HC Deb 14 March 1844 vol 73 cc1056-8
Mr. Wallace,

in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice on the subject of Postage Stamps, begged to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the Treasury Minutes, a copy of which had been laid on the Table of the House that very day. It would be seen from that Minute, that there were four different ways in which stamped paper was proposed to be used in the Penny Postage system. The forthcoming half-sheets was the third way of making use of the Postage Stamps, but the most important and most useful mode had not yet been carried into effect. The Resolution No. 4, in the Treasury Minute of 26th December, 1839, provided that Stamps should be struck on paper of any description which the public might choose to send to the Stamp Office for that purpose. That mode would afford additional facilities to business. A great number of persons engaged in paper-making and the stationery business had waited upon him and complained of the exclusive employment of Mr. Dickinson's peculiar paper for envelopes, and of the new form in which it was said that paper was coming forward. He disclaimed having had anything to do with bringing out the half-sheets; but he approved of the whole sheets which had been denied. Half-sheets would not gibe any advantage to the productive classes, especially the working classes; it would but continue that monopoly to the richer classes which they received by his peculiar paper being stamped at Somerset House for the special purpose of making envelopes. He believed the plan would fail; and he called upon Government to apply the fourth minute. There were various ways in which the expenditure at Somerset House might be much better applied than now. One of them would be to give an additional per centage for issuing labels attached to paper by stationers and paper dealers in large or small towns. A vast quantity of small Paper Stamps would thus be used, and the object of increased facility of distribution effected. He begged to move,— That full effect be given to the Act, commonly called the Penny Postage Act, by the issue of postage free stamped paper, without restriction as to size or quality—in addition to the use of labels, postage free envelopes, and prepayments at post-offices, as at present.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

hoped the hon. Gentleman would not persevere in his Motion. If he was not mistaken, the Treasury Minute to which the hon. Gentleman referred recommended, not that stamped paper should be issued in the first instance, but that simple Label Stamps should be issued, which Could be affixed to the paper by the person making use of it. It was very doubtful whether there would be any advantage given to the public by the adoption of the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, equal to the inconvenience to which it would give rise. There was every disposition on the part of the Post Office authorities to accommodate the public; but they did not think it would be advisable to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member.

Captain Bernal

could not allow that opportunity to pass without adverting to the objection which was entertained by his constituents, many of whom were paper-makers, to the issue of half-sheets of stamped paper. He could not understand why the hon. Member for Greenock was so anxious to press this matter on the Government. In his opinion, its only effect would be to create a new monopoly in the hands of particular individuals. The public were perfectly satisfied with Dickenson's stamped envelopes, and he hoped he should receive some assurance that it was not intended to issue the stamped half-sheets to any great extent.

Mr. F. T. Baring

said, that when the late Government had come to consider a proposal for issuing stamped paper, they had found that the plan would give rise to great opportunities for forgery. They had felt greatly alarmed in consequence, and had declined to carry that plan into operation. He was sure that if the system were adopted, forgery might easily take place; in fact, there would be nothing to act as a discouragement to forgery, but the smallness of the sum to be paid. He did not think that the public were much inconvenienced by the present arrangements.

Sir G. Clerk

said, that the Treasury had felt the full force of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. They had felt that it would be impossible to adopt the system of having stamped sheets of paper generally circulated all over the country without running great risks of forgery. He believed, too, that some inconvenience might arise to the poor from the use of stamped paper, as they could not recover the penny for the paper on which they might have written, in case they should not, after the writing, think proper to avail themselves of it. As Mr. Dickenson's paper had already been used to some extent, he had consented to a proposal of allowing stamped half-sheets to be issued instead of being cut up into envelopes. The experiment, however, would be on a very small scale. With reference to the present motion, he would only add that, although many suggestions were received at the Treasury from various quarters, relative to improvements in the Penny Postage, the hon. Member for Greenock was the only person who advocated the issue of stamped sheets of paper.

Mr. Wallace

said, that as the sense of the House seemed to be opposed to his Motion, he should not press it to a division.

Motion withdrawn.