Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Nineteenth Report



ANNEX 3

POSTAL SERVICES BILL

Supplementary Memorandum by the Department of Trade and Industry

Introduction

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 orders;

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 powers,

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 being amended.

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.

Postal Orders

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.

CLAUSE 119

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 the country.

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


 
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