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Ed Miliband has branded David Cameron a "dunce" over his handling of the Royal Mail privatisation, prompting the Prime Minister to attack his Labour opponent as a "muppet" over his role in selling off the UK's gold stockpile.
The pair clashes in a heated Prime Minister's Questions, in which the Labour leader claimed the Government had "lost £1.4bn for the taxpayer" by undervaluing shares in Royal Mail.
As well as his attack over the sale of British gold - which took place when Gordon Brown was Chancellor - Mr Cameron claimed Labour had themselves wanted to privatise the Royal Mail.
"The truth is this. You sat in a Cabinet that wanted to privatise the Royal Mail, they couldn't do it... because the trade unions won't let them," Mr Cameron said.
Vince Cable has refused to apologise for the Government's handling of the Royal Mail privatisation, amid Labour claims of a "first-class disaster".
The Business Secretary clashed with his Labour opposite number, Chuka Umunna, in the House of Commons, with Mr Umunna claiming the low initial share price for the company meant investors were "laughing all the way to the bank".
But Dr Cable hit back, saying:
"The last thing I intend to do is apologise. What I do intend to do is to refer to what the report actually said as opposed to the spinning and the froth that is being generated around me."
Vince Cable has hit back at suggestions the Government mishandled the privatisation of Royal Mail.
The Business Secretary said the share offer was "done in a professional and successful way" which achieved ministers' objectives.
The National Audit Office has published a report criticising the Government over the sale of Royal Mail.
Here are some of the key figures from that report which help explain why the NAO said ministers "could have achieved better value for the taxpayer" from the share offer.
- £1.98 billion - proceeds to Treasury from sale of the Government's 60 per cent stake
- £1.704 billion - the value of the Government’s remaining 30 per cent stake
- 167,000 Royal Mail employees were given 10 per cent of the shares
- 690,000 retail investors bought shares
- 38 per cent - increase in Royal Mail share price on the company's first day of trading (October 15th, 2013)
- 72 per cent - increase in the share price over the first five months of trading
- 60p - Cost of a first class stamp at the date of the sale, an increase of 30 per cent in 2012-13.
(Source: National Audit Office)
One of the ministers involved in the privatisation of Royal Mail has insisted the Government did not short-change the taxpayer by setting the share price too low.
Business Minister Michael Fallon told Radio 4's Today programme.
Labour has hit out at the sale of Royal Mail, accusing the Government of leaving the taxpayer "disgracefully shortchanged".
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said:
The Government has defended the sell-off of the Royal Mail in the face of a damning report into its privatisation, saying the flotation rose £2bn for the taxpayer.
BiS permanent secretary and accounting officer Martin Donnelly explained:
The Government could have achieved better value for the taxpayer through its controversial privatisation of Royal Mail, according to a new report which reveals most investors given priority to buy shares sold them shortly after making a profit.
The National Audit Office (NAO) disclosed that 12 priority investors sold all or some of their holdings within the first few weeks of trading.
Critics of the privatisation said the spending watchdog had offered "startling proof" that the Government sold off the country's family silver "on the cheap".
But Business Secretary Vince Cable said the report showed that the Government achieved what it set out to do - securing the future of the universal delivery service through a successful sale.
The NAO said Dr Cable's department took a "cautious" approach to a number of issues which led to shares being priced at a level "substantially below" the initial trading price.
On the first day of trading last year, Royal Mail's shares closed at 455p, 38% higher than their price sale, representing a first day increase in value of #750 million for the new shareholders.
Latest ITV News reports
The Business Secretary says he has no intention of apologising over Royal Mail shares which rose sharply in value on the day they were sold.
The government sold it's 60% stake for £1.98 billion but more or less ever since has been accused of short-changing the taxpayer.