Privatisation of the Royal Mail: Third Time Lucky?

7 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2014

Date Written: February 2014


The Conservatives privatised most of the UK's state‐owned industries during the 1980s and 1990s, but the Royal Mail remained under public ownership. It was privatised through a public flotation in early October 2013 when around 70 per cent of the company's shares were sold by the government. This paper looks at the reasons why the enterprise was not sold earlier. It especially focuses on the failed attempt to privatise it in 1993/4, although other occasions when privatisation was contemplated are mentioned. The discussion draws on government papers that are closed to the public under the 30‐year rule but to which the author had access as the UK government's Official Historian of Privatisation. The study demonstrates that in the past a combination of lukewarm support for privatisation at the prime ministerial level, concerns about the political consequences (including a possible revolt in Parliament), and trade union opposition proved decisive in preventing privatisation of the Royal Mail.

Keywords: postal, privatisation, Royal Mail, state ownership

JEL Classification: L32, L33, L38, L87

Suggested Citation

Parker, David, Privatisation of the Royal Mail: Third Time Lucky? (February 2014). Economic Affairs, Vol. 34, Issue 1, pp. 78-84, 2014, Available at SSRN: or

David Parker (Contact Author)

Cranfield University ( email )

Bedfordshire MK43 OAL, MK43 0AL
United Kingdom

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