Queen's head on stamps guaranteed by law

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The Independent Online

The Queen's head will remain on stamps regardless of who buys the Royal Mail after the Government decided to amend its controversial privatisation legislation, it was announced today.

The Government said that after listening to the views of members of both Houses of Parliament and raising the matter with Buckingham Palace, it had decided to build in a new safeguard.

The Postal Services Bill, which receives its third reading in the Commons on Wednesday, will be amended to give ministers the power to require an image of the Queen to appear on postage stamps

Postal Affairs Minister Ed Davey said: "At the moment there is no legal requirement for stamps to use the Queen's head. Royal Mail has always done this voluntarily by convention as they are extremely proud of their Royal connection.

"I can't see any reason why any future owner would want to change this as it's a very valuable and prestigious tradition. So our amendment is really a fail-safe and I would be astounded if the power ever needs to be used.

"Ever since we began developing our Postal Services Bill we have been very mindful about the importance of respecting and protecting the Royal associations and have had regular discussions with Buckingham Palace.

"At the outset we agreed a measure to ensure that the Sovereign continues to approve the designs of any stamps that bear her image.

"We have always been aware that the Bill did not contain a specific clause to require all stamps to bear the Queen's image, turning established practice and tradition into a legal requirement - as a principle we do not legislate without very careful consideration of whether it is entirely necessary.

"After listening to the views of members of both Houses of Parliament and raising the matter with the Palace, we have now agreed this additional safeguard. I'm sure it will provide everyone with extra reassurance."

Moya Greene, Royal Mail's chief executive, said: "The monarch's head has been a key feature of Royal Mail stamps since the Penny Black was issued in 1840. We are very proud of our long-standing Royal association. It's unthinkable that Royal Mail stamps would not have the image of the monarch so we strongly support any measure that fully protects that key feature of our stamps."

The Bill is now entering its final stage in the Commons before being considered by the House of Lords.

Ministers say the plans to sell off the Royal Mail part of the business will lead to an injection of private capital, ending the dependence on funding from the taxpayer and bringing new commercial disciplines into the business.

At least 10% of the shares in Royal Mail will go to its employees in the future - the largest employee share scheme of any privatisation - while Royal Mail will be relieved of its huge pension deficit by the Government.

Meanwhile, hundreds of trade unionists, students and residents will take part in a demonstration in David Cameron's Oxfordshire constituency today to protest against plans to privatise the Royal Mail as well as the Government's spending cuts.

Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union said: "Government cuts are really beginning to draw blood now as jobs and services suffer. The planned privatisation of Royal Mail is an unnecessary ideological move which will damage postal services forever."

A 6ft coffin bearing the message "Here Lies the Remains of Royal Mail" will be held aloft at the protest, which is supported by several trade unions and other groups.