Christmas Mail

Oral Answers to Questions — Posts and Telecommunications – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Peter Rost Mr Peter Rost , Derbyshire South East 12:00 am, 17th December 1973

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he is satisfied with the current position with regard to the delivery of Christmas mail.

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Post Office has had to restrict parcel services because of the disruption on the railways, but I am satisfied that it is doing all it can to get the rest of the Christmas mail through in increasingly difficult circumstances.

Photo of Mr Peter Rost Mr Peter Rost , Derbyshire South East

If, as happened last year, Christmas is spoiled for a large section of the community because of the late delivery of Christmas mail and parcels, will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that the public are made aware of the cause of this inconvenience and know that it is not due to the Post Office or to Post Office workers, who are doing everything possible in difficult circumstances to get the mail delivered? Will the blame please be put on to the ASLEF train drivers?

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

I am satisfied that everyone in the Post Office has done his level best to ensure that there is not a repetition of the situation experienced last year. Unfortunately, other circumstances have arisen this year, primarily as a result of the disruption to rail services. This is bound to have a direct effect on the movement of mail over Christmas.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Barking

When was the decision about parcels taken and why was it announced only very late apparently on Saturday night in a confusing form, so that it could reach only the later editions of the Sunday papers? Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify what is being refused and where?

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

I have to ask for the indulgence of the hon. Gentleman. The Post Office naturally has to watch this situation not only day by day but literally hour by hour. It is most anxious to avoid taking any decision which would lead to interruption in the movement of mail over Christmas. It is holding off taking final decisions for as long as possible. The Post Office gave a lot of prior warning about the likelihood of its being forced into taking such a decision as it has had to take over the weekend. It naturally regrets it very much indeed, but it needed a breathing space if it was to have the slightest chance of catching up on the vast backlog which had accumulated as a result of the disruption of rail services.

Photo of Mr Eric Bullus Mr Eric Bullus , Wembley North

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be right to drop the 3½p postal rate, since there is no priority for it, and revert to the 3p stamp for letters?

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

I do not think that would help in the present state of confusion.

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

Bearing in mind the splendid job being done by Britain's postal workers in clearing the Christmas mail this year, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will now endorse the action taken by the Chairman and members of the Post Office Board in supporting the application by the staff of the Post Office to have its pay considered as an anomaly by the Pay Board?

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

That is another matter, which does not arise on this Question.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he was consulted before the Post Office took the decision to stop accepting parcels for London and the Home Counties? Can he also explain why, if an item which previously would have been posted as a parcel comes within the size and weight limits, it can now be posted at letter rate? How does this relieve the position?

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Minister is not responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Post Office. The public were urged in advertisements in the national Press as early as 9th December to post parcels immediately.

Photo of Mr Gregor Mackenzie Mr Gregor Mackenzie , Rutherglen

With respect, that does not answer my hon. Friend's question. Why can a parcel now be sent by letter post, at a very much greater cost to the sender, when it cannot be sent as a parcel? Maybe some people at the Post Office over-reacted.

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

There are special trains operating all these services. Letter post and Christmas cards are being given priority at the moment. The situation at the weekend arose as a result of the failure of some essential trains to run. This caused a great backlog of parcels.