HC Deb 06 December 1950 vol 482 cc363-6
Miss Burton (by Private Notice)

asked the Postmaster-General if. in view of the suspension of ordinary mail services to our Forces in North Korea, he will grant special rates by air mail for Christmas parcels from this country, such concessions to take effect immediately.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Ness Edwards)

There has been no suspension of any mail service from this country to the Forces in Korea. After the fullest consideration by the Departments concerned I regret I am unable, on account of the cost involved, to arrange for the despatch by air of Christmas parcels to Korea at special postage rates.

Miss Burton

Does not the Minister honestly regard his reply as completely unsatisfactory? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is shocking."] With regard to the correctness of my statement, may I inform him that this information was given to my constituents by a post office in Coventry, the name of which I have given him? Is he aware that one of my constituents, who is the wife of a man serving in Korea, took a parcel weighing 5 lbs. to the post office last week and was asked to pay 30s. postage and that another man took a parcel weighing 6½ lbs. to the post office and was asked to pay 38s. postage? Would not my right hon. Friend agree that such charges should not be imposed on the relatives of our men who are serving in Korea? Will my right hon. Friend press the Government to make considerable concessions? Could not one parcel be sent free to each man serving in North Korea, or could not a parcel up to the weight of 5 lbs. be sent at a nominal rate?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I am in complete sympathy with the object of my hon. Friend, but in this matter I am the agent for the Service Departments. The proposal for one concessionary parcel has been put to them, but I would point out that at present £140,000 is required to subsidise this service. To send one special parcel to each soldier in Korea would cost a very considerable sum. [HON. MEMBERS: "How much?"] It would be £58,000. However, in view of the feeling in the House, and realising that I am only the agent for the Service Departments in the matter, I will certainly press this matter upon my colleagues as early as possible.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

As the Postmaster-General has just told the House that he is acting for the Service Departments in this matter and as the Minister of Defence is present, could not the Minister of Defence intervene?

Mr. Poole

In considering this matter in relation to our troops in Korea, will my right hon. Friend also give the same consideration to troops in Malaya? I know of a case where 32s. was charged for sending a writing pad by air mail to a soldier in Malaya who had nothing upon which to write home to his parents.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I will undertake to look at the whole matter again with the Service Departments and see what it is possible to do. I would point out, however, that altogether it costs the country £800,000 to subsidise the present postal service to overseas Forces.

Mr. Eden

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the considerable difference between the ordinary Forces overseas and men who are in action? Can we have an assurance that before the Government refuse this request, they will come back to the House and tell us exactly what would be the cost of the concession of sending one parcel both to Korea and to Malaya?

Mr. Ness Edwards

There are certain physical difficulties, but I think I can give the assurance that we will look at it and report to the House what are our views.

Mr. Mellish

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that our men in Korea are dying at the moment and that any question of cost should not even come into it?

Sir Peter Macdonald

If Service aircraft are not available for this purpose, why not use the Auxiliary Air Force or the charter companies, who are quite willing and are able to carry out this service far more cheaply than Service aircraft can?

Mr. H. Hynd

Cannot something be done outside the normal Post Office service, such as using Service aircraft?

Mr. Keeling

Does the Postmaster-General appreciate that unless the matter is settled within a day or two it will be too late?

Mr. Low

Is it not a fact that the shortage of aircraft going round the normal way has been overcome by the Service Departments through an arrangement with the United States? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore bear in mind that there is not such a bottleneck as he has been suggesting?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I should like to make it quite clear that there are physical difficulties, but they can be overcome. The question is one of finance, and I will discuss the matter again with my Service colleagues.

Air Commodore Harvey

As time is short, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to inform the House of the Government's decision by the latest on Friday? May I have an answer, please?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I will undertake to endeavour to have a conference either this evening or tomorrow with the Service Departments and see what progress we can make, and make an announcement as early as I can.

Forward to