HC Deb 29 April 1898 vol 56 cc1516-8

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he is aware that while certain particulars, including the mode of consignment, may be written in an order for goods transmissible as book post at the halfpenny rate, the essential word of such order—namely, "send," or "forward"—may not be so written without subjecting the recipient to a fine, but must be printed; whether the postal officials, in accordance with the statement of the right honourable Gentleman, made in answer to the honourable Member for Canterbury's Question in this House on the 6th July, 1897, while they allow the word "send" to be printed in an order for goods, fine the recipient if conventional expressions of civility, such as the words "please," or "and oblige," are included in the printed form or appear in writing upon it; whether he is aware that, notwithstanding the statement in the "Post Office Guide" that the mode of consignment may be written in an order for goods, the officials fine the recipient of an order in which a prompt mode of consignment is requested in writing in such words as "immediately," "by return," or "on receipt"; whether, on the use of the word "to-morrow," a fine at first inflicted was on further consideration remitted; why a fine is levied in the one case and not in the other; whether he is aware that the minute directions on this subject in the "Post Office Guide" do not include a statement, in so many words, that the skeleton or framework of an order for goods, including the essential imperative verb, must be printed; whether, to prevent merchants and others from remaining in ignorance of the official requirements, he will cause such a statement to be inserted, and a framework form showing the irreducible minimum of print required; whether he is aware that while the officials allow a written description of goods to be added to a printed form of order for goods at the book post rate, they will not allow such a written description to be added to a printed form offering goods for sale, but charge the document at the letter rate; and whether he will direct that in the latter case the book post rate only shall in future be charged?


The regulations under which orders for goods are transmissible by book post do not admit of instructions such as "send" or "forward" being inserted in writing. The honourable Member's reference to my reply is inaccurate in two respects. He quotes terms which I did not mention, and he misses the whole point of the Question—namely, the distinction between printed and written matter. Orders for goods sent by book post may not contain any written matter beyond the particulars specified in the "Post Office Guide"; but there is no restriction as to the amount of printed matter, and the honourable Member is therefore mistaken in supposing that an order would be liable to charge if the words "please" or "and oblige" were printed. The phrases "immediately," "by return," or "on receipt" can hardly be regarded as describing the mode of consignment, and are not, strictly speaking, admissible in writing; but it is not the usual practice to charge orders on account of their containing either such phrases or the word "to-morrow." The directions relating to the transmission of orders in the "Post Office Guide" do not include a statement that the skeleton or framework of an order for goods sent by book post must be printed, but they specify what may appear in writing, and state that any other matter must be printed; and the Postmaster General is not prepared to insert such a statement or a framework form as suggested. Prices current, as well as orders, may contain a written description of goods, and if the printed form referred to by the honourable Member in the concluding paragraphs of his Question was a price current, and was otherwise in conformity with the book post rules, it should not have been charged with letter postage. The officials of the Post Office carry out the regulations which have been framed by the Postmaster General, who is responsible for them to Parliament.