HC Deb 22 July 1965 vol 716 cc1931-75

8.8 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Marples (Wallasey)

After that very short speech by the Minister of Transport, who said that he would speak for two or three minutes, I will try to be as brief as possible in opening this debate for which we have only one hour and fifty minutes, which does not give the Postmaster-General very long to explain his policy.

This is my first speech for six years on Post Office affairs. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on becoming the 95th Postmaster-General since 1691. The right hon. Gentleman has always been keen on Post Office affairs. I have never had the opportunity to thank him for some of the very kind remarks he has made about me when I was the 93rd Postmaster-General. My wife reminded me today that the right hon. Gentleman said on "Any Questions?" that I was the best Postmaster-General in living memory. He may have changed his mind by now because of his recent appointment, but I am grateful to him and I do not disagree too violently with his then pronouncement. I will mention a few of the complaints which are made about the Post Office and try to make some constructive suggestions. In Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman was always constructive and never solely destructive. I will try to be the same.

As to complaints, we have to recognise that the British people grumble at a number of things—the weather and any public service that may be offered to them, whether it is the railways or the Post Office. One cannot win. I remember that when I first became Minister of Transport, the public complained bitterly that traffic in London was grinding to a halt. Then we got it moving faster and I got a letter addressed, "Speed Maniac Marples, London", complaining that it was going like Brands Hatch. So one cannot win. Neither can the right hon. Gentleman. With his fortitude, however, he will not mind that.

I have a number of examples of the present service of the Post Office and there is not a shadow of doubt that it is deteriorating, and deteriorating rapidly, on both telephone and post office sides. The Telephone Users' Association—I do not know whether this is correct—claims that in 1935, one telephone call in 10,000 in London was liable to fail, but that now the ratio is one in six. That association complains about a loss of export orders through the general lack of efficiency in the Post Office. It complains also that it sometimes takes 11, 12 or 13 minutes for an operator to reply.

I know the Postmaster-General's difficulties, but my personal experiences are such that I am certain that for one reason or another the services supplied by the Post Office are not as good today as they were in the past and that they have been deteriorating over quite a number of years. One cannot particularly blame the right hon. Gentleman, and that I am not seeking to do. All I am saying is that the services have deteriorated.

Today I telephoned the Postmaster-General's office to verify some of my figures and I got two wrong numbers, which was irritating, a crossed line and another conversation, which was very interesting but it would be out of order to tell the Committee what I heard—it was rather like "What the butler saw".

Without doubt, these complaints are numerous. On the whole they are justified and they cover a wide range of services. I believe that it is time for fundamental changes in the structure of the Post Office. It must be done root and branch; one cannot tinker with the problem. I will try to make some constructive suggestions about the way the Postmaster-General's mind should, during the next few months, be devoted to reorganisation.

Let me analyse the organisation of the Post Office. First, it is too big. Imperial Chemical Industries employs 120,000 people. The Post Office, including sub-postmasters, employs 400,000 people, which makes I.C.I. petty cash in comparison. Bigness by itself would not matter provided that the end product was a unified one, but it is not a unified product in this case, because my second point is that the Post Office is a large collection and combination of a number of very different undertakings. Some of them are highly technical and highly sophisticated, such as a satellite and telecommunications, whereas others are rather pedestrian, like the delivery of parcels. It is by nature a ragbag of a wide variety. The varieties differ so widely that they do not form a natural or convenient collection which can be organised by one management.

I turn to a very good book on the Post Office, written by an American, Howard Robinson, entitled "Britain's Post Office". Lord Wolmer in the 1920s had a pamphlet called "Post Office Reform". It was really Rowland Hill's pamphlet. He put the essential cause for any postal shortcomings on the unfitness of the organisation to supervise such varied activities. He declared that the administrative arrangements were not much different from those that had been assumed 'about the year 1855'". In effect, therefore, in the 1920s, it was thought that the Post Office's activities were so widely varied and dispersed that some other form of organisation should take their place. That is my first point. The second is that it is too varied in nature.

My third point—and I am sure that I will carry hon. Members with me in this—concerns Treasury control. When I became Postmaster-General in 1955 and was asked to run this commercial organisation, I was horrified to find that all the moneys that the Post Office received were to be paid into the Exchequer, that all the expenditure which came out was to be paid by the Treasury and that the Treasury retained the right of control over the Estimates. That had been going on since 1787. I made some effort to try to remove this commercial organisation, because that is what it is, out of the control of the Treasury. I now believe that it should be moved further outside the Treasury control until the Treasury has nothing whatever to do with the Post Office. I ask the Postmaster-General to consider that suggestion.

Fourthly, if one analyses the Post Office one sees that it is an old organisation; and old organisations, whether shipbuilding, mining or the Post Office, tend to resist change. They cannot help it. It is in the nature of an old organisation. All the very old organisations which we have in this country should be revamped and reshaped from time to time.

One of the reasons for the success of certain European countries after the Second World War was that everything they stood for was destroyed and they started anew. Germany was blitzed and there was very little left, France was occupied and Japan had felt the atom bomb, but we in this country did not. We continued on the same basis as we had before. Often in an old organisation, or an old company or culture, it behoves us to have some sort of violent change, and then we can start anew and do well. This applies to the Post Office.

There was an experiment in America in, I think, the G.E.C. when the lighting on a production belt was altered and production increased. Everybody hated the change at first. Then the workers were very happy and the production increased. Then the lighting was altered again, back to what it was before, and again production increased. There is no doubt that people as a whole resist change. They curse it when it happens, they grudgingly admit that it is not so bad, then they accept it. Therefore, I think that in the Post Office we ought to have some violent change. The Post Office has been going on for about 400 years. I shall try to illustrate what sort of change we should have.

One thing which I should like to ask the Postmaster-General is a purely personal question. I have always thought that the uniform that we give to postmen is pretty horrible. It is blue serge which never keeps its crease. When I was at the Post Office I started an experiment on new uniforms and I used "Terylene", which will always keep its crease. It was not too bad. The firm which made the suit that I am wearing did not present me with it but charged me for it. During my term of office I tried out this material on the postmen and it was very good, because this suit has not been pressed for about five or six years. That was why I got it. A man cannot have self-respect unless he is decently dressed. That was what I tried to bring about.

When I tried to bring that about, there was one unholy row because the union and the officials of the Post Office had been cogitating in a working party for about two or three years about what sort of uniform they should have. We did this in about six weeks. I do not know how this experiment has gone. Would the right hon. Gentleman like to tell me now or later?

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)


Mr. Marples

Very well. This is quite a good suit, and it has worn very well. I have lost a little weight since it was made for me, but apart from that, it is all right.

Old institutions resist change. There is no worse institution than the House of Commons for resisting change. We have hardly any modern devices here. We still have the Official Reporters for recording the speeches of hon. Members. They do extremely good work, but magnetic tapes would be just as good—except that they would not put in the verbs which we miss out from our speeches.

Not only do we in the House of Commons resist change; we try to reverse the procedure. The only electronic gadget or device of modern times which we have is a Division bell which rings in a private house or club. Yet the modernisers among hon. Members opposite have tabled a Motion to the effect that we should prohibit the ringing of Division bells in private houses, flats and clubs. They want to dispense with the only modern electronic device which we have. These are the modernisers of the twentieth century.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

With eighteenth century tricks.

Mr. Marples

Surely eighteenth centrury tricks should not deny us twentieth century devices. Therefore, my fourth point is that old organisations always resist change. I am very anxious that other hon. Members should have a chance to speak. I am racing through my speech because we have not a lot of time for this debate, which is a great pity.

I come to two conclusions. One is on the top management of the Post Office, and the other is on the organisation of the Post Office as a business. On the top management of the Post Office, I have come to the conclusion, having spent almost three years in the Department, that a Postmaster-General who is a Member of this House has insufficient time to devote to leading and managing such a big business. I have looked back into the history of some of the Postmaster-General's predecessors. In the book which I mentioned, "Britain's Post Office", it is stated: The shifting leadership of so large a business as the Post Office was emphasised by the changes in the headship at this time; it was frequently affected by Cabinet changes made for political reasons. In fact, the year 1931 had more Postmasters-General than any other year in the whole history of the Post Office; four held office in that year. The average term of office of a Postmaster-General is two years and two months. The shortest term is two months. I do not think that that is sufficient time for a Postmaster-General to leave his imprint on the Department.

I am reinforced in this view by the opinion of one of the four Postmasters-General who served in 1931, the noble Lord, Earl Attlee. I quote the words which he used in 1931 as they appear in this book: A succession of short-term Postmasters-General leads either to discontinuity of policy or to the passing of real control into the hands of the permanent officials. I believe that Earl Attlee was right. My experience as Postmaster-General confirms me in that view. This book says that Mr. Attlee, as he then was, wished the Treasury control 'as now exercised' to be abolished. … he did not believe it wise that the great body of civil servants in the Post Office should be headed by a 'transitory political chief'. He suggested that there should be a non-parliamentary Postmaster-General.

If Earl Attlee suggested that in 1931, how much more relevant is it today? In 1931 there were under 2 million telephones. Now we have passed the 10 million mark. In 1931 the turnover was £72 million. Now it is nine times greater—£647 million. In 1931 the staff numbered 232,000. Now the figure is 400,000, almost twice as many as there were in 1931. Not only is the volume of Post Office business greater than when Lord Attlee said that; the variety is different. We now have television. The rate of change is terrific. The Post Office must handle the transmission of data for computers. This is a big technological change which will require an immense effort to make it succeed. The nature of the system is altering all the time. The Postmaster-General announced yesterday that we shall add to it the giro system. All I say is that if what Earl Attlee said in 1931 was right, it must be right now—indeed, more so. It is time that the top management of the Post Office was removed to somebody outside the House who can devote all his time to it instead of somebody in the House who devotes part of his time to it.

When I was at the Post Office and at the Ministry of Transport I had to decide how to reorganise the business. There are only two possible ways of reorganising a business. We either accept the existing structure and try to alter it by adding to it or subtracting from it, or start with a completely new approach and ask ourselves what we would do with the Post Office or the railways, or whatever it is, if we had to start from scratch. That is what we did with the railways. We had to think what would happen on the railways if we came down from Heaven and found that there were no railways in this country. We had to decide what sort of railway system we should have if we started from scratch with a lot of money and the power to buy land so that we could put the system down. This is the approach which we should have with regard to the Post Office. We should start de novo.

I have come to these conclusions. The first is that the organisation of the Post Office is too big for one man to control and effectively to manage. Therefore, it must be split into smaller suitable units. I suggest that it should be split into three units. First, I would hive off the telephones completely because I think that they have nothing whatsoever in common with the Post Office. They are completely divorced technically from the Post Office functions, and they should be completely separate.

I should like the telephone organisation to be formed rather like it is in America. I tell the Committee frankly that I believe that the American telephone system is better than ours. I think that the right hon. Gentleman himself does, too, because he said so in a speech in July. We ought to have our telephones in a public utility company similar to the Bell telephone system, and in this way three results could be achieved. First, the Treasury will not be the shareholder. The Treasury does not understand business at all. The shareholding should be spread widely, because that helps to create a property-owning democracy. Secondly, there should be a commercial board, because this gives flexibility, efficient management and very good research. The Bell Telephone Company's research is about the finest in the world that I have ever seen. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who, I believe, has been fortunate enough to marry an American lady, will go to see the Bell Telephone Company and the A.T. and T.

Thirdly, it must be possible to control the prices which the telephone public utility charges its customers for the service. This happens in the United States. Each individual State has power to challenge the Bell Telephone Company if it wants to raise its prices. There should be a full-time chairman, and the choice of chairman should be from the whole population, not necessarily from the 300 or so Members of Parliament who happen to support the Government of the day, whether from that side or this.

Next, I should invite some of the Bell telephone people to join the board because they know the technical developments in their country and there could be cross-fertilisation between what happens there and what happens here. If they thought that we were not advanced enough technically, they could say so, and their experience of what they do in America could be applied here, and applied quickly. I should like to see cross-fertilisation also not only between Post Office engineering on the telephone side and industry in this country but between Post Office engineering and American industry. I should like 100 or so American engineers across here with their manning scales, and 100 of ours across there with our manning scales. In this way, we could introduce a competitive element which would probably be good for both countries. That is the first section which I should hive off from the Post Office.

The second is the Post Office itself. The Post Office faces a very difficult position. Costs are rising and it is a labour-intensive industry. The man who has to sort letters and deliver them is a very expensive commodity. People are always reluctant to pay for service in public transport, the Post Office or whatever it is. They criticise it all the time. But there must be standardisation, rationalisation and automation in the Post Office services—and in our travel arrangements as well, at London Airport, for example—the like of which we have never known before. Not only must we have standard envelopes and some standard stationery, which I started when I was at the Post Office—

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

The right hon. Gentleman did not think of it.

Mr. Marples

I did not know that the right hon. Gentleman had been at the Post Office. He was on the Advisory Committee, but his advice was not very useful, if I remember aright.

Mr. Ross

While the right hon. Gentleman was Postmaster-General we seldom met.

Mr. Marples

That was because the advice from the right hon. Gentleman was so bad. In fact, we met a great deal. The right hon. Gentleman's contributions were very short and not very helpful.

Mr. Ross

It is a pity that my advice was not taken.

Mr. Marples

The right hon. Gentleman mutters from a sedentary position that something was a pity. It was a pity inasmuch as I thought that his fertile mind would have produced more. But it did not. Now he is wreaking devastation at the Scottish Office, and we shall pay for it there in due course.

On the automation side, I am certain that sooner or later, we shall have not only standard envelopes but standard packages for parcels, and we shall come to standard baggage at London Airport, with a special place for a label which can be easily read by some sort of electronic eye, giving ready sorting. The porters will not be able to go on strike because there will not be any porters to stop people going on their holidays. If people want separate baggage of a different size, they will be able to have it, but they will have to pay. I am quite certain that in this country, as in America, we shall come down to standard things which are easily handled. Therefore, I want the Post Office, together with the travel agencies, to get down to this problem of automation.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

It sounds like regimentation.

Mr. Marples

It is not regimentation. Anyone can have what size of baggage he wants. The only point is that if it is standard it is cheap, but if it is odd it is expensive. People must make their choice. It is not regimentation. It is free choice. This is what the Postmaster-General intends to do. I hope he does it. I shall back him up if he does. The idea is that the standard envelope, with some sort of symbol on it, not a stamp but something which can be electronically read very easily, will be cheap, but if someone wants a fancy envelope of a different shape or size it will be expensive. That is not regimentation. It is free choice. I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman saying that, after supporting me for so long over so many years from below the Gangway when on this side of the Chamber. He is an absolute reactionary.

On the Post Office side, therefore, we want a full-time chairman of automation. The financial and banking side and the savings side are, I believe, another natural division. Therefore, I say to the right hon. Gentleman, if he wants to go down in history as one of the brightest of Postmasters-General, that he ought to work himself out of his job and make himself redundant and divide the Post Office into three manageable units of the right things collected together in a suitable way so that they can be managed by somebody. I am sure he will agree with me when he winds up.

I want to say one thing to the right hon. Gentleman. It is this. I remember that he was shadow Minister of Transport when I first became Minister of Transport, and we had some very agreeable debates indeed, and he was very polite to me. He has been one of the few on that side who has been polite. That probably cost him his place in the party. But I remember saying to him, "Thought is easy but action is difficult"—and that is a quotation from Goethe. I think this is the problem which faces us, not only in the Post Office but in this country as a whole. We argue enormously and at great length, we read more newspapers per head than any other nation in the world, and we talk incessantly, but we do not do. I believe he could make his name by doing something for the Post Office, and I have tried to help him enormously by indicating the general lines on which his very fertile mind should concentrate. I cannot do more to help him earn the excessive salary which he gets—twice as much as I got when I was Postmaster-General. I must say to him, in spite of his great kindness to me in the past, which I do appreciate, that tonight it is my unpleasant duty to do two things. The first is to propose a reduction in his salary, which I think is excessive anyhow, and the second is to ask him to work himself out of his job. I think he will be doing the nation a service if he follows the advice of both the then Mr. Attlee and now mine. What a unique combination—from the 1930s and the former Prime Minister and leader of his own party, to now and the person who is leading in this debate. I am giving the right hon. Gentleman that advice and I hope he follows it. If he does follow it, I can assure him that, if he is constructive, he will get the support of this side of the Committee, and get it unstintingly.

8.38 p.m.

The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Joseph Slater)

This is to be a very short debate, but I think everyone will agree that we have listened to a most remarkable speech to start it. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) really thinks that the type of speech he made on the Post Office services will gain him in the headlines tomorrow the name "Marples the Great Moderniser". I think that is what he was seeking. The right hon. Gentleman is in a very strange position. Here he is shadowing my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. Last week he was shadowing my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology. Next week—who can tell?—he may be shadowing my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

Mr. Marples

I do not want to stop the hon. Gentleman in full flood, but I am not shadowing anybody. I am not shadowing the Minister of Technology—although he was here when I started and has left now that I have finished.

Mr. Slater

That may be the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but the opinion of our people on this side of the Committee is that what the right hon. Gentleman is seeking is to shadow my right hon. Friend here tonight. He was shadowing the Minister of Technology last week and he may be seeking to shadow the Minister of Housing and Local Government next week, and in the first week of August he may be seeking to shadow the Minister of Transport. He has become very versatile in the course of his duties and experiences in various Departments, and it looks as though he will become so versatile that I am afraid he will have to get out again that cycle we heard so much about in the past which he used to ride to the House of Commons.

This is a short debate, but a very important one, and I am pleased that we have this opportunity to say something in reply to the criticisms which have been made against the Post Office services. All Postmasters-General have been subject to criticism, both in this House and outside it, regarding the efficiency of the services provided by the Post Office, and no doubt this will continue to be the case so long as Ministers are responsible for the day-to-day administration. I do not in any way object to that, provided that the criticism is intended to improve the services, and is not merely destructive.

As the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, the Post Office has been with us for a very long time. It is true that it covers a wide field. It is subject to change within its operations, and more so now than at any time in its history. No one has been more conscious of this than has my right hon. Friend who has taken over the responsibility for this great organisation. When criticism is directed against the services, what does it indicate? It indicates the importance of the postal services to the nation, and the important part they have to play in the economy of our country if it is to be properly phased and to succeed.

The Post Office, while seeking to keep pace with modern trends in outlook, is greatly dependent on those engaged in its services. This seems to be overlooked by many of its critics. They overlook the fact that if we are to be efficient, and if we are to give the service which is expected of us by the general public, we can achieve this only by having good relationships with those who are employed in the service. I submit that the man who delivers the mail is as important as the top executive. To put it another way, he is an integral part of a great operation, and any breakdown in the machinery means that the cycle of operation takes much longer to complete. What I am trying to say is that whatever the grade of a man in the Post Office services, he has a mind of his own, he knows how to express himself, and I would not have it otherwise.

During the last eight months, I have met many of the local representatives at places which I have visited in an effort to get their reaction to the way the services are being run and any ideas for improvement. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we are the third largest employer in the country, employing about 400,000 people. They accept that their duties involve the keeping of Post Office rules and regulations, and the giving of a reliable and courteous service to the public. They realise that being public servants they are not immune from criticism, even if the late delivery of mail is due to misdirection, and so on.

I begin to wonder whether hon. Members in this House, and people outside, know that organised labour within the Post Office is attached to no fewer than 22 different organisations and is not, as some people seem to think, based on the two major trade unions which are associated or connected with it. I claim that talks such as I have had with representatives of these various organisations assist in removing the kind of suspicion that is detrimental to the services, but I must inform the Committee that what happened in regard to the postal dispute under the previous Administration still weighs heavy in certain quarters throughout the industry. I want to eliminate this type of bitterness and get back to the position where one person can trust the other, and it is to this end that my right hon. Friend and I have been working. I know that both he and I have been criticised for not being tougher in our approach. Let me tell hon. Members that we do not run away from such criticisms. It is nice to know what the other chap is thinking. But let me say to those individuals who take that line that I am content to adopt this approach and restore confidence in those who are engaged in these services, if that is what is needed.

I have always held the view that if we are to have good staff relations, they will not be achieved by working from a text book. The man on the shop floor has not the time available to him, and nor have others who are not engaged in this type of work. If good staff relations are wanted, they must start from the ground floor and not from the top, and good working conditions are a contributory factor to good staff relations.

I see that time is limited, and I am going to pass on now and say something about postal recruitment. Since last October, I have answered a great many questions in the House and replied to many letters from hon. Members about failures in the postal service. It is quite clear to me that one of the fundamental reasons for these failures is the severe shortage of postmen at a good many of our key offices. At those offices, high overtime is worked, but there is a limit to it, and it is not always possible to staff duties adequately to ensure the quality of service that we want to give to the public.

As one would expect, it is in areas of full employment—in Greater London, many parts of the home counties and the Midlands—that our difficulties are at their worst. Here, we are faced with keen competition from other industries. However, we are taking positive and, we hope, effective steps to get our full share of the available labour, but it must be understood that this is not an easy market to tap, especially for the type of person we want for the services involved. But I must emphasise that it is at these main centres that we have been finding the greatest difficulty in recruiting for our postal services.

We are therefore tightening up on our methods of recruitment to bring them to the maximum efficiency, and we are embarking on extensive advertising. This week, we started a television advertising campaign on the London and Midland I.T.V. transmissions and we are ready to deal promptly with the large number of inquiries which we expect to receive. A new recruitment centre, supplementing the existing one, was opened at Camel-ford House in London last week.

As a further measure, and with the co-operation of the Union of Post Office Workers, we are extending the recruitment of temporary postwomen and of part-time staff.

I am pleased to tell the House that the response to advertising has been most encouraging and that the first batch of new recruits in the Inner London Area has already reported for training. It has to be understood and appreciated that, as new housing areas are developed and old terraced housing pulled down, more men are required, involving increased costs to the Department without a great increase in traffic. These are important factors that have to be borne in mind and measured against the position of 20 years ago.

I do not try to disguise the fact that it is bound to take some time to restore our postman complement to a proper level in London and in some other towns, but I am convinced that, in co-operation with the staff, we are now moving in the right direction to solve the problem.

One has a similar problem in the recruitment of telephonists in these full employment areas. Hon. Members will appreciate that the competition for women staff of the kind needed for telephone operating is extremely keen. In particular, we have been concerned by the standard of service at the Continental Exchange, which is below that which we aim to give. I am pleased to tell hon. Members that we are taking measures to deal with this. An extensive drive has been made to get recruits and to attract school leavers this summer, and I hope that we will be successful in attracting young people into the service and so build up the Department in this way.

Last week I was privileged to open a new language laboratory of the latest type at Wren House, and I urge hon. Members to go there and see what is taking place. It is designed to speed up the training in French of those telephonists whose knowledge of French on recruitment is not up to the required standard.

In addition to this, a reorganisation of the Continental service is in hand, including provision for greater use of English in overseas operating. This will enable a much greater proportion of the work to be done by non-linguists who are easier to recruit. I expect that these measures taken together will lead to a considerable improvement in the service before long. An extension of international subscriber dialling will, in the longer term, even further improve the situation.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)


Mr. Slater

I do not have time to give way. I must get on so that other hon. Members can have an opportunity to speak.

Hon. Members have frequently raised the problem of telephone kiosks. The Post Office is continually being asked to provide more call offices, particularly in rural areas and on new housing estates. We have 75,000 call offices, a very good record, and we are continuing to provide them, although they made a loss of £4½ million in 1963–64. The loss is increasing, and it is for this very good reason that when my right hon. Friend and I are asked to provide a new call office we have to pay careful attention to the likely use to be made of it and whether there is an alternative within reasonable walking distance. It is not hard-heartedness on our part, but sound commonsense.

Furthermore, in rural areas where kiosks are largely unremunerative, we nevertheless provide them outside each post office and telephone exchange. In addition, we have an allocation scheme which provides a sum of money to be spent on the provision of kiosks at sites recommended by the Rural District Councils' Association. Over the last 15 years that the scheme has been in operation the Post Office has provided no fewer than 6,000 rural kiosks at a capital cost of more than £1 million. The allocation of the past 2½ years has provided some 250 kiosks and we propose to carry on with this provision.

Hon. Members have frequently referred to vandalism to kiosks and I have frequently been asked Questions about this subject. Places like Liverpool and Glasgow immediately spring to mind. I must inform hon. Members that we try to make such damaged kiosks available for emergency communications even if we cannot immediately repair them completely. However, this is a considerable problem. During the first quarter of this year no fewer than 19,000 kiosks were wilfully damaged, some more than once, and the direct cost of repairs alone reached the figure of £45,000.

We are taking firm measures to counter the problem, but hon. Members will appreciate that we cannot reveal details. However, I would like to say, as I have said previously, that this is a problem to be tackled not only by the Post Office but by the local authorities, the police and every citizen.

Representations have been made to my right hon. Friend to grant concessions over telephone charges and other such matters for old-age pensioners. The Government's view is that the right way to tackle this and similar problems is to provide adequate money resources for a household and leave people the freedom of choice of their own expenditure They may not want a telephone. Many of us can remember what happened about the tobacco concession. However, we are in discussion with other Government Depart- ments and a number of voluntary bodies and with our Post Office Engineering Union to help us assess any real specific requirements which there might be. If it emerges that there is a low cost communication facility which the Post Office could develop, we shall certainly see what we can do. In the meantime, I would commend to hon. Members an excellent booklet published by the National Council of Social Services.

I have endeavoured to gallop through what I have to say in order to give other hon. Members an opportunity to make short contributions. I have attempted to deal in short detail with recruitment in regard to the basic services—posts and telecommunications—the provision of kiosks and concessions to the aged. These are a few of the matters which concern the Post Office. Late delivery of mail, parcel transit and other problems are earnestly being tackled. I have no doubt that, as the debate proceeds, other items will be referred to. Neither my right hon. Friend nor I would claim that we have all the answers to the problems which could arise in the services of the Post Office—

Mr. Gresham Cooke


Mr. Slater

—nor do I think—

Mr. Gresham Cooke


Hon. Members


The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Jennings)

If the Assistant Postmaster-General does not give way, the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) must not persist.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

On a point of order. We are in Committee. May I not ask a simple question, and that is, what about recruiting—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. It is sharp practice to try to get the question across. I must insist that if the hon. Gentleman who is on his feet does not give way no other hon. Gentleman should persist in interrupting.

Mr. Slater

It is not that I wanted to be discourteous to the hon. Member for Twickenham, but I made it clear that this is such a short debate that I wanted to give other hon. Members an opportunity to make short contributions.

I will not claim that we have all the answers about services of the Post Office. I do not think that management in any other type of major industry has, either. To make such a claim would be ridiculous, to say the least. However, my right hon. Friend and I shall accept the criticisms which may be directed against us, if such criticisms are justified. What we shall not accept is criticism which is biassed against the Post Office as such. This is a great organisation. It seeks to give services to the general public on many fronts. Suggestions made in the debate to improve these services will be carefully considered. In that way, we may advance towards eliminating much of the ill-informed criticism which has been directed against the Post Office as such.

8.59 p.m.

Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)

I shall not detain the Committee for more than a few moments. There are just three points which I wish to raise. The first is of a general nature, in that it covers the whole nation; the other two are slightly more specific and relate primarily to Northern Ireland.

My general point concerns something which I think the Post Office introduced in Northern Ireland about three years ago, a classified telephone directory. I do not know how widely this has been extended throughout the other regions of the United Kingdom but this is of considerable importance. [AN HON. MEMBER: "London has one."] There is none which relates to London, certainly none which I have been able to find. This does not apply over the whole country and I hope that steps on this—[AN HON. MEMBER: "It does apply."]—It does not. I have gone to a certain amount of trouble to find out about this. Are there insuperable obstacles to its being extended to those areas where it does not apply?

The second point relates to something which causes a great deal of irritation, particularly to companies which still use the parcel post service to a considerable extent. It is the delays which are occurring in this service, particularly between Northern Ireland and the Midlands. I gather that these delays do not primarily arise from activities at the Belfast end. My visits to the General Post Office there have shown that time with- out number loads of parcels take three or four days after the date of stamping before they arrive in Northern Ireland. This, therefore, implies that loads of parcels are ending up in a siding somewhere in the Midlands.

I hope that something can be done to accelerate the delivery of parcels because a great number of companies—and I am thinking particularly of companies which send small articles of high value—use this service. These delays are a great handicap to them and I hope that the Postmaster-General will comment on this matter when he replies to the debate.

My third point concerns a matter about which I have written to the right hon. Gentleman recently. It also relates to Northern Ireland but this time to the subscriber trunk dialling system. I am told that there seems to be a clogging from London when dialling the letters OA, OB or OC. There seems to be particular difficulty with the second letter of a three-letter code where this is one of the first three letters of the alphabet.

Although in the last few days there has been an 11 per cent. increase in the number of lines available between Belfast and London, difficulty does still exist in STD dialling, particularly when dialling the letters OB. The service was introduced some years ago and is indeed an excellent idea. Businessmen and others were encouraged to use facilities which, frankly, were not up to the appropriate requirement at the time. If one is encouraging people to do something, adequate facilities should be available for them to do it.

I have been conducting some tests in the last few days and, while I accept that there has been a substantial improvement as between Belfast and London, there is still a severe shortage of lines between Northern Ireland and the Midlands. For an industrial community such as ours it is most important that businessmen have adequate facilities for making business telephone calls.

I realise that several of my hon. Friends wish to take part in this discussion. While I should like to make some further observations I will restrict my remarks to those three points and should be obliged if the Postmaster-General would comment on them.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Harry Randall (Gateshead, West)

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) has done a service to the Committee by speaking briefly. The points he raised are of close concern to his constituents and I am sure that they will be pleased that he has drawn them to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. I will attempt to emulate his brevity and, though my remarks may take slightly longer than his I will resume my seat as quickly as possible.

While some of us enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), including his flights of fancy, the enjoyment was really secondhand because his comments appeared in the Sunday Telegraph only a few weekends ago. Had he departed from the remarks he made his speech would have been more enjoyable. In any case, what was happening when he was the Postmaster-General for three years? Why were these great ideas not put into practice?

Mr. Marples


Mr. Randall

I will not give way. Time is short and many hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. Marples

The hon. Gentleman should not ask me questions if he will not allow me to answer them.

Mr. Randall

The right hon. Gentleman was for three years the Postmaster-General and was in the Cabinet for most of the 13 years of Tory rule. Why did we not hear some of these ideas then? I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman to answer these questions but merely reminding the Committee that he had every opportunity of putting these ideas into practice when he was in office. He did not do so. Neither did his colleague Mr. Bevins.

The present atmosphere surrounding the Post Office is quite unreal, and the constant criticism levelled at it is completely unjustified in the light of what my right hon. Friend has been doing in the last eight or 10 months. I do not say that the services have not deteriorated. The right hon. Gentleman said that they have been deteriorating for years, and they have. They were deteriorating when he was there, and when Mr. Bevins was there, but against the background of what my right hon. Friend has been doing I say again that the present criticisms are unjustified.

In a debate in March my right hon. Friend spoke of some of the things he had been doing. For instance, there is no one in this Committee who does not realise the need for better staff relations. Many of us still remember 16th July, 1964. We know of the struggle that went on, and of the disappointments. Some of us who had been in the Post Office for years were dismayed by the industrial strife, and the work-to-rule. As a result of hard work on the part of some, the then Postmaster-General, Mr. Bevins agreed to a 6½ per cent. increase, and to stand by the award of the pay research unit.

I have recently had the feeling that some hon. Members opposite think that the postmen were then treated too generously—

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Randall

I am not necessarily looking at the Liberal Party when I say that. The postmen were not treated too generously. The pay research unit established beyond doubt that they had been well behind for years. I am glad that when the unit reported, my right hon. Friend did not hesitate to see that the postmen got their due.

As a result, something else happened in staff relations. Many hon. Members keep urging that restrictive practices should be done away with—particularly restrictive practices on the part of the workers and the trade unions. For years there was part-time labour in the Post Office, and I was one of those who opposed it. When, after a great struggle, we abolished it, we said, "Never again". But, because of manpower problems, my right hon. Friend had to ask the postmen to make a contribution in this respect, and they have agreed to the employment, for a time, of part-time postmen and postwomen. That is the kind of improvement in staff relations that has resulted from the efforts of my right hon. Friend, and of the Assistant Postmaster-General, who has done an exceedingly good job.

I am glad to know that the Post Office is to take advantage of modern industrial building methods. This is urgently needed, because my right hon. Friend says that he will be active in the introduction of mechanisation. In one of his first speeches as Postmaster-General, the right hon. Member for Wallasey, told us about everything that was coming from Dollis Hill, and the wonderful things that were to be developed, but when he gave up his position Post Office mechanisation was still a long way off. Since my right hon. Friend was appointed he has taken action in many ways. Standard coding is just one part of what is going on. What is now happening is lively and interesting. It is against that background that I affirm that this criticism of the Post Office is completely unjustified. I am not saying that the services ought not to be improved; they certainly should, but the steps taken by my right hon. Friend give an indication of what is happening.

The telephone service is in great trouble, not through the fault of my right hon. Friend but because of inadequate investment over the years. The right hon. Member for Wallasey spoke about separating telephones from the rest of the service, but how were the telephones financed originally? It was by the postal side. The profits of the postal side may not be so great now but originally they subsidised telephones. For faults experienced and the fact that maintenance does not go on we can lay much of the blame at the door of the previous Government, because youth training was stopped.

There is a lively interest in the Post Office at present. I can say this because I come from the Post Office service. I have never known such a great interest taken in it. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for amending and remoulding staff relations. The greatest contribution which a Postmaster-General can make is to get the co-operation of the staff. There are about 170,000 Post Office workers. When we can get their full co-operation things will begin to move. My right hon. Friend is doing the job which he ought to do. If a Division is pressed by hon. Members opposite against the Government tonight, I shall be very glad to vote against the Opposition.

9.12 p.m.

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

The right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) elaborated at some length upon a very good article which he published in the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks ago. I was glad to hear him elaborating some of the useful and constructive suggestions he made in that article. He ranged over a wide field of development which I am sure he would be the first to admit would take many years to carry out.

I shall try to apply my mind in this speech to the immediate problems confronting the Postmaster-General and to suggest some of the things which in my view need urgent attention. There is one point which the right hon. Member for Wallasey brought out in his speech which is of paramount importance—that the present set-up is bad. This is well illustrated by the inheritance which the Postmaster-General took upon himself when he took office. He inherited what is still, despite many deficiencies, one of the best postal services as to letters and small packages in the world, but also what is fast becoming one of the worst telephone systems in the Western world, one which compares very unfavourably with that of the United States and certain Western European countries.

The Postmaster-General also inherited—perhaps his worst difficulty—50 years of under-capitalisation. That has created many of the problems confronting the service in all its aspects. He also inherited a great deal of discontent and unrest among the employees. I believe they were justified in much of the discontent they have expressed over recent years. I hope that the Postmaster-General and the present Government will do everything they can to create a far better relationship between members of the industry, the Government and the general public. The right hon. Gentleman has inherited a radio and television service over which he has very little real control. I have always considered it a curious situation that the Postmaster-General should be responsible for something over which he has a minimal amount of control and is unable to put into effect many of the ideas he might wish to see established.

All this does not mean that nothing can be done or achieved. It does not necessarily mean that the Minister has his priorities right in all things. I was a little disturbed when listening to the Assistant Postmaster-General, because I felt he was complacent about the things which have been achieved so far. I do not hesitate to say that some of those achievements are striking. Nevertheless there was a note of complacency which worried me. I hope that the Postmaster-General replying to some questions which I shall briefly put will be able to allay my fears.

This debate is essential. The Post Office services are not only vital to the whole health of the national economy but the Post Office is one of our largest industries and in many ways our most powerful single industry. A Post Office go-slow or a stoppage can wreck or cause havoc to industry, commerce, business and even the public safety in certain aspects. It is, therefore, right that we should spend time on this debate. It is a matter of regret to me that we have not longer in which to discuss this vital service in all its aspects. I am glad that hon. Members on both sides have sought to make the debate as constructive as possible and not merely political. That is my aim, too.

First, postal services. Despite the efficiencies to which I have referred, there are, nevertheless, yawning gaps in the service. In particular, I am concerned about the delays in matters of letter delivery and small parcels delivery in rural and remote areas. Over the last few years this has tended to become worse and there has been little sign of any marked improvement. I refer particularly to the Highlands of Scotland. I have a whole sheaf of letters here, many of which I should like to have referred to if there had been time, which have been received by my hon. Friends who represent the Highlands of Scotland from their constituents who feel that they are not able to depend upon the postal services. This is causing great concern to them and to anyone who hopes to spread industry and general development to that part of the nation.

There is, too, a failure very often on the part of the Post Office to give quick satisfaction in matters of compensation. I have had one or two examples of this in the short period that I have been in the House. Constituents have brought very genuine problems to me. Although these have been satisfactorily settled in the end, the delays have sometimes been inordinate and unnecessary. Therefore, I ask the Postmaster-General to undertake at least to review the position of the postal services in the remote and rural areas and to see whether he can effect any improvements, particularly bearing in mind that recent rail closures have frequently caused added difficulties to the postal services in those areas and therefore the problem is likely to become more acute. In areas like this, where the Government have promised us regional development, the matter of postal services becomes even more urgent.

I feel particularly strongly on the subject of the telephone services, because it seems that I can never pick up a telephone and dial the operator without getting either a rude answer or a wrong number. My experiences in this have been particularly unfortunate, but I believe that they are shared by many hon. Members on both sides. The basic problem is the attitude of operators. I was interested to hear of the success which has been achieved in the recruiting programmes. I congratulate the Minister upon it. I ask him to pay particular attention to the training of operators so as to ensure that they realise that they must give a very special and often a very peculiar service to the public and that courtesy will often go a long way to make people appreciative of a service which is otherwise difficult for them to give and for the public to receive.

I believe that one of the reasons why the telephone service is used so extensively in the United States as against the postal service is not just because their postal service is bad and their telephone service is good, but because their telephone service is so very good that people prefer to use it rather than the postal service. If this could be achieved in this country, it might add considerably to the revenue which the Post Office would receive from the telephone service.

That brings me to a few brief words about the work which is carried out in the House by the members of the Post Office staff who serve us all here so very well. I could elaborate on this, but I will merely say this to the Postmaster-General. I believe that the service which hon. and right hon. Members receive from the operatives here is unique. Not only do they have to be men of outstanding ability, they have to be trustworthy and their discretion has to be absolute. They are not receiving the best reward possible for their services and I hope that many of the problems which confront them will be seriously investigated by the Postmaster-General and that something will be done to improve their general conditions of service.

Finally, I should like to know what is to happen in the future about the kind of training which staff will have when they are recruited for the telephone service. This is important. Unless we have not only the right staff but the right training for them we shall continue to have inefficient service and this will continue to cause annoyance not only to ourselves but to people from other parts of the world who seek to reach us by means of the telephone. What proposals are there to raise the additional capital likely to be needed in the years ahead? I hope that the Postmaster-General gives priority to the improvement of existing services rather than the expansion of services. I would be far happier to feel that existing subscribers had a better service than that the waiting list should be met and more equipment installed than the staff is capable of handling.

I have the greatest sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. I have a great personal admiration for him and I hope that he will be able to deal with these difficulties in the years ahead in a way which I am sure he is more than capable of doing. I hope that he will be able to answer positively some of my questions. I said that I wanted this debate to be constructive, as I believe we all do. On many of the right hon. Gentleman's answers will depend the way in which we shall vote in the Division later on.

9.22 p.m.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

I beg to move, That Item Class 1, Vote 6 (Post Office Ministers), be reduced by £1,000.

It is an arrant shame that the debate has to be cut short. Many hon. Members on both sides who wished to put points about the service have been unable to do so. It is my intention to take certainly no more than half the time left and probably even less than that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) who opened the debate needs no words from me to remind the Committee of what he did for the Post Office. Some hon. Members opposite in their remarks seemed to forget that it was my right hon. Friend who got rid of Treasury control of the Post Office. I am sure that the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall), who is always the fairest of speakers in Post Office debates, will agree with me when I say that.

Mr. Randall

We still have it.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey was famous for his slogans during his career and I am sure that no one present will deny the saying that "Marples is modern". It is modernity that the Post Office requires. It is modernity and a forward look that my right hon. Friend asked for in this debate. The Assistant Postmaster-General told us certain things about the Post Office, but I cannot say that he answered in any way the case which my right hon. Friend put forward. I can only hope that the Postmaster-General will do so when he winds up the debate.

A great deal has been said about the Post Office in the course of the debate and much has been said concerning complaints about the letter post, the parcel post and the telephones. All these were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) and by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell). We are aware of the growing difficulty of the problem facing the Post Office, but, at the same time, we know more and more, through our constituency post, of the questions and complaints which are made.

Mr. Benn

indicated assent.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I see the Postmaster-General nods his head. He, above all, should know the problem which is there, in spite of the efforts which have been made and in spite of the courtesy of telephone operators and other Post Office servants. Incidentally, I thought that the hon. Member for Bodmin generalised rather when referring to the courtesy of telephone operators. In my experience it is the exception rather than the reverse to come across a "scratchy" one, and I have praise particularly for many of the night operators.

As my right hon. Friend said, we must consider carefully how the Post Office is to be controlled and administered in the future. With an organisation as big as this, employing about 400,000 people and with a turnover of well over £600 million a year, it is high time that the Government of the day and Parliament itself considered splitting up the Post Office. My right hon. Friend referred to the strong case for separating the telephone service from the rest of it, under, as he suggested, a public utility company with a full-time chairman. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will address his mind to this in answering the debate tonight.

From my experience of talking to people in responsible positions in the Post Office, I am certain that not enough responsibility is given to the head postmaster in his area. The work and staff returns still have to be made out every week. Are they really necessary? Are the work and staff returns which are sent into regional headquarters ever looked at or are they really pigeonholed? Is this system, which has been going on now for over 50 years, a sensible system in 1965? There is a case for giving these men, who in many cases are responsible for arranging and paying wage bills of between £7 million and £20 million a year, the maximum responsibility. This could be done under the sort of system which my right hon. Friend suggested.

The Postmaster-General has not quite so many questions to answer as he might have had if we had had a full debate. We have not launched into the question of stamps. We have had exchanges about this in the past, both with regard to the inability of the Post Office to produce stamps in time for the rise in letter post rates and also with regard to the most incompetent delays over commemorative stamps. But this question the right hon. Gentleman must answer: is he prepared to re-examine the monolithic structure of the Post Office as it is today? Does he agree that we must have change? Does he agree that management leadership is a fundamental necessity in running this service? However automated the Post Office becomes, the human factor will remain.

It was said that in the British Army there were no good battalions and no bad battalions, no good regiments and no bad regiments, but that there were only good and bad officers. The same applies to the Post Office today, with a body of men, 400,000 of them, the equivalent of over 40 divisions in the British Army. They must be broken down, and management leadership must play a great part.

The right hon. Gentleman's statement yesterday about the giro system will lead to a further enlargement of the Post Office. We had an excellent debate until the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) came in. I gave him warning that I would refer to him tonight, and he has not taken the opportunity to come here. It is of interest that during that debate, in which the statement about the giro was made by the Postmaster-General, the hon. Member for Buckingham came in and, having interrupted rather at length long before the statement was made, threw across both to me and to the right hon. Gentleman an example of his own Press hand-outs. The hon. Gentleman produced this paper which no doubt other hon. Members have seen. It is headed: The Commonwealth and International Library of Science Technology Engineering and Liberal Studies, Publisher, Robert Maxwell, M.C. The first paragraph of it says: The Postmaster-General, Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn, is expected to announce later today the Government's acceptance in principle of the giro credit transfer system. How long is it since we have had hon. Members on the Government side dishing out Press releases 10 minutes before the Minister gets up to tell us what we had already been told in this very interesting document? How long shall we have to put up with hon. Members opposite treating the House of Commons in this way, like somebody handing out racing tips in the silver ring? I thought that that was the prerogative of the right hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), but it seems that that is not so. I take the greatest exception to this.

I ask the Postmaster-General whether he entirely dissociates himself from the handout.

Mr. Benn

indicated assent.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman nods his head and dissociates himself entirely from what the hon. Member for Buckingham did yesterday. As he has dissociated himself, I will throw away that part of my speech which made further reference to this document. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

I promised the Postmaster-General that I would give him plenty of time to reply and therefore I come to the concluding part of my speech. As I have said, many hon. Members on this side of the House wished to put points to him, but I hope that it is clear from the speeches which have been made that we are concerned about the way in which Post Office matters are going. The right hon. Gentleman may be the 95th Postmaster-General, but he has been in charge of Post Office affairs for over nine months and he must now be in a position to tell us his views on the future of the services. He came to his office full of bright confidence. He has since tended to give us the impression of hesitation and possibly doubt, not knowing whether he was in the Crypt or on the roof. I am sure that he will forgive that remark.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will answer the case put so well by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey. Is he prepared to take a big view of the future of the Post Office? Is he, in the words of my right hon. Friend, capable of working himself out of a job? We look on the work of the Post Office, complicated and difficult as it is, with the greatest interest. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to face squarely the questions which we have put to him and to answer his critics in the House tonight.

9.35 p.m.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

I am glad that the problem of the reduction of my salary has been sorted out. Were the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) and his hon. Friends to win tonight, there would be many cheers from the Prices and Incomes Board, even though not on this side of the House.

First, I should like to say how much I appreciate and am grateful to the Opposition for the opportunity of this debate on the Post Office services. Many points have been raised. The Post Office is going through a period of rapid change. What it does affects the public at every point. Its internal structure and its new activities are all of great importance. For my part, there cannot be too many debates about it or too many opportunities to discuss the future of the Post Office.

A number of issues have been raised, and I think that it will be convenient for the Committee if I divide my reply into three parts: first, the postal side; secondly, telephones; and thirdly, the issues of organisation which the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) with great skill raised in his speech. First, the postal issues. To reply to some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder), who spoke about classified directories, we have new tenders out and have very much in mind the extension of classified sections in telephone directories which everybody knows can be of great convenience. On the parcels problem, which has been serious, the new agreement with British Rail which was signed in January gives us the power, if the railways fail us, to take back the control of parcels and to surcharge the railways for it. We believe that this new agreement, which, incidentally, saves us £4 million a year, will also be some guarantee of a better service. The railways are genuinely trying to improve the service which they give us. I will deal with S.T.D., to which the hon. Member for Belfast, South also referred, when dealing with telephones.

I should like to express my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall), who speaks with great authority on the subject of the Post Office, and to underline what he said. However many criticisms there may be of Post Office services, I hope that nobody will carry them to the point when they become too personal and destroy the morale of the postal staff. I had a letter from someone the other day which was so offensive about postal staff—the "hired yokels", as he called them—because, as far as I remember, he had failed to pay his bill and his telephone had been cut off, that I felt it impossible to reply to the letter in the terms in which it was written. I urge critics to try as far as possible to recognise that the difficulties are difficulties that in many cases affect the postal staff even more than they themselves.

The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) raised a number of points and made a welcome speech. With regard to the rural and remote areas, I will, of course, look at any points that the hon. Member raises. I stress, however, that the new regional boards and councils set up by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State provide the first opportunity ever for our regional directors to keep in touch with the new regional boards and authorities. It is our intention that the closest relationship should be developed between our regional directors and those who are concerned with the vitality of the regions. In the long run, this is probably the best guarantee that local postal services will be maintained at a high standard.

I understood what the hon. Member said about the difficulties of the telephone service, but I do not share his view that the operators were discourteous. My experience over a very long time as a telephone user has been of the greatest courtesy from operators. The right hon. Member for Wallasey, when Postmaster-General, introduced the "friendly telephone" service, which built upon an existing situation and helped to get it understood by the public as a whole.

I move from those individual points to some of the general problems that confront us in the Post Office. First, the postal side. There is no point in going again all over the controversies that we had about the postal tariffs, although these occupied a great deal of my time for my first few months in office. We have dealt now with the deficit by an increase in tariffs which are greatly regretted but inevitable. The right hon. Gentleman had the same problem and he raised the tariffs in 1957 by £42 million a year on posts and telephones—an even higher increase than I have had to make myself.

The second problem was in terms of staff relations. We had had the first postal strike this century, and one of the real difficulties of getting a new atmosphere in those first few months was that we were all awaiting the postmen's pay settlement. This was something which cost the Post Office a great deal of money. It was criticised at the time by some people who thought it was unjust, but in my view it was a fair and just settlement. It was based on the Priestley Royal Commission recommendation of a fair comparison which the right hon. Gentleman himself accepted and it was based on the Armitage Committee Report on the Pay of Postmen and the special Pay Research Unit set up by Mr. Bevins at the time of the interim settlement last July. Over 10 years, from 1957 to 1966, postmen's pay will only have increased 4 per cent. a year, over the whole 10-year period, or by just under 5 per cent. if we include hours. If the percentage looked high then, it looked high just because postmen's pay had fallen that much behind that of those outside the Post Office. These were the first jobs which had to be tackled—the problem of the deficit, which was a very serious one, and the problem of justice to postmen and a new start in staff relations.

What else have we done? Let me very briefly report to the Committee. First of all the consultants whom I have engaged are not only concerned with the sort of problem which consultants deal with at what I might call the shop floor level. I have deliberately given the consultants completely free terms of reference and I am hoping and intending that they will extend their inquiries right to the upper management structure of the Post Office and in this they will have the support of the Department itself. Indeed, if they extend the inquiry to the relations between the Post Office and the Government I shall be very interested to hear the results of it, and that is part of the answer to the right hon. Gentleman and I make it at the beginning of my remarks.

Secondly we have established the giro service—or have decided to establish it after yesterday's debate, and it is a notable development in the Post Office services. I was delighted it was so warmly welcomed in the House yesterday, and I believe that this in future will be seen to be a real extension of Post Office services.

We have also established a users' council. I read about it. The right hon. Gentleman talked about it in 1957, but when I came to the Post Office there was no users' council in existence. We have also established a consultancy service to help British manufacturers benefit from our good relations with foreign administrations to get their goods and equipment abroad. The right hon. Gentleman talked about this when he was in office but it was not set up till this Government came into office.

We have now carried standardisation into effect. We have specified the date after which non-standard envelopes will attract a higher tariff. The right hon. Gentleman talked about that when he was Postmaster-General, but the decision was taken this year. We have decided to go ahead with national coding. The right hon. Gentleman talked about this when he was in office, and national coding is now to be introduced. Indeed, we have appointed a consultant to cover the whole field of design and this is following on and extending and developing the design interest which the right hon. Gentleman had.

He talked about postal uniforms. It was one of the first things I asked about, because I had read about and heard about postal uniforms—but the right hon. Gentleman is the only postman who has ever worn it.

Mr. Marples


Mr. Benn

Well, not quite.

Mr. Marples

Will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw that?

Mr. Benn

Yes, I will, for two reasons, first of all because the right hon. Gentleman is not a postman, and also because this was seven years ago and the postmen are still wearing the serge uniform. I hope I shall be in order if I quote from what his predecessor, Lord Hill, had to say about him in his book, where he compared him with Ernest Bevin, a very formidable comparison: It was said of Ernest Bevin that he released a large number of hares and left it to others to chase them. Not so our Ernest. He releases more hares and, pausing only to issue regular Press notices, personally pursues them hot foot … until at least some of them are brought to book—or to the pages of a newspaper. If I were a dishonest man I should stop there, but I shall go on to say what he says later: I know of no one with greater vigour and drive mentally and physically. That shows how fair I want to be to the right hon. Gentleman, but he had better wait for it, because there is a little more coming.

Those are some of the things that we have done, but the fundamental problem of the postal services remains. I have complained that Mr. Bevins denied the public knowledge of the long-term financial prospects, but when I publish the annual accounts in a matter of a week or two the long-term financial prospects will be available, and the House will see, and it will not surprise anyone who knows about the Post Office, that the financial prospects on the postal side continue to be very difficult indeed, with a widening gap over the next five years.

This poses a choice for the public. That is why we need to debate Post Office matters more. It is a choice posed by the right hon. Gentleman in one of his annual reports, between the maintenance of the present service at higher cost, or some other type of service. This is something which has to be seen by the public. It is a decision which has to be reached in the end by the public, and it also involves very big manpower considerations for the community as a whole.

The more I reflect on postal problems, the more I think it wrong to hurry into a solution based on short-term financial expedients, because we are about to build machinery for new mechanisation and new buildings to hold it which will last until the end of the century. It seems to me that we have to begin thinking 30 years ahead on the postal side, and on telephones as well. We have to think of what sort of postal services people will need. Moreover, we have to think of what sort of facilities in terms of transport will be available at the end of the century, what road and rail networks there will be, what telephone penetration there will be, what telex penetration there will be, and then we have to ask, what is the optimum scale of the mechanisation that we intend to introduce?

Anyone who knows anything about computers and automation knows that the greatest mistake of all is to automate what one does instead of taking the opportunity at the moment of automation to allow the optimum scale of automation to condition one's whole organisation and its pattern of services. This is what Sir Leon Bagrit emphasised in his Reith lectures. This is what we have to do if we are to make a success of the short-term decisions on the postal side.

Now I move to telecommunications, and here the problems are different. Some of the irritations felt by the public have been expressed tonight, but they are not new. I have here a survey of the telephone service in London. It shows that 2,536 people were asked what they thought of the service, and that 1,305 were dissatisfied. That was in 1898, when telephones were under private enterprise. This information is in a memorandum submitted by my grandfather on behalf of the London County Council to a Select Committee of the House of Commons. The report says: We have again complained of our telephone which is out of order as usual. We cannot put any dependence whatever upon this. That was the National Telephone Company which then ran the London telephone service, and the fact is that the problems of the telephone service are not to do with who runs it, but to the extent of under-capitalisation.

This is the basic problem, and in December, 1957, the right hon. Gentleman said that they had charted telephone policy for 10 years ahead. The right hon. Gentleman was full of confidence. In October, 1963, when the White Paper "The Telephone in an Expanding Economy" was published, a promise was made to abolish the waiting list by March, 1966. But what did I find when I came into office? I found that on the basis of the existing capital programme, waiting lists, far from being likely to be diminished by 1966, would rise from 50,000 to 300,000 by 1969. I discovered that the forecasts for demands that had been made had been exceeded over the 18 months period—the difference between March 1963 and today—by 37 per cent. The estimate of the demand for calls as between October, 1963, and today was exceeded by 50 per cent. The number of faults was rising. As a matter of fact it is still lower than 30 years ago, so the Telephone Users' Association is wrong about that.

The truth is that the service is suffering from under-capitalisation. People talk about the American telephone service as being wonderful, but why is it wonderful? Does anyone know how much is spent there? Betwen 1952 and 1963, the Bell system spent £9,410 million on telephone investment. Over the same period, the Post Office spent £1,105 million. The Bell system spent in one year, 1963, more than the Post Office over the whole 11-year period.

The fact is that throughout the period when the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were in charge of the Post Office, the British telephone service fell, both relatively and absolutely, further behind the Americans, the Canadians, the Swedes and a number of other advanced societies.

Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)


Mr. Benn

As far as rents are concerned, the party opposite raised the rental and connection charges by 149 per cent. But the right hon. Gentleman himself enjoys a special consideration, because he was the only Postmaster-General of the four who actually cut the telephone investment programme during his period in office. I know it was not his fault. He was the victim of stop and go. But he goes down as the one man who thought that the telephone investment programme could be cut, and, whoever else might accuse us of difficulties, it does not fall to the right hon. Gentleman to point a finger in our direction.

At any rate, those are the basic problems, and we are doing our best. I have made a number of speeches about the telephone service, and I do not need to repeat them any further; but for reasons I have given I engaged consultants to see whether there is anything we can do to improve our estimation of demand, and they might decide our system was best.

We have established a Director of Statistics and Business Research. We have established a Director of Computer Services. We have a new capital programme in an advanced stage of preparation, and there is a period of fast growth ahead—faster than ever before. But I must warn the Committee that the limitations are not money from the market. They are the capacity of the industry to meet our needs for equipment, the time it takes to get sites, the time it takes to get buldings put up, and the skilled manpower required.

Those are the problems, and they make it possible that the telephone service may get worse before it gets better. If that is so, it will be because of the consistent under-capitalisation from which it has suffered over the past 40 years.

Finally, I come to the point that the hon. Gentleman made in his article in the Sunday Telegraph, which I read with great interest, and in his speech tonight. I refer to the organisation of the Post Office: does it need a new look? I would accept entirely that new technology puts a strain upon old structures as well as old methods of doing things. It is absolutely right that from time to time one should ask oneself whether a new situation creates the need for a new look at one's own organisation, and that is one reason why I invited McKinsey organisation to look wherever it liked in an effort to find a solution to our difficulties.

However, it is a very old issue; it is in fact two issues. One of them is, is the Post Office too closely connected with the political life of the country to be able to do its job properly? That was the argument raised by the right hon. Gentleman when he said that I should work myself out of a job, and it goes right back to Rowland Hill. When he retired in 1864, he said that in his opinion the Postmaster-General ought to be permanently appointed, so it is not a new idea. It is 101 years old. In 1902, Sir Austen Chamberlain, later to become Postmaster-General, deplored accountability in day-to-day matters.

The McDonnell Commission on the Civil Service in 1914 said that much of what was called red tape in the Civil Service was attributable to the fact that Ministers had to be answerable for every detail in their own Departments. In 1931, as the right hon. Gentleman said, my noble Friend Earl Attlee in the New Statesman, very soon after leaving office, said that he thought that the Post Office ought to be a nationalised industry and Lord Wolmer in his book on Post Office reform, which I have read and from which the right hon. Gentleman quoted, came to the same conclusion a year later.

What with Mr. Bevins's book and the right hon. Gentleman's speech, one has almost reached the point where one can say that all ex-Postmasters-General agree about the problem of political control of the Post Office. For my part, I do not know whether I am more embarrassed by taking the blame for what happens in the Department or getting credit for the achievements in which I have no part. Both make me rather uneasy on occasions, but at any rate that is the way the system works.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The right hon. Gentleman is telling us much very interesting history about the Post Office, which, of course, is accurate, but will he tell us a little more of the future? What has he to say about the sensible and wide suggestions put forward by my right hon. Friend during the debate?

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman did not allow me to finish my speech. I was coming to the second issue about the future of the post and telephone.

The second point—and this goes back to 1898 and is not a new idea, for in 1898 this was the idea of a Select Committee on the telephone service—was that the telephone service should be separate. In 1922, a Select Committee recommended that there should be a separate telephone service, and the two late Postmasters-General have come to the same conclusion.

These are very big and important issues and I do not myself know the answer to them. I think that we all benefit greatly from public discussion of these issues inside and outside Parliament. Beyond that I cannot go, but I listened with keen interest to the right hon. Gentleman because of his experience of this office I understand that there is the possibility of a Division at 10 o'clock—that is, to judge from the cohorts who are now coming in fresh from having been in the Library or meeting their constituents. The real difference between the party opposite and ourselves is in our attitudes to public service. I find it very sinister that the right hon. Gentleman should be willing for the telephone service, which is financially profitable, to be hived over to the advantage of his friends, as was done with commercial television, whereas the postal services—

Mr. Marples

indicated dissent.

Mr. Benn

—that it should be a privately-owned public utility company; that it should be transferred from public ownership—whereas the posts, which, we know, have a less profitable future, should be retained within public enterprise.

I suspect that the party opposite dislikes the idea of public enterprise. It has had three shadow Postmasters-General since the election. There is a vacancy now; for whom I do not know; whether for the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), I do not know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] But hon. Members opposite have had some difficulty filling the office of shadow Postmaster-General.

The difference between the parties is that we believe that the postal services should be strengthened and we mean to back our support in the Lobby.

Question put, That a sum, not exceeding £6,250, be granted for the said Service:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 276, Noes 295.

Division No. 261.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Dean, Paul Hunt, John (Bromley)
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Hutchison, Michael Clark
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Digby, Simon Wingfield Iremonger, T. L.
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Dodds-Parker, Douglas Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Doughty, Charles Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Astor, John Drayson, G. B. Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)
Atkins, Humphrey du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Awdry, Daniel Eden, Sir John Jopling, Michael
Baker, W. H. K. Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carehalton) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Balniel, Lord Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Kaberry, Sir Donald
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Emery, Peter Kerby, Capt. Henry
Barlow, Sir John Errington, Sir Eric Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)
Batsford, Brian Eyre, Reginald Kershaw, Anthony
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Farr, John Kilfedder, James A.
Bell, Ronald Fell, Anthony Kimball, Marcus
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Fisher, Nigel King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen) Kirk, Peter
Berry, Hn. Anthony Foster, Sir John Kitson, Timothy
Biffen, John Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Lagden, Godfrey
Biggs-Davison, John Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Lambton, Viscount
Bingham, R. M. Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Gammans, Lady Langford-Holt, Sir John
Black, Sir Cyril Gardner, Edward Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Blaker, Peter Gibson-Watt, David Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bossom, Hn. Clive Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan Litchfield, Capt. John
Box, Donald Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J. Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Glover, Sir Douglas Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Braine, Bernard Glyn, Sir Richard Longbottom, Charles
Brewis, John Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Longden, Gilbert
Brinton, Sir Tatton Goodhart, Philip Loveys, Walter H.
Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry Goodhew, Victor Lucas, Sir Jocelyn
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gower, Raymond McAdden, Sir Stephen
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Grant, Anthony Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Bryan, Paul Grant-Ferris, R. Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Gresham Cooke, R. McMaster, Stanley
Buck, Antony Grieve, Percy McNair-Wilson, Patrick
Bullus, Sir Eric Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maitland, Sir John
Burden, F. A. Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Butcher, Sir Herbert Gurden, Harold Marten, Neil
Campbell, Gordon Hall, John (Wycombe) Mathew, Robert
Carlisle, Mark Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maude, Angus
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Cary, Sir Robert Hamilton, M. (Salisbury) Mawby, Ray
Channon, H. P. G. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Chataway, Christopher Harris, Reader (Heston) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Chichester-Clark, R. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Cole, Norman Harvie Anderson, Miss Miscampbell, Norman
Cooke, Robert Hastings, Stephen Mitchell, David
Cooper, A. E. Hawkins, Paul Monro, Hector
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hay, John More, Jasper
Cordle, John Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Corfield, F. V. Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Costain, A. P. Hendry, Forbes Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Higgins, Terence L. Murton, Oscar
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Neave, Airey
Crawley, Aidan Hirst, Geoffrey Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Crowder, F. P. Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Cunningham, Sir Knox Hopkins, Alan Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard
Curran, Charles Hordern, Peter Onslow, Cranley
Dalkeith, Earl of Hornby, Richard Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Dance, James Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr) Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives) Osborn, John (Hallam)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Page, John (Harrow, W.) St. John-Stevas, Norman Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Page, R. Graham (Crosby) Scott-Hopkins, James Tweedsmuir, Lady
Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Sharples, Richard van Straubenzee, W. R.
Peel, John Shepherd, William Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Percival, Ian Sinclair, Sir George Vickers, Dame Joan
Peyton, John Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick) Walder, David (High Peak)
Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Pike, Miss Mervyn Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher Wall, Patrick
Pitt, Dame Edith Spearman, Sir Alexander Walters, Dennis
Pounder, Rafton Stainton, Keith Ward, Dame Irene
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Stanley, Hn. Richard Weatherill, Bernard
Price, David (Eastleigh) Stodart, Anthony Webster, David
Prior, J. M. L. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Wells, John (Maidstone)
Pym, Francis Studholme, Sir Henry Whitelaw, William
Quennell, Miss J. M. Talbot, John E. Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)
Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wise, A. R.
Rees-Davies, W. R. Teeling, Sir William Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Temple, John M. Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Ridsdale, Julian Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury) Woodnutt, Mark
Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway) Wylie, N. R.
Roots, William Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Royle, Anthony Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Russell, Sir Ronald Tilney, John (Wavertree) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. MacArthur and Mr. McLaren.
Abse, Leo de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey Heffer, Eric S.
Albu, Austen Delargy, Hugh Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Dell, Edmund Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Alldritt, Walter Dempsey, James Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Holman, Percy
Atkinson, Norman Dodds, Norman Hooson, H. E.
Bacon, Miss Alice Doig, Peter Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Donnelly, Desmond Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Barnett, Joel Driberg, Tom Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)
Beaney, Alan Duffy, Dr. A. E. P. Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Dunn, James A. Howie, W.
Bence, Cyril Dunnett, Jack Hoy, James
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Edelman, Maurice Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bessell, Peter Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)
Binns, John English, Michael Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)
Bishop, E. S. Ennals, David Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Blackburn, F. Ensor, David Hynd, John (Attercliffe)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Boardman, H. Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley) Jackson, Colin
Boston, Terence Fernyhough, E. Janner, Sir Barnett
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.) Jeger, George (Goole)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Boyden, James Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Floud, Bernard Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Bradley, Tom Foley, Maurice Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Ford, Ben Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan) Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury) Garrett, W. E. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.) Garrow, A. Kelley, Richard
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) George, Lady Megan Lloyd Kenyon, Clifford
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Ginsburg, David Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Carmichael, Neil Gourlay, Harry Lawson, George
Carter-Jones, Lewis Gregory, Arnold Ledger, Ron
Chapman, Donald Grey, Charles Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Coleman, Donald Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Conlan, Bernard Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Crawshaw, Richard Hale, Leslie Lipton, Marcus
Cronin, John Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Lomas, Kenneth
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hamilton, William (West Fife) Loughlin, Charles
Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S. Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.) Lubbock, Eric
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Hannan, William Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Dalyell, Tam Harper, Joseph McBride, Neil
Darling, George Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McCann, J.
Davies. G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hart, Mrs. Judith MacColl, James
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hattersley, Roy MacDermot, Niall
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hazell, Bert McGuire, Michael
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mclnnes, James
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Parkin, B. T. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Pavitt, Laurence Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Mackie, John (Enfield, E.) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Swain, Thomas
McLeavy, Frank Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Swingler, Stephen
MacMillan, Malcolm Pentland, Norman Symonds, J. B.
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Perry, Ernest G. Taverne, Dick
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Prentice, R. E. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Manuel, Archie Probert, Arthur Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Mapp, Charles Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Marsh, Richard Randall, Harry Thornton, Ernest
Mason, Roy Rankin, John Thorpe, Jeremy
Maxwell, Robert Redhead, Edward Tinn, James
Mayhew, Christopher Rees, Merlyn Tomney, Frank
Mellish, Robert Reynolds, G. W. Tuck, Raphael
Mendelson, J. J. Rhodes, Geoffrey Urwin, T. W.
Millan, Bruce Richard, Ivor Varley, Eric G.
Miller, Dr. M. S. Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wainwright, Edwin
Milne, Edward (Blyth) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Molloy, William Robertson, John (Paisley) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Monslow, Walter Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.) Wallace, George
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Rodgers, William (Stockton) Watkins, Tudor
Morris, Charles (Openshaw) Rose, Paul B. Weitzman, David
Morris, John (Aberavon) Ross, Rt. Hn. William Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Sheffield Pk) Rowland, Christopher White, Mrs. Eirene
Murray, Albert Sheldon, Robert Whitlock, William
Newens, Stan Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Shore, Peter (Stepney) Wilkins, W. A.
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Norwood, Christopher Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Oakes, Gordon Silkin, John (Deptford) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Ogden, Eric Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
O'Malley, Brian Silverman, Julius (Aston) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Orbach, Maurice Skeffington, Arthur Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Orme, Stanley Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Winterbottom, R. E.
Oswald, Thomas Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Owen, Will Small, William Woof, Robert
Padley, Walter Solomons, Henry Wyatt, Woodrow
Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Paget, R. T. Spriggs, Leslie Zilliacus, K.
Palmer, Arthur Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Pargiter, G. A. Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Mr. Sydney Irving and
Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.) Stonehouse, John Mr. George Rogers.
Parker, John Stones, William

Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, put and agreed to.

Original Question again proposed.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)


It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.