HL Deb 06 April 2004 vol 659 cc1714-5

11.16 a.m.

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions Royal Mail has had with them in relation to compulsory redundancies of managerial staff.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

My Lords, decisions on whether to introduce compulsory redundancies for managerial staff are a matter for the Royal Mail board. Royal Mail's intention is to achieve managerial job reductions through voluntary redundancy and natural turnover of staff wherever possible, but the company cannot rule out the possibility of compulsory redundancies. This has been the company's position for some years and it remains unchanged. Officials have been briefed by Royal Mail about the impact of the company's change programme on the number of people employed in Royal Mail, but Ministers have not had discussions with Royal Mail about compulsory redundancies.

Lord Hoyle

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that there is a job security agreement with Amicus/ CMA that there will be no compulsory redundancies? That has been publicly stated by Royal Mail, yet, at the same time, in secret documents the company is stating that it is seeking compulsory redundancies. Surely that is bad for industrial relations and not the kind of behaviour that one expects from a public company.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, I reiterate what I said. So far as I am aware, no decisions have been taken to have compulsory redundancies but, simply, that has not been ruled out for the future.

Lord Razzall

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, demonstrates the lack of clarity in people's minds about the relationship between Her Majesty's Government and Royal Mail? Does he also accept that there is at least a suspicion, as we have often heard in this House, that, when there is bad news concerning Royal Mail, the Government say that it is nothing to do with them but, when it is good news, it is to do with them?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, as I explained to the noble Lord on the previous occasion that this issue was raised, there is no lack of clarity. The lack of clarity lies with the noble Lord, who refuses to accept that we have continually said that we regard these issues to be a matter for Royal Mail and not the Government. I reiterate that point in case there is a lack of clarity on those Benches.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, is the Minister aware that Royal Mail proposes to invite managers to renew their opt-out from the 48-hour weekly ceiling set out in the working time regulations and that, at the same time that it is seeking to get managers to work more than 48 hours a week, it is threatening redundancies? Is that not inconsistent and unacceptable?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, I believe that that is exactly why one has to leave such decisions to the management of Royal Mail. It is simply not possible to determine which managers or which posts we are talking about and whether, indeed, it makes sense to have redundancies in those circumstances. We believe that that is for the Royal Mail board to determine, and we are content to leave it to the board to do that within the parameters that we give them.