‘Dear MP/peer..’ From letters to e-mails…

As regular readers know, at the start of 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).  I have just received the answer to the one for 2018. The data demonstrate a clear trend.  There has been a notable decline over time, with marked reductions in some years, but with the volume of correspondence in each year being smaller than in the previous year. In 2005, there were over 4.7 million items of correspondence. This past year, it was just over 1.5 million, in other words a third of what it was thirteen years before.

Interestingly, the proportion of mail estimated to be received in the Lords as a proportion of the total has increased in recent years. Whereas it was 20% (down to 15% in 2008), it was 25% from 2009 to 2015, and since has been put at 30%. Perhaps writers consider it more appropriate to write to us by letter than e-mail, or it could be because not all peers have e-mail.

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%)

2017  1,633,770 (30%)

2018 1,519,939 (30%)

The figures exclude parcels, courier items, and internal mail.

No data are kept on the volume of e-mails flowing into the Palace, so it is not possible definitively to show the extent to which e-mail correspondence has more than compensated for the decline in snail mail, but parliamentary in-boxes are now being swamped with briefings, appeals to support this or that Bill, and missives on a range of issues. My impression is that e-mails from people who discern conspiracy theories of one sort or another have also increased. The problem is one of sifting the important from the not-so-important.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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3 Responses to ‘Dear MP/peer..’ From letters to e-mails…

  1. Mark Astbury says:

    We last met during the winter of discontent, I remember stopping up into the middle of the night with a politics graduate who went onto be a lobbyist in Brussels to see Thatcher elected. Don’t you feel it is a bit like Chamberlain and Munich, as in the weakness of British politics to deal with international issues.

  2. Pingback: Assessing success in Civic Tech: Measures of deprivation and WriteToThem – mySociety | Public Sector Blogs

  3. Pingback: Assessing success in Civic Tech: Measures of deprivation and WriteToThem / mySociety

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