Ministers plan to end post monopoly

The postal workers' dispute entered a far more serious phase yesterday when the Government disclosed that it was preparing to suspend the Royal Mail's monopoly on delivering letters.

The news came amid attempts to start fresh peace talks after the Communication Workers' Union ordered a considerable escalation of the action on Thursday with four new strikes.

In a letter to the Post Office, Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, set in train the consultation process needed to lift the Royal Mail's sole right to deliver letters for less than pounds 1.

It was not clear yesterday how long the period of consultation or any possible suspension might last, or which parts of the mail might be up for grabs.

Alan Johnson, joint general secretary of the union, said it was "very unlikely" they would change the system just for the period of the dispute. It could lost "years rather than months".

Ministers have warned that the Government could come under pressure to allow private companies a permanent right to handle letters once the monopoly has been suspended. The union fears it could lead to renewed calls for the privatisation of the Royal Mail.

Mr Lang's letter asks Sir Michael Heron, chairman of the Post Office, to evaluate the impact of a suspension, which is most likely to affect bulk mailing by businesses. Mr Lang has the right to allow private firms to deliver letters under the British Telecommunications Act of 1981. The monopoly was last suspended a quarter of a century ago when postal workers went on strike for weeks on end.

A spokesman for the Post Office conceded that Mr Lang's plans were of "great significance" to its business and they would be treating the matter "very seriously".

The Direct Marketing Association, which represents companies which sell products through bulk mailing, said the Government's decision had followed intense lobbying by its representatives. The association estimated the industry would lose pounds 11m a day if disruption was prolonged.

The Government has so far acquiesced over the "restriction on trade" in order to stop companies "cherry-picking" profitable bulk mailing business.

The move by Mr Lang comes after the union - which has already led two day-long stoppages - announced strikes ranging in length from 24 hours to 48 hours. Some 130,000 sorting and delivery workers are to walkout for 24 hours from 3am next Thursday; 36 hours from 10am on 26 July; 48 hours from 3am on 31 July and 24 hours from 3am on 6 August.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Defendant Personal Injury 2+PQE

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - NICHE DEFENDANT FIRM - Defendant Pe...

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on