MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he wished to ask the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether the Peninsula and Oriental Company have applied to be released from the contract for carrying the mails to India, China, and Australia; and if such be the case, whether he will lay their application before the House, and what course Her Majesty's Government mean to pursue with regard to it?
§ MR. JAMES GRAHAM
said, that the Peninsula and Oriental Company had presented a memorial to the Board of Admiralty, alleging that, on account of the great increase both in the rate of freight and in the price of coals, their contract for the conveyance of the mails to India was a very losing one, and praying to be released from it. The Board of Admiralty had directed an inquiry to be instituted into the facts stated in the memorial; the inquiry was now proceeding, and he trusted that an arrangement might be come to, by which this important communication to India and Australia should be continued.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, before two accountants, the one appointed by the Company (as we understood) and-the other by Captain Austin, who was at the head of the packet service.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he understood that the Peninsula and Oriental Company had made an excellent thing of its contract for 752 some years before, and he wished to know if the inquiry was to be limited to the past year simply, or would extend to the results of the contract to the Company during the whole time it had been in force? This was a matter of some importance, as, perhaps, they might have the Government coming forward to ask for a Vote for the Company.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, that if the House was called on for a Vote, he should, of course, feel it his duty to enter into a statement of minute details on the subject. The memorialists set forth their losses, and those would be investigated; but, of course, before coming to a conclusion, the past gains of the Company from the contract would also be inquired into.