The disappearing snail mail….

This is my annual post on mail received in Parliament. 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 2019.

The data continue to demonstrate a notable decline over time in paper mail received.  As you will see (below), the number of items has declined from over 4.7 million in 2005 to just over 1.2 million last year.  It is not clear what explains the fluctuation in the percentage estimated to be received in the House of Lords; there may have been an actual decline or some change in methodology for calculating the percentage.  As will be apparent from the list, the figure is a rather rounded one each 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%)

2017  1,633,770 (30%)

2018 1,519,939 (30%)

2019 1,254,748 (15%)

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 expanded massively, with parliamentarians’ in-boxes being flooded on a daily basis with requests, invitations, opinions and sometimes abuse from a whole range of people (in some cases, the same people – some write on an almost daily basis and are the bane, if not of the MP’s life, then of someone in the MP’s office). With e-mails being easy to compile and cheap to send, it is possible for an individual to mass mail parliamentarians in a way that was difficult and expensive in days before the Internet.  (Letters had to be individually addressed and stamped.)  It is not unusual to be copied into e-mails sent to ministers and other prominent figures.  Sifting the important and relevant from the rest is now a major resource exercise.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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