HL Deb 25 January 1973 vol 338 cc252-4

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that over the nine day period—December 24, 1972, to January 1, 1973, both dates inclusive—postal services in some rural areas were no more than four collections and four deliveries and whether they will give an assurance that in future the Post Office will treat either Christmas or New Year's Day as a special holiday, but not both.


My Lords, I understand that the situation to which my noble friend refers arose from the fact that in parts of Northern England New Year's Day has increasingly come to be regarded as an additional holiday, and in those areas the Post Office has adjusted its services accordingly by withdrawing deliveries and collections from some boxes on that day. I am informed that the Post Office advised local authorities of these arrangements and published them in advance. It is for the Post Office to determine what services are necessary to meet local needs, but I have no doubt that it will take full note of my noble friend's Question.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that that is a very disappointing reply? Without wishing to be charged with starting another contentious debate, may I ask him whether he is aware that this limited service is disappointing for the private individual, and for business purposes it is just not good enough and could be very harmful? A spillover of Scottish holidays into the North of England and of English holidays into the South of Scotland is no reason for the Post Office to show this inefficiency and lack of consideration.


My Lords, I am not optimistic enough ever to hope that any of my answers will satisfy my noble friend; but I would remind him that in this instance it has become a local custom in certain parts of the North to take New Year's Day as well as Boxing Day as a holiday, and that the Post Office was just following the local custom in those areas and did not start the custom.


My Lords, may I ask whether there are not clear signs that this practice is spreading to the South?


My Lords, this is, of course, a matter for the Post Office. I know of no such plans, but I can assure your Lordships that if there were to be any such plans in the future the Post Office Users' National Council would be informed well in advance.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this failure on the part of the Post Office brought to many of us not only a welcome respite from getting too many letters at that time of year but also an ever more welcome excuse for not answering, the ones we did get?


My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that this habit is also spreading in from the East, from the Common Market?


My Lords, can my noble friend explain why some letters posted about the period in question have not yet been delivered?


My Lords, there are a number of reasons for this, and in many cases where letters are not delivered on time it is the fault of the writer and not of the Post Office.


My Lords, is it not a fact that the Post Office ought to be congratulated on facing the circumstances in the North of England, where people always have New Year's Day as a holiday? And could we not get out of all this difficulty by this country's coming into line with all the other countries in Europe and having a national holiday on New Year's Day as well as at Christmas?


My Lords, that would certainly help the Post Office out of this particular difficulty, but I do not think it would be an answer satisfactory to my noble friend.


My Lords, were Her Majesty's Government consulted before the Post Office decided simply to remove pillar boxes?


My Lords, I think that is a little wide of the original Question.


My Lords, is there not something to be said for everybody having a holiday of twelve days, covering Christmas and the New Year?

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