THE BLOG

There Is an Alternative to Royal Mail Privatisation for Wales

27/09/2013 11:06 BST | Updated 26/11/2013 10:12 GMT

In his first speech to Parliament as Postmaster General, Caerphilly MP Ness Edwards celebrated the postal service as a success story of socialised industries. He was the last Welsh person to hold that now defunct office. In his work, Ness reflected the values of universalism and a commitment to community interests.

More than sixty years later, it has become clear that those values are rarely upheld when vital communal institutions are squandered to private interests. In energy the railways and telecommunications, there are plenty of have clear examples of how a rush to shareholder interests trumps social responsibility.

I wonder what Ness Edwards would make of the current UK Government's hurried plans for the privatisation of the Royal Mail. Times may have changed, but people's values remain. The interests of our communities backed by a swell of public opinion cannot now prevail whilst postal services are in the hands of Westminster.

Labour's Lord Mandelson introduced a bill for Royal Mail privatisation. His goal is now being delivered by a Liberal Democrat minister. Two parties who at one time occupied the centre-left of British politics are now card-carrying members of the 'market-knows-best' brigade.

That is why I am proposing a Welsh way forward. Plaid Cymru is not a party to shout "foul play" from the side-lines. The Party of Wales is determined to meet the aspirations of our people with alternatives.

I've written to the UK Business Secretary calling on him to follow a precedent set in the Post Office Act of 1969. That legislation implemented far-reaching reforms, and within it, the UK Government surrendered its postal interests in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, offering them to the governments of those territories.

Under the precedent, Welsh operations of Royal Mail should now be surrendered to the Welsh Government.

A new arms-length from government "Post Cymru" would ensure the upholding of the principles of universalism, and the terms and conditions of our workers. Profits could be reinvested into the service so that the new challenges of this century can be met.

The Welsh Government, supported by the Party of Wales, has already demonstrated its willingness to intervene when the national good is at stake. Cardiff airport was purchased because the importance of a successful national airport to our country's economic and social prospects was recognised.

Our postal network in the same vein is also a vital component of our national infrastructure. The vast rise in online retailing suggests there should be a bright future for postal services despite the substitution of letters for emails. There are of course challenges in this sector as there are in all others. In all countries it is sensible for people to regularly consider what national assets should be underlined by social objectives, in public hands and where it is appropriate for markets play a role. Governments regularly intervene where the market has or is at risk of hailing. That is the situation here.

Recreating Royal Mail's Welsh operation under a new name and branding will require great maturity on the part of the Welsh and UK governments. In the precedent of the 1969 legislation, it took some time before the necessary agreements were reached. Wales would remain integrated into the UK postal market in many ways, and this would have to be reflected in a cross-border agreements. It would make sense for example, to retain the UK post code system, just as the Isle of Man and Channel Islands have and, as with the rail franchise Post Cymru would then continue to be able to serve communities along the other side of Offa's Dyke.

There's no reason not to be ambitious in our Welsh way forward.