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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.