Royal Mail: Labour Call To 'Pull Plug' On Sale
The Government should "pull the plug" on the privatisation of Royal Mail before the company's shares are sold in two days' time, Labour has said.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said scrapping the move would prevent a "massive bonanza" for City speculators.
He said to proceed with the sell-off would not only have "huge consequences for consumers and businesses" - but the taxpayer would also be left "short-changed".
The Government plans to sell between 40.1% and 52.2% of the firm, giving the company a value of £2.6bn-£3.3bn.
It believes privatisation will give Royal Mail access to private capital needed to modernise its business.
Speaking on Sky's Murnaghan programme, Mr Umunna pointed to a report this week by Stockbroker Panmure Gordon which said Royal Mail had been undervalued by more than £1bn.
In addition, its property assets have been priced at £787m. Mr Umunna said some people believed that Royal Mail's Mount Pleasant sorting office in Clerkenwell, London, alone could bring in £1bn after privatisation.
"If you look at the property assets and then you look at the value, this does not add up," he said.
"What I am saying to the Government today - it is not too late to pull the plug on this privatisation. Pull the plug on it.
"Tuesday is the deadline by which people can submit applications to get shares, so until you've dished out the shares, until you have allocated them, it is free for the Government to say, 'actually, we've taken a step back, we've decided that we have priced this wrongly, and we've decided not to go ahead with it'.
"Now I am saying, don't go ahead with it in principle, but at least if they are going to proceed ensure you get good value for the taxpayer.
"Increasingly we are seeing more and more information coming out which would suggest that the taxpayer is being short-changed"
Mr Umunna argued the Government was pressing ahead with the privatisation despite grave concerns amongst its own backbenchers.
He said 70% of the public were also against the move, including the Federation of Sub-Postmasters.
"Increasingly what this is looking like is a massive bonanza for City speculators and a huge short-changing of the taxpayer at the same time," he said.
He said the previous Labour government's plans included maintaining a majority stake in public ownership.
"That is very important," he said. "The Royal Mail has a very important relationship with the Post Office under which the Post Office provides Royal Mail Services. That is due to expire in 2022 and there is no guarantee that it will be continued with a privatised Royal Mail.
"Now if you have a public stake, you've got some say in that, and in what happens in the future, but being privatised, you don't."
He added: "I don't think they should be selling it at all."
Mr Umunna refused to support or condemn potential industrial action by postal workers linked to the controversial sale of the business.
Asked if it was right for postal workers to take industrial action over the sale and other issues, Mr Umunna said: "I have always said I think striking should be a very last resort and should be avoided at all costs.
"But I am not going to condemn our posties either ... These people are not seeking to demonstrate lightly. This is not something people want to do. So I am certainly not going to condemn them but you're not going to get me supporting huge disruption of services which my constituents and many others around the country get."