§ Mr. Burke
I should like to make a short statement about the proposed improvements in postal services. My Noble Friend intends in May, with the co-operation of the railway companies, to restore seven more travelling post offices which will enable the Post Office to guarantee delivery by first post next week day anywhere in England and Wales of correspondence posted in London in time for the 4 to 5.30 p.m. collections. Posting times will also be improved in other parts of the country for delivery by first post on the following week day. In October, my Noble Friend intends practically to complete the restoration of the network of night travelling post offices which will give a posting time of 6 to 0.30 p.m. in London for delivery by first post next week day. Posting times will also be improved further in other parts of the country.
My Noble Friend, also, intends with the further co-operation of the railway companies, to make a start in May with scheduling parcel mails to individual passenger trains, a practice which had to be abandoned during the war. By October next, further progress will be made in accelerating parcel mail circulation and the interval between posting and delivery should be reduced by as much as 24 hours on medium and 48 hours on long distances. My Noble Friend would like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the helpful spirit of co-operation in which the railway companies have sought to overcome their great working difficulties in order to improve the letter and parcel mail services.
With regard to air services, as night flying inland air services develop, my Noble Friend proposes to use them to improve the mail service in suitable cases. To begin with, first priority is being given to consideration of a night flying service between England and Northern Ireland and Eire.
As regards letter collections and deliveries, the position will be considerably improved this summer in many places, and by the end of the year the improvement will be general. In London, on week days, excepting Saturdays, additional collections will be made at 7.30 p.m. and 9.0 p.m., the 9.0 p.m. collection being restricted in the central 957 area. On Saturdays and Sundays, the last collection will be at 6 to 6.30 p.m. There will be five deliveries—one a restricted delivery—in head districts in place of the present three deliveries, and the starting time of the final delivery in head and sub-districts will be 7.0 p.m. instead of 3 to 4.15 p.m., as at present. We shall aim at an earlier finish for the first delivery. In provincial towns, a later collection, restricted as before the war to certain collecting boxes, will be given at 8 to 8.45 p.m., and the afternoon collection will be made later in many rural districts, timed generally to connect with the outgoing main evening mail from head office. In provincial towns of 50,000 inhabitants and over, there will be an additional delivery, making three in all in the central districts. In rural areas having only one delivery at present, an additional delivery will be given where the traffic justifies this service. My Noble Friend proposes, in connection with these changes, to give provincial towns postmen on outdoor services a half-holiday on Saturdays by making the final delivery at about noon to 1.0 p.m. and the final collection at about 6.0 p.m. He proposes a concession on similar lines for postmen serving rural areas. It will be open to local authorities to take up individual cases with the Post Office, if they so desire.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether these improvements, brought about with the cooperation of the railway companies, will mean a return to the prewar rates of postage?
§ Mr. Tom Smith
Can my hon. Friend say whether improvement of the postal facilities in the House of Commons is contemplated?
§ Mr. Nicholson
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether his Department has calculated the possibility of their plans going wrong owing to the grave shortage of coal affecting the railways; and if he proposes to invite the Leader of the House to enable us to have a Debate on this important matter?
§ Mr. H. Wallace
I am afraid that I did not catch altogether what my hon. Friend said. I would like to be clear 958 on the matter. I think that he referred to the final delivery in London being at 7 p.m. I am not sure whether he said that he hoped it might be possible to improve and accelerate the despatch of that delivery—
§ Mr. Wallace
I apologise if I have not put my remarks in the correct form. May I ask why the concession to postmen in the provinces is apparently not to apply to London postmen? I should like to know why they are excluded.
§ Mr. Butcher
May I ask the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he cannot improve the postal services to the North of Scotland? I am sorry to hear that air postal services are not mentioned in his statement, as there is no doubt that it takes four days for letters to reach certain areas in Scotland.
§ Mr. Langford-Holt
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether he will be able to make a similar statement concerning the improvement of telephone services?