HL Deb 07 March 1977 vol 380 cc841-4

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 cause an examination to be made of the great waste of resources entailed in the unsolicited distribution by the Post Office, to all telephone users, of the Yellow Pages Directories (which, in a typical case, weighs, 1 lb. 5 oz. per copy) and the further resultant waste of resources and services when copies of the previous issue are committed to the refuse bins for collection by local authorities.


My Lords, as the publication of the Yellow Pages Directories is primarily a matter for the Post Office, my noble friend should write to the Post Office. The Government have considered with the Post Office alternative ways of disposing of old telephone directories, and accept the Post Office view that it is more economical to leave collection to local authorities or other collectors of waste paper.


My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for that Answer which I could have written for him before I put the Question down?—because we are all so accustomed to the way in which every Post Office matter is pushed off with an instruction to write to the Post Office, from which one gets no response at all. May I draw attention to the second part of the Question, which relates to the way in which this imposes, willy-nilly, a waste of energy in the use of petrol and diesel oil in vans collecting the paper and a waste of the resources which could be recycled, if they were collected? Since the local authorities are incapable of collecting in the present vans because of the method of compacting waste by crunch machinery in the vans, will the Government face up to their responsibilities?


My Lords, may I say to my noble friend that I will most certainly see, if he should write to the Post Office, that he gets an answer. But, on the general question of recycling of waste paper, which is a matter for which Her Majesty's Government are responsible, Her Majesty's Government would like to see its increased use in paper manufacture and are taking steps to promote this. It has made £23 million available under the Industry Act to encourage investment in waste paper-using plant and technology and in increased storage space. In addition, the Waste Management Advisory Council have set up a Working Group on waste paper recycling in which all interests are represented.


My Lords, as the Government always give the stock answer about having very little responsibility in their relationship with the Post Office, is it not time that the Government regularised this relationship with the Post Office? As we see profits going up and services declining and becoming more expensive, is it not time that the Government, so to speak, made an honest woman of the Post Office? Otherwise they are in danger of being accused of living on the immoral earnings of the Post Office.


My Lords, the Post Office is a nationalised industry like any other. Its day-to-day operations are not subject to Questions in Parliament and it is for that reason that I gave a rather dusty Answer to my noble friend. However, the second half of the Question was relevant so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, and I hope that my Answer to that was reasonably satisfactory.


My Lords, can the Minister say first, whether the subscriber pays for each line and, secondly, how much money the Post Office makes per year from each edition?


My Lords, if the noble Lord is referring to the Yellow Pages, that is a commercial transaction between the Thomson Organisation and the Post Office. I cannot comment upon the terms of that agreement.


My Lords, having been interested in reclamation for some years and having moved a Motion upon it in this House, may I ask whether we are still buying waste paper from abroad instead of re-using our directories and so forth, and getting the housewife to collect paper, as she was perfectly willing to do during the war?


My Lords, that is another question; but as I said in my supplementary answer, Her Majesty's Government are concerned about the lack of usage of the waste paper that is available in this country.


My Lords, my noble friend says the Government are dissatisfied and worried, but what is the chance of this paper being gathered up by anybody? It is, in fact, going into dustbins in tens of thousands of tons.


My Lords, I hope that the Waste Management Advisory Council will note what has been said here today.


My Lords, whatever may be the relationship between the Post Office and the Government, do Her Majesty's Government agree that the Yellow Pages Directories are thought to be extremely valuable by many people, including myself?


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, so far as the Post Office is concerned, it is not trespassing in any way, but is only following its usual custom ever since its inception as regards telecommunications and the drafting of the directories which are directed to every customer within the service who has a telephone? Is my noble friend aware that they all receive the Yellow Pages Directory and that what the noble Lord, Lord Platt, has said is correct, namely, that it has served a quite useful purpose ever since its inception? May it long continue! Secondly, is my noble friend aware that he is correct in what he is saying in that, since the Post Office Act 1969 was passed and the Post Office Board began to work under that Act, the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications has had no power whatever to interfere with the day-to-day administration of the Post Office?


My Lords, in my view, the Yellow Pages publication is a very valuable service to the customer.

Back to