§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, whether the only 376 objections to a reduction of the fee of 2s. 6d. per quire for stamping private post cards are the cost of additional machinery and the impossibility of providing additional space at Somerset House; whether the recent introduction of post cards with adhesive stamps has resulted in a very great diminution in the number of private post cards sent to Somerset House to be stamped; whether he has observed the statement in a Treasury Minute, dated 6th August 1894,on the effects of the permission to use adhesive stamps on private post cards, that the Post Office gains from an economical point of view; under the present system the small margin of profit (about £22,000) on the material is insufficient to cover the loss entailed by selling the cards, and any diminution in the supply of official cards will diminish the cost of handling, &c.; and, further, that the reduction in the stock will not only lead to a saving estimated at about £20,000 a year, &c., but will further set free a great amount of valuable space in Somerset House; and, whether, in order to extend the use of private post cards, and so diminish the loss on the sale of official post cards, he will recommend the reduction of the fee for stamping to a figure proportioned to the charges for stamping envelopes and book-post covers, and direct that some of the space saved at Somerset House shall be utilised, if necessary?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
The objection to which my hon. Friend refers is not the only objection, but it is a serious one. Since the introduction of post cards with adhesive stamps the work of stamping post cards at Somerset House has so far diminished that the machine, which was at one time exclusively engaged in this stamping, will now be occasionally available for other work. It is a great advantage to have this reserve of mechanical power for times of pressure. I am acquainted with the Minute of August, 6th, but my hon. Friend is in error in referring to a saving of £20,000 a year. The reduction of stock, which was rendered possible by the extension of the contract, is in progress, and will lead to a saving of about £20,000 this year, and a similar amount next year. But there will be no annual saving after that. The economy of space has not proved as great as was expected, owing 377 to the fact that the diminished stock has been distributed over a relatively greater floor-space, the old system of packing having been discovered to be dangerous to the structure. Moreover, any space that has been, or may be, economised in Somerset House, is urgently wanted for the Inland Revenue Department, which is much cramped for room, the space under their control being barely sufficient for the discharge of the proper business of the Government.