HC Deb 12 July 1950 vol 477 cc1361-5
Mr. Ness Edwards

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I propose to make a statement on Post Office facilities, in the course of which I shall answer the two Questions on this subject which appear in today's Order Paper.

Since I came to the Post Office, I have been considering how best Post Office services could be improved without making undue calls on the nation's manpower and financial resources. I am happy to be able to announce some improvements, but I propose, first, to acquaint hon. Members of two changes in postage rates which it is necessary to make.

The first concerns rates of postage to destinations overseas. In order to conform with our international obligations as a member of the Universal Postal Union increases require to be made in the overseas postage rates for letters to certain overseas destinations, and for certain other categories of overseas mail, and the necessary Treasury Warrant will be laid before the House in due course. The second concerns the inland parcel post rates. In order to maintain a reasonable degree of parity with railway parcel rates, and to reduce the loss falling on the parcel post service, I propose to increase the inland parcel post rates as from 31st July, 1950, and the necessary Treasury Warrant will be laid before the House shortly.

Turning now to the improvements in service, on the postal side I propose to provide later evening posting facilities in towns. Some practical difficulties have yet to be resolved, and discussions with staff associations are proceeding. I hope that it will be possible to proceed with them at an early date. On the telegraph side, I propose, as from November next, to reintroduce the greetings telegram service with a minimum charge of 2s. for 12 words. On the telephone side, I propose, as from October next, to extend the period during which cheap trunk calls may be made. For calls by subscribers and from call offices the period will be 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

While taking note that in the two concessions which have been made the right hon. Gentleman is merely acceding to the points raised from this side of the House—and not for the first time by this Government—may I ask him what—

Mr. H. Morrison

Cheer up.

Captain Crookshank

I hope the right hon. Gentleman's constituents will cheer up when they send parcels in future. What I want to ask the Postmaster-General is, can he give us any indication of what are the increased rates for the foreign postal service and for inland parcels? If the right hon. Gentleman will do that, we shall know what is the value of these changes.

Mr. Ness Edwards

With regard to the overseas postal rates, there is no increase for the Colonies, for the United States of America, for Pakistan or for India, but to foreign countries, with, I think, one exception, there is an increase of ld. Generally speaking, that will still leave us with a lower overseas foreign postage rate than in most of the other big countries, but within the limits which we are allowed under the terms of the Convention. With regard to the second point—the inland parcel post rate—the increase for 60 per cent. of the traffic is ld. per parcel, and for the remainder of the traffic 2d. per parcel.

Captain Crookshank

Could the right hon. Gentleman reduce that to something more useful? What does 60 per cent. mean? Does that mean an increase in the lower rate or merely in the higher rate?

Mr. Ness Edwards

There is an increase of ld. in the lower rates up to 60 per cent. of the number of parcels, and for the remainder there is an increase of 2d.

Mr. Hector Hughes

As regards the cheap rate for night telephones which, I understand, is to be extended to 10.30 from October next, could not my right hon. Friend see his way to extend it still further having regard to the fact that the midnight hours must be the slack hours for the telephone service? Is he aware that such an extension is common in other countries—in America for one?

Mr. Ness Edwards

The difficulty in regard to that proposition is that it would necessitate the staff staying very late at night, and in some cases it would be very difficult for them to get home.

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman said there is to be a later evening collection in towns. Can he indicate what size towns?

Mr. Ness Edwards

Roughly, it applies to all urban areas—practically all towns.

Mr. Stewart

What time?

Mr. Ness Edwards

We propose to have the later collection at 9 o'clock in some cases, in some at 8.30, and in others at 9.30. It will depend on how the trains are running.

Mr. G. Cooper

Could I ask the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank)—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must ask his question of the Postmaster-General, and no one else.

Mr. Cooper

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he realises that I was the first from this side to put down a Question about extending the telephone service, and whether he has taken into consideration the possibility of paying a slightly higher rate to British European Airways for carrying airmail letters to the Continent so as to bring them into line with the amount received by other air line operators?

Mr. Ness Edwards

That is another matter, but an announcement will be made on that soon.

Mr. Nicholson

Regarding the increase in the foreign postage rate, will the right hon. Gentleman make it quite clear whether this country is increasing the rate because we want to, or because we are obliged to by the International Convention?

Mr. Ness Edwards

We are obliged by the International Convention to have this rate.

Mr. Keeling

Can the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope of earlier deliveries, which are quite as important as later collection?

Mr. Ness Edwards

Later collections already involve certain manpower problems, and I should first like to get over those before starting on the next leg of this journey.

Sir J. Mellor

Will the Postmaster-General say whether the increase in the new parcels rate was asked for by the Transport Commission?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I think it is laid down by statute what the Post Office has to pay.

Sir R. Glyn

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether a letter posted late at night under these new rules will be delivered within 12, 15, or 24 hours of being posted, because that is important?

Mr. Ness Edwards

We hope that most of the letters posted on day A will be delivered on day B. In many cases, they will be delivered on the first post, and, in others, on the second. It means, in some cases, 12 hours, and in others 18 hours.