HC Deb 07 July 1981 vol 8 cc375-7

Lords amendment: No. 42, in page 55, line 18, leave out "Part" and insert section and section 67— correspondent", in relation to a letter or other communication, means the sender or the addressee; "employee", in relation to a body corporate, includes any officer or director of the body corporate and any other person taking part in its management, and "employer" and other cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly;

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 43, 45 to 53 and 55.

Mr. Baker

This is probably the last series of substantive amendments. They all relate to the postal monopoly provisions in clauses 66 and 67. They are somewhat complex but are designed to take account of a number of representations that have been made to us by the Post Office and by other bodies.

Amendments Nos. 42, 43, 46 and 47 are fairly straightforward drafting amendments. Amendment No. 42 inserts a definition of "employee", which I shall explain in the context of amendment No. 50, and it also adds a definition of the term "correspondent" to mean the sender or the addressee". Amendment No. 43 is consequential on that. Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 are pure drafting, changing "addressee" to "addressees".

The more substantial amendments are as follows. Amendment No. 45 extends the exemption in clause 67(1) (c) for the conveyance and delivery of a letter by a messenger sent for the purpose by the sender, to allow the addressee also to send a messenger to pick up a letter from the sender. Representations have been made to us, in particular by small businesses, that an amendment on these lines should be made. I believe that it is a sensible amendment. It removes a certain amount of illogicality in the present position, which would, for example, allow me to send a messenger with a letter direct to the addressee but would not allow me to send that same messenger to pick up a letter addressed to me from the person sending it.

Amendment 48, which was tabled to meet a point raised in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn), makes a similar point. Hon. Members may recall that the mail order traders had expressed concern that the provisions in clause 67(1)(i) concerning the delivery of letters by persons "associated in business" with the sender would not allow them to carry on their business as they have done for many years, since it would not allow them to use their employees to pick up letters from persons other than those with whom they were associated in business. I understand that employees of mail order companies pick up letters from such "other persons", notably those who act as agents for the companies in the field.

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When we discussed this matter at an earlier stage my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said that he would consider whether it was possible to make an amendment to take care of that point and promised to consult the Post Office. These two amendments are the result. Although the wording of the amendments does not limit this exemption to the activities of mail order traders, we consider that, as in the case of a messenger, it would be illogical not to allow an employee of any company to pick up letters addressed to his employer from third parties when he would be able to deliver letters to those third parties.

Amendments Nos. 48 and 50 also contain some drafting changes to take account of Post Office concern that under clause 67(1)(i) it would have been possible for employees of a group of companies to set up their own private delivery service for their own business letters rather than only business letters referring to the business of their employer or another company in the same group as their employer. That was clearly not our intention, and amendments Nos. 48 and 50 make it clear that the letters being conveyed, delivered and collected must relate to the business affairs of the company whose employee is actually delivering or picking up the letters or to the business affairs of another company in the same group as the first company. The term "group" is defined by amendment No. 53 to mean a body corporate and all of its wholly owned subsidiaries taken together and the term "employee" is defined in amendment No. 42 to cover managers, directors and other officers who would not necessarily be covered by the normal interpretation of this term, namely, those employed under a contract of service but who would manifestly have a business interest in the letters sent by or collected for the bodies corporate for which they worked. Amendment No. 55 is consequential on amendment No. 53.

Finally, amendments Nos. 49, 51, 52 and 53 simply make drafting changes to the exemption from the monopoly for banking instruments passing between banks. The amendments are necessary to ensure that all the documents that currently pass through the banks' clearing system are covered by the definition of "banking instrument" in clause 67(3). In particular, it has been drawn to our attention that warrants issued by the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue, the Commissioners of Customs and Excise and the Department of National Savings pass through "clearing" but are not covered by the definition of "banking instrument" as it stands in clause 67(3). That is now covered by amendment No. 51, which also adds to the definition of banking instrument some other kinds of documents passing through the clearing system which were not previously covered, namely, bills of exchange, promissory notes and postal and money orders.

Furthermore, we have been informed that those warrants not only pass between banks but are sent back from the banks to the Department that issued them, and it has therefore been necessary to amend the exemption in clause 67(1)(j) to make that possible, by allowing banking instruments to pass between banks and between a bank and a Government Department. A Government Department is defined by amendment No. 53.

This is a somewhat complicated set of amendments, but I have explained them at some length because the questions to which they relate were raised in Committee and on Report. I hope the House will agree to them.

Mr. Blackburn

I wish to direct the attention of the House to this series of amendments because most of them originated in Committee under my name. In addition, there were representations on behalf of the Mail Order Traders Association. The position was of great concern to that industry, which employs 90,000. The original drafting of the Bill would have placed the entire traditional business in jeopardy, exactly as the Minister outlined.

In Committee assurances were given by both Ministers that these matters would be put right in another place. In a spirit of frankness and honesty I commend the Ministers for honouring that undertaking. The matters have been put right. The amendments, especially Nos. 42 and 50, now satisfy the needs of the Mail Order Traders Association and thus in law secure the future of 90,000 jobs.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 43 to 55 agreed to.

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