POSTAL SERVICES BILL
Supplementary Memorandum by the Department
of Trade and Industry
The Select Committee's Seventeenth Report (24 May
2000) made no recommendation to alter either the delegated powers
in the Postal Services Bill or the parliamentary control procedures
for these powers.
Since that report, the Government has laid three
sets of amendments (copy of text attached for ease of reference
- not printed) which introduce further delegated
powers. These powers are contained in
a new clause (after clause 102) relating to the inviolability
of the mail;
a new clause (after clause 108) relating to postal
a new clause (after clause 110) relating to the vesting
of the records of the department of the Postmaster General.
This supplementary memorandum
describes the purpose and proposed use of these additional
explains why these matters have been dealt with by
creating delegated powers, and
explains the degree of Parliamentary control on the
exercise of these powers.
This memorandum also draws attention to an amendment
which has been tabled to clarify the potential operation of clause
119 (on which the Committee reported previously), and to a provision
in Schedule 5 which was inadvertently omitted from the previous
memorandum, for which the Department apologises, which is also
Inviolability of the mail
New clause (inviolability of mails) to be
inserted after clause 102, is intended to replace some of the
existing provisions of clause 95. This new clause extends inviolability
to postal packets, their contents and mail bags containing postal
packets carried by all postal operators. Its purpose is to provide
that all postal packets shall be treated as if they have crown
immunity from the actions specified in subsection (2). Subsection
(3) provides certain exceptions from this immunity.
It is important that subsection (3) provides for
only appropriate exceptions both now and in the future. A power
to modify subsection (3) is therefore considered essential.
Such an order would be made using the negative resolution
procedure which is considered by the Department to be appropriate.
A group of four new clauses, to be inserted after
clause 108, are proposed to translate into the Bill the provisions
in the existing legislation (sections 21(3) and 24 of the Post
Office Act 1953 and sections 70 and 71 of the Post Office Act
1969) in relation to postal and money orders. Postal orders are
unique financial instruments, which despite the developments that
have taken place in the banking market are still used by a number
of sections of the community, and are recognised internationally.
New clause (schemes in relation to postal and
money orders) gives the Post Office company, as the successor
to the Post Office, the power to make schemes for the issue etc
of postal orders. Such schemes, as under the existing legislation
(section 28 of the Post Office Act 1969), must set out certain
details specified in the clause, and be published in the London,
Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes.
Subsection (10) of this new clause provides for the
Secretary of State, by order, to modify the new clause. This mirrors
the provision in clause 93 for the Secretary of State to modify
clauses 89 to 92 (which provide for universal service providers
to make schemes to govern their legal relationships with their
customers), by order.
As was indicated in the main memorandum to the Committee
(paras 101 to 106 in particular), the Government considers that
although the continuation of schemes is at present appropriate,
this may not always be the case, and in any event the scope or
nature of the provisions might need to be adapted to reflect changing
circumstances. The Government considers that this applies to schemes
relating to postal and money orders just as much as to schemes
relating to postal services more generally. The Government will
therefore keep these provisions under review, and should any changes
be necessary will bring forward the necessary order.
As with the corresponding power in clause 89, the
Government considers that an order under this subsection should
require approval in draft by both Houses of Parliament, and accordingly
an amendment is being tabled to add this power to subsection (9)
of clause 114.
Records of the department of the Postmaster General
New clause (records of the former Postmaster General's
department) brings forward into the current Bill provisions
comparable with those contained in section 75(2) of the Post Office
Act 1969. That section permits the making of an order to vest
the property of the records of the Postmaster General's department
(which was wound up by the 1969 Act at the same time as the Post
Office in its current form was established under that Act) in
the Post Office. The section also permits the giving of directions
about the availability of the records to the Crown for inspection
and copying. No such order has been made, although in practice
the records have been maintained and made available for inspection
etc by the Post Office.
The retention of this order making power is desired
so that vesting of the records in the Post Office company may
take place after consultation.
As with the order-making power in the 1969 Act, no
Parliamentary procedure is envisaged for what is essentially an
administrative arrangement to be settled by the Secretary of State.
The amendment proposed to subsection (2) is intended
to make it clear that amendments made by the Bill to subordinate
legislation do not prevent subsequent amendment to those provisions
under the powers under which the instrument itself is made.
SCHEDULE 5, PARAGRAPH 3
As indicated in the previous memorandum, Schedule
5 sets out the detailed provisions on the compulsory acquisition
of land by a universal service provider for any purpose in connection
with the provision of a universal service. Such arrangements are
regarded as necessary to enable universal service providers to
be able to fulfil their obligations to provide services throughout
In contrast to the arrangements which apply in England
and Wales (para 1 and paras 4 to 13) and in Scotland (para 2 and
paras 14 to 28), in Northern Ireland application for compulsory
purchase of land is made to the Secretary of State, who makes
an administrative order. This simply follows the usual arrangements
which apply in Northern Ireland. The amendment makes it clear
that the order is not a statutory instrument.
6 June 2000