Select Committee on Trade and Industry First Special Report



Excerpts from a letter to the Clerk of the Committee from the Chief
Executive of the Postal Services Commission

There were two recommendations which refer specifically to the Postal Services Commission.

The first reference to Postcomm is in para 22, where it is noted that we are to "function as the Government's adviser on Counter services, in effect in an inspectorial role...". The Committee then goes on to recommend that "the Postal Services Commission [should] take the necessary steps to ensure that it is adequately funded and staffed to perform the additional tasks imposed on it by the Governments acceptance of the recommendation in the PIU Report".

I am not sure that we see our role as inspectorial. I think that our role is rather more strategic, and it will be for the Consumer Council for Postal Services (CCPS) to comment on individual post office closures. Nevertheless, we will need to be properly resourced and I am glad to be able to tell you that we do now have a strong team working in this area. Indeed, one of them has joined us from the PIU, one from the National Federation of Subpostmasters and one from a private sector bank. We thus have a good range of experience which we can bring to bear on the difficult issues which face us. And we have had no difficulty, so far, in ensuring that the team, and its research programme, is properly funded.

The second principal reference to Postcomm is in para 32, where the Committee "welcomes the introduction of objective access criteria to be used by the Postal Service Commission in considering which closures to resist ...". This sentence might, in fact, over-simplify a rather complex subject. The position as we understand it is that the Government has not yet specified objective access criteria, and indeed some argue that tightly defined criteria might do more harm than good. We will therefore be taking a close look at this issue and hope to provide helpful advice on access criteria both to the Government and to the Committee. Also, as noted above, we will not be "resisting" individual closures. Closure decisions of course are taken by individual businessmen and women, subject to scrutiny by the CCPS.

Separately, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that our thinking has developed since Graham Corbett and I met your Chairman and yourself. In particular, we are now well on with drafting the licence which will be issued to the Post Office in March, and we have embarked on our extensive review of the scope for introducing effective competition into the postal services market.

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Prepared 22 January 2001