HC Deb 30 April 1846 vol 85 cc1288-90

begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury whether he were aware of the greatly increasing irregularities in the General Post Office, more especially in the despatch of the morning mails? From all parts of the country great complaints were received of the constant and numerous mistakes that occurred, owing, in a great measure to the irregularities in the General Post Office. A friend of his, who lived about five hours' distance from London, complained of the frequent mistakes in the despatch of his newspapers, which sometimes did not arrive until forty-eight hours after they were sent, having meanwhile made a little journey on their own account over the half of England. His friend had written to Mr. Smith, the largest news-agent in England, complaining of the delay, and had received the assurance that his newspers had been regularly posted in time for the morning mails. He would read Mr. Smith's letter:—

"192, Strand, London, April 20, 1846.

"Sir—I am sorry to say that very great neglect exists in the General Post Office, and that it is not at all unusual for one or two of the sacks (holding about 800 papers each), which I post for the morning mails, to be detained unsorted until the evening despatch, because (they say) they have not a sufficient number of sorters to perform the duties required. Bundles of newspapers, addressed in bulk to news-rooms and newspaper agents in the country are sorted and forwarded, as they are easily picked out, and neglect would occasion general complaint; but gentlemen who only take a single paper are frequently disappointed, and, generally the newsman who supplies them is blamed for the inconvenience, for which he is not at all answerable, and which he cannot prevent. My arrangements are such that I never fail to post my papers in time for the morning mails, as I send large quantities by rail two hours before the Post Office closes, and, having the largest business in the trade, I am also served first by the different newspaper offices. I trust you will think it worth your while to make a complaint to the Postmaster General or the Lords of the Treasury, as I have had frequent communications with Colonel Maberly on the subject without obtaining even a promise of greater regularity and attention.—I am, Sir, your most obedient servant,

"W. H. SMITH."

Though he had never been in direct communication with Colonel Maberly, he understood that any complaint received his immediate attention. But the mistakes continued, and it was evident there was a bad system somewhere; either there was not a sufficient number of sorters, or there was some other cause at work. He believed the irregularities in the delivery of letters and newspapers were in a great measure owing to the Directory; and he begged to ask whether the attention of Government had been directed to the subject, with a view to render the inconvenience to the public less frequent?


was prepared to hear there were irregularities in the despatch of newspapers by the morning mails, but not in respect of letters. He was prepared to answer the complaint of the hon. Member as to newspapers. He was aware that complaints were made of the irregularities now taking place in the morning mails; but he was by no means prepared to believe that in the majority of instances those irregularities were the fault of the Post Office. They were, however, at present the subject of careful inquiry at the Post Office. The reason, he believed, was the great increase in the circulation of the London daily papers during the last few months. From a return that had been prepared, it appeared that the number of newspapers sent by the morning mails (as we understood) was now 729,000 per week. A great increase had also taken place in the bulk of the newspapers. He held in his hand a copy of one of the daily journals as it was sent through the post. Let the House think of 729,000 such packets travelling through the General Post Office. Still, he repeated, he did not believe that in the majority of instances the irregularities were connected with the Post Office. Many newspapers were posted without covers; some were misdirected; others imperfectly directed; and numbers were sent at the last minute. The increase in the number sent by the morning mails was the leading cause of the inconvenience for which the Post Office was responsible, and the following measures were being resorted to: an enlargement of the building; some new machinery was about being brought into operation, and an additional number of persons were appointed for the discharge of the increasing duties. So far as Ministers or the Post Office were concerned, the House might rely that everything would be done to remedy, in future, the inconveniences complained of. He (Mr. Cardwell) was in constant communication with the Post Office authorities, and every circumstance that impeded the efficiency of the General Post Office was brought under his notice by them. That department of the public service, he knew, desired and endeavoured to discharge their duties properly.

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