HC Deb 30 June 1971 vol 820 cc365-7
1. Mr. William Price

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what recent discussions he has had with the Post Office about the future of postal services.

15. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will make a statement on postal services reorganisation to avoid increased postal rates.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

I have as yet nothing to add to the reply which I gave on 15th March to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane).—[Vol. 813, c. 888.]

Mr. Price

The Minister will recall the wide variety of threats which he made earlier this year about a likely increase in postal charges. When does he expect to introduce the "ninepenny" post?

Mr. Chataway

I have no proposal to put to the House about increases.

Sir G. Nabarro

My right hon. Friend will recall that I have been pressing him on these matters for months. Is not knowledge widespread that the first-class rate is to go from 3p to 4p this autumn and to 5p next year? May we be assured, in view of the calamitously inflationary consequences of increases of this kind, first, that any announcement will be made in the House of Commons, not surreptitiously, as with the overseas postal charges, direct to the general public and circumventing the House, and second, that it will be made before the Summer Recess, not being tucked away while we are all paddling at the seaside?

Mr. Chataway

I assure my hon. Friend that any proposals for major tariff increases would, of course, be notified to the House.

Sir G. Nabarro

I have cited one which was not.

Mr. Chataway

The example which my hon. Friend gave was of the overseas parcel rates, notification of which had been made in general terms months before and which, as he knows, were entirely consequential upon the international agreements reached at the Tokyo Convention. But I can go further and assure my hon. Friend that tariff increases on the scale he suggests over these coming years will not be introduced.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Is not the Minister aware that the Hardman Committee itself looked at the possibility of an increase in postal rates in April, 1972, and it considered whether such an increase might well produce a shortfall of £76 million on the five-year estimates which the Post Office has made for the period to March, 1973? Against that background, what increases in postal rates are envisaged in the immediate future?

Mr. Chataway

As the House knows, the Chairman of the Post Office has indicated on a number of occasions that he will be likely to put to the Government and the Post Office Users National Council proposals for further increases. But I have no details of any of those proposals as yet.

Mr. Soref

Does my right hon. Friend realise that, coincidental with the increased charges, there is a worsening service by the Post Office which is affecting all classes of the community, a not entirely untypical instance of which is as follows: only yesterday, a letter posted at the post office of the House to my constituency—not by first-class mail but by express mail at a surcharge of 20p—did not arrive by the first post this morning? Is not this sort of thing, as a result of the improvidence of the Post Office, having a serious effect generally on the economy?

Mr. Chataway

I am sure that the Post Office will take note of my hon. Friend's strictures and will be prepared to investigate most carefully the incident to which he has drawn attention.

Mr. Richard

Has the right hon. Gentleman—as he seemed to indicate a moment ago—received no proposals for tariff increases from the Post Office Corporation, or is it merely that he is not at the moment prepared to announce any increases to the House?

Mr. Chataway

I have received no proposals.