Postal unions have warned of job losses after the Government unveiled its controversial plans to privatise the Royal Mail, revealing there would be no upper limit on how much of the business will be sold to a company.
Overseas firms will be among those allowed to buy 90% of the Royal Mail, with 10% going in shares to postal workers, which ministers said would be the largest of its kind of any privatisation.
Business Secretary Vince Cable, publishing the Postal Services Bill, said there would be no objection to a foreign-owned group buying the postal organisation because the Government was not going on a "nationalist jihad" against foreign companies.
He revealed that the Government was considering converting the Post Office arm of the business into a mutual structure in a similar manner to the John Lewis Partnership or the Co-operative Group.
Handing ownership and running of post offices to employees, sub-postmasters and the local community would "empower" the people who knew the business best, he said.
Ministers declined to say how much money the Government hoped to raise through the sale, how much the employee shares will be worth, or how quickly the privatisation will go ahead, although it will not be before next summer.
The Government faced an immediate backlash from unions, which raised fears of job cuts and poorer services.
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union said: "The Government has wasted no time in flogging off the country's state assets without exploring other options. This obsession with privatisation is deeply worrying."
Unite, which represents managers, said it was already experiencing job cuts, which it warned would get worse under privatisation.
The Government said the Royal Mail, which employs postal staff and owns the delivery vehicles, and the Post Office, which runs the branch network, were two "cornerstones" of British life.