By Claire West
The Government has today confirmed that it will include an extra safeguard in its Postal Services Bill — the move will ensure that the Queen’s head remains on stamps regardless of who owns the company in the future.
This week the Government will bring forward an amendment to its legislation to give Ministers the power to require an image of the Queen to appear on postage stamps.
The previous Government’s Bill - which was withdrawn in 2009 - did not include any measures to make the current voluntary arrangements for putting the Queen’s image on stamps a matter of law. But since the new Government began developing its plans it has been considering what additional protections might be required.
After listening to the views of members of both Houses of Parliament and proactively raising the matter with the Palace the Government has decided to build in this new safeguard.
Minister for Postal Affairs Edward Davey said:
“At the moment there is no legal requirement for stamps to use the Queen's head - Royal Mail has always done this voluntarily by convention as they are extremely proud of their Royal connection.[/i[
[i]“I can’t see any reason why any future owner would want to change this as it’s a very valuable and prestigious tradition. So our amendment is really a failsafe and I would be astounded if the power ever needs to be used.
“Ever since we began developing our Postal Services Bill we have been very mindful about the importance of respecting and protecting the Royal associations and have had regular discussions with Buckingham Palace.
“At the outset we agreed a measure to ensure that the Sovereign continues to approve the designs of any stamps that bear her image.
“We have always been aware that the Bill did not contain a specific clause to require all stamps to bear the Queen’s image, turning established practice and tradition into a legal requirement - as a principle we do not legislate without very careful consideration of whether it is entirely necessary.
“But, after listening to the views of members of both Houses of Parliament and raising the matter with the Palace, we have now agreed this additional safeguard. I’m sure it will provide everyone with extra reassurance.”
Moya Greene, Royal Mail’s Chief Executive Officer, said:
“The Monarch’s head has been a key feature of Royal Mail stamps since the Penny Black was issued in 1840. We are very proud of our long-standing Royal association. It’s unthinkable that Royal Mail stamps would not have the image of the Monarch so we strongly support any measure that fully protects that key feature of our stamps.”
The Government’s Postal Services Bill will have its final stages in the House of Commons on Wednesday 12 January, before being considered by the House of Lords.
The Bill is designed to protect two cornerstones of British life — the Royal Mail and the Post Office. The Government believes there is a need for urgent action to give both a stable future.
Royal Mail is in a difficult position - mail volumes are falling; it has a multi-billion pound pension deficit; needs to become much more efficient and has an urgent need for more capital at a time when there are huge constraints on the public purse.
The company has to go further and faster to innovate, modernise and adapt better to the digital age — that requires substantial investment. The Government believes this investment needs to be delivered by the private sector, to bring with it the commercial disciplines Royal Mail needs to become a world-class postal operator and to free it from the spectre of Government intervention in management decisions.
The Bill includes the following proposals:
The requirements of the universal postal service — collection and delivery of post six days a week at uniform, affordable prices are written into the Bill. The Government has no intention of downgrading them.
Royal Mail will be able to benefit from an injection of private capital - ending the dependence on funding from the taxpayer and bringing new commercial disciplines into the business.
Alongside private sector investment:
At least 10% of the shares in Royal Mail will go to its employees in the future. This will be the largest employee share scheme of any privatisation, larger than British Telecom, British Gas or British Airways.
Royal Mail will be relieved of its enormous historic pension deficit by the Government.
As part of a general reform of the regulatory regime for mail, the existing regulator, Postcomm, will be replaced by Ofcom, the communications regulator, with the Bill providing for the transfer of Postcomm's regulatory responsibility and its staff to Ofcom.
The network of around 11,500 Post Office branches is not for sale and there will be no programme of closures under this Government. Instead there is £1.34 billion of new investment.
Under the proposals contained in the Bill, the Post Office could be converted into a mutual structure as part of innovative new plans to hand over its ownership and running to employees, sub postmasters and local communities.