§ 25. Mr. Ridley
asked the Postmaster-General if he will take action to cut the time taken for surface mail to reach Australia and New Zealand.
§ Mr. Joseph Slater
Yes, as far as possible. But the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the time taken by overseas mail to reach its destination is far from being wholly within my right hon. Friend's control.
§ Mr. Ridley
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, although the sea journey takes only about four weeks, the delivery of mail now takes 11 or 12 weeks and that last Christmas it took three months for the Christmas mail to be delivered? Will he have another look at this matter to see whether he can find a way of improving the service?
§ Mr. Slater
Yes, Sir. Perhaps it would be as well if I were to give the House some of the main causes for the type of delay to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention. The main causes which have led to deterioration in the quality of the sea mail services are, first, progressive reduction in the availability of fast passenger liners necessitating greater use of slower and more unreliable cargo vessels; secondly, longer intervals between sailings; thirdly, delays in the docks in this country and, to a lesser extent, delay on British Railways causing mail to miss scheduled outlets; fourthly, delay in clearance of mail from the ships and ports on arrival in a distant country, which shows that all the trouble is not at this end but at the other end as well; and, fifthly, occasional delays to ships en route owing to mechanical troubles.