HL Deb 29 October 1990 vol 522 cc1690-1

2.46 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many Post Office collection boxes now have Sunday collections and how many do not.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, I understand that of the Post Office's 105,300 post boxes Sunday collections are being made from 20,300.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. However, is he not aware that it is a very disappointing Answer in as much as the original announcement, made at the time of the increase in postal charges, indicated that whole areas would have a complete collection? Does not discriminating in this way, mainly against rural areas, undermine the whole doctrine which has supported the concept of the Post Office's monopoly?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am sorry to hear that my noble friend is disappointed. The 20,300 post boxes were chosen following a great deal of consumer research and consultation with users of the Post Office. Some 9,000 of those post boxes are in rural areas. The whole of the country is covered, apart from some communities in Highland areas which decided not to accept Sunday collections for religious reasons.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say whether any information is available as to the times of Sunday collections from those post boxes? I ask that question because near my home there are two post boxes from which Sunday collections are made but one has to post one's letters by midday. That is not nearly as convenient as 4.30 p.m., which was the time of the collection in the old days.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am sure that in different parts of the country individual post boxes have different collection times.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that as well as having no Sunday collection there is no collection from many post boxes in central London after 1 p.m. on Saturday? Does he agree that that means that a letter posted soon after lunch on Saturday cannot be collected until Monday and therefore does not reach its destination until Tuesday or Wednesday, and then only if you are lucky?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am sure that Post Office management will read carefully the points that have been made on this Question and will respond accordingly.

Lord Elton

My Lords, as my noble friend's original Answer revealed that about one in five boxes will have a collection on Sunday, can he say whether the post boxes will be selected area by area or whether collections will be made from 20 per cent. of post boxes in a number of areas? If it is to be the latter, could there be a distinguishing mark on those post boxes from which collections are made on Sundays so that one knows where to go when there are so few minutes in which to post a letter?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the general rule will be that there will be a Sunday collection from all sorting offices, Crown post offices and sub post offices. Those post boxes will have a special sticker to say that there are collections on Sundays.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I am one of those people who spends most of Saturday writing letters in order to stuff the post box on Sunday and who is anxious that now we have the service we do not lose it. Can the Minister tell me the rate of delivery of first class post from Sunday collections? Is the percentage delivered on Monday as high as on normal weekdays?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I have no individual breakdown for weekdays but I understand that there has been an overall improvement of some 3.6 per cent. against the previous year, which beat the 3 per cent. target.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

My Lords, when a final decision is made on Sunday collections, will the Minister ensure that due account is taken of the desire of many Post Office workers to share in the advantage of spending Sundays with their families as do so many other workers in this country?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that there are vast numbers of workers who work during the weekends and at night. Decisions are taken by Post Office management after discussion with the unions concerned.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, does my noble friend know that last week I posted a letter on Friday morning to go by first class mail and it did not arrive in the centre of Birmingham until the following Wednesday? Will he ask the Post Office whether it believes the old statement that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, we all have individual horror stories of the quality of the postal service. At the same time, I know my noble friend will agree that the vast majority of her letters arrive on time.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that in parts of London an additional box has been added to the pillar box? Can he explain the reason for that?

Lord Strathclyde

No, my Lords.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, can my noble friend explain why, after some months of such discrimination, there is still no indication on letter boxes of whether they are subject or not to a Sunday collection?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I understand that the Post Office has made it quite clear that it will plainly mark post boxes that have Sunday collections. I shall ask the Post Office to look into the matter.