The volume of correspondence received in the Palace of Westminster continues to decline. Each year, I table a question to find out how many items of correspondence were received in the Palace of Westminster in the previous year. I have just received the figures for 2013. Last year, 2,490,256 items were received, excluding parcels, courier items and internal mail. As one can see from the following data, this is the smallest number in recent years.
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%)
2013 2,490,256 (25%)
The explanation for the decline appears to be that those wishing to make contact employ e-mail instead. It’s quicker and cheaper than writing letters. It can also be mass mailed. Parliamentary in-boxes seem to fill up each day with e-mails from outside bodies. I have received few letters on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, but I receive, and continue to receive, many e-mails about the Bill. This touches upon another advantage of e-mail: it can be timed to arrive in advance of a debate. Snail mail sometimes arrives after the relevant debate has taken place.
Unfortunately, we have no data on the number of e-mails flowing in to parliamentary accounts. The problem for parliamentarians is trying to sort through all the incoming mail to determine what requires action and what does not. This has been a problem with snail mail, but with the increase in e-mail it becomes an even greater problem sorting through one’s in-box.