Speaking in the House of Commons, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael yesterday warned ministers that action must be taken to safeguard the future of the daily delivery of post at every door.
He warned that the increasing number of licences issued for door-to-door delivery could result in services in more isolated areas declining as private companies concentrate their efforts on more lucrative urban markets.
Speaking during Business, Innovation and Skills Questions, Mr Carmichael asked: “Is the minister aware that Postcomm have now issued no fewer than 46 licences for companies that are now entitled to deliver to the door? Does he now accept that does now raise a real danger of cherry picking in the urban areas which will leave Royal Mail having to deliver the universal services to the rural areas, which does then raise long term concerns about the sustainability of the universal service? Is the government looking at a future in that context?”
Business minister Pat McFadden replied: “We are determined to keep the universal services its an important part of the social glue of the nation. In constituencies like his own, one of the most beautiful and remote parts of the UK, this is particularly valued. Most of the competition to which he referred in mail which has been developed so far has not actually been in door-to-door delivery, it has been in upstream accesses and the vast majority, around 98-99 per cent of letters, are still delivered by Royal Mail every day and we express out gratitude to the hard working postmen and women.”
Commenting after his exchange, Mr Carmichael said: ”The minister is right that most of the competition in the letter post market so far has been in bulk mail for businesses like banks and credit card companies. So far the doorstep delivery has continued to be done by the Royal Mail. That could, however, be starting to change. The news that Postcomm has now issued 46 licences allowing people to compete with Royal Mail for delivery business should be raising concerns.
“The danger is that Royal Mail will be left delivering the less populated and more difficult to reach parts of the country while being undercut by competitors in towns and cities. This has already happened with Parcel Force. The government must not let it happen again with letter post.”