HC Deb 31 May 1921 vol 142 cc828-31
44. Mr. CLOUGH

asked the Postmaster-General if he can state the branches of his administration on which a profit is made and those on which there is a loss; and whether he will, in each case, give the figures of profit or loss?


It is estimated that on the basis of the commercial accounts, the year 1920–21 will show in round figures a surplus of £900,000 on postal services, a deficit of £4,000,000 on the telegraphs, and a deficit of £4,200,000 on the telephones.

Lieut.-Colonel NALL

If the Post Office postal work be already showing a balance on the right side, why is it necessary to increase the postal charges?


I have to treat the accounts as a whole. The aim of the Government is to see that this serious deficit, which existed last year, is wiped out in the current year.

Lieut.-Colonel NALL

Will he consider whether, instead of increasing the postal charges, he can be content with the saving effected by the Sunday closing?


No that would still leave the Post Office with a deficit of nearly £2,750,000.


Is not the loss on telegraphs and telephones likely to be made up by the reduction in the number of postcards, owing to the increased charge on them?


Allowance is made for that possible falling off, in the statement that has been made to the House, but as far as defending the details of the proposals is concerned, it would much better be done in my statement on the Estimates next week.


Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that if we wait until the Post Office Vote comes on, the alterations will be actually in operation, and it will be impossible for anything to be done, and cannot he consider the question of not increasing the postcards from 1d. to 1½ d.?




That was asked, and answered the other day.


asked the Postmaster-General what is the estimated increased revenue which he expects to obtain from the increases of charge for inland postcards, inland printed matter, foreign letter postage, and foreign printed matter, respectively; what is the estimated saving expected from the abolition of Sunday post; what steps are being taken to reduce the number of the staff employed by the Post Office and whether steps will be taken to revise existing mail contracts with railway and shipping companies with a view to reducing costs?


The estimated increase in a full year from inland postcards is, in round figures, £1,000,000; from inland printed matter, £1,000,000; from foreign and Colonial letters, £100,000; from foreign and Colonial printed matter, £300,000. The estimated saving from the abolition of Sunday posts is £1,000,000, of which about £900,000 will be immediately realisable. As regards the last two points in the question, I will make a statement on the Post Office Estimates next week.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Does not the right hon. Gentleman anticipate a falling off in the use of postcards, and therefore a reduction in revenue?


That has been taken into account, as I have already explained.


Why do you not raise the charge for postcards to eighteen pence, and pay off the National Debt?


Because I am afraid all the Members of the House do not have the same national passion for thrift as my hon. and learned Friend.


asked the Postmaster-General whether he has received representations as to the serious effect of the proposed increase in charges for the prepayment of postage on newspapers, trade circulars, and purely printed matter to places abroad upon the trade recovery and the distribution of British news; and whether he will reconsider this part of his proposals for balancing the Post Office accounts, if necessary, by increasing the charge on ordinary foreign correspondence by another ½d. per ounce?

66. Captain W. BENN

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the effect of the new charges on the foreign circulation of trade journals and catalogues, and the diminution of our export trade which will follow any curtailment of the circulation of such matter, he will reconsider his proposals?


I regret that it should have been necessary to increase the postage on newspapers, circulars, and printed matter for places abroad; but this class of correspondence forms one of the most unremunerative of the Post Office services, and I fear that it is impossible to reconsider the rates at present. The addition of ½d. to the foreign letter rate would yield about £70,000 per annum, as compared with £300,000, which the increase in the foreign printed paper rate is estimated to produce. As I have already indicated, the question of reducing rates of postage will be considered as soon as the financial position of the Post Office makes such a course practicable.


Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that by this increase in foreign printing rates we are very hardly hit by America and other countries, which compete with trade circulars and other methods of advertising, and whose postage has not been raised?


I am fully alive to the natural advantage of increasing any means of propaganda abroad in the interests of British trade, but I think that it should be done frankly and openly by a Vote of the House and not by a concealed subsidy in the Post Office Estimates.

Captain BENN

Was there not a Committee which investigated this question and made recommendations?


I stand by the statement I have made.


Instead of raising the postal rates to pay for the telephones, could not the right hon. Gentleman hand the telephones over to some company who could run them at a profit?


asked the Postmaster-General whether the present postage rate from the United States to this country is 2 cents for letters; whether this rate will be increased under the new Regulations; and, if so, to what extent?


The present rate of postage on letters from the United States of America for this country is 2 cents for each ounce or fraction of an ounce. The United States Post Office has not yet notified any increase in this rate.


Has the right hon. Gentleman any information that the United States Government are imposing any increased rates?

Country. Date of Introduction. Letters. Postcards. Printed Papers per 50 grammes.
First 20 grammes. Each additional 20 grammes.
New rates 1 April, 1921 50 c. 25 c. 30 c. 10 c.
Previous rates Pre-War 25 c. 15 c. 10 c. 5 c.
New rates 1 March, 1921 50 c. 25 c. 30 c. 10 c.
Previous rates Pre-War 25 c. 15 c. 10 c. 5 c.
New rates 1 April, 1921 1 mark 20 pf 60 pf. 80 pf. 30 pf.
Previous rates 1 May, 1920 80 pf. 60 pf. 40 pf. 20 pf.
Previous rates Pre-War 20 pf. 10 pf. 10 pf. 5 pf.