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Post Office

Volume 148: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1921

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Air-Mail Services


asked the Postmaster-General if, in order to assist British civil aviation, he will take steps to make an issue of aerial postage stamps?

I am considering how far wider publicity can be given to existing air-mail services with a view to increasing public interest in the traffic; hut, as at present advised, I do not think that the issue of a special postage stamp would have the effect desired by the hon. Member. A blue air-mail label, to be affixed to air-mail correspondence, is already issued on application at all head and branch post offices. Letters can be posted for the air mail in any letter box and at any time; and it would obviously hamper the free use of the service if only air-mail stamps could be used.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that already in France they are issuing special aerial postage stamps and that it has been very helpful to the service?

I shall be glad to consider that, but I hope my hon. Friend will also consider the point I have put.

West Of England Mails


asked the Postmaster-General if his attention has been drawn to the injury to the interests of the trade of Liverpool, and consequently to employment, in that city, caused by the recent fixing of 4 p.m. as the latest hour for posting letters and circulars to the West of England; and will he alter the hour so that it may at least be possible to convey by mail the closing quotations of the Liverpool corn and other markets and the cable news received during the afternoon?

There has been some misunderstanding. Before the 3rd of October the time of posting at Liverpool for letters sent via Bristol for Certain places beyond, to secure the first morning delivery, was 4 p.m. On the 3rd of October the railway company instituted a train between Crewe and Bristol which appeared to justify a later despatch from Liverpool. The time of posting was therefore extended from 4 p.m. (or 4.30 with late fee) to 5.45 p.m. (or 6.15 with late fee). It was subsequently found that the new train frequently did not keep time and that the connection with the first morning delivery could not be relied upon. The Postmaster of Liverpool thereupon issued a notice to this effect in order that merchants and others might be aware of the risk involved in the use of the supplementary despatch. The attention of the railway companies has been directed to the inconvenience caused by the late running of the train.

Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence to obtain a later delivery for these important letters and thereby assist trade and employment in the Port of Liverpool?

That is the point on which I am still negotiating with the railway company. If they can keep the train up to time it will be possible to give the later delivery.



asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that post offices have refused to allow paper-maker's circulars to be sent at the special printed paper rates, because the circulars had printed on them, "This is a sample of our paper"; that firms are thereby being handicapped in their efforts to push trade; and whether he can see his way to order that such circulars are not to be treated as samples?

I am aware that post offices have refused to allow circulars to be sent at the special printed paper rate because the circulars had printed upon them "This is a sample of our paper." Under the published Regulations, samples are not admissible at the printed paper rate, and I cannot hold that these patterns, which are described by the senders as samples, are not such, nor can I alter the Regulations to admit samples of paper, but no others. The answer to the first part of the question is, yes, Sir. As these papers are admittedly samples, I cannot agree not to treat them as such.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that they are not admitted as samples?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman's question states that the circulars had printed on them, "This is a sample of our paper."

Peace Treaties (German Reparation)


asked the Prime Minister whether the arrangement is concluded and has been approved by the French Government and Germany for the payment in kind of 7,000,000,000 marks reparation to France; what are the terms; and was the British Government consulted?

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer must refer my hon. Friend to the White Paper on this subject promised in his answer of the 24th October to the hon. Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes), which will, I understand, be available to-day. As the hon. Member will see from the White Paper, the French Government have, in accordance with the terms of the Agreement, submitted it for approval to the Reparation Commission, who have in turn referred it to the Governments represented thereon.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what fund have the German payments of £5,444,000 for coal, £38,704,000 for costs of Army of Occupation, and £4,368,000 for ships been credited; what is the total amount of German reparation payments due to Great Britain under the Treaty of Versailles; when the next German reparation payment is due; and what are the amounts payable to the Allies and Great Britain, respectively?

With the permission of the hon. Member, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will circulate his reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT, as it is inevitably somewhat lengthy.

The following is the reply:

Of the sum of £5,544,000 received in repayment of the advances under the German Coal Deliveries Agreement, £5,500,000 has been appropriated in aid of the Vote for advances under that Agreement and the balance has been paid to the Exchequer. (My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer regrets that the figure of £5,444,000 given in his reply to the hon. and gallant Member for the Central Division of Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) on the 18th ultimo was inaccurate, the correct figure being £5,544,000.) Out of the sum of £38,704,000 received up to the 30th September last on account of this country's claim for cost of armies of occupation, the, sum of £6,413,000 has been paid into the Exchequer as "special receipts," and the balance is being held by the Treasury in a Suspense Account pending payment to the Exchequer on the final ratification of the Financial Agreement signed at Paris on 13th August last. The sum of £4,368,000 is receivable hereafter in respect of ships sold; when received it will be paid into the Exchequer.

The Reparation Commission fixed at 132 milliards of gold marks (subject to certain adjustments) the total amount to be paid by Germany for reparation. The Treaty provides that the amounts received are to be divided by the Allied and Associated Governments in proportions determined upon by them. The British Empire proportion was fixed by the Spa Agreement at 22 per cent. of the receipts from Germany, the remainder being distributed as follows>:—France 52 per cent., Italy 10 per cent., Japan 75 per cent., Belgium 8 per cent., Portugal 75 per cent., and 6·5 per cent. was reserved for Greece, Roumania, the Serb Croat Slovene State and other powers entitled to reparation which were not signatories of the Agreement.

The Reparation Commission prescribed by the Schedule of Payments of May last that Germany was to pay to the Reparation Commission a fixed annuity of two milliard gold marks and a variable annuity equal to 26 per cent. of German exports, both in quarterly instalments, to provide for interest and Sinking Fund payments in respect of the Bonds to be delivered by Germany to the Commission by way of security for and acknowledgment of her debt, and issued as therein provided. The quarterly instalment of the variable annuity which is due on 15th November is estimated to be covered by deliveries in kind and receipts under the Reparation (Recovery) Act. The next payment due, therefore, is the sum of 500,000,000 gold marks (being the third quarterly instalment of the fixed annuity) which is due on 15th January next. On the assumption that the British cost of occupation will have been covered by that date, this sum will be payable to Belgium in respect of her priority.

Civil Service Estimates (Capital Outlay)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, with a view to reducing public expenditure in any one year, he has examined the Civil Service Estimates from the point of view that, as at present framed, considerable expenditure by, for instance, the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Board of Works is capital expenditure, which should be spread over a number of years instead of being a charge upon the current revenue in a single year; whether he will consider the desirability of framing the Budget more in accordance with business principles in this respect; and whether he will cause inquiry to be made as to whether the efficiency and up-to-dateness of the Admiralty dockyards, for instance, would be improved if this method were introduced; apart from the main issue of relieving the taxpayer from paying in a single year for items which represent capital outlay, and should therefore be met by special short-term loans of, say, five to ten years?

The question of the form in which the Budget is presented, and in particular whether expenditure of a capital nature should be met from loans and not from revenue, has frequently been discussed in this House. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is certainly prepared to consider the question anew and will bear in mind the hon. Member's suggestions. He must, however, point out that alterations of form of the kind suggested do not in themselves reduce public expenditure by one penny, and do not reduce the amount of cash which the Exchequer has to find in any given year. Moreover, the loan commitments of the Government in the near future are already so heavy as to make it very doubtful whether it would be wise to add to them.

With regard to the last part of the question, which the hon. Gentleman has not answered, will he say whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer will appoint a Committee of Inquiry into the Admiralty dockyards with a view to ascertaining whether the results which I have indicated in my question would not be obtained?

No. My hon. Friend will hardly expect me to give an undertaking of that sort in a matter which is occupying my right hon. Friend's attention.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the efficiency of the Royal dockyards cannot be improved?

German Goods (Import Duties)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Customs duty which is levied on goods from Germany is, in the case of invoices which are expressed in marks, levied on the current exchange value of the mark or on the actual value of the goods?

In the case of all goods liable to an ad valorem duty the statutory value is based on the price which an importer would pay for the goods delivered at the port of importation, and in practice, in the absence of any suspicion of bad faith, is calculated on the invoice price. If this is expressed in foreign currency it is converted into sterling at the rate of exchange current on the date on which the importing ship is reported under the Customs Act.

Does this.not mean that the greater the depreciation of the mark, the smaller the amount of duty which the hon. Gentleman will get on any given article?

Rosyth Naval Base (Housing)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the heavy annual expenditure on railway fares and convenience money for Rosyth workers who cannot find housing accommodation in the vicinity of the dockyard, he will consider favourably a grant from the Treasury for the purpose of building a specified number of houses in Rosyth next year?

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer feels bound to await the Report of the Committee on National Expenditure before giving a decision on this question.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that every year he is spending about £100,000 on train fares and convenience money, and that he could build 100 houses every year for the same sum? Why not take the long view and get to work?