HL Deb 19 March 1963 vol 247 cc1023-34

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, I hope it will be convenient to your Lordships for me now to make this statement, which has just been made by my right honourable friend the Postmaster General in another place:

"In the coming year, the Post Office will invest £156 million capital in its ever-growing services. This compares with capital expenditure of £105 million in 1960–61 and £133 million in the current year. This increase in investment is essential for improved public services. It will also help to maintain a high level of employment in industries which supply the Post Office and several of these are in the development areas.

"At the same time, Post Office profits which help to finance its capital investment fell from £24 million in 1960–61 to £14 million in 1961–62. This year they are estimated at £9 million.

"My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed that Post Office borrowings from the Treasury shall be increased from £35 million in this financial year to about double that sum in 1963–64. It is, however, undesirable that the whole of the additional capital should be found by borrowing and it is proposed to alter certain charges so as to add £14 million net to Post Office revenue in a full year. This represents an increase of only 2.6 per cent. on present income.

"Before I come to the tariff increases, I should like to refer to one particular relaxation. It is widely felt that the limitation of an S.T.D. local call to three minutes for 2d. is too restrictive. My right honourable friend has therefore decided to increase to six minutes the time for unit charge during the day period for ordinary subscribers without making any change in the unit charge. The principal increases in tariffs are:


"Charges for inland parcels of between 6 lb. and 15 lb. will be increased by between 3d. and ls. a parcel. Charges for overseas parcels which vary according to destination will be raised to bring them more into line with costs. There will be no increase in the charges for inland parcels weighing 6 lb. or less.

"The charge for registration will be increased by 3d. My right honourable friend hopes this will divert some business to the cheaper recorded delivery service, the growth of which he is anxious to encourage.

"Charges for overseas printed papers which are incurring a heavy loss will also be increased.

"The rates for inland money orders and cash on delivery charges will be increased by 1s. at each step. This service also loses heavily.


"The time per unit charge on certain S.T.D. trunk calls will be reduced by 17 or 25 per cent.

"The charge for certain non-S.T.D. trunk calls will be increased by amounts varying from 3d. to 9d. for each three minutes.

"The charge for inland telegrams will be increased from 3d. to 5d. a word. The charges for certain overseas telegrams will also be increased.

"Most of the changes will operate from April 29."

My Lords, that is the end of the statement. I should add that full details of the changes will be published in the

(Except where shown otherwise, new charges will take effect from 29th April, 1963)
1. Subscribers' Local Calls Present Proposed
STD: Time allowed for each 2d. charge unit:
Full rate (6.0 a.m. to 6.0 p.m. Monday-Saturday) 3 mins. 6 mins.
Cheap rate (6.0 p.m. to 6.0 a.m. Monday-Saturday and all day Sunday) 12 mins. Unchanged
2. Subscribers' Trunk Calls: Inland
(a) STD: Time allowed for each 2d. charge unit:
Full rate: Up to 35 miles 30 secs. Unchanged
From 35 to 50 miles 20 secs. 15 secs.
Over 50 miles 12 secs. 10 secs.
Cheap rate: Up to 35 miles 45 secs. Unchanged
From 35 to 50 miles 30 secs. 22½ secs.
Over 50 miles 18 secs. 15 secs.
(b) Non-STD: Charge for 3 minutes:
Full rate: Up to 35 miles 1s. 0d. Unchanged
From 35 to 50 miles. 1s. 9d. 2s. 0d.
From 50 to 75 miles 2s. 3d. 3s. 0d.
From 75 to 125 miles 3s. 0d. 3s. 6d.
Over 125 miles 3s. 6d. 4s. 0d.
Cheap rate: Up to 35 miles 9d. Unchanged
From 35 to 50 miles 1s. 3d.
From 50 to 75 miles 1s. 6d. 2s. 0d.
Over 75 miles 2s. 0d. 2s. 3d.
3. Subscribers' Trunk Calls: TO IRISH REPUBLIC
(a) From Great Britain, Channel Islands and Isle of man
Charge for 3 minutes:
Full rate: From 50 to 75 miles 4s. 6d. 5s. 3d.
From 75 to 125 miles 5s. 3d. 5s. 9d.
From 125 to 200 miles 6s. 0d. 6s. 3d.
From 200 to 300 miles 6s. 9d. Unchanged
Over 300 miles 7s. 6d. 6s. 9d.
Cheap rate:From 50 to 75 miles 2s. 3d. 3s. 6d.
From 75 to 125 miles 2s. 9d. 3s. 9d.
Over 125 miles 3s. 3d. 3s. 9d.
(b) From Northern Ireland
Charge for 3 minutes:
Full rate: Up to 35 miles 1s. 0d. Unchanged
From 35 to 50 miles 2s. 3d. 2s. 0d.
From 50 to 75 miles 3s. 0d. Unchanged
From 75 to 125 miles 3s. 9d. 4s. 0d.
From 125 to 200 miles 4s. 6d. 4s. 0d.
From 200 to 300 miles 5s. 3d. 4s. 0d.
Over 300 miles 6s. 0d. 4s. 0d.
Cheap rate: Up to 35 miles 9d. Unchanged
From 35 to 50 miles 1s. 3d.
From 50 to 75 miles 1s. 6d. 2s. 0d.
Over 75 miles 2s. 0d. 2s. 3d.
4. Call Office Trunk Calls: Inland
(a) STD: Time allowed for each 3d. charge unit:
Full rate As in 2 (a) above
Cheap rate
(b) Non-STD: Charge for 3 minutes:
Full rate As in 2 (b) above plus 3d. for the first 3 minutes
Cheap rate

OFFICIAL REPORT, and for the convenience of your Lordships, copies are now available in the Printed Paper Office. My right honourable friend is to-day presenting a White Paper dealing with Post Office prospects for 1963–64. This too will shortly be available in the Printed Paper Office.

Following are the details referred to:

Present Proposed
Charge for 3 minutes:
Full rate As in 3 above plus 3d for the first 3 minutes
Cheap rate
(a) STD: Time allowed for each 2¼d unit charged to subscriber:
Full rate As in 2(a) above
Cheap rate
(b) Non-STD: Charge for 3 minutes:
Full rate As in 2 (b) above plus 2d. for the first 3 minutes
Cheap rate
charge for 3 minutes:
Full rate As in 3 above plus 2d. for the first 3 minutes
Cheap rate
(to take effect from 1st July, 1963)
Charge (for 3 minutes) for calls made through:
the medium (MF) or long range (HF) services with ships in Zone A 10s. 6d 7s. 0d. or 9s. 0d. (according to the distance of the inland subscriber from the coast station) 12s. 6d.
the short range (VHF) service

Zone A at present covers the sea areas within about 250 miles of the coast station. Its limits are being adjusted so that the new charge will apply to calls to and from ships within about 300 miles of the coast station.

Present Proposed
Ordinary telegrams 3s. 0d. for 12 words or less 3d. a word thereafter 5s. Od. for 12 words or less 5d. a word thereafter
Overnight telegrams 1s. 6d. for 12 words or less l½d. a word thereafter 2s. 6d. for 12 words or less 2½d. a word thereafter
Priority telegrams Ordinary rate plus 1s. 0d. surcharge Ordinary rate plus 2s. 0d. surcharge
Press telegrams:
Day 3s. 0d. for each 60 words 5s. 0d. for each 50 words
Night 3s 0d. for each 80 words 5s. 0d. for each 65 words
For ordinary and press telegrams to the Irish Republic the surcharge of 6d. will be increased to 1s. 0d. There will also be increases in the charges for certain supplementary services.
Telegrams to Europe (and a few neighbouring countries) various Increased by about 30 per cent, on average
Present Proposed
s. d.
Inland and to Irish Republic* Up to 2 1b. 2 0 Up to 6 lb. unchanged
3 lb. 2 3
4 lb. 2 6
5 lb. 2 9
6 lb. 3 0
7 lb. 3 3 S. d.
8 lb. 3 6 Up to 8 lb. 3 6
10 lb. 4 0
11 lb. 3 9
12 lb. 4 6
15 1b. 4 0 15 lb. 5 0
18 1b. 5 9 Above 15 lb. unchanged
(max.) 22 lb. 6 6
12. PARCEL: OVERSEAS (to take effect from 1st July, 1963) Various Increased by about 15 per cent, on average
* The maximum weight for parcels to the Irish Republic is 15 lb.
Present Proposed
(to take effect from 1st July, 1963) Printed Papers and Samples 2d. for 2 oz. 2½d. for 2 oz.
1d. for each additional 2 oz. 1½d. for each additional 2 oz.
Commercial Papers 6d. (minimum charge) for 10 oz. 7d. (minimum charge) for 8 oz.
1d. for each additional 2 oz. 1½d. for each additional 2 oz.
Small Packets l0d. (minimum charge) for 10 oz. 1s. 0½d. (minimum charge) for 10 oz.
2d. for each additional 2 oz. 2½d. for each additional 2 oz.
Printed Papers (reduced rate) 1½d. for 2 oz 2d. for 2 oz.
1d. for each additional 2 oz. 1½d. for each additional 2 oz.
Printed Papers (bulk) 8½d. per lb 1s. 0½d. per lb.
Canadian Magazine Post 1d. up to 6 oz. As for printed papers (ordinary or reduced or bulk rate).
1½d. up to 1½ 1b.
½d. each additional ½ 1b.
The minimum charges of 7d. for Commercial Papers and 1s. 0½d. for small packets will apply to airmail as well as to surface mail.
Inland and to Irish Republic 1s. 6d. for compensation up to £20. 1s. 9d. for compensation up to £20.
then then
1d for each £20 un to £400 1d. for each £20 up to £400
Overseas (to take effect from 1st July, 1963) 1s. 6d 1s. 9d.
There will be a consequential increase of 3d. in the charges for all insured items sent overseas.
Fees (additional to normal postage and registration charges) 1s. 2d. to 2s. 8d. (according to the amount of the Trade Charge) 2s. 2d. to 3s. 8d.
17. INLAND MONEY ORDERS Present Proposed
Ordinary money orders
Up to £l10 1s. 0d. 2s. 0d.
Up to £20 1s. 2d. 2s. 2d.
Up to £30 1s. 4d. 2s. 4d.
Up to £40 1s. 6d. 2s. 6d.
Up to £50 1s. 8d. 2s. 8d.
Telegraph Money Orders
Supplementary fee 6d.
Poundage As for inland ordinary money order. As for inland ordinary money order plus 6d.
Official part of telegram of advice 3s. 0d. 5s. 0d.
Words in any private message 3d. a word 5d. a word
Surcharge for telegraph money order to Irish Republic. 6d. 1s. 0d.

The charges for issue of a duplicate money order, for renewal of a void money order and for advice of payment of an overseas money order will also be increased.


My Lords, we are obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for giving us this statement. It is rather a mixed grill. We all welcome the change in the time permitted for ordinary calls at the normal charge, from three to six minutes. But certainly I think there is enough in the rest of this statement to make it possible that we shall press for a debate in the House about it. The situation goes on in a strange sort of mixture. Apparently, where large profits are being made you are still going to raise charges. On the other hand, some- times in the case of a losing service, such as parcel post, especially where you go beyond the 6 lb. limit and are dealing with parcels sent for business purposes, quite a handicap may be placed upon the development of certain classes of business. There are a number of other points that might well be brought up, but from my point of view I think it only fair to say to the Chief Whip opposite that this may well be one thing about which we shall have to press for the time of Parliament, and if a debate cannot be held in Private Members' time, we ought to have Government time for it.


My Lords, I should like to join in thanking the Minister for this statement, and to support the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition in suggesting that it would be desirable that we should have a debate on this matter. I am not going into any detail at this moment and I am not going to attack the Minister on the statement which he has made, because it works both ways: it has some good news and some bad news in it. But I would ask him to ask his right honourable friend the Postmaster General possibly to reconsider this big jump in the cost per word of telegrams. As things are now, on this new Paper, it seems that if one wants to communicate with anybody in any part of the country it is going to be considerably cheaper to use the telephone than to use telegrams. It may be deliberate policy to discourage the use of telegrams, because I believe the noble Lord told us on an earlier occasion that that service is run at a pretty heavy loss.

On the other hand, could he bear in mind that the telegram is, I think, not much used by those who can well afford large Post Office bills. Industry and commerce normally do not resort to telegrams in this country because the telephone service is so good. The telegram is for the use of people who can much less afford these high charges: people who have no telephone in their house, people who have not much money but who have some urgent message to transmit, possibly when they are full of anxiety and distress and have only that means of communication. I think they ought to be helped rather than penalised. I quite appreciate the difficulty on the financial side, but I suggest that the telegram is the poor man's means of communication, and I hope it will not be necessary to increase the charge there.


My Lords, this is the second time that I have risen from these Benches when a noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite has risen with his new show of what commercialism means in the Post Office. On the last occasion I sympathised with the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, who sits on the right of the present Minister, when he had almost apologetically to present us with programmes like this. Now again this week the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, in the light of all that was said in the debate on February 26, which is not too long ago, has to get up and admit that most of what we said then from these Benches was true, and that the only cure that the Government know for what we said is to put up prices—which I should have thought was the last thing commercial people ever did for their leading profit line.

If I may quote from what was said on February 26, I ventured to point out that the great profit lead line of the Post Office was its trunk calls. Indeed, going back as far as Command Paper 4368 in 1959, the Government, who sit there to-day, told us then that they were outlining a telephone policy for ten years where costs would be reduced and calls would be cheaper, and they outlined their "sound price policy", as they regarded it. That was, first, that the rental charge for telephones should cover the cost; and, secondly, that the call charges should cover the use of the telephone. We have tried to show that this was not exactly the way it was working out. We showed in the debate in February that there was a huge profit and it was being used to discount losses elsewhere. But to come now and alter not only S.T.D. but non-S.T.D. trunk calls justifies, I am sure, the request which my noble Leader made that we ought to debate Post Office prospects at the earliest possible date, even in Government time.

I was interested in the observations about telegrams, which were made just now by the Leader of the Liberal Party. We all know that telegrams are one of the leading loss streams; but, of course, if we start cutting out the things which lose, we shall next cut out the boxes that are erected in areas which lose large amounts of money. The telephone boxes and the telegrams which are sent through them are the only means of social contact which many people have. When the Bill went through in 1961 we pressed on the Government that it should be borne in mind that commercialism did not take away the need for the social aspects of the telephone in a social community like ours.

If I go on any longer, we shall get a repetition of what happened last time, when the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, rose and asked me whether I wanted to make a speech and start a debate. Well, I do not. There is a great deal to be said on this subject, because this is a crushing blow in National Productivity Year. For those of us who are going round talking productivity, the increase in telephone and parcel charges to industry, is going to be a bitter pill to swallow in the next week or two. Therefore, the sooner we have a debate on productivity, telephones and the needs of the social community, the better it might be.


My Lords, will this increase apply to overnight telegrams in the same ratio? If it does not, it might be some small relief.


If I may look up the answer to that while I am talking—


It is 2s. 6d. instead of ls. 6d. under these proposals.


The proposals cover some seven pages of foolscap, and I regret to say I have been unable to commit them all to memory. I see that it does, in fact, apply to overnight telegrams.

I think the noble Earl opposite, the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and the noble Lord who leads the Liberal Party would not expect me to join in any debate or to comment on the points that have been made to-day. My noble friend the Government Chief Whip, will have a word to say in a moment. Of course, I will convey to my right honourable friend what noble Lords have said on the subject of telegrams, but I think that I should be justified in simply remarking that the telegraph service at the moment is losing something over £3 million a year, and that it will still be losing something very close to £2 million after the adjusted charges. The position to-day is that every telegram sent loses the Post Office 5s. That is a very heavy load to bear. I would say that the element of support to that service which remains constitutes quite a strong social element, about which noble Lords are concerned. I consider my right honourable friend is right to try to balance charges over the whole field of his responsibility, not only with increases to secure a better profit in certain services but by reducing the loss on others. I will say no more, in view of what may well happen in the future.


My Lords, I take note of what the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, and the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberals have said about a debate. I suggest that when noble Lords have had a chance to study the White Paper, this matter can be discussed through the usual channels.