Postal Recognition of Cheam

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:19 pm on 31st October 2006.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Employment Relations & Postal Services) 10:19 pm, 31st October 2006

The hon. Gentleman has a point—there does seem to be a minor anomaly. Wallington is a postal town because a delivery office is sited there. Apparently, there was one in Carshalton, and that is why the anomaly exists. He has a fair point in that regard but, on the point that I was making, Sutton is the post town, and that is why Sutton must be on the address.

Mail with a postcode can be sorted more quickly, accurately and efficiently. Royal Mail continues to develop and maintain high standards of postcode compliance. That has a direct influence on its mail-processing efficiency, its automated sorting systems, address interpretation and optical character recognition machinery function, because addresses are matched against the postcode address file, or PAF. The routes taken by postmen and women across the country were based on the PAF. The Royal Mail's PAF includes other information relevant to a postal address, such as the names of businesses. It is continually updated to reflect changes in postal address information, such as new housing developments, the renumbering of buildings and the renaming of roads. Royal Mail will consider customers' requests for changes to postal addresses.

In December 2001, Postcomm, the industry regulator, issued a consultation document in which views were sought on a code of practice to govern changes to Royal Mail's postcode address file—in effect, to its postcodes and postal addresses. The code of practice was published in March 2002, and it was reviewed a year later. In March 2004, Postcomm published its review, in which the code of practice was further amended to take account of, among other things, a fast-track system of change. That is the current code of practice. A further review of the code of practice will take place in 2008.

Under the code of practice, changes to the PAF can be made for one of two reasons: to maintain or improve the service offered by Royal Mail, and/or to reflect customer demand. In the first case, Royal Mail can review the way in which it routes its mail to provide a better service. That may be needed as a result of the siting of a new delivery office, the building of a new housing or business development, the renumbering of buildings or the renaming of roads by local authorities. In such cases, Royal Mail reviews existing postcodes and addresses to maintain efficient handling and delivery.

Under the code of practice, Royal Mail will also consider customer requests for changes to postal addresses. Locality information can be changed if the request is widely supported by customer representatives such as Postwatch, local authorities, parish or district councils and Members of Parliament. An acceptable and clearly defined set of geographical boundary data must be available, and there should not be a significant amount of objection from those affected by the proposed change of address. It is, of course, down to the individual initiating a request to provide the data and obtain the necessary support, as is set out in the code of practice. In such cases, Royal Mail will write to people at all the affected addresses, advising them of the proposed change, and giving the customers who are likely to be affected the opportunity to register concerns or objections. If fewer than 20 per cent. of those affected by the requested change register objections, changes can be made to the PAF with immediate effect under the fast-track system introduced to the code in 2004.