Tony Benn on the Post Office

We are told the Post Office loses money – but so do the police, and if we are going to follow this neoliberal doctrine, what about establishing low-cost private police forces, to challenge the "police monopoly"? This is a big, big issue, and it is a test of our society as to whether we are to organise everything to make a profit, or see that needs are met.

If the Post Office is to be run on a competitive basis, it could charge pounds and not pennies to deliver in the Orkneys and Shetlands, and make those who depend on braille pay the huge charges that the heavy material would attract on a commercial basis.

Well, yes, quite.

Might be the first time I\’ve agreed with the Second Viscount Stansgate. Excellent ideas all: let\’s put them into practice, shall we?

13 comments on “Tony Benn on the Post Office

  1. Excellent ideas all. Has PostComm licensed anybody to deliver letters yet? The state monopoly ended in 2001 (in theory at least). He’s a twat anyway, isn’t it called “Royal Mail” or “Consignia” nowadays?

  2. “Except when it’s ludicrous – he’s the plonker who lumbered us with the AGR programme”

    Agreed he’s ludicrous and a plonker but not the one who ‘lumbered us with the AGR programme’.

    That honour belongs to Harold Wilson.

    As it happens, I was once responsible for taking the Viscount Stansgate ( I don’t hold with his silly attempt to ‘downgrade’ himself) on a tour of Dungeness B while it was still under construction. We went inside the reactor which involved donning special clothes for the ‘clean conditions’ area. So, I am one of the few who’s seen Tony in his underwear!

    It’s a bit like the Devil; undress him and you see his cloven feet.

    On the AGR programme, though I beg to differ about us ‘being lumbered’. It was not the inherent problem with the AGR principle but the failure to adopt a single design from a single , strong industrial design and contractor grouping.

    And that takes us back to Harold again. Bemused by some back of the envelope calculations from Arnold Weinstock’s lads we got the Atomic Power Company and their Dungeness B design.

    Within months the corporate and financial weaknesses of this grouping and the design became apparent leading to two further design types, one at Hinkley Point B and Torness and another at Hartlepool and Heysham A from two FURTHER construction groupings, The Nuclear Power Group and British Nuclear Development Company (TNPG and BNDC).

    This political shambles has obscured the essential engineering excellence of the AGR principle. And whatever his faults, the blessed Tony had nothing to do with it.

  3. The above should tell you something of my age!

    My undeliberate error (for Torness read Hunterston!) reveals a small memory problem.

  4. Geoff: I’ll have to bow to your experience, but a friend of mine from Windscale was adamant that Wedgybenn was the chump who gave us the many-reactor-designs-but-no-proper-prototype programme. If not him, who was the minister? We can’t blame little Wislon for every balls-up of his government.

  5. dearieme: The problem with your friend’s claim is one of timing. Wedgie did not become Sec of State for Energy until 1975(ish) by which time Dungeness B had been under construction for seven(ish) years.

    The original AGR decision was taken mid-sixties when Wedgie had no departmental responsibility for the CEGB (AGR customer). It was, IIRCR, Ray Gunter whose spiritual home was the Min of Labour rather than Min of Power.

    The Harold Wilson story was widely current in the CEGB from the mid-sixties onwards and was related by the chairman, Arthur Hawkins, whom I came across in meetings from time to time.

    The last-minute nature of the decision was prompted by mistaken loyalty to a ‘British design’ by Harold as the CEGB wanted to order the American PWR design. Arnold Weinstock bent Harold’s ear and bypassed the Min of Power and the CEGB and, so, onto Dungeness B and its successors.

    As it happens, you CAN find the origins of almost any failure in British policy today in one or other of Harold’s decisions.

  6. Hold on, Geoff. I see that Wedgy was Minister of Technology 4 July 1966 – 19 June 1970 – would he have been i/c UKAEA.? Maybe my pal had part of the truth?

  7. Moreover “Benn was closely associated with Wilson and worked with him to build the Ministry [of Technology] into a powerful voice within Whitehall. Both he and Wilson believed in government assistance to industry to adopt new technology. The Ministry gradually gained extra functions, taking over those of the Ministry of Aviation on February 15, 1967 and also absorbed the Ministry of Power on October 6, 1969; it therefore became one of the largest and most powerful in government.”

  8. dearieme: yes, but, the absorption of the Min of Power under the Min of Tech wing did not take place until late 1969. The orders for all the AGRs had by then been placed.

    The UAKEA line is an irrelevance in this discussion. The customers for the AGRs were the CEGB and the SSEB (South of Scotland Electricity Board).

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