HC Deb 29 April 1959 vol 604 cc1267-9
38. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware of the work performed during the past ten years by the Mountain Rescue Service of the Royal Air Force, both for civilians and members of the Royal Air Force; if he is further aware that the need for such a service is increasing and not diminishing, and that the skill acquired by these men will be lost if the service is discontinued; and if he will now reconsider his decision to reduce this service by 50 per cent. have been received by the Post Office of missing non-registered letters and packages posted in the United Kingdom during 1956, 1957 and 1958.

Mr. K. Thompson

Central records of complaints are kept only for such letters when they contain articles worth 5s. or more and for parcels for which compensation has been paid. I am circulating the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the Minister able to say whether the proportion of the total posted is greater or less?

Mr. Thompson

It maintains a fairly steady average. The figures show about seven letters in every million go wrong in some way.

Lieut.-Col. Bromley-Davenport

Is it not extremely unfair to blame the Post Office for these missing non-registered letters and packages? Should not some of the blame be apportioned to British Railways, which could not care less how bad a service it gives to everybody with its dirty, late and dangerous trains?

Mr. Thompson

I can only speak for the Post Office and assure my hon. and gallant Friend that we do the best we can.

Following are the figures:

The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the Mountain Rescue Teams both in their primary task of rescuing aircrew and in assisting civilians. No decision has been taken to reduce the service. We are simply reviewing the number and location of the teams to see whether we could give as good a service more easily and economically.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that it has been reported that there are only six teams in the country? They have done excellent work but they are being reduced to three. Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see that the work that these people have been doing is continued and that the number of teams is not reduced as has been suggested?

Mr. Ward

That report, which I have not seen, is quite untrue. The hon. Member will appreciate that, in the nature of things, some of these teams are very much busier than others and, therefore, it is natural that we should see whether we should not strengthen the busy ones at the expense of the others.

Mr. Awbery

Is not this a voluntary service?

Mr. Ward

Certainly, it is a voluntary service.

Mr. Watkins

When he is considering the retention of teams and their location, will the right hon. Gentleman remember that the St. Athan Team has a very busy time in rescuing even military personnel in the Brecon Beacons?

Mr. Ward

Perhaps the hon. Member will write to me about that. I do not know what the position is with regard to the St. Athan Team.