Continuing decline of snail mail

Lord Norton

44101The 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.

7 comments for “Continuing decline of snail mail

  1. Gareth Howell
    15/01/2014 at 1:15 pm

    Mere pressing the finger to delete is not ‘arf as difficult as taking delivery,opening,filing, trashing hard copy post.

    The Royal mail businesses are said to be doing better than ever, but not on account of anything that would ever be delivered to parliament, through the post, or by the postman.
    They are not the only ones doing well from parcel delivery, there being hundreds of highly efficient and fully employed delivery services, which have sprung up over the last few years. Carefully planned shopping online, and I need never go out of my home and grounds again.

    The mooted research in to the future of e-democracy should be at the top of the noble lord’s agenda (presided over by a certain Dr Williamson), and not the mere counting of snail mail letters. I have posted about a dozen in the last ten years.
    If the banks can do secure business online then ALL electoral procedures may be done in the same way, but does any
    government get it under way?

    Electronic reform of electoral procedures.

    Thinking about the concept of “progress” which large in some “fields” of thought larger than in others, The noble lord’s fascination for looking back rather than forwards in the context, is surprising. How much better his talents would be used along with Dr Williamson’s very forward looking researches.

    I may say That “progress” in medicine in
    the NHS, is anathema to me, so I am not a radical, forward looking man in everything, concerned as I am with putting the
    world to rights whenever possible! I cannot think of a physician who does not favour “progress” at all times.

  2. LordBlagger
    15/01/2014 at 5:09 pm

    and not the mere counting of snail mail letters.


    Do I detect a dig at one lord with that fascination?

    The problem with e-democracy as far as the lords are concerned is that they would be out of a job, and there goes the retirement fund.

  3. Nigel Fletcher
    16/01/2014 at 1:50 pm

    Very interesting figures – thanks for posting this. I’ve been looking for some historical trends data after reading in a biography of Hugh Gaitskell the following striking passage about his workload in the 1950s:

    “Correspondence was substantial. Constituency cases were no longer a flood as they had been just after the war, but they still generated about twenty letters a month. Routine mail flowed in from the general public, and from people concerned with current problems…Apart from these, he would receive on average more than one letter a day of a serious kind.”

    • Lord Norton
      28/01/2014 at 9:32 pm

      Nigel Fletcher: I have variously written on the growth, decade by decade, of MPs’ correspondence. It increased notably in the 1970s and then since, reaching proportions that now occupy a substantial amount not just of staff time of Members’ time. Gone are the days when Members could sit in the Library responding to letters in longhand!

  4. maude elwes
    21/01/2014 at 11:34 pm

    With the present record of our HoL inmates I think they should be extremely grateful to receive any kind of contact from the public. Comparing and sniping about the lack of hard copy is juvenile in an electronic age, as it is only going to grow prolifically. Most who leave school now are barely literate, let alone able to put together a sentence explaining their content or angst, typed or hand written is neither here nor there.

  5. 23/01/2014 at 7:40 am

    Its a great shame that individual contact email addresses are no longer published on the Parliament web site but instead only a generic email address. This does not encourage the public to make contact as general contact email addresses have a bad reputation for being “lost” or “ignored”.

    • Lord Norton
      28/01/2014 at 9:33 pm

      Don Cockrill: I agree. The House has been exploring ways of ensuring that it is easier to know the interests of peers and how to make contact.

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