Select Committee on Constitution Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (637-639)




  637. Gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us this afternoon. Before we get under way putting questions based on the paper you have very kindly put in to us, could I invite you to identify yourselves for the record and then we will see if there any opening comments you would like to make to the Committee?
  (Mr Agar) My name is Stephen Agar. I am currently Director of Strategy and Regulatory Affairs for Royal Mail. It is my primary duty to interface with Postwatch and Postcomm and DTI.
  (Mr Duncan) My name is John Duncan. I am Head of Regulatory Strategy for Royal Mail.

  638. Is there anything you would like to say in opening to the Committee or are you happy for us to put questions?
  (Mr Agar) Very briefly. We have made our written submission. The two issues for us that are relevant to what the Committee is looking at are larger accountability of regulation, in relation to Postcomm in particular, and also perhaps something on the role of having dual regulation.

  639. Clearly our concern is accountability, in other words very much the core of our inquiry. Given that, could I look at some of the points you make which are directly related to accountability? Clearly, accountability takes place at different levels. One is simply transparency, making material available, and another is in terms of answerability to Parliament, which was one of the points you made, and another, in fact the highest form, is external coercion where another body could override a decision, and I am thinking particularly here of course in terms of the courts, and again you have made recommendations in terms of the process. If I could pick up on answerability, because you do question "whether the current arrangements of Select Committee hearings and National Audit Office reports are sufficiently formal and regular to provide for the effective scrutiny of Regulations by Parliament", could you expand on why the present arrangements are inadequate and, if they are inadequate, what would be your solution?
  (Mr Agar) If I could briefly refer to Postcomm's written submission to you in terms of accountability and appearance before Select Committees, they mention three occasions when they have been to a Select Committee in the past year, which I suppose means that the accountability is probably less than three hours of discussion. One point I would really like to make is that two of those appearances on the basis of their submission talk about a Select Committee hearing on Postcomm's market opening proposals etc, but you should be aware that in fact the Trade and Industry Committee hearings are actually not into Postcomm; they are into Royal Mail, so their hearings are about the accountability of our business and how our business is being run, not into the accountability of Postcomm itself. With regard to the two key documents that Postcomm do produce, which are their annual report and their annual work plan, there is not any regular Select Committee scrutiny of those documents and they are not held accountable for what is in them.

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