18 NOVEMBER 2000, Page 50

Pass the parcel

From Mr Stanley Best Sir: I have no knowledge of what happens at Mount Pleasant sorting office in London (Not sorted', 11 November), but the postal service to my home in North Devon is entirely satisfactory, save at times of floods or rail disasters, or lack of rail-track repair, for which one can hardly blame the post- man. As a practising barrister doing most of my paperwork at home, I rely on the post- man to deliver instructions and briefs to me on time — and he does — and to deliver equally speedily the opinions I write or the documents I draft.

By contrast, Parcelforce, now divorced from the Post Office, is dreadful. If the Parcelforce driver does not find you at home he usually takes the parcel back to his depot (a round journey of 50 miles) and leaves his calling card. This tells you that you may either collect the parcel at the depot or tele- phone to find out when delivery is next to be attempted. Upon telephoning, you are told of the day but not the hour. You must be ready, it is suggested, to remain in your house all day to await the delivery because, as you will be told, they cannot control the time at which their men will call, and cannot even say whether it will be morning or after- noon. Most courier services are the same, and if the Post Office is privatised it will suf- fer, as will the customers, the same fate. You have but to look at the shambles into which British Rail has descended, post-privatisa- tion, to see what will happen.

In my view, all public utilities should be publicly owned and, by good management, made efficient. Leave our postmen alone. They represent about the only vestige left of the services once enjoyed by country dwellers, such as a priest in every parish, the village bobby and the country bus. Once, too, we had country solicitors in small towns, but these are now being driven out by New Labour's hatred of justice and by the Legal Aid scheme.

Stanley Best

Chairman, British Legal Association, Swansea