HC Deb 29 April 1935 vol 301 cc12-4
17. Mr. ATTLEE

asked the Postmaster-General, having regard to the concessions made at the time of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, whether it is his intention to mark the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Accession of His Majesty the King by any similar measures?


I think it would be the desire of the House that precedent should be followed, and that the Post Office should be associated with the happy event of His Majesty's Silver Jubilee, as it was with the Diamond Jubilee of 1897. After consultation with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer I propose to introduce certain substantial reductions and to take other progressive steps in relation to a number of Post Office services which, with the permission of the House, I will now describe briefly. Later to-day I shall issue a more detailed statement than is possible at this stage of our Parliamentary proceedings.

In the first place, I propose to reduce the charges for telegrams which were increased during and after the War and which, unlike most of the other Post Office charges, have not been modified since. Our telegraph service, though in the forefront of the world to-day in the methods of telegraph transmission, has like that of other countries suffered heavily from the competition of the telephones, and telegraph traffic has declined and is still declining. A loss, as the House knows, has been sustained on the telegraph account for many years and a reduction in charges is likely at any rate for some further period to increase that loss. I have, however, after the most careful consideration, come to the conclusion that, accompanied by all possible efforts to effect every practicable economy in the working of the telegraph service and to improve still further its efficiency, it would be in the best interests of the community that this service should be made, if possible, a still more effective and, I hope, popular method of communication in our commercial and social life, and that its charges should be reduced to a level comparable with those of other Post Office services. I propose, therefore, to introduce on 31st May a new rate of 6d. for 9 words and 1d. for each additional word.

Another important service on which I have received considerable representations from commercial and agricultural organisations as well as from large numbers of the public is the parcel post. The agricultural community, in particular, have pointed out that the present large steps of 3 lbs. in the scale of charges have tended particularly to handicap the despatch of small parcels of agricultural produce, and it has been urged also that the present limit of 11 lbs. is inconveniently low for many commercial undertakings. I propose, therefore, to introduce on the 1st of July a new scale of 6d. for 3 lbs. with 1d. for each additional lb. up to 9 lbs., and a fiat rate of from 9 lbs. to 15 lbs. I am introducing these new rates in the belief that they may be of some assistance, not only to industry, but particularly to agriculturists at a difficult time.

Turning to telephones, I think it will be recognised that the reductions which were introduced towards the end of last year were far-reaching in their scope and they have largely contributed to an unprecedented telephone development in this country. There is, however, I believe still considerable scope for telephone expansion in our rural areas, which would also do much to assist our farmers and also others who live in remote areas of the country. We are now about to take steps which will aim at making the telephone available in rural and remote parts of the country as readily as it is in the cities and towns to-day. This must necessarily take time fully to accomplish, but as the first step I now propose to ensure, so far as practicable, that by the end of 1936 no village on the mainland of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which has a Post Office, will be without a public telephone. This will mean over 1,000 additional public telephone call offices in these parts of the country which have hitherto been unable to possess that easy and rapid communication which our telephone system affords to-day.

Finally, I know the House will be particularly desirous of improving still further our Empire communications, and on 15th June I propose to introduce an Imperial penny post-card rate instead of the present 1½d. charge. As a special Jubilee concession, also, the standard radio-telephone rates between ourselves and the Dominions and India will from the 6th of May until the 31st of May be reduced by one-half.

In making these announcements which I hope the House will agree may not be unworthy of the occasion, I desire to say that they have largely been made possible by the firm foundations which have been laid by my predecessors in office and that I am much indebted to the advice and assistance I have received from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Members of the Advisory Council and the Director General and other colleagues in the Post Office service.