Royal Mail sell-off almost complete

Government plans to privatise the Royal Mail moved a step closer today when legislation cleared its passage through the House of Lords.

The Postal Services Bill will return to the Commons on June 9 for its final stage before being granted Royal Assent.

Baroness Wilcox, Parliamentary Secretary for Business, Innovation and Skills, who has taken the legislation through the Lords on behalf of the Government, said: "I am delighted that our important proposals have passed through the Lords. This is a significant milestone in delivering our objective of securing the future of Royal Mail and the Post Office: two proud cornerstones of our society."

During the Bill's time in the Lords, the Government said it listened to suggestions and made a series of amendments to "further strengthen" the legislation.

The changes will give extra regulatory certainty to Royal Mail and increase transparency by putting more reporting requirements on the Government, the Business Department said.

Baroness Wilcox said the Bill is expected to complete its passage through Parliament this summer, then the Government will submit an application for state aid to the European Commission.

The new regulator for postal services, Ofcom, will establish the new regulatory framework for postal services next spring, while March 2012 is the target date for the Government to take on Royal Mail's pension deficit, subject to state aid clearance.

The Business Department said: "With these vital steps in place, the Government will be able to begin the process of securing the private sector investment that Royal Mail needs."

The Communication Workers Union said it will continue campaigning against privatisation despite the Bill's passage through Parliament.

General secretary Billy Hayes said: "This union will continue to do everything it can make the sale more difficult than it already is. We face the prospect of a 350-year-old institution being managed by people whose only interest is the bottom line."