HC Deb 13 March 1945 vol 409 cc29-31
55. Mr. Purbrick

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why Members of Parliament are charged for House of Commons stationery which they use outside the House while if used inside the House it is supplied free; and if he will arrange for the stationery used outside the House to be also supplied free.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peake)

From time immemorial stationery has been available for the use of Members within the Palace of Westminster. I have no responsibility for stationery which Members use outside the House, except that since 1910 Members who desire to use outside the House stationery with the House of Commons die have been able to purchase it through the Serjeant-at-Arms, and as it is supplied by the Stationery Office the rates at which it is charged to Members are favourable ones in comparison with retail purchase. I see no reason to alter this long-standing arrangement.

Mr. Purbrick

Is it not time that the immortality of this process came to an end and a more sensible arrangement was reached?

Mr. Peake

No, Sir, in my view the present arrangement is a good one. It is designed to save my hon. Friend the anxious thoughts in which he would otherwise be involved in having to decide, when embarking on correspondence at home, whether each of his letters was for a public or for a private purpose.

Commander Agnew

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the quality of the stationery provided is less wearing to the pens and to the tempers of the hon. Members who use it?

Mr. John Dugdale

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it quite clear to the public, many of whom are ignorant of the fact that, owing to the parsimony of his Department, hon. Members have to buy both their stationery and their stamps for all their correspondence with all their constituents?

Mr. Peake

No, Sir, all letters written within the Palace of Westminster are assumed to be written for a public purpose.

Mr. Shinwell

They are not stamped.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend arrange a more expeditious and convenient way of paying for the stationery we buy? The present situation is that very small bills are flying about and they get neglected and cause trouble to everyone. Could not some arrangement be made by which we pay someone in the House of Commons?

Mr. Peake

I will certainly consider that.

Mr. Shinwell

As my right hon. Friend may have given a wrong impression in reply to one of the supplementary questions, will he now state, quite categorically, that letters written in this House and sent from this House are not franked, and that hon. Members have to pay their own postage?

Mr. Peake

That really has not anything to do with the Question on the Paper. I was indicating that, so far as stationery is concerned, it is supplied from within the Palace of Westminister.

Hon. Members

But not stamps.

Sir A. Southby

In view of the enormous amount of correspondence with which hon. Members now have to deal, and the resulting increase in office work, would my right hon. Friend consult with Stationery Office to see whether Members could not be allowed to purchase office equipment in addition to stationery in order to help them in the work they now have to do?