HC Deb 05 May 1965 vol 711 cc1352-3
38. Mr. Tilney

asked the Postmaster-General how long it now takes sea mail to reach southern India.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

The voyage to Bombay usually takes from two to 3½ weeks, but, as the frequency of sailings varies from three down to one a month, it may be anything from a few days to three or four weeks after posting before we can get surface mail for southern India away from this country. In addition, time must be allowed for clearance through the docks at Bombay, customs examination, and transmission to destination inside India itself.

Mr. Tilney

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it odd that it now takes longer than it did a hundred years ago, before the opening of the Suez Canal? Is this a measure of the right hon. Gentleman's modern approach?

Mr. Benn

It does not take longer; the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. But, before there were air services, there were faster and more frequent passenger ships sailing to India. Until 1939 mail used to be sent across Europe to Brindisi and Marseilles to catch the boat on its way out. This no longer gives a more rapid service. There is a good daily air mail service to India, but with the arrival of more air traffic, sea mail tends to take longer.