My new Ministerial responsibilities
In my last article, I promised to “update you on my new Ministerial responsibilities working with Vince Cable in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills” – so here goes.
My main responsibilities in the Business Department cover Employment, Trade Policy, Competition Policy, Company Law, Consumer Affairs and Postal Affairs (including Royal Mail and Post Office Limited).
As my training was in economics and business consultancy, this is particularly exciting for me.
It also means I’m working closely with Vince Cable, our Cabinet Minister, on key aspects of economic policy – and with specific challenges, springing from the Coalition Agreement.
My most immediate priority, without doubt, is securing Royal Mail’s future. So let me focus on that.
I knew Royal Mail’s finances were bad – but I hadn’t realised how bad. Especially the huge pension deficit, estimated by some at nearly £10 billion – proportionately the worst in Britain.
With their core letter business contracting fast thanks to email and the internet, Royal Mail desperately need investment to modernise.
Yet with spending to be cut, given the massive deficit, there will be no taxpayer investment available. So we must find private capital, with some form of privatisation.
Now that may prove unpopular – but I never expected Government to be easy!
My message to employees and others who question this is straightforward: how else can we ensure the pensions of thousands of former and current postal workers?
But I’m also clear we should separate local Post Offices from Royal Mail’s business of letter and parcels delivery.
We will keep the post office network in public ownership, because of the vital social role it plays in the life of communities across Britain.