§ 3.9 p.m.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government how the statistics given by them to the House on October 15 last (column 1189) were compiled and whether they are subject to the Minister's remarks on 1031 November 13 (column 495) and therefore unreliable; and in particular what is the normal time of transmission from Tunbridge Wells or Maidenhead to Twickenham for 5d. and for 4d. mail.]
§ LORD BOWLES
My Lords, the transmission times given by me on October 15 were based on samples taken daily and cover correspondence posted throughout the United Kingdom. They are not subject to my remarks on November 13, which related solely to estimates of revenue for newspapers posted by members of the public.
§ LORD BOWLES
Yes, my Lords; I beg the noble Lord's pardon. First-class letters for Twickenham posted from Tunbridge Wells and Maidenhead in time for the last collection should be delivered by first post the next morning, and second-class letters a day later.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that Answer. I should very much like to know how widely these samples extended so as to provide a proper statistical basis. Would not the noble Lord agree that it would be very reprehensible if any Government Department were to supply figures for use in Parliament which had not a substantial basis? Is the noble Lord aware that if his figures are correct the chances of getting on the second day two successive letters from Tunbridge Wells, stamped with 5d. stamps, are between 4,000 and 5,000 to one; and that, if his figures for October are correct, then the chances against any of your Lordships getting half-a-dozen 4d. letters on the same day are roughly 8 million to one against? If this is so, it must naturally bring the figures under suspicion.
§ LORD BOWLES
My Lords, the noble Lord probably does not know, but a recent two-day check on the mail of Lord Saltoun at his Twickenham address revealed no shortage in quality of service. Included in the items have been newspapers from Scotland and a packet from Maidenhead. As regards the first 1032 part of the Question, the Government have the best professional advice in obtaining the statistical information for which the noble Lord asks. The position is that these firms—and anybody who knows anything about statistical method will agree that it is the right way to do it—take a sample, say every 10 letters in a small sorting-office and every 100 letters in the larger post offices. They tell the assistant postmaster in the office on what date he has to get those samples. In this way perfectly correct statistical information is obtained and given to this House.
My Lords, I am glad to hear that the noble Lord has been taking a check of my mail. May I therefore ask whether it informed him that I received two letters from Tunbridge Wells, each with a 5d. stamp and each on the third day after the postmark?
I do not remember, my Lords. But I can tell the noble Lord that one letter had the postmark of a Friday and that it arrived on a Monday. The noble Lord will realise that I am not counting the Sunday. The other letter was similar.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Question!
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, I appreciate that the noble Lord was asked a question when he should have been receiving an answer, but knowing what an admirable stickler he is for the custom of this House I think he may feel that he has done enough for to-day.
My Lords, I asked the noble Lord whether he had received that information in his check on my mail.
§ LORD BOWLES
My Lords, I wondered on what day the letters were posted, and the noble Lord said "Friday; and that is exactly what happens. The position is this. First-class letters posted at Maidenhead from Monday to Friday before 9.30 in the evening get there by the first delivery the next morning, except when that is not a working day.