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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, will remember that five years ago we came within an ace of having post offices privatised. That was resisted by those of us who represent Northern Ireland because we felt that inevitably the post offices would be sold off, particularly in the rural areas. They might even be reduced to a delivery twice a week. There were real fears over that. As the noble Lord said, it is a

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different matter with postage stamps. I agree with him that we ought to have a common postage stamp throughout the United Kingdom.

I am less confident about bank notes, although they are not the subject of the debate. Noble Lords will know that, if they visit Northern Ireland and return with some of the rather exotic designs of bank notes we have over there, although the bank notes are claimed to be legal tender here in England the average tradesman will regard them as funny money and invite people to get them changed into sterling. We do not want to fall into that trap with a variation in designs and colours.

Lord McConnell: My Lords, I support the idea that postage stamps are a matter which should be decided at Westminster and not by the Assembly. I can imagine no more fruitful source of disagreement than for the Assembly to start arguing as to what should be on postage stamps. There are enough matters for them to argue about; there is enough potential for dispute without adding this. Postage stamps should remain a subject for Westminster.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I am drawn to my feet because it is such an obvious and powerful point that I hope the Minister will take it on board.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, your Lordships will recall the debate in Committee to which the noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred about the Government's general approach to Schedules 2 and 3. As I said at the time, our starting point in relation to the divisions between the excepted and the reserved fields has been the divisions in the 1973 Act. A number of factors have led us to prefer the reserved field, where a decision has been required, given the flexibility which the reserved field provides, as well as the important control of it depending on the Secretary of State's consent. The noble Lord's amendment would single out "postage stamps" from the reservation in Schedule 3 of the Post Office, posts and postal services and make them an excepted matter.

Against the background of the broad interpretation on which Schedules 2 and 3 rely, I would resist any attempts to split up matters which are clearly interrelated, such as postal services and postage stamps. We consider it appropriate that these matters should be listed together.

In Committee, I said that it was not the Government's intention that the Assembly should legislate about postage stamps. This is presumably one of the factors behind the noble Lord's amendment. As I recall, the noble Lord was particularly concerned about the Assembly's power to change the design of postage stamps. He referred to that point a few moments ago. While we have not had any indications of the Assembly wanting to give any attention to this matter, I think it would be wrong for me to rule out the possibility of its taking an interest at some stage in the future. There are of course already different designs for postage stamps from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the Assembly might want to make suggestions as to what the Northern Ireland element of the stamp should be. It

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would not however be free to legislate about the designs unless the Secretary of State's consent was obtained. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the Assembly will therefore be able to discuss the matter--which is what some of us worry about--but it will not be able to legislate about it without the Secretary of State's consent. I took that as at least a broad hint that this is one of the reserved matters which is never likely to be transferred in the future. It could perhaps be inferred from the remark of one of the Minister's colleagues on Monday that the Government wanted and intended to continue a universal postal service throughout the United Kingdom, as indeed they should.

It has become obvious in the course of our debates that some of the reserved matters will never be transferred, so it should not come as a surprise to us that this may be one of them. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 142:

Page 55, line 15, at end insert--
(" . Regulation of the following--
(a) building societies;
(b) banking;
(c) friendly societies and other societies to which the Friendly Societies Act 1974 applies.
. Regulation of the following--
(a) investment business, the official listing of securities and offers of unlisted securities;
(b) the transfer of securities;
(c) insider dealing.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 142. This amendment deals with the regulation of building societies, banking, friendly societies, investment business, the transfer of securities and insider dealing. This may be another example of subjects that remain on the reserved list and will never be transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly, at least as far as concerns present intentions. They are very important matters. If a single market is to be maintained, as the Minister told the House yesterday, it is important that regulation throughout all parts of the UK should be the same. If banks, friendly societies, building societies and so on are to operate all over the United Kingdom it would be much easier for them to do so on the same basis.

As to investment business, in seeking to generate inward investment it is important that regulation is based on Westminster and Whitehall and not transferred to Northern Ireland, and that there are not different arrangements for the listing and offering of securities in Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Insider dealing speaks for itself. Given the rackets that have taken place in Northern Ireland and some of the difficulties that have arisen in the financial field because of the existence of strong paramilitary forces, insider dealing should also be controlled on a uniform

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basis throughout the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future. That is the argument for transferring it to the excepted list instead of leaving it among the reserved categories, as the Bill does at present.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, the noble Lord's amendment would move a number of matters concerned with the regulation of financial markets and consumer services from the reserved to the excepted field. The noble Lord will not be surprised to know that I cannot accept the amendment. As I have said before both in Committee and this afternoon, there are a number of reasons why, where a decision is required, we have preferred to keep matters in the reserved field rather than except them. I do not take issue with the noble Lord that the regulation of banking, building societies and the like should be on a UK-wide basis but to reserve these matters does not preclude or restrict that in any way as he conceded.

On the other hand it permits flexibility. There may be times, in circumstances that we may not at this moment be able to foresee, when it may be useful for the Assembly to be able to legislate on some of these matters, or at least on the margins of these matters. By keeping matters in the reserved field we keep open the possibility of the Assembly being able to legislate but at the same time we retain control by way of the need for the Secretary of State's consent.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the Minister appeared to say that he sought a uniform system throughout the United Kingdom but wanted to make provision for it to be different. I am not sure that the two halves of his speech entirely joined up. However, I shall not press the amendment at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 143:

Page 55, line 17, at end insert--
(" . Intellectual property.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 143. This amendment is related to patents, copyrights and such matters that are covered by the general term "intellectual property". It is extremely important for the functioning of markets that patents and copyrights should be as universal as possible. The whole history of legislation and international treaties on these matters over many years has proceeded in that direction. But here one is providing the opportunity in the future, if the Bill is not modified, for patent, copyright and other similar law in Northern Ireland to be different from the rest of the United Kingdom. I do not believe that to be desirable in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole; nor is it in the interests of Northern Ireland. The encouragement of investment and such activities requires the application of a consistent law throughout the United Kingdom so that a patent once granted in one part of the United Kingdom is immediately recognised and enforceable in another. What is true of patents is true also of other intellectual property.

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I do not believe it is desirable that the Assembly and the Executive should potentially have this power. The noble Lord may say that this is another of those matters in the list which will never be given to it. If a lot of these matters are to be in the reserved list but will never go to the Assembly, potential problems may arise. The Assembly may say that it would like a matter to be transferred to it but it had been refused. If matters that are never intended to be transferred are put into the excepted category everyone will know where they stand and there will be less chance of mounting an argument of that kind. However, the specific argument here involves intellectual property.

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