HC Deb 30 July 1981 vol 9 cc464-5W
Mr. Murphy

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what measures he intends to take in respect of the postal monopoly after enactment of the British Telecommunications Bill.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

In my right hon. Friend's statement to the House on 16 July 1980 he set out the Government's intention to remove certain categories of mail from the scope of the postal monopoly. The British Telecommunications Act also contains provisions which give the Secretary of State the power to make further relaxations to the monopoly in certain circumstances.

After consultation with all interested parties, including the Post Office, I now propose to take the following measures to remove certain categories of mail from the scope of the monopoly:

  1. (i) There will be a general suspension of the monopoly allowing any person to carry time sensitive-valuable mail subject to the condition that for each item carried a minimum charge of at least £1 is levied.
  2. (ii) In respect of document exchanges, a general licence will be issued allowing any document exchange to arrange for the transfer of mail to any other document exchange. This general licence will not affect the present position where the sender is required to bring his own documents to an exchange and the addressee is required to pick up documents addressed to him from an exchange,
  3. (iii) A general licence will also be issued to enable charities to carry Christmas cards. This concession will be restricted to the period approximately one month prior to Christmas. As in the case of document exchanges it will not be necessary for any individual charity to apply for a licence; any organisation which comes within the definition of "charity", which will be set out in the licence, will be able to take advantage of the general licence, subject, of course, to observing any terms and conditions set out in the licence.

I shall shortly issue the general licences and lay the statutory instrument for the suspension of the monopoly in respect of time sensitive-valuable mail.

In addition to these specific derogations, my right hon. Friend also announced on 16 July 1980 that he would be seeking to amend the law relating to the Post Office letter monopoly in order to provide for powers to make relaxations in respect of certain further categories of mail and to remove the monopoly either in a local area or nationally in the event of actions within the control of the Post Office which result in a cessation or serious decline in the quality of service, or if, after due warning, the Post Office fails for reasons within its control to satisfy him as to its performance in serving the public. The criteria which will be used in deciding whether to make further derogations are still under consideration.

The Post Office has already taken steps to become more responsive to customer needs. These measures and the powers taken to make further relaxations where customer needs require will reinforce these steps and will ensure that the nation has a postal service dedicated to providing good service at a reasonable price.

Mr. Neale

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he intends to implement the recommendations in Professor Beesley's report on the British Telecommunications network; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I refer my hon. Friend to the statement I gave earlier today.

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