HC Deb 03 August 1855 vol 139 cc1751-4

On the question that the Report of the Committee of Ways and Means be brought up,


rose to ask the Secretary of the Treasury whether any arrangements had yet been entered into by Her Majesty's Government for renewing steam postal communication with the Australian colonies; and whether any or what answer had been given by Her Majesty's Government to the address from the Legislative Council of Victoria, in which they offered, on the part of that colony, to contribute 50,000l. per annum towards the cost of steam communication with England? He wished a clear and full explanation from the Government. The colonists of Australia naturally felt very anxious that steam communication with this country should he resumed; and it was extremely important to the interests of both countries that it should be. He had put questions on the subject before, but the answers were not satisfactory, nor were they identical with those given to similar questions in another place. It was time, therefore, that the Australian colonists should be fully informed of the intentions of the Government in this respect. The matter became more important upon reference to certain papers which he understood were in the hands of the Secretary of State. He had put a question as to these papers to the noble Lord the Member for London; but the noble Lord said he had not been able to make himself master of their contents for want of time.


had said the papers had only just reached him.


One of these papers was a circular despatch, addressed by Sir William Denison the Governor General, to the other Australian colonies, proposing that they should subscribe 100,000l. to obtain steam communication. Another was an address of the Legislative Council of Victoria, stating that that Colony was ready to pay 50,000l. a year towards the expense of renewed steam communication. He (Sir J. Pakington), therefore wished to know what the Government were doing in the matter, and how soon steam communication to Australia would be resumed? Also what answer had been sent by the Government to the offer of the colonists?


believed that no direct communication had been received from Victoria with respect to any offer made by the Legislative Council of that colony, but they were in possession of papers at the Treasury which recorded the circular letter of Sir William Denison to the other colonies, making a proposal that they should contribute a proportionate sum of l00.000l. for the purpose of insuring steam communication. The proposal of the Legislative Council of Victoria, in answer to Sir William Denison's communication, was that, supposing this sum to be raised, the home Government should contribute 60.000l. a year and the colonial Government 40,000l. A letter had also been received from Sir William Denison, enclosing a resolution passed by the Legislative Council of Victoria, to the effect that the colony would go to the extent of 50,000l. yearly as its contribution; but they only made this offer on condition that the communication should be carried on by way of Ceylon and the overland route to India, whereas Sir W. Denison's circular referred to communication by the Isthmus of Panama. No distinct proposal, in fact, was contained in any of the papers in the possession of Government: but the whole of them were now in the hands of the Postmaster General, for his consideration as to how far he would feel himself justified in recommending the Imperial Govrenment to share in the requisite expenditure. As soon as the Postmaster General should have reported to the Treasury on that subject no time should be lost by the Colonial Office in communicating with the colonies, in order that some plan might be arranged by which the object in view might be carried out.


hoped that steam communication between England and the Australian colonies would be speedily resumed.


said that the Admiralty, at any rate, were perfectly prepared, on receiving the Report of the Postmaster General, to recommend that arrangements should be made for effecting this object. At the same time it might be necessary that some communication should be had with the colonies before any plan could be carried out.


said, there was a difference of views among the colonies as to the route to be fixed on; were they now agreed to accept the route of the Oriental Company?


added that one of the colonies wished that the communication should take place by the Isthmus of Panama, while another colony desired that it should be carried out by the India Overland route.


asked whether her Majesty's Government had re- solved to assent to the proposal of the colonies to bear a part of the expense of establishing steam communication with this country?


said, that he had been so short a time in office that he had not had time to give a careful consideration to the papers to which reference had been made. He did not, however, see any reason why her Majesty's Government should not accept the proposal of the colonists to bear part of the expense of the steam communication.


asked whether the Legislative Council of Victoria had charged a sum of 50,000l. upon the colonial revenues to be disbursed for the purposes of establishing steam communication with this country?


said that no official communication of this fact had been received.