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By Jonathan Isaby
At questions to the ministers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on Tuesday, Tory MP Phillip Hollobone asked if the Government will "take steps to require Royal Mail to ensure the retention of the (a) colour of and (b) royal monogram on post boxes" after privatisation.
Here's the reply from the responsible minister, Ed Davey, along with the supplementary exchange:
Ed Davey: Royal Mail has publicly stated that it cherishes its distinctive and much-loved red post boxes and that it is absolutely committed to ensuring that they remain a distinctive part of our communities. The Government believe Royal Mail should continue to use the royal cypher on post boxes and we are in discussions with the palace about that.
Phillip Hollobone: The red pillar box is one of the great symbols of our great nation, and it would be a national shame if pillar boxes were to disappear as a result of privatisation. Will the Minister require the Royal Mail to keep red pillar boxes, or ensure that some form of listed heritage status is applied to them so that we do not lose this great British symbol?
Ed Davey: I share my hon. Friend's interest in red post boxes, so I visited the British postal museum and archive only last week, and I can tell him that Britain's post boxes were originally green, but the public complained that they were too camouflaged, so chocolate brown was tried instead. That colour required too much paint, however, so we ended up with red, and we are on the fifth shade of red. I can also tell my hon. Friend that it would cost almost £1.7 million to repaint the nation's 115,000 post boxes, and given that Royal Mail has 300 litres of red paint in stock I think he can sleep easily in his bed at night about the colour of our post boxes.