HC Deb 02 April 1979 vol 965 cc914-6
3. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects next to meet the chairman of the Post Office.

18. Mr. David Price

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to meet the chairman of the Post Office.

The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Gerald Kaufman)

My right hon. Friend meets the chairman of the Post Office frequently.

Mr. Neubert

What are the latest prospects for clearing the substantial backlog of delayed mail and restoring the postal services to normal deliveries?

Mr. Kaufman

There are problems about this because of the unofficial action that has been taking place. However, an offer has now been made and a ballot will take place. In view of that we hope that the industrial action will be discontinued. That certainly is our wish.

Mr. Price

Will the Minister impress upon the chairman of the Post Office the necessity of getting from the postal trade unions a guarantee that throughout the currency of the general election they will guarantee the best levels of performance in the Post Office?

Mr. Kaufman

I fully accept that that is the wish of the House. In expressing that wish we should congratulate the Post Office on the way in which it serves the nation.

Mr. John Ellis

When the Minister next meets the chairman of the Post Office will he impress upon him that in my constituency there is under construction the biggest bridge in the world? I refer to the Humber bridge. We have asked him to commemorate that by the issue of a stamp, but he seems slow to take up the point. As it looks as though the bridge will be further delayed for a year, may we have the stamp next year?

Mr. Kaufman

I shall draw the attention of the chairman of the Post Office to the wish expressed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Warren

Will the Minister discuss with the chairman of the Post Office the failure of the Government to market the view data Prestel system? Will he look at the reasons why this system has not been promoted, bearing in mind that his right hon. Friend said it would be?

Mr. Kaufman

That is a stupid, carping remark which so ill-becomes our exchanges in the House. Prestel leads the world. It is a major technological development, and the Post Office is doing a superb job in putting it across. The hon. Gentleman should put whatever mental faculties he has to dealing with other matters.

Mr. Norman Lamont

Following the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert), will the Minister give the House the latest information about the volume of mail that has been held up by this serious unofficial action in London? Is it not deplorable that the Post Office should be reduced to asking customers to post only essential letters?

Mr. Kaufman

I recall that there was much more widespread action when the Conservatives were in office and found it impossible to do anything to deal with the issue. They did not invoke the law. There has been a good deal of interference with the proper delivery of the mails because of this industrial action. It has taken place in London. There are problems also in Newport and Nottingham. We all wish the proper delivery of the posts to take place. However, this kind of disturbance has taken place before. No Government, of whichever party, have found a way of forcing postmen to deliver letters if they wish to take industrial action.

Mr. Warren

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the very unsatisfactory and surprisingly offensive answer by right hon. Member, who may not be with us much longer, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Kaufman

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall be glad to answer the debate next month.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope to be here myself.

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