LETTER: How Red Star deal hurts the taxpayer

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The Independent Online
From Mr Michael Meacher, MP

Sir: I read your leading article on the sale of British Rail's Red Star parcels business with great amusement ("Red star over new Labour", 23 August). Alone among the entire press corps, your leader writer has discovered that giving an incompetent management a million and a half pounds to take away a public asset is a good deal for the taxpayer. If he had read just a few lines further in his colleagues' stories he would have seen that three other organisations actually offered to pay for it.

He also seems to think that Red Star has always received a "huge hidden subsidy". This is nonsense. It is only over the last four years that the business has been cut in half, while its losses rise relentlessly. Of course a train parcels business will face problems competing with road freight, if it has to pay the same rent for its use of cupboard space as WH Smith does for the concourse bookshop. Maybe your leader writer thinks this is only to be expected in the bracing climate of the free market.

Finally, this is not, of course, a question of "new" versus "old" Labour. Selling the family silver may be one thing. But I doubt if even your leader writer could find a Labour Party member who would support paying somebody to take it away.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Meacher

MP for Oldham West (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

23 August