Monday, 11 May 2009

Labour's Post Office row comes to Sefton

I see that there is an attempt by the Bootle Labour Party to drag Sefton Council into the internecine warfare that is going on within in the Labour Party over the future of Royal Mail. The Left is trying to launch a campaign aimed at undermining their own governments approach to Royal Mail. Bootle Councillor John Fairclough has a motion down to this weeks cabinet. You know when a governing party is 'past it' when their backbench MP's boast about taking it on.

Now let us be clear backbenchers should revolt if their government is way off track. My problem with Bootle Labour party is that it was way too pusillanimous to take on their government over the illegal Iraq War. When we moved a rather mild motion-that had gained Labour support in other areas-not one of them had the moral courage to vote with us or even abstain. There were Labour MP's who did have that courage. Robin Cook memorably resign and our MP, John Pugh, described Cook's resignation speech as the most impressive parliamentary occasion he has witnessed. Not so Bootle Labour Party. Now all of a sudden they want to square up to their own government. Frankly it is a declaration that they are no longer interested in governing and want to have a bust up in the Labour party. The electorate will judge them harshly. They don't like divided squabbling parties-even if the rebels have a populist cause. Cllr fairclough's motion is a bit of an internal Labour Party dispute and tied up with motions passed at the labour party conference.

John Major's government suffered over Europe, the Alliance suffered over defence and now the Labour Party is tearing itself to bits over a trade union campaign.

Anyway let us not intrude on private grief and instead look at the issue.

John Thurso the Lib Dem MP who speaks on these matters in the House Of Commons has written:

The Royal Mail Group consists of two distinct operations: Post Office Limited which is responsible for all the post offices and Royal Mail which is responsible for the collection, sorting and delivery of mail.

The Post Office network has been badly underfunded by a succession of governments. Both the last Conservative and the present Labour administration have overseen a huge programme of post office closures as a direct result. The
Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for the maintenance of the Post Office
network and recognised this problem some years ago. Our policy calls for the
Post Office network to be wholly ring-fenced as a publicly owned enterprise
which should benefit from investment to enable it to develop into a “postbank” as well as being a point of contact for people requiring advice with regard to benefits, pensions and tax credits.

The Royal Mail, as the Hooper Report points out, has a difficult problem. The most significant competitor to the Royal Mail is now email, text and other forms of electronic communication. It is vital that Royal Mail begins to use modern techniques in order to be able to continue to uphold the universal service obligation.

Liberal Democrat policy therefore is to sell 49% of the Royal Mail, ensuring overall control is retained by the Government and the staff, and to use some of the proceeds to invest in a modernised Post Office. Further, we would put at least one-quarter of the Royal Mail into an employee-owned trust so Royal Mail workers become employee owners along the lines of the John Lewis model.

I have signed EDM No. 668, which
advocates an excellent solution for the Post Office network and reads:

“That this House notes the vital importance of the Post Office
network to communities both urban and rural; believes that the Post Office
network is well placed to deliver a range of financial services and products
which would assist in combating financial exclusion; further believes that the
Post Office network offers an opportunity to act as an advisory interface
between the state and the citizen in matters such as benefit and tax credit; and
further believes that in light of the Hooper Review the Post Office network must
be ring-fenced as a discrete, publicly owned network, and that the Government
should invest in the network to create a postbank and advisory service.”