BUSINESS secretary Vince Cable yesterday refused to apologise over the privatisation of Royal Mail despite mounting criticism that the postal operator had been sold off too cheaply.
In a heated House of Commons debate, Cable said “the last thing” he intended to do was apologise and that taking a more aggressive approach on pricing would have increased the risk of the float failing altogether.
But shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who demanded the apology, described the £3.3bn sell-off as “a first class disaster” that has left taxpayers “disgracefully shortchanged to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds”.
His comments came after the National Audit Office (NAO) published its report yesterday, criticising the government for acting with “deep caution” and too readily accepting the advice of its bankers.
The NAO acknowledged the risks of hiking the range but pointed out that some investors subsequently increased their shareholding at much higher prices, while the majority of the 17 priority investors had sold almost half of the shares allocated to them within weeks of the float.
Speaking to the BBC, business minister Michael Fallon insisted that the taxpayer got “good value for money” in light of the risks at the time.