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The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will clarify his response to my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale which I found difficult to follow. The Minister referred to Clause 42 which provides that,

    (a) the number and location of public post offices of such descriptions as the Secretary of State may specify".

If the Secretary of State does not specify rural post offices, the commission cannot report to him. How does that clause tie in with Clause 3(1) where it is provided that,

    "The Commission shall exercise its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to ensure the provision of a universal postal service"?

If there is no rural post office, there cannot be a universal postal service.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, there are two distinct points here. The universal service is concerned with the posting and receiving of letters. The nature of sub-post offices is, in that context, a different issue, and that is why such a distinction is drawn. There is a clear responsibility on the commission to report on what is happening in the network.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, does it follow from his response to my noble friend Lord Caithness that benefit payments, in whatever form, do not fall within the universal service provision?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, as I understand it, the universal service provision is about the moving of letters between places, not the payment of social benefits, which is a separate issue.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I also thank other noble Lords in the House who have supported my amendment. I am extremely disappointed by the Minister's reply, in that he believes that my amendment is technically deficient. The Government said of every single item that I raised that they could not deal with it because it was a matter for the regulator. In particular, I note the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Razzall. We are very friendly over here, even though we have differences--I do not quite know the word--from time to time. The noble Lord thought that I was being too conservative

29 Jun 2000 : Column 1088

in my disbelief about the Government's position if this matter was not on the face of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, provided a much gentler interpretation.He said very firmly that governments say one thing but, as time goes by, legislation is not passed. The intention is diminished because circumstances change.

I believe that the commission should do whatever the Government tell it to do. If the Government wanted to tell the commission to maintain the network, they could do so. Let us assume that the Minister is correct and the amendment will upset the Bill, which is not our desire. Can the Minister assure the House today that the Government will table an amendment at Third Reading which makes clear on the face of the Bill that the network of rural post offices will be maintained? If so, that would satisfy noble Lords and, clearly, it would be right to withdraw the amendment. Perhaps the Minister will reply to that.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I cannot give that commitment. In any case, I do not believe that that is the appropriate way to deal with the matter. I assume that if I was sitting on the Benches opposite I would also be distrustful. However, the Statement made in this House could not have been clearer. We have made clear that the basis of the scheme is the maintenance of the rural post office network where there is a population of 10,000. We shall present a scheme of financial assistance. That was a clear commitment. We shall bring back a scheme of financial assistance to achieve that. At that point this House will have an opportunity to consider the issue. It will then be appropriate to do so. The Postal Services Bill is supposed to last for an extremely long time. In this Bill we should not impose on the commission a duty to do something which it is not set up to do. The Bill is about the status of the Post Office. I assure the House that we shall bring forward the scheme. That will be the opportunity to discuss this issue.

The proposed amendment relates to the responsibility of the commission. One cannot then relate it to some other issue. I give the assurance that we shall bring forward the scheme. However, the amendment relates to the role of the commission. It cannot then be related to some other issue.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, if I had made the mistake of placing the burden on the commission, I gave the Minister the opportunity to bring back an appropriate amendment. However, the Minister continues to talk about the amendment and the commission. Therefore, I shall not waste any more of your Lordships' time.

The second part of Amendment No. 4A should refer to,

    "a community of 10,000 people or less".

I should like to test the opinion of the House.

29 Jun 2000 : Column 1089

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Gardner of Parkes): My Lords, before putting the Question, I make clear to the House the statement made by the Chairman of Committees. In place of a,

    "community of not less than 7,500 people",

the second part of Amendment No. 4A, in the supplementary amendments to the Marshalled List, inserts,

    "community of 10,000 people or less".

4.42 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 104; Not-Contents, 116.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Arran, E.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Biffen, L.
Blatch, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Buscombe, B.
Butterworth, L.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Craigavon, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elton, L.
Falkland, V.
Ferrers, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Geraint, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goschen, V.
Hanham, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holderness, L.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Laird, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Liverpool, E.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Moynihan, L.
Newby, L.
Northbrook, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E. [Teller]
Seccombe, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stewartby, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilcox, B.
Young, B.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fitt, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harrison, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Longford, E.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Marsh, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Mitchell, L.
Molloy, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rogan, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Serota, B.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

29 Jun 2000 : Column 1090

4.53 p.m.

Clause 7 [Exceptions from section 6]:

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