This week, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) – the respected independent body which is responsible for government departments and agencies – looked at the privatisation of Royal Mail. The report makes for uncomfortable reading for the Government.
It confirms that Ministers mishandled the sale of one of our country’s prized national assets, a move which has left the taxpayer short-changed to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. We now know definitively that better value could have been achieved had Ministers adopted a different timetable for the sale. As the report concludes: “The Department could have achieved better value for the taxpayer”.
This report is a truly damning verdict on the government’s Royal Mail privatisation and the final nail in the coffin on ministers’ desperate claims in defence of it. People will rue this ideological fire sale for years to come, and wonder how ministers got this so wrong and why they short changed the taxpayer by hundreds of millions of pounds.
Labour have been clear that we oppose the wholesale privatisation of our national postal service. We have always backed having a majority taxpayer stake in Royal Mail, which gives the taxpayer an interest in the maintenance of the universal service obligation (USO). Historically there has been a strong link between the Post Office network and Royal Mail – but this has been put at risk by privatisation.
During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday however, the Prime Minister tried to claim otherwise and said that Labour had committed to a sell-off in our 2010 manifesto. This is categorically false and I believe Mr Cameron should clear the record.