The demise of snail mail

Lord Norton

I have previously written about the decline in the volume of letters received in the Palace of Westminster.  At the beginning of each year, I put down a question to find out how many items of correspondence were received in the Palace in the preceding year.  I have now received the figure for 2012. 

The figures for 2005 onwards are (with the percentage going to the Lords in parenthesis):

2005  4,733,000 (estimate) (20%)

2006 4,789,935  (no % given for the Lords)

2007  4,199,853 (20%)

2008  4,135,144 (15%)

2009 3,540,080 (25%)

2010  3,082,187 (25%)

2011  2,691,576 (25%)

2012  2,544,019 (25%)

The number of letters coming in by mail has decreased markedly in recent years and is now almost half of the figure for 2005.   There is little evidence of demands on parliamentarians declining.  MPs in particular continue to have bulging files of constituency casework.  What appears to be happening is that correspondents are switching from paper to the Internet.  E-mail correspondence is cheap and quick to send and, unlike letters, can be sent in bulk.  Organisations lobbying on a particular issue can add bulky attachments without having to stick all the material in a large envelope. 

The result is that e-mail boxes are overflowing, while the pile of letters declines in size.  The result, I suspect, is that more material now flows into the Palace than ever before, the volume of e-mails more than compensating for the reduction in the number of letters.  As yet, I have no hard data to support this.  E-mail traffic is not monitored, but from my own experience outside bodies seem to be relying more on e-mail correspondence and sending more, either or both in terms of the number of parliamentarians contacted and the number of e-mails, than used to be the case with snail mail.  

Keeping pace with the volume of correspondence has always been a problem.  As more and more comes in electronically, and at a time when demands for more expenses are not likely to find a sympathetic ear, the challenge to parliamentarians (especially MPs) is going to be pronounced.

42 comments for “The demise of snail mail

  1. Lord Blagger
    22/01/2013 at 12:09 pm

    That will be one of your 6 annual questions completed.

    At 2,700 a day, a lots of days attended, its a lot of money to pay to find out how many bits of mail come in.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      22/01/2013 at 3:09 pm

      Given that the figures are collected anyway, putting them in the public domain is hardly a great cost, and probably costs a great deal less than it costs to prepare responses to FoI requests.

      • Lord Blagger
        23/01/2013 at 2:45 pm

        So here’s another take.

        You’re worried about mail like some milk monitor in a primary school. Have to keep tabs on the mail. It’s really import, Sir told me its my primary job.

        Meanwhile, the frauds get covered up. The fraudsters are still sitting in the Lords collecting the cash, costing the public serious money.

        It’s been three years, since you promised action. There hasn’t been any. Not one movement at all.

        We have cover up after cover up. Peers like Melvyn Bragg gets caught. (FOI again – random sample) Were the train robbers offered that option? Look, if you just give the cash back, you can go Scott free. You might even get to carry on robbing, doing the job you’ve been doing.

        So come on, how’s the progress on kicking out Peers convicted of offences going? Or its it still dependent on getting more money from the public as ‘redundancy’ What’s redundancy for a job that’s just expenses and not a salary anyway?

        Ah yes, we need to get the money in because we’ve hidden 5,300 bn off the books in the biggest Ponzi fraud going.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          23/01/2013 at 9:40 pm

          Lord Blagger: If you bothered to do some research you would know where the problem lies – it is not with the Lords, which has passed a Bill to expel peers convicted of serious offences, but with the Commons, which so far has done nothing with the Bill. The Lords cannot make law. It relies on the Commons and so far it has taken no action on the Bill.

          • Lord Blagger
            23/01/2013 at 9:53 pm


            We’ve had other Peers congratulating themselves because they originated bills that have become law.

            Are you saying they are lying? Or is it puffery?

            For example, the Steele Bill. Originates in the Lords doesn’t it.

            The core problem lies with the Lords.

            They are the ones committing the offences.

            It’s also entirely in the Lords remit to publish the reports into what went on along with the correspondence of those who’ve been suspended.

            The Lords could have suspended them for 20 years, or for life. What are they going to do ? Sue to get their jobs back?

            It’s entirely in the Lords hands.

            So why the cover up? Why the state secrecy over what they have done? Why allow the Clerk of Parliaments to investigate his own handling?

            Nothing to do with the commons.

            Why were Blacks and Asians disproportionately targeted?

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          24/01/2013 at 9:56 am

          Lord Blagger: This rather proves my point about your incapacity to grasp the point. Of course Bills can originate in the Lords. They may then become law. They become law because the House of Commons considers them and approves them. If it fails to do so, the Bill fails. The Steel Bill originated in the Lords, has been passed by the Lords, and is now with the Commons. If it fails to pass it, it cannot become law.

          The existing powers of the Lords are extremely limited. That is why we want to change the law. I suggest you spend some time reading both some textbooks on the parliamentary process – I can suggest some good ones – as well as reading reports from the House on those members who were suspended.

          • Lord Blagger
            24/01/2013 at 11:26 am

            I’ve read more than you think.

            Now, what about the days that Peers have attended.

            Why should I receive a state secrecy certificate when that question is asked?

            You’ve said the information is available? Where?

            Now you and I suspect quite reasonable think it should be available, but its been covered up.

            I’ll tell you the reason. The Clerk of Parliaments has been handing out the cash. If we have the dates of entry, when Peers attend, we can check the claims off against the real attendance. That would show lots of Peers have been defrauding us.

            Then there is the Offence that the Clerk has to deal with. It’s Malfeasance in a Public office. If you hand out public money in a negligent way, or were aware of what is going on, and didn’t put controls in place, its off the clink.

            On the last part, that’s why he investigate himself, and then when asked for the results of the investigation, another state secrecy certificate.

            So lets ask for the correspondance between the corrupt Peers and the Lords. Guess what, yet another state secrecy certificate, sign yet again by one of the people involved in the mess.

            It more than stinks.

          • maude elwes
            30/01/2013 at 11:40 am

            Lords reform is a necessity.

            Lean, mean and keen should be the slogan.

            Cut away the fat, shove out neanderthals and take only those with a mission to return us to the land of the chosen few. Intellectually and street smart that means, so no calls from Gareth on his block end idea of isms…. England needs you to love it! And quick.

  2. Gareth Huw Howell
    22/01/2013 at 12:25 pm

    Not only snail mail but those things in the past which as a matter of form, required a hand written typed invitation, or even xmas cards.

    I collect my snail mail so rarely that any Xmas card or invitation is usually found three months later sodden at the bottom of the box along with any amount of junk snail mail, which goes straight in the bin.

    There are many online greetings card companies and electronic mail, whilst not having quite the same “writ” power as snail mail, is an extremely effective alternative.
    Some people require receipts to e-mail which is an effective method of proof of receipt.

    What is slightly worrying that as a result of the corruption of the ” @ ” sign by twitter and others, we shall all end up paying as much for our E-mail as we ever did for the snail mail variety.

    The programming protocol for free e-mail has been corrupted.

  3. Lord Blagger
    22/01/2013 at 4:04 pm


    How about signing state secret certificates?

    How much does that cost?

    Hmm lets see. Clerk of Parliaments has the job of handing out other people’s money to you.

    Lots of Peers commit fraud.

    Clerk of Parliaments investigates himself.

    When asked under an FOI request, can we see the investigation.

    As quick as Bob’s your uncle, you get a state secrecy certificate back.

    When it comes to finding out which days Peers actually attended and get into the prime terrorist target in London, Bob’s your uncle, another state secrecy certificate.

    After all, with the days you’ve attended, and the days you’ve claimed, Peers would be rumbled.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/01/2013 at 9:43 pm

      The days peers attend and the days for which they claim is on the record.

      • Lord Blagger
        23/01/2013 at 9:59 pm

        Nope. I have a state secrecy certificate denying me access to the days attended.

        The days claimed are on the record.

        • 26/01/2013 at 7:17 pm

          If you are worried about cost, surely the important figure is how many days were claimed for. This will always be no greater than the number of days attended. Some (admittedly wealthy) peers don’t claim anything, yet still attend occasionally (as can be seen as they make speeches etc.).Either they are attending for nothing, or they don’t attend and so cost the taxpayer nothing. I don’t see how there can be a mythical list of attendance other than who has claimed or spoken in the chamber. Members don’t have to spend all day in the chamber. Dishonest ones could claim then sneak out rather than sit in their office (as can many employees) but there’s hardly going to be an official record of this!

  4. Old Albion
    22/01/2013 at 5:44 pm

    Perhaps it’s because us ‘Plebs’ know no one in Westminster takes a blind bit of notice at what we want.
    But at least an e-mail is quick and easy.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/01/2013 at 9:42 pm

      Some of us pay quite a lot of attention to the communications we receive. I have initiated debates as a result of material sent in to me.

  5. ladytizzy
    22/01/2013 at 7:18 pm

    Snail Mail My Email* is a “Ronseal”** project that is free – as any good project should be. The site has obligingly provided a striking dot=client+year world map in that it shows a per capita slump in the UK in 2012 when compared with 2011, its first year; this observation is reversed in the USA.

    Without further information it would be irresponsible to infer anything useful. However, a tiny bit of digging threw up this rather alarming claim:

    Relationships could be at stake this year if people fail to send physical Christmas cards to friends and family, new research reveals.***

    Might this be usefully adapted for a personal or offical auto-receipt?

    ** My favourite chanced-upon company name remains Avoid-A-Trench, noted on a van while I was stuck in traffic.

  6. Gareth Huw Howell
    23/01/2013 at 9:12 am

    Bill Gates does not require his stamps to be Franked in quite the same way; he has gone pico or femto. That’s enough!

    Clever though to have a potential fee paying global customer base for the right to… write, even over and above the right to put pen to paper at all.

  7. Senex
    23/01/2013 at 4:20 pm

    People should be aware that email correspondence is not private or as secure as a postal letter. A postal letter is the preferred medium of Parliaments actors. The state is asking for your trust; your emails will not be read. However, this will not apply to any Member of Parliament under state surveillance. The eyes have it, the eyes have it!

    Ref: Joint Select Committee Report: Draft Communications Data Bill

  8. Princeps Senatus
    24/01/2013 at 8:30 am

    Dear Lord Norton,
    I’m fairly certain that it would be possible to make an FOI request for the number of emails sent by external senders to the parliamentary mailboxes of their Members & their staff for the past few years.
    Of course, any statistics are distorted by the fact that people can either snail-mail or email their MPs through their constituency offices/external websites.

    • Gareth Huw Howell
      24/01/2013 at 6:30 pm

      Glad to read Princeps Senatus.

      email correspondence is not private or as secure as a postal letter.

      Far,far from it. I think my e-mail is read a s a matter of course by the local Corps of signals army base for good practice! HA!Ha!ha!

      If you use the word Terr*or and other words too often, the likelihood of your post not arriving becomes quite high. I have absolutely no objection to that particular surveillance of my post.

      Even more insidious is the Google attempt at monopolizing various aspects of the market using similar methods.

      The Search engine Startpage now provides google searches without the google knowledge of who you are and what you are doing and why you are doing it, which is google’s power.

      Startpage does not collect information of any sort and is entirely private. I now use it.

  9. Nazma FOURRE
    24/01/2013 at 1:24 pm

    Dear Lord Norton
    I totally agree that laws can come from the House of lords and reality proves it. Without the agreement of the lords, law cannot be made up. Lords are important. Hope one day, some day, I could join the House of Lords; Please ammend laws so that European citizens could join the House of Lords.
    God bless the United Kingdom. God saves the Queen and the lords.
    Nazma FOURRE

    • Lord Blagger
      24/01/2013 at 3:56 pm

      So who would be the first peer to complain about migrants stealing our peerages. 🙂

    • Lord Blagger
      25/01/2013 at 11:22 am

      The convention is well established by a chap called Henry Root.

      You send them a letter outlining your plans, enclose a banknote, in anticipation of receiving a Peerage, or if you enclose coins, a Knighthood.

      It’s worked well in the past.

  10. MilesJSD
    24/01/2013 at 2:16 pm

    So much mail, snail and email, only shows how badly Parliament is recognising and best-meeting every-one’s Real Needs.
    (NB please:
    for instance, to the working mind, fat overpayments such as to “stars” and CEO Bankers do not qualify to be termed “real needs”.
    £300 per week per human-being, that is a Real Need
    [but no-one has yet explained why Parliament fixes the “sufficient one-human-living” at £143 per week for All;
    but allows gross overpayments, on a perpetually sliding scale also not visible to the Public, of many human-livings-per-week to literally tens of millions of individual British workplace-citizens including practically all civil servants, drawing at least two human-livings each per week].

    Even Lord Blagger is streets ahead of the House of Lords, in feeding you back outrightly that
    (“) you need to start recognising and meeting every-one’s needs(“).

    £40,000 a week take-home pay per week per ‘Big’-Banker
    contrasted with a more needful £200 guaranteed minimum income
    adds uo to 200 human-livings-per-week, into the pockets and hands of just one “equal” human-being.
    Britain is so obviously not fit-for-life-purpose even at ten-year-old maths level.
    That is why so many honest Britons are having to keep on writing-in to Parliament Houses.

  11. Lord Blagger
    24/01/2013 at 3:54 pm

    £40,000 a week take-home pay per week per ‘Big’-Banker
    contrasted with a more needful £200 guaranteed minimum income
    adds uo to 200 human-livings-per-week, into the pockets and hands of just one “equal” human-being.


    1. Stop taxing people on min wage.
    2. Stop paying benefits above min wage.
    3. For those not working, meet everyone else half way. Get a job.

    With millions of migrant workers, there are jobs out there. You’ve got an inbuilt advantage, you speak English. You’ve received a top class, 5,500 pounds a year education from the state that equips you to work in the real world.

    Yep, no reason not get on a bus to get some work. If people move thousands of miles to get work, 50 miles isn’t much to ask.

    • maude elwes
      28/01/2013 at 2:14 pm


      What you refuse to admit or perhaps percieve, is, that government is well aware that the minimum wage is dramatically below the true cost of living. What you should be pushing for is exactly what Miles is trying to daily promote, and that is, a minimum living amount, in his estimation, is £200.00 a week, round about. How modest and how truly sacrificial. Especially when you take into account quantative easing is creating a level of inflation not seen since the 70’s. We all know it’s happening, as the crazy housing bubble is repeating itself, always a front runner. We are once again on the rounds of Germany just before WW11. Next week, Miles, a loaf of bread will be £200.00. And unless you are up there with Phillip Green your morning slice of toast will be well above your means.

      We have children running the country.

      • Gareth Huw Howell
        28/01/2013 at 7:28 pm

        well aware that the minimum wage is dramatically below the true cost of living. What you should be pushing for is exactly what Miles is trying to daily promote, and that is, a minimum living amount, in his estimation, is £200.00 a week, round about

        Basic OAP £130 is sufficient to get along with, if you do not drive a car. Driving a car is another “mouth to feed”, the petrol syphon. You might use it once a week for pleasure, if you had saved up for one whilst working. It is a luxury not a necessity.

        Minimum wage is linked to maximum benefit while out of work. In circumstances where you drop below minimum wage, a claim for supplementary support is given consideration.
        Few people who are at that level, are capable of working out what they have a right to.

        Tax credits are slightly different, for those who pop in and out of work with some regularity.

        I may be mistaken but more than £150/wk may be the minimum wage at the moment. If you have the right to claim benefit then you might not have to pay anything more than class 4 NI contributions,(nominal) which would otherwise take a chunk out of the pay packet.

        • maude elwes
          29/01/2013 at 12:56 pm

          @Gareth H Howell:

          I think you are being absurd. I don’t know where you are coming from, but, just to heat your flat, one bedroom, with gas and electricity is running at around £50.00 per week. Unless you are suggesting we all look forward to a death of hyperthermia and no hot drinks or warm food. The cost of petrol you speak of has nothing to do with it. Except if you live in the countryside, then it becomes mandatory as there is little transport any longer. Water bills, council tax, occasional repairs to house. Roof leaking, tap dripping, need a repair man for some necessity. Just the call out charge is £55 quid. If you can find one at this low rate.

          Or, if you can use transport to get you to a supermarket that still costs a pretty penny for those on this kind of income.

          Add to that a TV licence, another luxury item, the cost of broadband and telephone, more luxury items, occasional clothing and shoes, less you go without and put paper in the soles, and lets not forget real food, unless of course you are suggesting that fast food or processsed food is what we should all be eating to save money but which increases two fold the cost of the NHS. Cleaning fluids, toothpaste, toilet rolls more luxury items we can do without, use your newspaper and get a back bottom. Laundry powder, not necessary of course, unless if you want to get sores and lice. And if you live in London, or, any major city, the costs are always very much higher. What two or three years ago cost £50 is now £80 and rising, of course that old pesky thing called privatised utilities keep fleecing us all as they fight like rats in a corner for your custom but have no intention of giving you any kind of service. Its laughable.

          All I can say about your living conditions on what you rate as luxury must be the life of an unwashed, toothless (dental costs) half blind as no glasses, hermit.

          • Lord Blagger
            29/01/2013 at 2:04 pm

            And you’ve left out the tax.

            I presume this is because you get his money, and if he cottons on where his hard earned money is going, he might think, hold on, why should I be poor so someone else can live a better life than me?

          • GaretHugHowell
            06/02/2013 at 12:09 pm

            All I can say about your living conditions on what you rate as luxury must be the life of an unwashed, toothless (dental costs) half blind as no glasses, hermit.

            Heh!Ha!He! Maude can be very amusing when she doe snot know what she is talking about. When she does it is just plain boring.

            Disregarding my comments about pounds (£) per week above I was forgetting that the minimum wages is in fact an hourly calculation, rising at the age of 16,18,21
            to about £5/hr which means a weekly wage of
            £200 gross, but a net wage after deductions of about £170(?)

            That minumum wage for 40 hours is applied across the board to what the unemployed and Pensioners need, in order to maintain themselves adequately. So their wage is similar to that of the minimum wage earner, based on the basket of needs which is checked statistically every week, or more frequently.

            As regards unwashed, toothless etc, being sugar free, alcohol and ciggies free, but winter warmth intensive, about 12% of my annual income goes on elec and oil. Bathing is as much a luxury for me as using a car every day to go to the supermarket is for other wasteful people. I don’t have toy boats or ducks for the bath however. they are bit pricey.

  12. Lord Blagger
    28/01/2013 at 3:45 pm

    What you refuse to admit or perhaps percieve, is, that government is well aware that the minimum wage is dramatically below the true cost of living. What


    No. I’m arguing something different.

    The after tax, the take home pay, of a min wage earner is not sufficient.

    The problem is that for the min wage earner, they are being taxed a huge percentage of their earners. Stop taxing them, and the living wage and min wage coincide.

    So the obvious conclusion is that its the state that’s doing the damage.

    As for QE, of course its creating inflation. It’s all ended up with the government whose spent it without a plan on paying it back.

    So why should the poor be taxed so you get their money from the state?

    • maude elwes
      31/01/2013 at 12:13 pm

      Was the ‘his money’ quip supposed to be a red rag to a bull sentence, Blagger? Mmm?

      Well you won’t get my goat by that politically correct gesture. I am a believer in womens’s rights, and those rights go like this.

      I marry you on the grounds that should I have to give up my career or job, because I have our child or children, as, we ‘both’ do not believe in farming our offspring out to another we consider inferior to my mothering practice. Then, you, as the breadwinner in our house, swears and makes a contract with me, prior to this marriage, that you will support me and any children we have, fully and until they are adults out of university.

      I will promise, as a leveller, to keep the home we have jointly, in perfect running order. See you are well fed, with dinner on the table, no matter who cooks it, your laundry and dry cleaning are tidily placed in your wardobe, any animals we have likewise taken care of. Except when they are taken on mud runs in order for you to play games elshere. At which point it will then be your responsibility to wash or bathe any paws, hooves, or ears.

      I also promise to run all matters of education for said children, even if that should mean home schooling, or, if not, pack and mend, clean and deliver to boarding school all and sundry. Run and arrange all birthday parites ferrying all the guests and making sure all is kept away from your miserable git face when they make such ghastly noise thus making it impossible for you to think straight.

      I will run all dinner parties and any other soiree’s we decide to have.

      I will also manage and run all repairs to household, any interior design projects and handy men or builders, tradesmen or what have you, so as not to interupt your ability to earn us that living.

      I will likewise make every effort to be presentable at social functions, a good hostess, have intelligent conversations and listen attentively when you are annoyed. This does not include obedience but it does involve respect as well as admiration for your prowess and ability to take on this role of faith lovingly.

      Additionally I will keep myself only unto you.

      If you decide, as time passes, that I no longer turn you on, your duty as this bread winner will not change in any way. However, I will not act like a fish wife as long as you remain the gentleman you are.

      And additionally, it is agreed by us both, that we are joint owners of all we amass, until death do us part.

      You see, I am a ‘feminist’ who believes in the power of men to provide as their rightful duty. I also believe it gives them a satisfaction and sense of fulfilment in their role as husband and father that no political doctrine can usurp.

      The outcome being, happy man, happy woman, happy offspring, happy home.

      • Lord Blagger
        01/02/2013 at 11:14 am

        I’m not sure which quip you’re talking about Maude.

        On your reply, if that’s your choice, its your choice. You shouldn’t impose that on others, as I shouldn’t impose my decisions on you. [PS I do agree with what you’ve said]

        However, Peers just want to dictate to others.

        • maude elwes
          04/02/2013 at 12:14 pm

          However, Blagger, abandoning children and family life ‘is’ imposed on women directly and indirectly by the pressure of political misfits who claim they know what women want. When the reality is, it is what they want, and that is a work force that lowers the wage or salary of the majority. Too many people of working age result in a deplorable lowering of living standards. Which creates an imbalance that is unsustainable in a modern Western society.

          All governments know this and move relentlessly to keep it hidden. The trend being, family life is a miserable existance only suitable for retards who cannot see the wonders of exploitation by employers. And look at the horrendous result of their heavy masculine attitude on the natural people of this country. Male, female, young and old.

          Do you feel it may be because the Blair creature is still running the entire show from behind the scenes the way he tells us he is?

          These washed up politicians are like old hams, you simply cannot get them off stage without a good hook. They inists on being the pork in our halal.

          • Lord Blagger
            05/02/2013 at 10:51 am

            Far simpler Maude. It’s down to debt.

            Just like Chris Huhne and his speeding tickets, they are lying about their debts.

            What they then need is cash, just to prolong the inevitable. So what better than to get mothers working. Wrap it up in what ever political guise they want, but they are desperate for cash.

            So for the mods? Can I name the peer who told my cab driver this morning he was going to the lords, to claim expenses and find a quite room to have a sleep.

          • Hansard Society
            Beccy Allen
            05/02/2013 at 4:25 pm

            Not unless you have video evidence….

  13. lordmclean
    01/02/2013 at 7:10 pm

    Lord Blagger: I approve of your argument, therefore I fully agree that the peasants are taxed far too high.

  14. Lord Blagger
    04/02/2013 at 11:47 am

    If we take one ‘Standard British Peasant’. Min wage earner.

    They have to slave for a year, just to pay the costs of one Peer for a day.

    Assuming of course, they want or need no services for their taxes.

    Unfortunately, Peers have a Nero complex. They won’t discuss the major issue, which is debts, state debts. 7,000 bn plus of debts, on taxes of 550 bn a year, and spending of 700 bn plus.

    It’s bust, and they are playing the fiddle, in more than one way.

    • GaretHugHowell
      06/02/2013 at 12:17 pm

      ‘Standard British Peasant’. Min wage earner.

      Regrettably the only people to whom that epithet can be applied are those who work in factory farms of one sort or another.

      The contractual farm work, which most of it is, is highly paid, though there is still a ceretain number of farm workers who only work on sundays and weekends, because they have come to an agreement with their employers at some time in the past, that double payment of(double time) £5.50/hr is the only work they are prepared to do!
      Possibly cash in hand too, and a permanent claim for benefits in the other one, and reasonably so.

  15. GaretHugHowell
    07/02/2013 at 2:25 pm

    To avoid the confusion with the Lord Maclean
    with an ‘a’ who is a Scottish high court judge.

    If the noble lord will allow me to say rather a fine photo on his website even if he is a Liberal democrat!

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