Mark Leftly: Royal Mail's cheap float and the elephant in the room

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The Independent Online

Westminster Outlook Back to the Royal Mail and the Business Select Committee on which Mr Binley sits. During last week's mauling of the Business Secretary Vince Cable and his advisers over the postal service's botched flotation, Tory minister Michael Fallon made a little- noticed comment that should have turned the tables on the committee.

One reason, so the Government claims, why Royal Mail was sold off at just 330p a share was the risk of strikes amid tense talks with the unions over pay and conditions. The committee rubbished this claim and it is a fair point: the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has hardly been a hotbed of industrial action of late when it comes to Royal Mail.

However, Mr Fallon made an equally valid point that the committee should have held a hearing with the CWU's general secretary, Billy Hayes. "Indeed, I am very surprised that you have not called the union in," Mr Fallon added cuttingly. He later told me that he "absolutely" felt it was the committee's obligation to bring in Mr Hayes.

The committee chairman Adrian Bailey counters that this view is "at odds" with the coalition majority of MPs who are on his team. But publicly asking Mr Hayes to substantiate – or contradict – the Government's claims over the heated nature of last year's industrial relations dispute would at least produce a more thorough inquiry.