HL Deb 02 December 1976 vol 378 cc415-8

3.14 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

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 will issue a special stamp to mark the centenary of the St. John Ambulance Service.


My Lords, the decision on the choice of special postage stamp issues is one for the Post Office. They tell me that owing to the claims of other events they had reluctantly to exclude this centenary from the 1977 programme.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will regard that as a very disappointing reply. Does he not think that, particularly at this time of economic crisis, the special issue of postage stamps which mark important centenaries such as that of the St. John Ambulance Brigade would be of great benefit in indicating how much work voluntary organisations do; and can he bring to the notice of his colleagues, both in the Post Office and in another place, that they should look for this kind of opportunity and make use of it when it presents itself?


My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right in the sense that it is clearly to the advantage of the Post Office and the nation as a whole that these special issues should come out on appropriate dates to record special events; but I think we must not forget that the 1977 programme is particularly strained by the Silver Jubilee series, next year being the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen, and there will be an extended period of sale of these stamps to fit in with the various regional visits and events to celebrate the anniversary. In addition, it includes the obligation to pay due tribute to the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government which will be taking place. But I will ensure that the views of the noble Baroness are conveyed to the Stamp Advisory Committee which advises the Post Office on this matter.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say how many special issues there have been during the last year? It would seem that there has been a very large number.


My Lords, in view of the much wider considerations involved, is it really right to leave decisions of this kind entirely to the Post Office?


My Lords, I will first answer the question put to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. The answer is that there have been six such special issues. With regard to the question of whether or not to leave this decision to the Post Office, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, would like to minimise the interference by central Government of a nationalised industry—

Several noble Lords



My Lords, I did not say that we would, but that it would be our wish; and for that reason I think it is wise to allow the Stamp Advisory Committee to get on with the job.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that his reply to this Question will go down very badly in the North of England? This organisation has one of the most impressive records of voluntary service in the whole of the community, and it should be recognised.


My Lords, is either House of Parliament represented on the Stamp Advisory Committee, and, if not, why not?


My Lords, if the noble Lord will table a Question I will give him the information with regard to the members of the Committee.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say how much money the Post Office makes on these commemorative issues? And if it makes a large amount of money, could we not have the St. John Ambulance Service stamp as well as the Silver Jubilee stamps?


My Lords, that is another question.


My Lords, the noble Lord said that there were six special issues this year. Can he tell us how many are planned for 1977?


My Lords, I am afraid I must apologise to the House for giving the wrong information. It is not this year. The programme for the coming year is a set on British achievements in chemistry, the Royal Silver Jubilee, a Commonwealth issue on the occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, racquet sports— which commemorates the centenary of Wimbledon—British wildlife and the customary Christmas series.


My Lords, might it not be appropriate to have a special St. John Ambulance Service stamp at Christmastime? This is very much a Christian organisation which serves the community as a whole, and surely it would be appropriate for a stamp to be issued at Christmas?


My Lords, I will convey that point of view to the Stamp Advisory Committee.


My Lords, in view of the success of the charities stamp which I think was inaugurated a year ago, and as a result of which a profit was sent to the charities, because one paid, I think, 8½p for a 6½p stamp, would not a good way of celebrating this centenary of the St. John Ambulance Service be to use a stamp for that purpose?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that suggestion.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord what sort of "rackets" the Government wish to commemorate?


My Lords, has the noble Lord any particular racket in mind?


My Lords, would the noble Lord consider postponing the wildlife series for one year? Wildlife is always with us, but this is the centenary of the St. John Ambulance Service and, therefore, it should have some sort of priority. Can the noble Lord consider this suggestion seriously?


My Lords, I do not in any way want to suggest that this House has been taken over by Wales, but I find in my notebook a Welsh stamp commemorating a centenary. Is it not a fact that St. John has at least as much right to be commemorated as St. David, whom I respect?