HL Deb 21 July 1976 vol 373 cc840-3

2.40 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 agree with the results of the survey of the delivery of letters following suspension of Sunday collections carried out by The Times newspaper and reported on 6th July, and whether they still think that the decision of the Post Office to end Sunday collections was the right one.


My Lords, I am not in a position to comment on The Times survey without knowing the statistical basis on which the survey was conducted. The Government's view remains that it would have been wrong to prevent the Post Office from taking the steps it considered necessary to eliminate its financial deficit.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Can he say whether or not the Post Office is monitoring the effects of the ending of the Sunday collection? If the answer to that question is, Yes, does the Post Office agree that it has in fact meant that mail is delayed for 48 hours and that one in every four letters posted first-class on a Friday does not reach its destination on a Monday?


My Lords, my understanding of the Post Office's monitoring of the delivery of mail is that figures are taken on a monthly basis and therefore they would not show the results of letters posted on a particular day of the week. As the noble Baroness knows, this particular cut is to be reviewed after 12 months.


My Lords, would it be in order to congratulate the noble Lord upon not giving the usual Government Answer that this is a matter for the Post Office? I quite agree that the Government should not interfere with day-to-day running, but is not this a question of policy, rather than of day-to-day running? Surely when it is a matter of policy the Government should protect the interests of the citizen.


My Lords, this Government always protect the interests of all the citizens of this country. Having said that, I do not think that the noble Lord is right to congratulate me for not giving the usual Answer. I suspect that if I did not give the usual Answer I should be stepping out of line.


My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that his answer has to be taken with a pinch of salt?


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Post Office, while responsible for its own administration and running under the new set-up, is still under constant attack (as I have said previously) in both this House and the other Chamber, as it was previously? Secondly, is my noble friend aware that before the Post Office Board would take this particular decision in regard to Sunday collections, it would take into consideration the views and expressions of opinion of the Post Office trade unions—I believe there are six in number—because they have to be considered in regard to the running of the Post Office service?


Yes, my Lords. As my noble friend will know, the trade unions are not entirely happy about the cut which the Post Office has made on Sunday collections and I am sure that this is one of the factors which the Post Office will take into account when it comes to review the service after 12 months.


My Lords, is the noble Lord in a position to amplify his statement made not long ago as to why it costs eight times as much to collect the Sunday post as it does to collect the Saturday post?


My Lords, the figures given by the Post Office are that it costs eight times as much to collect the mail on a Sunday as it does on the average week day. My understanding from the Post Office is that this is because of the extra journeys which have to be made on a Sunday solely for collecting mail. On a Saturday Post Office vans have to call at Post Offices for other purposes—for example, to collect registered mail, and they are quite capable of collecting letters at the same time, with very little, if any, additional expenditure being involved.


My Lords, will the noble Lord kindly convey to the Post Office that at any rate this noble Lord would be very pleased if the Post Office could answer the letters that she has addressed to it?


My Lords, if the noble Baroness followed the practice of many of her noble friends and sent letters for the Post Office via me she would get a reply immediately.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Lord for his Answer to my original Question. But can he tell me how the Post Office can get an answer at the end of the year on the effect of the ending of the Sunday collection if it is not monitoring the effect on the distribution of letters week by week? If the noble Lord cannot answer that point now, will he write to me about it?


My Lords, I shall certainly draw to the attention of the Post Office what the noble Baroness has said, because as her noble friend has reminded me this is a matter of the day-to-day running of the Post Office, and not a matter in which a Government Minister should intervene. But the Post Office has said in a radio broadcast—and I am sure that the noble Baroness will bear with me if I repeat what the Post Office has said—that its feeling is that if any serious delays are being caused by the cessation of Sunday collections they will show up in the statistics which it is collecting on a monthly basis.


My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that millions and millions of pounds could be saved by giving up the postal codes?


No, my Lords, do not. My experience in going around several sorting offices is that the postal code system is leading to a great deal of increased efficiency, and if members of the public used the postal codes more often there might be less complaints about the service which the Post Office is giving.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that an increasing number of people are saying, "Come back Postmaster-General, all is forgiven"?