HC Deb 25 January 1956 vol 548 cc183-4
8. Mr. G. Jeger

asked the Postmaster-General from which educational associations and bookselling organisations he has received protests against the increase in book postage.

Dr. Hill

I have received representations from about 150 sources, of which about 20 are private individuals and the others educational associations and societies and business interests, including book-sellers.

Mr. Jeger

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that a large volume of complaints when thinking of a previous answer he gave me? In view of the necessity of extending, in particular, technical education in this country, much of which is carried on by means of postal exchange of technical books, will he reconsider his decision with regard to book postage as against newspaper postage?

Dr. Hill

There has been a substantial volume of complaints, and I have met two or three deputations on the subject. I have given a good deal of anxious thought to the matter, but my difficulty is that there has been a loss of £2 million a year on the service as a whole, including books, and even with the increased rates the loss is still £1 million a year.

9. Mr. Awbery

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that the increase in charges for book postage places a burden upon those students in extra-mural classes who supplement their studies by independent reading and have to pay postage on books both ways, that it will reduce the demand for educational books, diminish the services given by libraries to adult education, and create further difficulties in this field of social activities, and if he will exempt books of this class from the extra charge.

Dr. Hill

I have considered the matter very carefully and sympathetically, but even with the new charges the printed-paper post is running at a substantial loss, and I am sorry that I cannot meet the hon. Member's wishes.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that thousands of men who take extramural courses with colleges and the W.E.A. have to pay the postage on their books both ways and that the cost has jumped 100 per cent.? Books weighing 3 lb. previously cost a student 2s. 1d. in postage, but now the cost is 4s. 1d. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this is a tax upon acquiring knowledge, and will he have another look at the matter?

Dr. Hill

I do not think it is fair to describe as a tax on educational knowledge an increase in charges in the direction of meeting additional costs. Following representations that I have received, I have looked at the matter very earnestly and carefully, and I really cannot see my way to separate educational books from other books. I feel that the decision of the House must stand.

Mr. Vane

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that students in the position which has just been described by an hon. Member opposite can avoid postage altogether by ordering their books in good time from the county library and themselves fetching them from the county depot?

Dr. Hill

I cannot pretend to be an expert, but I have no doubt that there are many circumstances in which, as was suggested, it is necessary for the book to be conveyed by post.

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