HC Deb 18 December 1963 vol 686 cc1242-3
37. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Postmaster-General what reports he has received about the effect of increased book postage charges on the export of British books to foreign countries.

Mr. Mawby

I understand that in certain countries the selling price of British books has been raised following the increase in charges for printed papers sent overseas by surface mail; but we have no information about the effect of this on the number of British books exported. In any case, for the reasons given in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) on 18th November, my right hon. Friend does not see how he could have allowed the old rates, with the measure of subsidy which they involved, to continue.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Minister aware that book exports are important not only in terms of the currency which they themselves earn, but also because they convey British ideas and often lead to purchases of equipment and other useful exports? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these increased charges appear to make British books uncompetitive compared with books from other countries? Will not he look at this matter again?

Mr. Mawby

Yes, Sir. One of the major difficulties that we face is that if we are to carry out some of the social benefits that people expect from the G.P.O., we must have at least one department that is making a profit. Before 1st July, the reduced rate printed paper service was losing money at the rate of £1.7 million a year. Even with the increase in rates, the service is still running at a loss of about £½ million a year. The pre-1st July loss on overseas printed paper services as a whole was of the order of £3 million and it is still running at nearly half that amount. That is our difficulty. I am, however, seized of the point made by the hon. Member.