HC Deb 23 March 1891 vol 351 cc1661-3

I beg to ask the Postmaster General if his attention has been called to the case of a large manufacturer at Ipswich, who on submitting a specimen of 20,000 circulars in new type somewhat resembling type writing, to be transmitted at the cost of £80 postage, was told that they could not be sent except at the letter rate, because The Department cannot undertake to distinguish between type-written letters and letters or circulars produced by means of printing or other mechanical process in imitation of type-writing"; and how the rule so laid down agrees with an extract in the Postal Guide (p. 3, re circular letters), which includes among letters that may be sent by book post those which are produced By means of ordinary type, engraving, lithography, or other mechanical process"?

MR. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)

I beg to ask the Postmaster General why the Post Office refuse to pass at the halfpenny rate circulars printed in characters resembling those of the type-writer; and whether he will give orders that they may in future be accepted?


I beg also to ask the Postmaster General if he will explain on what grounds, although the Act of 1870, passed when the halfpenny postal rate was introduced, defined a newspaper as— Any publication consisting wholly or in great part of political or other news, or of articles relating thereto, or to other current topics, with or without advertisements, the Post Office interpret "great" as meaning "greater," and decide what are articles relating to "current topics;" and whether objections raised by the Department based on the proportion of different contents, not only cause inconvenience to the public, but loss of revenue from this source?


I am advised that under the Act of 1870 it is for the Postmaster General to decide when a publication contains a sufficient proportion of Political or other news, or of articles relating thereto, or to other current topics, to satisfy the requirements of the Act, and, though the view that commended itself to some of my predecessors was that the phrase "wholly or in great part" required a preponderance of the matter specified, I have adopted a more liberal interpretation, and hold the Act to be complied with if the space given to News or to articles relating thereto, or to other current topics, is not less than one-third of the whole paper. The only ground on which objection is raised to the registration of publications is that they do not comply with the conditions laid down in the Act. In regard to the last paragraph of the hon. Member's question, I may state that there is already a considerable loss from the conveyance of newspapers at ½d. each; but I do not think the loss is enhanced by the regulation referred to. The particular Paper headed "Pacts about Kola," which the hon. Member (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) has forwarded to me, is transmissible at the book post rate, not being of the nature of a letter at all. But in regard to the general question put by the hon Member, as he is no doubt aware, the type writer is now largely resorted to for the production of ordinary letters, which are, of course, chargeable at the full letter rate of postage. He may also be aware that various devices are employed to turn out from the printing press close imitations of type-writing work, the unevenness of impression, the irregular interspacing, the dropping of letters, even the smears, being so carefully copied, that except by experts, and by daylight, it is impossible to distinguish such productions of the press from productions of the type-writer. In these circumstances, I have found it absolutely necessary to give directions that productions of the type-writer, or imitations thereof, are not admissible as circulars, but that all letters in type-writing characters are liable to letter postage, and I regret I should not feel justified in withdrawing those directions. An announcement on the subject will appear in the April number of the Post Office Guide.