HC Deb 26 November 1973 vol 865 cc1-3
1. Mr. Rost

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many unfilled vacancies exist at present in the postal delivery service

15. Mr. O'Halloran

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many unfilled vacancies there are currently in the postal delivery service.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Sir John Eden)

The Post Office tells me that, nationally, there are currently 9,000 vacancies for postmen.

Mr. Rost

In view of the disappointment and frustration caused among a large section of the public last Christmas when a great deal of mail was not delivered until after Christmas, although it was posted within the prescribed deadline, can my right hon. Friend assure the House and the country that this year's Christmas mail will not be another shambles?

Sir J. Eden

I shall be answering Written Questions on this subject, but I am sure that everybody in the Post Office is anxious to do his level best to try to avoid a repetition of last year's experience.

Mr. O'Halloran

I am sure the Minister is aware that there are about 3,500 vacancies in the Greater London area and that many parts of London are having only one delivery per day and some are having only one every two days. What consideration is the right hon. Gentleman giving to the payment of a special London allowance to overcome the serious manpower shortage in London?

Sir J. Eden

The hon. Gentleman will know that under stage 3 the code allows for a special London weighting payment to be negotiated. I agree that the manning situation in London is extremely serious, but the Post Office is doing everything it can to overcome it.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Is the Minister aware that a shortage of 9,000 postmen is a major indictment of postmen's salary levels? What does the Post Office propose to do to deal with this very urgent situation?

Sir J. Eden

I agree that it is a serious shortage in an industry of this kind, but it is 9 per cent. of the total postmen strength, taking the country as a whole, and is due to the fact that there is considerable competition for labour. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be glad that the unemployment figures have fallen so dramatically.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Although, like my hon. Friends, I am concerned about the Christmas mail, I am much more concerned about the fact that there is a shortage throughout the year. Will the right hon. Gentleman take on board the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) about the general shortage of postmen? There is no doubt that postmen are very badly paid, as are many other public servants. We must have another look at the question of pay in the public service if we are to retain people who do an exceedingly good job.

Sir J. Eden

The hon. Gentleman knows that the new pay limit is designed to help lower-paid workers. There is provision for extra payment to be made to people like postmen who work what are called unsocial hours. This matter is under negotiation between the unions and their employers.