By Marcus Leach

The Government has published a number of amendments to strengthen the Postal Services Bill. The changes incorporate feedback from MPs, Lords, Royal Mail, other postal operators and the Communication Workers Union, as well as other interested parties.

The Bill, which has been approved by the House of Commons and is currently being considered by the House of Lords, is designed to secure the long-term future of two cornerstones of British life — the Royal Mail and the Post Office.

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.

- 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 28 million 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.

"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," Minister for Postal Affairs, Edward Davey, said.

“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 amendments will be debated by Peers at the Report stage of the Bill.