Cable told a parliamentary committee Wednesday that more than 700,000 retail investors have sought shares in the initial public offering. Overall, investors have requested seven times more shares than the government offered for sale. The government would raise between 1.04 billion pounds and 1.72 billion pounds based on these figures. The opposition Labour Party says the sale should be put on hold amid concern the price is too low, costing taxpayers as much as 1 billion pounds. The sale is a big and controversial change for a national institution that dates to the time of King Henry VIII. Even former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who championed the sale of state-owned companies such as British Telecom and British Gas in the 1980s, refrained from privatizing Royal Mail. Royal Mail workers protested near Parliament, carrying a banner saying: “The Great British Royal Mail Robbery.” Members of the Communication Workers Union are holding a strike ballot, with the results to be released next week. Any strike would be held in the weeks ahead of the busy Christmas period. The Labour Party has challenged whether Cable had obtained the best price for the taxpayer. The concern is that if the shares are undervalued they will rise steeply on the first day of trading, giving investors a windfall that, according to Labour, should have gone to the taxpayer. Join the Discussion You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
UK Business Secretary Defends Royal Mail Sale
By Peter Geoghegan,Correspondent / October 9, 2013 Participants in a march and rally in Edinburgh, calling for a Yes vote in next year’s independence referendum, Sept. 21, 2013. Outgoing Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore had held the office since 2010, and helped draft the Edinburgh Agreement that allows next years independence vote to take place. Lesley Martin/AP Enlarge Glasgow, Scotland With less than a year to go to a referendum on Scottish independence, the British coalition government has replaced the minister responsible for Scotland in a surprise cabinet reshuffle. The Christian Science Monitor Weekly Digital Edition But while the switch is expected to bring a new combativeness to the independence debate here, experts say that the move is a mere sideshow and may even weaken the British government’s efforts to maintain the union. Outgoing Scottish Secretary Michael Moore had held the office since 2010, and helped draft the Edinburgh Agreement that allows next years independence vote to take place. That role will now be filled by Mr. Moores fellow Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael. RECOMMENDED: Keep calm and answer on: Take our United Kingdom quiz. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, said “different experience” was required in the run-up to next years vote. Mr. Clegg said Moore became Scottish secretary at a “critical time” in the country’s relationship with the rest of Britain and “managed the challenges of the situation with great skill and effectiveness.” But he added: “I believe we now need to draw on different experience in the final year running up to the referendum itself and I am keen that, just as we have benefited from your formidable skills over the past three years, that we take advantage of other experience within our ranks during this period. Mr. Carmichael, the parliamentarian for the islands of Orkney and Shetland at Scotlands northern tip and former chief whip, has been described as a more “combative” figure than his predecessor.
UK government rejects industry proposal for press regulation
The proposals offered by the newspapers and the government differ on implementation details on the regulator that would replace the Press Complaints Commission . The newspapers wish to allow former editors of newspapers to serve on the “recognition panel” which would supervise the operation of the regulator while the government wishes to forbid former editors. The government wish to prevent serving newspaper editors from being on the appointments committee for the regulator while the press proposal seeks to require one of the four members of the committee to represent the press industry. The government proposal seeks to make it so the Royal Charter can be amended by Parliament , with a two-thirds majority from both houses, while the press proposal gives industry trade bodies a say on changes to the Charter. In both proposals, an arbitration service would be provided as an alternative to going to court, but the government wishes to make the arbitration service free for claimants while the newspapers want it to be “inexpensive” because they believe free arbitration could lead to a rush in claims going to arbitration. Both proposals would allow the regulator to fine the industry up to 1 million and demand the prominent publication of corrections and apologies to news stories. The Hacked Off campaign welcomed the rejection of the industry proposals. A spokesman described the proposals as “a wrecking manouevre by unrepentant sections of the press trying to avoid accountability and carry on with a broken system of press regulation” but condemned the delays in implementation: “Ten months after the publication of the Leveson Report and seven months after all parties in parliament endorsed its recommendations in a Royal Charter, there can be no legitimate excuse for yet another delay.” Hacked Off was formed following the revelations in 2011 that journalists working for the Sunday tabloid News of the World hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The newspaper industry continue to express concern regarding the proposals. Trevor Kavanagh, a columnist for the Sun , said that the “major issue here is keeping the freedom of the press out of the sticky fingers of the politicians who want to control it”. Kirsty Hughes from Index on Censorship said: “Establishing press regulation by royal charter could allow politicians to interfere in press regulation and threaten media freedom in the UK.” Movie actor Hugh Grant , a director of Hacked Off, rejected criticism of the charter from the press, arguing the press object to the system because “when the press gets things wrong and harms people unfairly, the charter system will give those people a much better chance of redress. It will provide free or at least very cheap arbitration, instead of requiring people whose rights have been breached to pay mountainous high court legal bills. And it will provide a free, independent complaints service in the case of breaches of the industry code of standards.” Grant goes on to argue that the press have attempted to reform the “old, discredited” Press Complaints Commission which Lord Leveson had found not fit for purpose. Instead, he argues, the press should welcome the new regulator as a protection from libel as joining in means “their journalists will have better protection from legal bullying by corporations and oligarchs. Because litigants are pushed towards cheap arbitration it will no longer be possible for the very wealthy to gag reporters simply by threatening high court actions.