HC Deb 23 January 1969 vol 776 cc640-2
29 and 30. Mr. Fortescue

asked the Postmaster-General (1) what is his policy regarding compensation to ratepayers who have not qualified for discounts on their rates for the sole reason that the letters forwarding their rate payments have been delayed or lost while in Post Office hands;

(2) whether he is aware that a sack of mail addressed to the City Treasurer of Liverpool was lost in the Post Office from mid-October to mid-November, 1968; and what action he proposes to take to compensate the city of Liverpool and various citizens of Liverpool for the financial losses they have thereby incurred.

Mr. Joseph Slater

Unfortunately a number of letters for the City Treasurer were sorted to the wrong address. Through oversight the recipient did not return them to the post for more than three weeks. Much as we regret the delay, we cannot make ex gratia payments as compensation.

Mr. Fortescue

Did not this incident take place at the hight of a campaign which assured the public that a letter with a 5d. stamp would reach anywhere in the country the morning after it was posted? These letters had to go from the outskirts of Liverpool to the centre of Liverpool. In view of the Government's insistence on, and almost obsession with, truthfulness in advertising and also in view of the fact that if this were a private enterprise a prosecution would undoubtedly lie under the Trade Descriptions Act for deceiving the public, will not the Minister reconsider his Answer?

Mr. Slater

The hon. Member is receiving the cheers of his hon. Friends, but I would remind the House that the Post Office handles about 35 million letters a day. Although only a small percentage is mishandled, we could not pay compensation for every unregistered letter which was delayed. To make an ex gratia payment in this case would open the door to an unlimited liability which the Post Office could not possibly take on.

Mr. Fortescue

In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.