HC Deb 21 May 1958 vol 588 cc1271-2
2. Mr. Snow

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that in London twenty-four hours elapse between the reception of deferred rate telegrams and their delivery; and, in view of the effect of this delay on commercial activities in the United Kingdom, if he will arrange for its reduction.

Mr. Marples

The arrangements are in conformity with international regulations, which prescribe a delay in the delivery of letter telegrams. The charge is one-half the ordinary rate, and the present practice ensures that telegrams sent at the ordinary rate are always faster. Letter telegrams are rarely delayed as much as twenty-four hours.

Mr. Snow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a wholly artificial delay and that it is one of the international arrangements we could well do without? Is it not possible to apply a commonsense attitude on this point and let delayed telegrams take their chance in the order they are received and be subject to delivery when first-class or ordinary telegrams have been despatched?

Mr. Marples

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is an artificial delay, but it is also an artificial price. It is an international regulation which applies to all the subscribing countries, and if telegrams charged at half the rate arrived more quickly than telegrams charged at the ordinary rate, it would mean the end of the ordinary telegrams.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is not this the only case today as regards the Post Office where a measure of inefficiency or delay is obligatory? Surely it is a complete anachronism nowadays?

Mr. Marples

A half-price telegram is also an anachronism. If anyone wants a telegram to arrive quickly, it can be done by paying the normal rate. This is a cheap rate for the convenience of subscribers.