HC Deb 13 July 1967 vol 750 cc979-84
1. Mr. Tilney

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that one Liverpool firm posted on 6th June, recorded delivery number 693636, im- portant documents due in Kettering by 3 p.m. on 8th June and that these were not delivered till Friday 9th June, thereby causing the firm a loss of several hundreds of pounds; and whether he will arrange for the public to be able to insure against losses due wholly to Post Office delays, or arrange to issue a stamp which guarantees delivery within 48 hours.

The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Joseph Slater)

My right hon. Friend has written to the hon. Gentleman about the delay to this letter, expressing his regret. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No".

Mr. Tilney

Does the Assistant Postmaster-General realise that many firms up and down the country, fearing that their letters may be in the 6 per cent. which may not be delivered the next day, are having to send their own couriers? It is as if we were in the days before Rowland Hill. Will he not allow private enterprise postal companies to compete or create some form of insurance company, on which the Post Office might make a profit?

Mr. Slater

We deliver nearly 94 per cent. of fully-paid letters the next weekday after posting. Nevertheless, bearing mind all the hazards of transit, it would be impossible to guarantee service even if it were run by private enterprise.

Mr. McNamara

Is my hon. Friend aware that if every firm had a record of 94 per cent. success this country would not be in the economic position in which it often finds itself? Is he aware that many hon. Friends on this side of the House deplore this vendetta which is being conducted against the Post Office?

Mr. Bryan

Does not this question tell a very deplorable story? Is not the whole purpose of recorded delivery—apart from recording—that it should be famous for its utter reliability? To what extent does the record show that the recorded service in in fact more reliable than ordinary first-class mail?

Mr. Slater

One point which the hon. Member and his hon. Friends fail to recognise is that we carry about 35 million letters a day. The Question asks about compensation for losses. To accept liability for the consequences of any mistreatment of mail would be quite impracticable.

Mr. Tilney

On a point of order. Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the Answer, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the earliest possible occasion on the Adjournment.

4. Mr. Eadie

asked the Postmaster-General what is the average daily delivery of letters in the county of Midlothian; and what complaints about delivery have been made to him during the last six months.

Mr. Joseph Slater

About 55,000 letters a day and nine complaints in six months.

Mr. Eadie

While thanking my hon. Friend for that Answer, may I ask him to tell me the nature of the nine complaints and precisely what was involved?

Mr. Slater

All nine were about delivery. Eight were about delays to letters, while the other was about a delivery being made later than the proper time.

6. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the inadequate service rendered by his Department to the Labour Party Press and Publicity Department, and of the complaints in respect of this made by that body, details of which have been sent to him; and what action he proposes to take to improve deliveries of postal matter in London in the light of these complaints.

18. Mr. Berry

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will publish figures to show the extent to which postal deliveries have become slower during the last two years; and if he will make a statement.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Edward Short)

I am always concerned about failures to give a proper postal service, whether it is to Labour Party Headquarters or anyone else, and we are doing everything within our power to improve deliveries both in London and elsewhere. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) suggests, the service has improved over the past two years. Then, 91 per cent. of fully paid letters were delivered on the day of posting or on the next working day. Today the figure is 94 per cent.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Labour Party Press and Publicity Department recently informed its customers that recent experience showed that letters posted on a Friday did not arrive until the Monday and that it advised them to send private messengers to collect the mail? In the light of such evidence—and from such a source—should not the Post Office do something to improve its service for all the rest of us in the country?

Mr. Short

The right hon. Gentleman will also remember that The Times congratulated the Labour Party on its honesty in this matter. I inquired of Transport House about the use of the word "recent" in this context, and I was told that it was based on experience in 1956.

Mr. Berry

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have sent him a number of letters on this subject in recent months? While it is important to look ahead to the future, is it not equally important to concentrate on giving a much better impression and better service to the public now?

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman asks a fair question. London is a difficult case, particularly in view of the labour shortage. We have greater labour problems in London than elsewhere. Further, the mail piles up on Friday, mainly because too many people post their letters at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. on Fridays and expect them to be delivered the following morning.

Mr. William Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if the business interests represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite answered their letters as efficiently as the Post Office delivers them, this country would be a great deal better off?

Mr. Bryan

Is the Postmaster-General aware that I wrote a letter to him a short time ago about the Conservative Publicity Department having a similar experience to that mentioned in the main Question?

Mr. Short

I am not sure that it reached me—[Laughter.]—but I will look into the matter.

13. Mr. Jopling

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware of serious and repeated breakdowns in the postal services in Westmorland; and whether he will instigate a special inquiry into these breakdowns which his Department have not so far been able to solve.

Mr. Joseph Slater

Although on occasions there is delay to some mail because of the late running of mail trains, there have been neither serious nor repeated breakdowns of the postal services in Westmorland.

Mr. Jopling

Does the Assistant Postmaster-General realise that I have written letters to him quite frequently over the past year about these breakdowns, which are extremely serious and have given rise to loss of orders and, particularly, to loss of export orders? Does he not realise that this is quite intolerable, and will he not do what I have asked him in the Question, which is to set up a special inquiry, as he has been quite incapable of dealing with the matter already?

Mr. Slater

I can appreciate the hon. Member's feelings. I am aware of the letters he has written to the Department in regard to this matter, and we have made inquiries. I must point out that no matter what the part of the country, it is inevitable in the transit of mail, because of its volume, the late running of trains and human failings, that a small proportion of the mail will suffer delay. We do not run away from that fact. That is the position.

22. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Postmaster-General why letters posted in the House of Comomns on Friday do not reach their destination until Monday; and if this practice is happening to other similar postal services throughout the country.

Mr. Joseph Slater

Most letters posted in the House of Commons on Fridays are delivered the following day. If the hon. Gentleman will give me details of any particular cases of delay I will gladly look into them.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that under the Conservative Government letters posted on Friday morning were delivered in the London area on Friday afternoon? Does he realise that the technical reasons for this delay is that letter sorting offices in the London area close on Friday afternoon and it is not that we have any vendetta against Post Office workers?

Mr. Slater

I do not know if the position was as the hon. Member has quoted under the Conservatives but Friday is usually the heaviest posting day of the week and, in most places, there is only one delivery on Saturdays. These factors and others tend to make the service not so good as at other times.

Mr. Moyle

Would my hon. Friend agree that the problem would be solved if the second Saturday delivery were reinstituted?

Mr. Slater

No, I do not think so. We have taken a consensus in regard to the position and we are satisfied that the line we have adopted is the right one.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Are not the many cases quoted just further examples of the failure of nationalisation?

Mr. Slater

The new proposals which have been made regarding the administration of the postal service will be a form of denationalisation.

30. Mr. Wall

asked the Postmaster-General why it takes two days or more for letters and postcards to reach Beverley from York, a distance of some 30 miles.

Mr. Joseph Slater

Letters and postcards posted in York should connect with the first delivery at Beverley the next day and this standard of service is generally being given.

Mr. Wall

Is not the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that this is not always the case? Will he investigate the evidence I have presented? Is it not fair comment to say that as charges rise the services decline?

Mr. Slater

No; that does not necessarily follow. Isolated cases of delay occur. If the hon. Gentleman will let me have details, I will look into the matter.