John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
  "Orange Book" express train derailed
I was quite pleased that the Lib Dem Conference today derailed the "Orange Book" juggernaut.

It quite winds me up that people put forward motions that clearly do not stack up. I am someone who is involved in the private sector, has been a director of a publicly listed company, still has declarable interests in at least one company.

However, the party heirarchy decides that creating a private monopoly is a good idea and argues that the advisors who have not actually ever done any of these things have a better idea of how things work.

The party conference, however, decided that it needed a proper rethink.

This is the second rebellion against the leadership of this conference. I think there is a fair chance there will be a third on the proposed constitutional change tomorrow.

There is no sense turning the Lib Dems into a third Conservative Party.
 
Comments:
John - the Post Office isn't a true monopoly in that there is both direct (courier companies) and indirect (email, texting) competition for its services. Steve Travis
 
John, so far I'm quite happy that a missing vote from West Lothian has not been missed on a number of key issues. This being one of them.
 
The USO (Universal Service Obligation) is a monopoly on domestic deliveries up to 100gm.
 
"There is no sense turning the Lib Dems into a third Conservative Party."

Absolutely right. Why bother when you can prop them up in power and stay as you are.
 
John - OK re the USO, but is there any reason why a USO should be provided by one supplier only? In the Rail and Bus industries government supports loss-making routes that have a social component and there's no reason why the same could not apply with the mail, especially as there will be full competition for the USO in three months anyway.

Bob Piper - weyhey! Gold old-fashioned pointless partisan nonsense! Nice one mate ;)
 
John - "The USO (Universal Service Obligation) is a monopoly on domestic deliveries up to 100gm".

That is not the USO, John. The USO is the Royal Mail's statutory duty under the Postal Services Act 2000 to provide a delivery every working day to all addresses (with some tiny exceptions). This obligation would remain were Royal Mail to be privatised.

You are thinking of the regulated sector and should know perfectly well that it reduces to 50g from 1 January due to the EC Postal Services Directive. This is a highly significant move opening a huge segment of mail delivery to competition. Hence the urgency in having a policy in place (which we will not now have - thanks for that).

Furthermore, to the extent the Royal Mail retains its market power it is regulated entirely adequately (much to its obvious frustration but I shed no tears for it) by Postcomm.

I was frankly appalled by the behaviour of people like yourself and Tony Greaves yesterday. You are clearly oblivious to the damage that your approach is doing to the party's reputation. You are a colleague of Norman Lamb's and you had every opportunity to criticise the policy and suggest changes at an earlier stage. But once the Parliamentary party makes a decision you ought to rally round. You clearly see yourself as some sort of maverick - well good for you. You should appreciate, however, that you owe your position to Liberal Democrat voters like me who want to see a united party making progress and who think that people like you should learn when to button your lip.
 
The Federal Policy Committee should have allowed the amendments that were proposed to be allowed to be debated.

There is no sense forcing through a policy. I had made suggestions at an earlier stage that could have united the party, but noone was interested in debating them.
 
On the other comments from James my source was the Managing Director of the main commercial competitor. I can check all of this at a later stage, but not now.
 
I will save you the bother. On the universal service see http://www.dti.gov.uk/postalservices/universal_service.htm and on the reserved area see http://www.dti.gov.uk/postalservices/legislation_psregs.htm (I referred to this wrongly as the "regulated sector" above - the meaning was clear I think but the regulated sector more usually means all services regulated by Postcomm which includes several areas already open to competition).

On the conduct of your campaign, I have no vested interest in defending what the Federal Policy Committee - an elected body by the way which you could legitimately campaign to replace with more responsive souls - puts and does not put on the agenda. The fact is you work with Norman Lamb and others day in day out means you had a great chance to try to persuade them of your preferred course away from the glare of media publicity. You no doubt tried but failed and there comes a point for the good of the party when you really ought to rally around your colleagues. I understand that every other MP (some of whom no doubt had concerns over the policy) did so with the exception of Alistair Carmichael, with whom I disagree but who has perhaps more of a legitimate interest as MP for the Orkney and Shetland (I don't think he is right on the threat to his constituents' service but clearly he was in the horns of a genuine dilemma). I would describe your approach as self-indulgent.
 
In other words I am right. The USO is currently 100g and will be 50g.

The "reserved area" is a monopoly. (on items as such and 80/65p or less).
The Universal Service Obligation goes with the reserved area so it may be a bit of shorthand, but in essence that is what the argument is about.

This is a public blog.

I cannot go into all of the details of how we got where we got. However, there is no collective responsibility of the parliamentary party in setting party policy. As far as the party's procedures are involved on this I did it by the book.
 
No you are not right, John. The USO is the obligation to deliver mail generally to all postal addresses daily. It has nothing to do with weights and measures. The reserved area is the 100g (soon to be 50g) protected sector. Crucially, the accusation that the reserved area "monopoly" gives the Royal Mail some sort of significant market power is rubbish because it is so heavily regulated by Postcomm with regard stamp prices that the reserved area services are not profitable. Traditionally, the reserved area is the "price" the government pays for the USO but the unprofitability of the reserved area means this is not really the case in the UK (although it is in many European countries). EC reforms mean the reserved area is in any event dying out - the move to 50g takes a huge chunk of posted items outside it.

From your comments I increasingly wonder whether you have a firm grasp of the postal services sector and am deeply concerned that your major source appears to be this MD of a major competitor whom you mentioned earlier - hardly the sort of character you ought to be taking advice from on the future of Royal Mail. It is little wonder your colleagues didn't take your criticisms seriously and a shame you hoodwinked delegates.

"Did it by the book" is a lame excuse. Nobody accused you of breaking any rules - my point is that it was disloyal, self-indulgent and highly damaging and it is pretty sickening to then see you gloat about it online. No doubt because you "did it by the book" your conscience is clear. If only the rest of us found our moral and practical choices so easy to make.
 
"not profitable" depends upon how you do the management accounts.

I am opposed to the "orange book" direction for the party. I have been a member of this party (and the Liberals) since 1976. I have a right to express that view at party conference.

I will not be browbeaten into accepting what I see as being a damaging direction for the party.
 
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