A former Cabinet minister demanded Thursday that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reach a compromise with the Liberal Democratic Party over his plan to privatize the nation’s postal services.

Toranosuke Katayama, a former posts and telecommunications minister and the current secretary general of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, made the demand during the day’s plenary session of the House of Councilors.

It is rare in the party-oriented Diet system for a member of the ruling party to criticize the government in this fashion during a plenary session.

Referring to the Cabinet’s approval — made without LDP backing — last month of Koizumi’s basic plan to privatize the postal system by splitting Japan Post into four units in 2007, Katayama urged Koizumi to deal flexibly with the specifics and drafting of relevant bills through close consultation with the ruling coalition.

We “strongly ask the prime minister to hold close consultation with the ruling parties, which represent the people, so as to gain their understanding and consent,” Katayama said.

“Needless to say, it is indispensable (for the government) to cooperate with the Diet, particularly the ruling parties, in order to enact the legislation.”

Koizumi responded that the government will introduce the legislation to the next ordinary Diet session, to be convened in January, after ironing out differences with the ruling coalition.

The Upper House is seen as holding the key to the enactment of the contentious legislation.

Because it is not legislation relevant to the state budget, over which the House of Representatives has final say, the Upper House will likely have a greater opportunity to influence the content of the bills.

Many LDP lawmakers remain opposed to the privatization of the postal system, including regional post offices run by independent contractors, which are a solid vote generator for the party.

In citing his concerns over the basic plan endorsed by the Cabinet, Katayama said it could lead to drastic streamlining of unprofitable services in depopulated rural areas, break up the national network of post offices and the so-called universal services of postal savings and “kampo” postal life insurance business that they offer.

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