§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
My Lords, you will remember that in presenting the animal financial statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that certain alterations were to be made in postal charges. The Bill for which I now ask a Second Reading brings those alterations into effect. May I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the Bill does not effect all the changes announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by my right hon. friend Mr. Illingworth, because some of those changes can be made without legislative sanction under Treasury Warrant.
Briefly speaking, the changes are these. The letter rate is to be increased from 1d. to 1½d.; the rate on book packets—that is, circulars and notices—will also be increased, and that is one of the points which requires legislative consent. The sample post will be placed upon the letter rate basis. Letters within the Empire and to the United States will pay an additional ½d. per letter. Inland postcards will be raised from ½d. to 1d., and the range of charges for parcel post is increased. The total sum estimated by the Postmaster-General to accrue from these changes is a little over £4,000,000. I should add that the charges on letters to soldiers abroad will remain unchanged. I think that there is no other point of substance in regard to the principle of the Bill, to which I now ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Crawford.)
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I do not know whether it is fair to ask the noble Earl a question, for I am not sure whether he actually represents the Post Office in this House. I noticed on coming down to-day that this Bill referred only to certain changes in the rates, and I was going to ask the reason, but the noble Earl has supplied that information. I could not get it for myself, because the Bill was only brought out, I think, yesterday and is down for Second Reading to-day. With regard to the letter rates, is the noble Earl able to say whether the new rate proposed will be 1½d. up to two ozs.? If so, that is a cheapening of the rate as compared with the present scale. The present scale, as everybody knows, is 1d. for 1110 one oz., and 2d. for two ozs. It seems to me rather extraordinary when you want more money that you should be actually reducing the rate on two ozs. I think that it was first announced that the 1½d. charge was to cover up to four ozs. If that is so, it seems to me an extraordinary proceeding. It would be much better to make a scale if it could be done by Order and not by Act. If it can be done by an Order of the Treasury, or by decree of the Postmaster General, or in any other way which would avoid legislation, it might be done. Surely it is not too late to ask for a reconsideration of the point as to why the higher rates should be made cheaper than they are at the present time.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Can the noble Earl tell us at what date these changes will come into force? At present we do not know when the rate of 1d. will be changed into 1½d. Perhaps I may also ask whether that 1d. is to apply up to four ozs., as I have seen stated.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, no definite announcement has been made about the date, because it was not quite clear on which day the Bill would receive the Royal Assent. If, however, the Bill passes into law, as I trust it may, to-morrow, I understand that the rates will come into operation on June 1, but due notice will, of course, be issued by the Postmaster-General to the public. The point that my noble friend Lord Balfour mentioned had occurred to me, and I made it my business to inquire from the postal authorities what the explanation was. The present letter rate, as we know, is 1d. for one oz. That in future will be 1½d. The present rate for one to two ozs. is 2d.; in future this also will be 1½d. From two to four ozs. the present rate is 2½d.; this likewise will in future be 1½d. Therefore the charge on a one oz. letter is increased by 50 per cent., and the charge upon letters between one to two ozs. and between two and four ozs. is reduced respectively by ½d. and by 1d. The explanation is that the vast bulk of the letters are within the oz., and I am assured that, so far from losing money, the economy in administration is such that the Post Office hope to be able to gain money rather than lose it by the change. The total gain anticipated from the letter rate, the book packet rate, and the sample rate is £2,750,000 a year.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.