As regular readers will know, each year I table a parliamentary question asking how many items of correspondence were received in the Palace of Westminster in the previous year (and, of these, what proportion was received in the House of Lords). The data demonstrate a clear trend. People are no longer writing in such numbers as before. The decline has been especially notable this past year.
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%)
2014 2,234,763 (25%)
2015 2,200,504 (25%)
2016 1,652,317 (30%)
The decline has been consistent over the past decade and now we have a year in which fewer than two-million items of correspondence were received – almost one-third the number received ten years ago.
The decline does not translate to a reduced workload for Members. As I have argued before, the reduction in snail mail has been more than compensated by the rise of e-mail. Figures are not compiled for e-mail traffic, but e-mails are cheaper and more efficient to send than snail mail. A number of campaigning organisations encourage people to e-mail. The change is not only quantitative, but also qualitatively. People who e-mail are more likely to expect a quick response than someone who posts a letter. The burden on MPs, or rather MPs’ offices, can be substantial.