asked the Assistant Postmaster General whether the arrangement, announced early in the war, is still operative, whereby letters posted by midday to any address in the country, will be delivered by the first post the following morning, or whether an improved arrangement is now in existence.
:Since 1st October, the posting time on week-days in London for delivery by first post throughout England and Wales on the following week-day has been 3. p.m. in Head District Areas (3.30 p.m. at Head District Offices), and 1.45–2.15 p.m. in Sub-District Areas—two hours later than formerly. The corresponding posting time on Sundays, at a restricted number of posting boxes, is now 2 p.m. in Head District Areas, and 1 p.m. in sub District Areas—one hour later than formerly.
:Is the hon. Gentleman aware that those times are very far from being adhered to, and that the postal delivery service at present is very bad indeed in many parts of the country?
:These times represent an improvement and, as my Noble Friend has stated in another place, he hopes to make a further announcement at an early date when staffing difficulties can be overcome.
Do I understand from the hon. Gentleman's reply that these hours are applicable in the provinces? Is he aware that a letter takes 48 hours to travel 14 miles?
Will the hon. Gentleman look into the other end of the case and see that some improvement is made in the delivery of the letters?
:This Question, of course, refers to deliveries from London to the country, but we are looking into the whole of this matter. The main difficulty has been shortage of staff. As soon as staffing can be improved, we shall improve the services, but it should be borne in mind that these services can only run parallel with improvements in transport.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware that there is pilfering from parcels, etc., mailed to and by members of the Forces serving in S.E.A.C.; and what steps he is taking to check this practice.
:I am not aware of any general complaint relating to the South East Asia Command such as is suggested by the Question. But if he will forward me particulars of the cases he has in mind, I will gladly have them investigated in co-operation with the Army postal authorities.
Is my hon. Friend aware that I have already forwarded some such cases to his Noble Friend, andthat I received from his Noble Friend this morning a letter which shows that his Department have not the faintest idea of how serious and widespread this trouble is? Will my hon. Friend look into it himself with the Army postal authorities?
Bradford (Office Site)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if, in his Department's long-term building programme, he will arrange for the transfer of Bradford G.P.O. to a more suitable site in order to facilitate the re-planning of the city centre.
:The present site of the Bradford G.P.O. is suitable in every way and will meet requirements for an indefinite period. There is no reason therefore, so far as the Post Office is concerned, for its removal to another site. I shall be willing, however, to consider the matter further when the replanning of the city centre has taken a more definite shape.
:Whilst I thank my hon. Friend for his very encouraging reply, will he define a little more closely what he means by "an indefinite period"? Does he not realise that the city council and authorities of Bradford are unable to proceed with their replanning of the city until they know with greater certainty about the intentions with regard to this bureaucratic abortion of a building?
:Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the post office hides a very beautiful cathedral, and that it should never have been put there?
Yes, Sir, representations were made in 1922 about the post office being opposite the cathedral, but it was pointed out that the building was perfectly good for its purpose, and at the present time, owing to the shortage of labour, it would be impossible to contemplate moving the building.
Radio-Telegraph Service (Ships)
asked the Assistant Postmaster General when it is proposed to re-open the radiotelegraph service between the United Kingdom and ships at sea.
British and Allied Naval authorities still have to exercise some measure of control over the movements of merchant shipping, and the resulting volume of wireless traffic restricts the possibilities of handling commercial messages to and from ships. For this reason, only messages on ships'business can be accepted at present, but it is hoped to reopen the full service of private radio telegrams in about two months' time.
:Now that the movement of ships is no longer secret, cannot the hon. Gentleman say what is the real reason for the delay in denying to the public the facilities they should have and did have in peacetime?
:There are physical limits to the amount of traffic that coast stations can absorb, and naval authorities still have to guide ships for safety purposes and for routing. Until the Admiralty have finished with that job we cannot accept any more traffic.
Is the present volume of traffic bigger than the volume in peacetime?
There was not the work in peacetime that there has been during the war, and we have not got back to peacetime conditions.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the reason for the continued inefficiency of the telephone service.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the answer given to his question on 25th October. As I explained then, the effect of the steps which are being taken to improve the telephone service is bound to be gradual.
In view of the fact that only two days ago I, as one user among millions, experienced five wrong numbers within an hour and a half, will the hon. Gentleman consider handing over the system to private enterprise?
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the cause of the high proportion of wrongnumbers which telephone callers now experience; and whether there is any technical remedy.
:The percentage of wrong numbers at present averages about 1·5 per cent. in London, and 1 per cent. elsewhere. War conditions—both actual damage and shortage of maintenance staff—have inevitably resulted in some deterioration of telephone equipment. Technical improvements are continually being developed, and as these are put into service and as additional staff becomes available gradual improvements in the quality of service should result.
:While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that hopeful answer, may I ask whether subscribers are charged for this inefficiency on the part of the Post Office in getting wrong numbers?
:I do not accept the charge of inefficiency. Subscribers are not charged. They sometimes get their own wrong numbers, and always feel certain that they are right, although they are not always as right as they feel they are.
Withregard to the standard of service, can the hon. Gentleman say what has happened to the vast network of telephone lines which served the needs of the Services during the war? How much of that equipment has been released to the public in order to improve the service?
:Two thousand five hundred new trunk lines have been laid during the past few months, but I must point out that many lines which were laid by the Services were laid in remote districts, and are not usable by the ordinary population.
Is my hon. Friend satisfied that all automatic exchanges are now fitted with adequate earphones?
the Assistant Post master-General whether he is aware that there is neither a post office nor public telephone in the village of Foxley, Nor folk; and if he will provide better postal facilities for this village.
:There is a sub-post office and a telephone kiosk at Foxley. So far as postal facilities are concerned, the wartime service generally will be improved as soon as staff are demobilised and transport facilities improve.
asked the Assistant Post master-General why he is closing the post office serving the village of Beetley, near Dereham, Norfolk; whether another office will be openedin the village; or what arrangements will be made to pay old age pensions and otherwise serve the needs of this village.
:The sub-postmistress of Beetley resigned on 2nd November at short notice owing to ill-health. A successor will be appointedas soon as possible. In the meantime, as from 9th November, a Post Office clerk from Dereham Head Post Office will attend on Mondays and Fridays from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to deal with postal business.
the Assistant Postmaster General whether he is aware of the inadequate post office facilities on the Hollyhedge housing estate, Manchester; that people have to queue to purchase stamps and transact post office business; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this state of affairs.
:No part of this estate is more than one mile from a post office. The Hollyhedge Post Office is a busy one, and there was some congestion until a third assistant was engaged a few weeks ago. I am advised that the service is now satisfactory.
:On a point of Order. Would it not save time, Mr. Speaker, if such Questions were put in for non-oral answer?
asked the Assistant Postmaster General when it is intended to link up the Isle of Scarp, Harris, with the main islands and the mainland.
:A telephone connection to the Isle of Scarp, Harris, would be very little used and could not be provided by the Post Office without contributions from the interested local authorities. The extension of telephone service to the mainland from islands round Scotland has already involved heavy burdens, and the Post Office would not be justified in incurring a further heavy loss in providing service to such a small island.
Can my hon. Friend say why about 90 British citizens have been denied these facilities in this part of the Empire, for which they fought alongside the City of London and other places?
The provision of telephone services to the islands around Scotland has involved considerableloss, and in this case we do not think that we would be justified in incurring more loss.
But can my hon. Friend justify this discrimination against this body of British citizens?
Is it now the principle of the Post Office that every section must be on a self-supporting basis?
No, Sir, that is not the principle, but there are limits to which the principle of spreading can be carried.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether in relation to applications for sub-post offices in crowded urban areas the limit of one mile as between such offices is the fixed condition, or if the convenience of the local inhabitants, after the inquiry, is taken into consideration.
The standard interval in urban areas is one mile, but it is applied with due regard to the convenience of the local inhabitants.
Will the hon. Gentleman give consideration to special circumstances affecting Birmingham?
Yes, Sir, if the hon. Member will send on particulars of any case we will look at them.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this Question was put on the Paper after a very long correspondence?
Are sub-offices sited without any regard to the population involved?
No, Sir. As I said in my answer, the convenience of the public is always considered. The rule is not rigid; it can be departed from if circumstances warrant it.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General at which sub-post offices in the Outer Hebrides, at present without money-order facilities, it is in tended to provide this service.
:There is, so far as I am aware, no public demand for the extension of money order facilities to any office in the Outer Hebrides, but if the hon. Member will let me have the name of any particular office he has in mind I will have inquiry made.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the intentions of His Majesty's Government in respect of conditions and hours of service and staffing in sub-post offices; provision and improvement of premises; and pay and super-annuation of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses.
:The matters referred to by the hon. Member are being discussed with the Federation of Sub-Postmasters, and no decisions have so far been reached.
Can my hon.Friend give any indication as to Government policy in connection with a very inadequate payment of sub-postmasters and postmistresses? Is any improvement to be expected?
It would not be right for me, while negotiations are going on through the accepted machinery, to make a statement now.
:Would not my hon. Friend agree that the most effective way of improving the present situation lies in the making of these small sub-offices into Crown offices? Would he do that quickly?
It is the general policy of the Department to convert sub-offices into Crown offices.
Business Reply Service
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he proposes to restore the business reply service.
I am glad to be able to announce that the service will be restored on 1st December next.
Radio Reception, Hampshire
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware that residents in the Winchester and Southampton areas have repeatedly complained to the B.B.C. of poor radio reception; that these complaints have not been treated satisfactorily; and whether he will take the necessary action to get better transmission of both Home and Light Programmes
:I have been asked to reply. The difficulties in this particular area arise, to some extent, from a misunderstanding on the part of listeners as to which of the available wavelengths is most suitable. Reception of the West of England Home Service on 514 metres is satisfactory. The B.B.C. are considering methods of improving the transmission arrangements of the London Home Service. Reception of the Light Programme on 1,500 metres should be as satisfactory as in the case of the National Programme before the war.
:Is the Minister aware that there is a large part of the country which extends further North than Hampshire, into Berkshire, where reception is always unsatisfactory? My set makes a noise like a hive of bees.
:Is the Minister aware that this dissatisfaction is widespread on the South coast, and that to make representations to the B.B.C. is futile? Is he further aware that the Government have taken no action to improve reception, or to ensure that sets receive on the frequencies that are used? Will he do something about it?
:I am not accepting the castigation from the hon. Member. The President of the Board of Trade indicated on Monday last that we are dealing with the long-wave band. All the Departments appreciate the difficulties, and we are trying to tackle them in a practical way.