged extra for it. Can I ask the Secretary of State when the Government will get to grips with that issue and ensure that people in island communities can enjoy the same level of service as those on the mainland?

Ms Hewitt

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's point on behalf of his constituents. There has, of course, always been a problem with meeting the quality of service targets in those most remote communities, particularly island communities. Post Office management are working on that, and certainly I and the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), will draw it to their attention again.