HC Deb 16 May 1848 vol 98 cc1063-4

asked the following questions of the Secretary of the Admiralty, respecting the conveyance of the Indian mails:—"Whether, in accordance with the decided opinion expressed by the Committee of the House of Lords, any inquiry has been instituted into the cost of the execution of the former contracts for conveying the mails from England and Alexandria—into the manner in which the service has been performed—and into the profits resulting to the contractors? By whom such inquiry has been made? Whether the Government proposes, on the part of the public, to continue to pay the present heavy charge for such communication? Whether, in any future contracts, the Government propose to adopt the suggestion of the Committee of the House of Lords, that the public shall be secured, by adequate provisions in the contracts, a participation in the profits, when they shall exceed a certain percentage on the capital; access to the accounts; and a full knowledge of all the transactions of the several companies with which agreements may be entered into? Whether any department of the Government, and, if any, which, will be responsible to Parliament that the contracts about to be entered into shall be just and proper?"


replied, that with respect to the recommendations of the Committee of the House of Lords, he could not say that he concurred in all the proposals. With respect to the first question, he must observe that under these contracts the Ad- miralty had no power to institute such inquiries, except with the concurrence of the contractors themselves; but, by the present arrangement with one of the companies, an agent of the Admiralty would be admitted to inspect their books, and to ascertain whether the terms were fair. It was the intention of the Admiralty, to select, as the person to conduct such inquiry, the present Controller of the Steam Navy, Captain Ellice. With respect to the third question, the Admiralty conceived that by opening the contracts and giving notice that fresh tenders would be periodically required, they took the best precaution for reducing the charge of communication. With respect to the fourth question, he was instructed to state, that after full consideration the Government did not consider that it would be advisable to have a Government order. He believed that a more effectual check on any undue profit would be the opening of these contracts periodically and taking advantage of the lowest tender; and for the propriety of the contracts the Admiralty would be responsible.

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