The UK government has published a number of amendments to the Postal Services Bill, including new powers for the regulator, Ofcom.
The changes – which intends to “strengthen” the Bill – incorporates “feedback from MPs, Lords, Royal Mail, other postal operators and the Communication Workers Union, as well as other interested parties,” the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) said.
As well as allowing private investment into Royal Mail, the Bill outlines that Post Office Ltd could move to a mutual ownership model, Ofcom will become the regulator to the UK postal industry, and the government will take on Royal Mail Group’s pension deficit.
It has already been approved by the House of Commons and is currently being considered by the House of Lords.
According to BIS, amendments include:
- New powers for the regulator, Ofcom, to allow them to better monitor any potential threats to the universal service arising from end-to-end competition.
- A new requirement on Ofcom to have regard to the need for the universal service provider to earn a reasonable commercial rate of return on the provision of that service.
- Ensuring that Royal Mail can remain the sole provider of the universal service for at least the next ten years.
The amendments will be debated by Peers at the Report stage of the Bill, it was confirmed.
A government statement said: “These changes will give further clarity to the regulatory regime and enable the regulator to strike the right balance between competition and safeguarding the universal service – ensuring that Royal Mail can continue to deliver to the UK’s 28m addresses, six days a week.”
Other changes will ensure that:
- Government reports more information to Parliament, including details of the ongoing commercial relationship between Royal Mail and the Post Office.
- Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise and vote on proposals for the mutualisation of Post Office Ltd in the future.
Responding to the news, minister for postal affairs, Edward Davey, said: “Royal Mail is facing some huge challenges – falling mail volumes, a vast pension deficit, less efficiency than its competitors and an urgent need for more capital.
“The number one reason we are taking action is to ensure that the universal postal service is protected in the face of these challenges and that Royal Mail can keep delivering and collecting letters 6 days a week at an affordable, one-price-goes-anywhere tariff.
“Politicians, Royal Mail, other postal operators and the Communication Workers Union are also determined to safeguard the universal postal service. We have listened to their suggestions and made a series of changes that will further strengthen the legislation.
“These important amendments will give extra regulatory certainty to Royal Mail and increase transparency by putting even more reporting requirements on the Government.”
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) welcomed the amendments. The union has been campaigning to protect the universal service obligation (USO) and the future of post offices and “the amendments to the Bill go some way to reflecting those aims”, it said.
Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said: “We warmly welcome these amendments from the minister to the Postal Services Bill. We have been campaigning hard to safeguard the UK’s universal postal service and to secure both mails services and the post office network.
“We are pleased that the Government has taken on board some of our concerns and we will continue to campaign and have dialogue with government to strengthen the Bill in other areas including more necessary work on regulations.
“The amendments on the universal service and the commercial relationship between Royal Mail and the Post Office have been key campaign aims for the union and we are delighted the Government has listened. We are looking for a clearer commitment to an inter-business agreement between Royal Mail and the Post Office, but this is a good step towards that aim.”