§ [The question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the excessive delay in the delivery of mail to the Forces in North Africa, they are taking any steps to expedite the carriage and delivery of letters to the troops and in particular whether arrangements have been made for an early introduction of an airgraph service to these parts.]
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Templemore, I have been asked to answer the noble Lord's question. The difficulty hitherto has been that owing to operational requirements, aircraft capacity could not be made available for the transport of mails to His Majesty's Forces in North Africa, and consequently the whole of the mails had to be forwarded by sea. Arrangements have now been made, however, to provide sufficient aircraft capacity to permit the extension of the sixpenny air letter service experimentally to His Majesty's Forces in North Africa, and both this service and the airgraph service are now in operation. Airgraph letters and air letters are carried all the way by air to North Africa.
My Lords, arising out of that reply, I rather gather that the reply is from the Postmaster-General, but I fancy the distribution of letters in Africa lies with the military authorities, and I had hoped that we might perhaps have some encouraging word said about the actual delivery of letters to the troops, which has I know in very many cases been lamentably lacking. I do not know if anything further could be said on this matter. Incidentally, perhaps it would be possible to say whether this delivery of letters is in fact in the hands of the British military authorities or the American.
The noble Lord is right in thinking that the distribution is the responsibility of our Army Post Office authorities. There is no doubt the Postmaster-General would make inquiries if the noble Lord would give him particulars of any individual complaints.