HC Deb 15 December 1837 vol 39 cc1116-7
Mr. Hawes

, seeing the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, would ask him whether it was the intention of the Government to give effect to the recommendation of the Commissioners of the Post-office, contained in their ninth report relating to the reduction of the rates of postage, and the issuing of penny stamps?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was not prepared to give the hon. Gentleman any expectation that he should carry into effect all the recommendations of that report, but some of them he certainly should. He was about to try the experiment of issuing the penny stamp covers, to see how far that contributed to the convenience of the public. He, however, had some doubts on the subject. With respect to the postage duties in the metropolitan districts, he contemplated a reduction, and he did not intend that such reduction should be confined to the metropolitan districts. He conceived that the amount of the lower classes of postage was too high—he meant the four-penny post. He thought that that charge was disproportioned to the service; and the less the distance was from London the more likely was the object of a high duty to be defeated by private communication. There were much greater facilities, for example, for the transmission of a letter privately from London to such a distance as Richmond, than from London to Aberdeen, He, therefore, proposed to make a large experiment as regarded the reduction of the rates of postage for the shorter distance. He intended to reduce them one-half. A strict account would be taken of the amount at present collected under the 4d. duty, and of what would be collected when the duties were reduced to two-pence. Those accounts would be laid upon the table of the House, and they would be a satisfactory proof either to establish that a general diminution of the present rate of postage would have the effect some persons anticipate of benefiting the public by augmenting the communication, or to negative that proposition. This arrangement could be made without coming to Parliament for the purpose, by an order of the Treasury, under the provisions of an act of last Session; indeed it was now in progress. He had already stated, that he should try the experiment of the stamp covers. He did not propose to lower the rate of the twopenny post till he saw what the effect of the issue of the stamp covers was. It was clear that he could not try the stamp covers as a principle, unless the amount paid for them was the same as the amount of the postage. The assertion made was, that the public would prefer taking the stamp covers, thus paying the postage beforehand instead of on delivery.

Sir R. Peel

asked if the two plans could not be combined of reducing the postage and using stamped covers?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

remarked, they would try the latter experiment first on the twopenny post. If it succeeded they could try it on an extended scale; at the same time he was bound to say, that while he did not wish to speak disparagingly of an attempt he was himself about to try, he must add that he was not very sanguine as to the result.

Mr. Clay

inquired if, in making the experiment in the metropolis/it was intended that the stamped covers should be sold for twopence?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer.


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