Life at Westminster column by Sir Greg Knight

We still use Royal Mail when it comes to sending greeting cards, letters and parcels.
We still use Royal Mail when it comes to sending greeting cards, letters and parcels.

I recently received a communication fearing there may be job losses with some branch closures in 2017 at the Post Office.

The complainer was not specific where and when but implied that this was somehow the fault of the Government.

However, my complainer is one of many who are themselves making this situation more likely because the communication I received from him was an email.

I am not complaining about this but making a point.

New technology affects us all and some businesses can be badly hit as new alternatives become more attractive to use.

A hundred years ago it must have seemed as if the Royal Mail was an impregnable organisation that would always continue to grow as fast as the growth of our population, but history has proved this assumption wrong.

It takes now a fraction of one penny to send an email that is received in a matter of seconds.

No matter which Government is in power, the Royal Mail cannot hope to win business competing with email, due to its speed and minimal cost.

Of course, there will still be times when we prefer to use the Royal Mail, such as in sending greeting cards or parcels, but the bread and butter of the mail trade is now firmly in the hands of the internet.

Birthdays and Christmas are the times of year when most of us either give presents, receive them or both.

When one is stumped for an idea about what to buy for the friend who has everything, the most common choice is to buy a gift card or voucher, which the recipient can later exchange for an item of their own choosing.

However, gift cards are not always the good value they seem to be. Recently it has come to light that a number of stores have been issuing gift cards with a very short redeeming date, after which the voucher is invalid and the store will not accept it.

A friend of mine recently won a gift voucher valued at £75 but when he turned to look at the back, the expiry date was just seven days later! As he was due to go on holiday, the entire value of the voucher was lost.

Some complain that Parliament makes too many laws but when the public are being ripped off then there is a case for the Government looking at whether new legislation is needed.

I see no reason why gift vouchers should not have a shelf life of at least two years – as is currently the law in Ireland. In the weeks ahead, I will be asking Ministers to look at this issue to ensure that consumers are not unfairly ripped off.

They say you should never look a gift horse in the mouth – maybe, but I do think it is time we ensured that all gift vouchers are worth more than the paper they are printed on!