HC Deb 31 July 1838 vol 44 cc844-6
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved the third reading of the Post-office Bill.

Colonel Sibthorpe

moved as an amendment that the Bill be read a third time on this day three months. He considered it as neither more nor less than a job, got up for the purpose of obliging the Parliamentary friends of Government.

Mr. Ellis

rose to second the amendment of the hon. and gallant Officer, that the bill be read a third time that day three months: Since he had last spoken upon the subject, reflection had confirmed him in the objections he first entertained against the measure. The object of the bill was, to take the affairs out of the hands of the Postmaster-General and vest them in those of three commissioners; the first commissioner to receive a salary of 2000l. per annum; the other two, 1,200l. each, making altogether an expenditure of 4,400l. per annum. The expense of the present management amounted to 2,500l. yearly; it was, therefore, proposed to incur an excess of expense to the country of 1,900l. per annum. Why were three persons required to superintend this department? He had heard no sufficient reason alleged. On the contrary, power was taken by the bill to give the whole of its duties not absolutely to three—they might be conferred merely upon two, perhaps only upon one; and it might so happen, if the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, should so think fit, that the administration of the Post Office would be given to no new commissioner at all, but kept entirely in their own hands. Moreover, by the bill, the new commissioners, if appointed, were exclusively to follow the instructions of the treasury, so that, possibly, they were causing an enlarged payment of 1,900l. a-year for the sole purpose of placing the affairs of the Post-office in the hands of a nominee of the Treasury. Did such an enactment betoken the wisdom of the Government plan? The hon. Member for Bridport stated the other night that with respect to postage the country was on the eve of a revolution; looking however, to what was likely to be the nature of the revolution—that it would almost entirely be based upon increased facilities of communication, de-mantling, certainly, not more, if not less, intelligence on the part of the head of the Post-office—he thought that was an argument for diminishing rather than increasing the expenditure of the establishment,. But then the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that the main object of the bill was to have the chief commissioner eligible to a seat in that House. Why then had he not caused that to be specially enacted? At present the Postmaster-General sat in Parliament, though in the Upper House; yet, by the measure under consideration, it might be that, notwithstanding it would still be left open for a Peer to fill the office of chief commissioner, neither in one House nor the other would the chief commissioner have a seat—and thus the grievance mainly complained of, that of not having a person in the House of Commons to answer questions relative to the Post-office department, was liable to be left without a remedy. Again, he (Mr. Ellis) certainly conceived that whilst there was no objection for the Government to have a political associate in the House of Lords, he entertained a strong desire that the number of placemen should not be increased in that House; and, considering that such proposition came with a bad grace from the present Ministers, he should on that account, as well as for the other reasons he had stated, express his hearty disapprobation of the measure.

Bill read a third time and passed.