Labour criticises Royal Mail sale
The Government's controversial plans to privatise the Royal Mail have come under fresh attack as Labour accused the coalition of a "fire sale" to raise badly-needed finances.
Ministers are pressing ahead with the sell-off despite opposition from postal workers and other groups.
Labour accused the government of putting party politics ahead of the interests of taxpayers by rushing to sell off Royal Mail "on the cheap".
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: "There are many questions, very few answers and so far little justification has been given for doing this fire sale now. The Government has failed to demonstrate why a sale this year will deliver best value for the tax payer.
"Instead they are rushing headlong into privatisation without addressing fundamental outstanding issues for consumers and businesses that rely on Royal Mail services which will have a detrimental impact on the sale price the Government can secure for the taxpayer.
"As we have seen in the rail and energy industries, badly executed privatisations result in sub standard services and people being ripped off. That is why any Government intent on doing a sell-off should exercise care, rather than rushing to do a sell-off in this way.
"The timing of this privatisation has the distinct whiff of desperation from a Government that has borrowed more than £245 billion than it planned and is eager to dig itself out of that hole at any price. Ultimately it is the taxpayer who will lose out."
Billy Hayes, Communication Workers Union general secretary, said: "Labour is right to expose the risks of privatising Royal Mail at this time. This Government has failed time and again to get value for the taxpayer and the signs are that they're not interested in protecting the future of this great British company or its worth to the public.
"Now isn't the time to privatise Royal Mail. We don't want our prize assets to be flogged at bargain basement prices just to cover up George Osborne's mess. Privatisation is an old-fashioned idea from Thatcher's era. We'd like to see a little more imagination and positivity when it comes to our postal service. We firmly believe it can and should continue to flourish in full public ownership."
A Business Department spokesman said: "Royal Mail is an essential part of Britain's social and economic fabric. As Business Minister Michael Fallon said last week, the decision will not be based on ideology. It will be a practical, logical and commercial decision. Royal Mail will only be sold if it gets maximum value for the taxpayer."