Overseas Service Men (Postal Facilities)

Oral Answers to Questions — Armed Forces – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th May 1951.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West 12:00 am, 30th May 1951

asked the Minister of Defence whether he has any further statement to make on the possibility of some form of concession on air mail parcels to Korea.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will arrange for a uniform rate of postage on all letters to Service men overseas.

Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South

asked the Minister of Defence if he is aware that the cost of sending a 4 lb. parcel by air to His Majesty's Forces overseas varies from 6s. 6d. to Germany and 22s. to Egypt to 63s. to the Far East; and if he will take immediate steps to initiate a flat rate up to this maximum weight for all Forces overseas, irrespective of where they may be stationed.

Photo of Colonel Cyril Banks Colonel Cyril Banks , Pudsey

asked the Minister of Defence if he will arrange for all letters addressed to men in Korea to be sent by air mail.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

I have been asked to reply. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full statement of the facilities already available for sending letters and parcels to and from Service men overseas, both by air and surface routes.

The House will see that the rates charged to Service men and their families are substantially lower than the ordinary postage rates. In fact, the subsidy involved is now running at a rate of between £800,000 and £900,000 a year. I cannot but suppose that the House will consider that expenditure approaching £1 million per annum of public money for this particular purpose is a not ungenerous provision.

The main concessions already in operation are as follows: First, as to letters. Forces letters—corresponding to civilian air letters—can be sent by air to the Forces anywhere in the world for 2½d. This compares with a rate of 6d. for civilians. In addition, men serving in the Korean theatre can send these Forces' letters home by air mail free of all charge.

Next, ordinary air mail letters can be sent to Service men at a cost of 6d. for 1½ oz., and 6d. for each additional ½ oz., as compared with a charge of 1s. 3d. per ½ oz. for civilians to, for example, Korea and Japan.

Again, ordinary letters sent via surface routes, or, in the case of Europe, by air, to Service men cost 2½d., for the first oz. as against 4d. for civilians, for many parts of the world.

Now I come to parcels. Hon. Members will see from the statement which I am circulating that postal packets—that is to say, parcels the contents of which can easily be inspected—up to 2 lb. in weight, can already be sent to Service men at 3d. per ½-oz. anywhere, including the Far East. This special rate for Service men's packets already involves, for example, a 24s. subsidy for a 2 lb. packet sent to Korea by this method.

The truth is that the sending of letters and parcels across the world by air is an extremely expensive business. I repeat that we are already spending a sum approaching £1 million a year to help Service men and their families in this respect, and I am bound to say that I think that if further substantial sums of public money could be made available for Service welfare, most people in a position to judge would say that there were other things on which we could spend the money to even better advantage. After all, it is perfectly possible to send parcels, in particular, by surface routes at a fraction of the cost of air mail. For example, one can send an 11-lb. parcel to a Service man in Korea for 3s. 6d. as against 10s. 3d. for a civilian.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make it clear whether the regulations on air mail parcels he has just announced are the old regulations or whether they represent some new decision; and if they do not represent a new decision, whether the consideration of this matter, which his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said on 21st March that he was still giving, has yet been finalised?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

No, Sir. This is not a decision, but I thought it wise to call attention to what is technically called a postal packet, which can be sent at these comparatively cheap rates to Korea, because I do not think that has always been fully realised. There is no new decision. The answer I have given represents the reconsideration of the matter which my right hon. Friend promised.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

As it is no fault of the Service man that he happens to be serving on the other side of the world rather than in Germany, would it not be more sensible, sympathetic and humane to have a flat rate for all letters and parcels to all Service men overseas, regardless of where they happen to be carrying out their duties? Would it not be better to devote such sum as is inevitably entailed for this purpose in having a flat rate and thus not having different rates for different theatres?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

Of course, that could be done but it would involve a very substantial increase in the charge to Germany, for example. On balance, I do not think any advantage would be gained.

Photo of Colonel Cyril Banks Colonel Cyril Banks , Pudsey

Is the Minister aware that, in the first place, when letters were received by the Forces in Korea without an air mail letter form they were marked "Insufficiently stamped" when the man received them—without any notification to the people at home that unless they put a 6d. stamp on the letters they would be sent by sea? In one case of a letter for a man in Korea, that man waited for 21 days to hear news that a child had been born at his home, and that was because it was sent by sea mail. I appeal to the Minister to send by air mail—

Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

If I understood that question, it was one of delay. I should have thought, as I have shown in these rates, that it is not an expensive matter to communicate by air to Korea by Forces letter.

Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South

Would my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of having a flat rate for parcels of up to 2 lbs. for Forces, irrespective of where they are

Following are the details:

H.M. ForcesCivilians
"All-up" servicesLetters: not exceeding 1 oz.2½d.4d.
each additional z.1d.2½d.
Air ParcelsNo special rates (See Civilians)Various rates according to destination. 1st lb. 2/9 to 5/3. Each add1. lb. 1/3 to 4/-
Parcels: not exceeding2 lb1/32/6 to 5/-
3 lb1/32/6 to 7/-
7 lb2/34/3 to 7/-
11 lb3/66/3 to 9/6
22 lb5/69/9 to 15/6
Printed Papers:Newspapersand PeriodicalsOtherPrintedPapers
Up to 2 oz.1d.1d.1½d.
Each additional oz.½d.½d.½d.
Small PacketsNo special rate (See Civilians)Each 2 oz., 1½d. (Minimum charge, 7½d.)
Lightweight Forces Letters2½d.Air Letters, 6d.
letters:M.E.Malayaand Hongkong Per ½ oz.JapanandKorea
Up to 1½ oz6d.
Each additional ½ oz.6d.6d.1/-1/3
Second Class Mail:
(Printed Papers—limit 6½ lb.)
(Small Packets)—limit 2 lb.)
Each ½ oz3d.3d.4d.5d.
Air ParcelsNo concession: but packets up to 2 lb. may be sent as Small Packets in the Second Class Mail, or up to 4 lb. as Letters (see above concessionary rate).Various according to destination:
Egypt 2/9 per ½ lb.
Malaya 8/9 per ½ lb.
Japan 9/6 per ½ lb. approx. (to be introduced shortly)
Printed PapersAs for Europe.As for Europe.
Small PacketsNo concession.As for Europe.
ParcelsAs for EuropeVarious according to destination:
Up to:
3 lb.7 lb.11 lb22 lb.

stationed, because their families find this a very heavy item if they want to send a parcel week by week?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

There again, I see the attraction of the averaging scheme. Of course, it would be attractive to soldiers in distant parts of the world, but I am afraid it would be very unattractive to soldiers in the nearer parts of the world.

Lightweight Forces Letters: free of postage from Korea.
Up to 1 oz.2½d.
1½ oz.6d.
Each additional ½ oz.6d.
Air ParcelsNo concession
Up to 1 oz1½d.
Each additional oz.1d.
Printed Papers: (including newspapers and periodicals):
Up to 2 oz.1d.
Each additional 2 oz.½d.
Parcels: not exceeding2 lb.1/3
3 lb.
7 lb.2/3
11 lb.3/6
22 lb.5/6
Up to 1 oz.10 cents
Each additional ½ oz.25 cents
Postcards6 cents
Parcels:Up to 3 lb.40 cents
7 lb.80 cents
11 lb.$1·20 cents
22 lb.$2·60 cents
Up to 1 oz.2½d.
1½ oz.6d.
More than 1½ oz. and up to2 oz.8d.
Each additional oz.3d.