HC Deb 24 April 1855 vol 137 cc1742-3

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the system under which the Post Office was administered, and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, the orders given by the Treasury to the Postmaster General, in the year 1848, to establish a Post-office communication, at the expense of his department, between the islands of North and South Uist, Harris, and Barra, should be carried into effect without delay. In point of fact, the House should bear in mind that the Postmaster General had not perfect control over his own department, but was under the direction of the Secretary to the Treasury, who held in his hands at the same time the patronage of the Post Office, the Customs, and the Excise, and distributed it with the object of gaining political support for the Government. Thus, the head of the Administration, as First Lord of the Treasury, presided over a department engaged in something which fell little short of bribery and corruption. The patronage of the Post Office was distributed not among the deserving clerks and subordinates, but mainly for political purposes; and the administration of the department, with its double system of management, was in every way cumbrous and absurd. The case to which he wished to call the attention of the House furnished an instance of this. Near the coast of Skye were five islands, which contained somewhere about 20,000 inhabitants, and possessed Post Offices established by the Government. Practically, however, the inhabitants of these islands had never received the advantage of the penny postage stamp, for they had been compelled to maintain the packets which conveyed their letters to the islands. In 1848, during the pressure of the famine, the people refused to pay for these packets, which consequently ceased to ply, and all postal communication was cut off. At the request, however, of his constituents, he had waited upon the right hon. Gentleman the then Secretary for the Home Department, and he wrote to the Treasury, who at once consented to bear the expense of these packets. The Government, from that time, undertook to maintain the communication as far as the island of North Uist, but they had never carried it further. The charge thrown upon the poor inhabitants of the islands for keeping up the communication was very heavy, the cost of maintaining the boats being about 80l. a year. That sum was raised by subscription, but as many of the inhabitants refused to contribute, the cost was borne by those among them who were unwilling that the postal communication should be altogether interrupted. He did not ask any favour in this case at the hands of Her Majesty's Government, but he contended that those whose cause he urged upon the attention of the House were entitled to be placed, with respect to facilities of postal communication, upon the same footing as any other class of their fellow-subjects. He trusted, therefore, that neither the House nor the Government would suffer the inhabitants of these islands, poor though they were, to be subjected for the future to the inconvenience he had described.

Notice taken, that forty Members were not present; House counted; and forty Members not being present;

The House was adjourned at a quarter after Seven o'clock.