§ 1. Sir John Biggs-Davison
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if, when he next meets the chairman of the Post Office, he will raise with him the matter of delays to Her Majesty's mails and, in particular, the failure to honour the first-class post.
§ The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Norman Tebbit)
Yes, Sir. I normally discuss at our meetings the plans of the Post Office to provide a more efficient and economical service.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
Is it not a gamble whether a first-class or a second-class letter will arrive first? Is my hon. Friend aware that a first-class letter posted from the House of Commons reached me in London W8 three days later?
§ Mr. Tebbit
Of course, there are criticisms to be made of the service that is offered by the Post Office. It has been through some difficult times, particularly with industrial relations. However, the recent agreements that have been reached between the Post Office and the principal union hold out a very good prospect that the service will be improved. I hope that in future it will be far less of a gamble and a far more reliable service.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
While everybody wishes the Post Office to achieve maximum efficiency, especially by the use of modern methods and full post codes, is not the Post Office saying that unless the post code is used in full, first-class letters will be treated as second-class letters? Does the Secretary of State approve of that? Will he take steps to ensure that it does not happen?
§ Mr. Tebbit
Mr. Speaker, I did not fully follow the hon. Gentleman's question. I wonder whether he could be permitted to repeat it.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, briefly. I understand that the Post Office's view is that unless the full post code is used there is no guarantee that first-class mail will be treated as a first-class service. Is that not wrong? Will the Secretary of State try to do something about it?
That is essentially a matter for the management of the Post Office. It will endeavour to offer the best service possible in any circumstances, but to give it the best possible chance of providing a really first-class service the use of the post code is highly desirable.
§ Mr. Dickens
Is my right hon. Friend surprised to learn that a constituent of mine who wrote asking me when my next surgery was to be held, in order to seek the benefit of my advice and experience, received my reply, giving him that information, several days too late? I learnt of that only this week when I received a letter saying why he had not attended my surgery. If a letter posted from the mother of Parliaments, the House of Commons, in a House of Commons envelope with a first-class stamp on it, arrives late, how does an ordinary individual in this country stand a chance in hell of getting his mail delivered first-class the day afterwards? It is scandalous.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I am amazed that my hon. Friend's constituents are not aware of the regularity with which he holds his advice bureau. It is most uncharacteristic of him to hide his light under a bushel. The figures show that getting on for nine out of 10 first-class letters are delivered the following day. I do not believe that that is good enough, and the Post Office does not believe that is good enough. I hope that the new agreements that have been reached will lead to a more constructive attitude on the part of all those in the Post Office towards providing a better service.
§ Mr. Madden
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Post Office management in Bradford has been appealing to the public not to use post offices during several days of each week which are regarded as exceptionally busy? Is he further aware that those appeals follow the closure of many sub-post offices in my constituency and elsewhare? What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to ensure that sub-post offices are not shut on the basis of arbitrary and unclear criteria and that customers who use post offices are given a reasonable service?
§ Mr. Tebbit
Sub-post offices are not closed on arbitrary and unfair criteria. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, when they are closed, they are closed on clear grounds. I am sure that it is only sensible that the Post Office advises people that, if they want to get the quickest possible service, they should remember that there are busy days and lightly loaded days. That is no different from reminding people that buses and tubes are more crowded during the rush hour than at off peak times.