HC Deb 24 February 1953 vol 511 cc1894-6
13. Miss Burton

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the British Forces in Korea are still short of up-to-date newspapers and periodicals from home and that air mail rates, even those reduced for Forces mail, prevent families sending papers by this method and if, as surface mail takes so long to reach Korea, he will make further inquiries as to the possibility of reducing air mail rates for newspapers and periodicales sent to our Forces in distant lands.

14. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for War why the cost of sending newspapers by air to members of Her Majesty's Forces in Malaya is so high: and whether he will reduce the charge.

16. Mr. Crouch

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider a reduction in the air mail rates for newspapers despatched to our Forces in Korea and elsewhere, in view of the particular appreciation of this news from home and the prohibitively high current charges on such packets.

Mr. Head

The air mail rate for newspapers to Korea, Malaya and other distant theatres is subsidised. My Department sends out weekly by air to all overseas theatres Sunday newspapers on the scale of one for every five men. The cost of air conveyance is borne by public funds and the papers are issued free in Korea and elsewhere sold at the same prices as in this country. In addition, a variety of periodicals are sent out to Korea by sea. I think that this scale is adequate and do not feel justified in asking for more money.

Miss Burton

Is the Minister aware that when the Quartermaster-General returned he said that what the men in Korea wanted were up-to-date newspapers from home? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that the public feel it is most unfair that the cost of sending the newspapers should have to be borne by the men and their families? They are quite prepared to contribute to this cost. Will the Minister discuss the matter with the newspapers to see whether they and the Government together can make this a better service?

Mr. Head

I am only too glad to go into particular items of that kind, but we are already spending about £1½ million on postal concessions, and to send daily newspapers by air would be an immense added burden.

Mr. Crouch

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it costs 3s. 6d. to send the "Observer" and the leader page of "The Times" once a week in a parcel? I feel that that is a very high charge to fall on the parents of anyone serving in Korea.

Mr. Head

I see that we do send 153 copies of the "Observer" to Korea, and I am told that, in general, the selection of weekly newspapers sent to Korea is satisfactory.

Mr. Chapman

Is the Minister aware that to send a moderate sized bundle of local newspapers—and his scheme will not cover local newspapers—it costs over 4s.? Could not some arrangement be made so that a man has the opportunity to receive these newspapers from his friends, parents and relatives?

Mr. Head

As I have said, such a scheme would have to be subsidised, and, unfortunately, large quantities of news- paper are very heavy and the sums involved would be very big.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Is not the Minister aware that there is great indignation among the parents about this matter, and that to send a small newspaper of local interest to the boys in Korea is costing 2s.? While the Minister says that it is costing £1½ million, will he bear in mind that it is costing the lads a lot more?

Mr. Head

The dilemma is quite a clear one. To send the number of papers that would be needed would cost a very large additional sum of money. They can go by sea, though they arrive very late. The Sunday papers include Welsh and Scottish papers.

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