HC Deb 09 January 2001 vol 360 cc494-5W
Mr. Laxton

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will make the Order under the Postal Services Act 2000 nominating the company to which the business of the Post Office will be transferred; and if he will make a statement. [144849]

Mr. Alan Johnson

A key element of our Post Office reform package is the transformation of the Post Office from a public corporation to a public limited company. An Order was made on 4 January, which came into effect on 5 January, nominating Consignia plc as the company to which the property, rights and liabilities of the Post Office will be transferred in accordance with section 62 of the Postal Services Act 2000. Prior to making the Order, the Post Office were consulted, in accordance with section 62(3) of the Act.

As required by the Act, this is a company which is wholly owned by the Crown. The Secretary of State is appointing the current members of the Post Office board as the first directors of the company. The memorandum and articles of association of the company are available for inspection in the usual way at Companies House, and copies are being laid in the Libraries of both Houses. As was foreshadowed during the debates on the Postal Services Bill, the articles of association include the special provisions protecting certain rights of the Government, particularly the appointment of the chairman of the company, and the remainder of the board (after consulting the chairman); changes in the remuneration packages of the directors; approval of the strategic plan; and controls on the disposal of significant assets.

The name of the new company was chosen by the directors after careful research by the Post Office into the requirements of a modern postal operator working in the rapidly changing commercial communications environment of the 21st century. The directors are however intent that the traditional and well-loved titles of Royal Mail and Post Office should continue to be used wherever they are currently seen in this country; the name change will therefore have little if any impact on domestic and most business customers. The main marketing use of the new name will be with integrated and international business users. As previously indicated, Her Majesty has graciously consented that the existing Royal connections with the organisation should continue.

The Order also appoints 26 March 2001 as the day on which the transfer of the property, rights and liabilities will be made—this is the day after the end of the Post Office's current financial year and the day on which most of the new provisions of the Postal Services Act 2000 are scheduled to commence. The transformation to a plc will then be complete.