I have some degree of sympathy with the Postmaster-General this evening because in the short time I have been in the House he has had to answer four censure debates, or what amount to censure debates, and three times he was really apologising for the faults and poor decisions of his predecessors. This time he is really answering for his own decision.
I think that it is generally agreed on both sides that the decision announced this afternoon was bad. It was a bad decision because it was a desperate one. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Dobson) put his finger on the matter. The root cause of the decision is a financial consideration. The Postmaster-General was faced with the whole of the postal services rapidly slipping into the red. The 4d. and 5d. mails were introduced to get them out of it. On Monday night we learnt that £4 million of the expected increase had gone down the drain because there had been a falling off in the use of the postal services. The Postmaster-General faced a financial crisis, and he has chosen a method of trying to preserve the financial take of the Post Office. That is the framework of the decision announced this afternoon. Like other hon. Members, I also think that it was introduced very badly, and that he should have his chapter and verse for it.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman probably has the powers. I am fairly satisfied that the Post Office Act, 1963, gave him them. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) said that he was alarmed at the powers of the Postmaster-General. If he attended some of the sessions of the Standing Committee considering the Post Office Bill upstairs—a Committee on which no Liberal Member is sitting—he would be absolutely alarmed at the powers which we are giving to the new Post Office Corporation. They are infinitely greater than the powers which the Postmaster-General attempted to exercise this afternoon.