HC Deb 07 November 1939 vol 353 cc9-11
9. Mr. John Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for War whether postal packets addressed to units in the serving Forces overseas are now being delivered without the delay or undelivered returns which occurred earlier?

18. Mr. Amnion

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that letters and parcels addressed to serving soldiers upwards of a month ago have not been delivered, and that others despatched on 30th September were not delivered until 19th October; and whether, having regard to the anxiety such delay causes both to the relatives at home and to the men with the Forces, the delivery of correspondence can be accelerated?

26. Mr. Neil Maclean

asked the Secretary of State for War why many of the soldiers serving with the British Expeditionary Force have not received any letters from home for five weeks although the relatives have sent those letters addressed, as instructed, care of Army Field Post Office, London; if this post office is understaffed; and, if so, whether he will undertake to have this remedied and so remove a source of grievance with both serving soldiers and their relatives at home, who are constantly receiving letters from the British Expeditionary Force asking why they do not write?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

As I have previously stated, letters and parcels, when correctly addressed, are now proceeding from this country to France with regularity and despatch, and should normally reach their destinations in six days at most. New instructions facilitating the method of address for letters were recently issued, and it is no longer necessary to include the words "c o Army Post Office" in the address of any letters to the British Expeditionary Force. There are, however, still some 4,000 letters a day which, in spite of every effort, cannot be delivered owing to faulty addresses. The Army Post Office staff was increased some three weeks ago, and is now adequate.

Mr. Morgan

Does the Minister mean by "correct address" the actual unit and number of the man concerned?

Mr. Hore-Belisha indicated assent.

Mr. Ammon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, with an Army that is static, much smaller and less widespread, it takes longer to deliver a letter than at any time during the last War?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the map—which I regret he cannot do—to see the location of these units he will understand what a splendid job of work has been done by the postal authorities.

Mr. Ammon

That does not answer the question. I have submitted to him cases of four or five weeks' delay.

Mr. Hore-Belisha

There may be cases of, not only delay, but complete impossibility to deliver letters even in Great Britain, because of inadequacy of address. The Assistant Postmaster-General was good enough to go out to France himself. It is generally admitted that the system is now extremely efficient. If the hon. Member will read some of the reports of the military correspondents, he will see that all difficulties are being cleared up, except that we cannot deliver letters which are not properly addressed.

Mr. J. Morgan

Will the right hon. Gentleman taken an early opportunity of broadcasting on this particular point, because it is so important?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

Yes, Sir. I think it is a most important matter. I am anxious that correspondence should flow as freely and regularly as possible, and I will do everything I can to assist.

Mr. Maclean

Did the right hon. Gentleman not see that in my question I stated that the letters were correctly addressed, as the parents were instructed? Would he be good enough to say where the new instructions can be seen, so that parents will know exactly how to address the letters?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The instructions were published and broadcast, but I will see that they receive further and wider publicity. The new instructions were given in order to simplify the procedure; but if letters are correctly addressed according to the old procedure, they will reach the troops, provided the persons to whom they are addressed can be identified.

Mr. David Grenfell

Will the right hon. Gentleman given an assurance on one further point? Will he explain why letters have been delivered and parcels addressed to the same destinations have not? It would be reassuring to the senders of parcels.

Mr. Hore-Belisha

When giving that further publicity which has been suggested, I will try to make as comprehensive a statement as possible, for the guidance of those who naturally wish that the correspondence should reach the destination as early as possible.