Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Page: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Johnson: No, I do not have time to give way.

By having the debate and by putting a spotlight on the Post Office network, we have demonstrated for probably the first time that the Post Office network is under-utilised and not properly promoted. There are enormous opportunities in the network. A trial is being operated in Cornwall, where 270 rural post offices provide banking services for Barclays. We are putting bank machines into rural post offices, an initiative which has been greatly welcomed by the local communities. Yes, people do draw from their accounts and then go into the post office and spend their money.

Mrs. Browning: Will the Minister clarify what he means by "we" when he says, "We are putting bank machines into post offices"? We have a clear written answer that says it is not "we"--the Government; it is a commercial transaction between banks and post offices.

Mr. Johnson: The fact that I spent 30 years in the Post Office makes me talk about it in that sense, but the Government are encouraging the Post Office. We sit with

15 Feb 2000 : Column 872

the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters and with the Post Office on the Horizon working group to find ways, in partnership, of utilising that invaluable, crucial network.

Many other opportunities are available. We have the opportunity, in modernising government, to make the Post Office network the gateway for on-line services by 2008. We also have the opportunity to reintroduce banking into rural areas that lost their banks many years ago. As I said, the Post Office network will not be well served by opposing Second Reading. It is crucial that the Bill should be passed to underpin the Post Office network.

I should like to reply to a couple of the speeches that have been made in the debate. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton asked about the Post Office's ability to borrow--which she described as a hidden subsidy--from the national loans fund. It is not a subsidy. As the White Paper made clear, the Post Office will be charged commercial rates by the national loans fund. Moreover, if we had allowed the Post Office to borrow commercially on the open market, lenders might have expected the Government to act as lender of last resort or as the guarantor of loans. We are therefore ensuring a level playing field in borrowing.

The hon. Lady also mentioned the £5 billion indebtedness limit. The British Telecommunications Act 1981 introduced a £1.7 billion indebtedness limit. We have merely brought up to date that figure and included it in legislation that is meant to last for many years.

I do not have time to reply to the many effective and eloquent speeches made by Labour Members or to the speeches made by Opposition Members, but I should like to mention the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas). The other week, we had a mouse in the Chamber. Today, thanks to his speech, the House was treated to a description of a bottle-nosed porpoise. He also painted a very vivid picture of his constituency.

As it was the hon. Gentleman's maiden speech, I shall respond very quickly to the three issues that he raised. He asked whether the £1 monopoly would be safe. The £1 monopoly will be there as long as it protects universal service at a uniform tariff, which we believe should be low enough to protect competition while protecting that very important principle.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether we are trying to privatise by the back door. The answer is no. He asked whether there should be a Welsh council, separate from the consumer council, for postal services. There is a national postal service and we need one consumers representative with regional and country committees spread around the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman made a very important contribution to the debate and an eloquent maiden speech.

I should also reply to the very important point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil (Mr. O'Neill), who is the Chairman of the Trade and Industry Select Committee, on the sale of shares in relevant subsidiaries. The Bill will protect the universal service part of the Post Office--Parcelforce, Royal Mail and Post Office Counters--from any future share sales without the matter requiring primary legislation. We do not think that such provision is necessary for Post Office subsidiaries--such as German Parcel, which the Post Office only recently purchased. We are therefore saying that there is a clear

15 Feb 2000 : Column 873

difference between the main, universal Post Office services and the Post Office's subsidiaries, such as German Parcel.

This has been a good debate. We are modernising the Post Office. It was a Labour Government who, in 1969, took the Post Office out of the civil service and made it a public corporation. We are now modernising it so that it is able to face the new challenges of the 21st century.

We can be proud of the United Kingdom Post Office. We have provided the blueprint for postal services around the world. The Bill will preserve those cherished services while ensuring that a publicly owned Post Office is able to compete effectively in the communications market of the 21st century.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 115, Noes 374.

Division No. 74
[9.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James
Greenway, John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Wilshire, David
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Peter Atkinson and
Mr. Stephen Day.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Corbett, Robin
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Don Touhig and
Mr. Clive Betts.

Question accordingly negatived.

15 Feb 2000 : Column 876

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 62 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):--

The House divided: Ayes 331, Noes 155.

Next Section

IndexHome Page