01 June 1999

REPEATED DELAYS in publishing the white paper on the future of the Post Office have kindled fears that the Government is re-thinking its promises of commercial freedom. Initially scheduled for publication early this year, the white paper was delayed by the downfall of then trade and industry secretary Peter Mandelson and his subsequent replacement by Stephen Byers. In April the Government announced it would be published in May but then put back the date to June - it is now unlikely to see light of day before July. Conspiracy theorists see the Machiavellian hand of the Treasury behind the repeated delays. They believe the mandarins are plotting to retain a sizeable chunk of the revenues from its favourite milch cow, rather than see them diverted to investment and acquisition. The likelier explanation, however, is more prosaic: that the Government was restricted in making public announcements on important political matters prior to the European parliamentary elections.