HC Deb 07 May 1834 vol 23 cc741-4

Mr. Craven Berkeley moved the second reading of the General Post Delivery Bill, to extend the plan for a free delivery, which had been adopted in London, to Cheltenham, and the other provincial towns of the kingdom.

Mr. Phillpotts

, in seconding the Motion, observed, that the same measure of justice, which had been afforded to London should he extended to the provincial towns.

Mr. Vernon Smith

said, that if copies of this Bill had been sent, like copies of the Poor-law Amendment Bill, to every town and hamlet in the country, he was sure that they would have had a great number of petitions from them against it. It was a short Bill certainly; but its brevity was the only merit that, in his opinion, it possessed. It proposed to establish the same system in the provincial towns that existed in London; but it was for the House to consider whether regulations which were found applicable in the metropolis could possibly apply in the different provincial cities and towns. It was plain, that there must be some limits to a delivery, and as long as such limits existed, it was equally obvious, that there would be those who, just placed beyond it, would complain of its existence. The Bill had been sent by the Postmaster-General to the various surveyors throughout the country, and they all stated in their Reports, that the measure was an impracticable one, and that it would materially diminish the revenue derived from the post. The hon. Gentleman read an extract from the Report of the surveyor in Cheltenham to that effect. There was every disposition on the part of the Post-office to listen to any complaints as to undue delays in delivery; but, he repeated, there must be limits to a free delivery. He perceived, that the hon. member for Greenock had an Amendment to move upon this Bill that was as long as the Bill itself, and one portion of which was, that Members of Parliament should not be charged for letters delivered on Monday in London, although accumulated by the non-delivery on Sunday, unless they should exceed the privileged number for two days. If that hon. Member wanted the Post-office to work on Sundays, he should first settle the matter with the large minority in that House, who had voted in favour of a Sabbath Observance Bill. He begged to move, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Mr. Warburton

did not rise to support the Bill, but merely to make a statement on the part of the gallant Admiral, the member for Devonport, which his absence from the House prevented him from making in person. That statement was, that the hamlet of Stonehouse, situated between Plymouth and Devonport, with no less than 40,000 inhabitants, many of whom were retired officers, would not have to pay, as at present, a penny on the delivery of letters and newspapers, if a post-office was established there in the mail coach road. The answer which had been given by the Post-office to a representation from the inhabitants on the subject was, that the proposed change might be a convenience to them; but it were resisted on the ground, that it would diminish the revenue. Now, where there were 40,000 inhabitants, many of whom, as he had stated, were retired officers, to whom a penny was a matter of consideration, such an alteration should not on such a ground be resisted.

Mr. Wallace

referred to a plan of Cheltenham, to show, that the limits for the free delivery there were extremely arbitrary and unequal. The pennies levied there for the penny delivery amounted in the year ending 5th of January, 1830, to 92,000; in 1831 to 103,000; in 1832 to 123,000; in 1833 to 146,000; and in 1834 to 167,000. The charge was therefore one of which the inhabitants of Cheltenham felt that they had a right to complain. He begged to ask why were newspapers charged 1d. and 2d. in the two-penny post in London, when they were sent free by the general post to the most distant parts of the kingdom? With regard to the Post-office, he looked upon Sir F. Freeling as the real Postmaster-General. In opposition to the authority of Sir F. Freeling, then he would say, that there was no law to prevent Members from receiving their letters on a Sunday. He would defy the Post-office to show, that there was any law to prevent a Member, or any man in the realm, from receiving his letters on a Sunday. He put the question plainly to the hon. Gentleman opposite; and he defied him to answer it in the negative. The general question, however, with regard to the Post-office would soon come on, and he would avail himself of that opportunity to bring the whole matter before the House.

Lord William Lennox

would ask the House whether the hon. Member was justified in calling Sir F. Freeling the Postmaster-General. He never took up his papers in the morning, that he did not find the name of the hon. member for Greenock there with some notice of Motion for inquiry with respect to the Post-office. He wished to God, that the hon. Member would bring forward that inquiry at once in some tangible shape, instead of indulging, as he had on the present occasion, in vague generalities and declamation. His noble relative was ready to meet any inquiry. With respect to the Bill immediately before the House, he felt, that the details of it were very ineffective, while, as to the principle, it was, as had been stated by the hon. member for Northampton, a question of revenue.

Mr. Spring Rice

observed, that there never had been an instance in any public department in which greater efforts had been made by the head of it to facilitate the convenience of the public than that over which his noble friend (the Postmaster-General) presided.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

said, that, from personal experience of its necessity, he should support the second reading of the Bill. When residing at Cheltenham, in a house so little remote from the Post-office, that he could scarcely credit the information, that it was not within the town delivery, he found it absolutely necessary, from the lateness of the hour at which his letters and papers were received, to send for them, and had, notwithstanding, the pleasure of paying one penny each. He trusted that the Bill would not be rejected, but if it should, that means would be taken to prevent the evils so justly complained of.

Sir Matthew White Ridley

opposed the Bill. He was led to believe, that the deficiency of revenue which would be occasioned by the hon. Gentleman's Bill, in Cheltenham alone, would amount to 8,000l. or 10,000l.; and he left the House to calculate the aggregate deficiency if the same plan was extended throughout the country. He would remind the hon. member for Oxford, that although he thought right to send for his letters, other persons did not, and the Postmaster was obliged to support an establishment equal to the delivery of all letters received, and was therefore entitled to his penny upon each, whether sent for or delivered.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

, in explanation, said, that one thing, of which he complained, was, that a competent establishment was not kept. He was compelled to send for his letters and papers, or wait their delivery till perhaps one o'clock, which he thought a most unreasonable time.

The House divided: Ayes 23; Noes 66—Majority 43.

List of the AYES.
Baines, E. Hutt, W.
Berkeley, Hon. G. Pease, J.
Brotherton, J. Phillpotts, J.
Buckingham, J. Pryme, G.
Chetwynd, Captain Ruthven, E.
Etwall, R. Ruthven, R.
Fitzsimon, N. Thicknesse, R.
Fleetwood, H. Young, E.
Gully, J. TELLERS.
Hardy, J. Berkeley, C.
Hoskyns, K. Wallace, H.