DAVID Cameron has insisted that the universal guarantee for postal deliveries across the country must stay on the day Royal Mail told a Commons committee that it is uneconomic.
The issue was raised in Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs) by Argyll and Bute Alan Reid following claims by Royal Mail that a fall in its profits and “cherrypicking” by competitors is undermining the universal obligation of providing deliveries at the same price to all parts of the UK six days a week.
If the universal obligation were to be scrapped it would hit Scotland hardest because of large sparsely-populated areas like the Highlands and Islands.
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Mr Reid said: “Royal Mail’s universal service obligation—that is, to deliver mail to every premises in the country and collect mail from every post box six days a week—is vital.
“Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that he will never allow the universal service obligation to be watered down in any way, and so support red van man?”
Mr Cameron replied: “I know how important the universal service obligation is, particularly in constituencies such as my honourable friend’s, which includes so many islands and far-flung communities.
“It is very important that it is maintained.”
Earlier, Moya Greene, Royal Mail’s chief executive, told MPs that the “precious” universal service obligation is under threat with competitors undermining the firm’s economics.
She warned the Business, Innovation and Skills committee that soon it would be “uneconomical”.
PMQs also saw Mr Cameron compare the SNP to Ukip in angry exchanges with Perth MP Pete Wishart.
To catcalls from Tory and Labour MPs, Mr Wishart said: “Prime Minister, we are living in the early days of a Ukip UK in which Farage and company pull all the strings in this House. Pandering to Ukip has been a disaster for the Prime Minister and for the Tory party, as even a cursory look at the opinion polls shows. Is it not time to stand up to its pernicious agenda and take it on?
“My country might be dragged out of Europe against its will because of this Ukip-ification. How could that possibly be right?”
But the Prime Minister hit back: “There is something that the honourable gentleman’s party and Ukip have in common: they seek to divide people. We stand for the United Kingdom and bringing people together.”
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