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.