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Postage Rates For Christmas Cards

Volume 413: debated on Thursday 16 October 1980

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3.20 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state the reasons advanced by the Post Office unions for turning down the "cheap stamps for early posting of Christmas cards" scheme.

My Lords, this is a matter for the Post Office and the Union of Communications Workers, but I understand that the UCW did not feel that it was adequately consulted when the proposal was put forward in 1978.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that that Answer is almost as unsatisfactory as his Answer of last week? Would he not agree that this proposal combines both service to the public and the efficiency of operation of the Post Office, and that, therefore, the Government should have an attitude towards the kind of lack of co-operation which we see in this case in the Post Office union?

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord feels that it is unsatisfactory, but it is nevertheless true. So far as service and the efficiency of the Post Office are concerned, those are entirely matters for the management of the Post Office itself.

My Lords, is it known whether, when the unions poured cold water on this scheme, they were bearing in mind that a very large number of Christmas cards are sold on behalf of charities who rely upon Christmas cards for a very considerable proportion of their income?

My Lords, I hope the House will agree that the Government are not responsible for the attitude, nor indeed for the ideas, of the Union of Communications Workers. But no doubt the noble Lord will recall everything that was said in regard to charitable Christmas cards in my last answer.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether I misheard him? Did he say in answer to the Question that the unions felt they were not adequately consulted in 1978?—because we are now in 1980. Was nothing done last year and have they not been consulted again this year?

My Lords, I think the noble Baroness will be aware that today's Question is a result of the Question which she asked last week. The consultations which took place, and which, I think, are the subject of the Question that is on today's Order Paper, took place in 1978.

My Lords, would the Government propose to suggest to the Post Office that they should consult with the unions concerned to get an up-to-date point of view from the unions?

My Lords, any consultations between management and unions are entirely matters for the management of the Post Office.

My Lords, is the Minister really saying that the Government have no attitude on this kind of thing, because he cannot rely on monetary policy to solve problems in the nationalised industries which are damaging to the public and to their own efficiency? Surely, the noble Lord must agree that the Government should, at least, state where they stand.

My Lords, the Government do not state where they stand, so far as the management of the Post Office is concerned. Whatever the noble Lord may feel, this is a matter for the management of the Post Office.

My Lords, does the noble Lord not realise that his Government could do with a little popularity, and this is what we are trying to help him with?

My Lords, we are very grateful, as well as thrilled and delighted, for help from all around the House. But, alas! as I have said all through these two Questions, both last week and today, even in this sector the Government do not influence the management of the Post Office. No doubt the noble Lord could get in touch directly with the Post Office himself. I even have the postcode.