This week I met Communication Workers Union members in Parliament who are campaigning to defend their member’s jobs under the threat of competition to the universal postal service (USO).
So many households across the UK rely on the USO and I believe it is vital that the Government and Ofcom safeguard it - it is the foundation of our postal service, it guarantees that Royal Mail will deliver to 29 million addresses anywhere in the UK, six days a week and at the same price.
I campaigned with the CWU against the Coalition Government’s privatisation of the Royal Mail. We knew at the time that if they had their way the universal postal service would be vulnerable as the “profitable” delivery areas in cities and urban areas were “cherry picked” by competitors. Areas of my constituency are considered rural. Delivery to these areas could be threatened and jobs could be lost.
Royal Mail have warned Ofgem of the threat that alternative providers could pose to the USO and has urged Ofcom to bring forward their review of the USO, which is currently scheduled to take place at the end of next year. Ofcom's primary duty is to maintain the USO and I am calling that they should start their review of the USO as soon as possible. I fear that if Ofcom wait until the end of next year to undertake this review, it could mean it is too late to take necessary action to protect USO.
The Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, has written to Ofcom to press them on this matter and I hope Ofcom will respond positively.
I also welcome the commitment that a future Labour Government would safeguard the USO beyond 2015, secure the future of the link between the Post Office network and Royal Mail and ensure there is an appropriate degree of price control on stamp prices, given the sharp rises we have seen in recent years.