HC Deb 19 March 1855 vol 137 cc851-6

House in Committee; Mr. BOUVERIE in the Chair.

1,638,861l., Post Office Services.


said, he wished to ex- plain that in consequence of the late hour of the night he agreed to postpone the first two Votes—namely, for the Customs and for Inland Revenue. He proposed, therefore, only to take a Vote for the Post Office.


said, that that was the very Vote which he wished to have postponed, as he was anxious to bring before the House the many abuses that existed in the Irish Post Office system. He should, therefore, move that the Chairman report progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 72: Majority 53.


said, he could not at that hour enter into a discussion of the abuses connected with the Post Office in Ireland. The management was as bad as could be. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that numerous representations had been made from all quarters on the subject of the Irish mails. After the decision that had just been come to, he would merely content himself with protesting against the system, reserving further remarks till a better opportunity.


said, he willingly admitted that reformation was required as regarded the postal arrangements for Ireland. Numerous representations, which he believed well founded, had been made on the subject. He knew that the Postmaster General was of opinion that a searching inquiry ought to made into the subject. At the same time, no part of the postal arrangements of the United Kingdom had a larger share of attention than those relating to Ireland. He could state that every attention would be paid to any representations on the subject.


said, that what the hon. Gentleman had just stated fully justified him in the course he had taken.


said, he wished to know why the superannuation allowances were placed in a separate Vote, and not included in the present Vote.


said, that it was in consequence of the alteration made in the schedule of the Bill last year by the House of Lords.


said, he wished to call attention to the conveyance of mails by coaches and cars over districts where they might be carried by the railway. He had no doubt that the railways were partly to blame, but there was no point in the reforms of the Post Office in Ireland which more required redress than this.


said, he could confirm this statement, for he knew that in some parts the mails were carried, not by coaches or cars, but by men, and that valuable letters were in consequence often lost.


said, he must express a wish that the accounts should be simplified, and those of England and Ireland kept distinct. He trusted that means would be taken to compel the railways to carry the mails at a reasonable rate, for he believed that it was owing to their high demands that the mails were not carried by them at present. He hoped that some statement would be made of the reforms intended.


said, he could not avoid complaining of the arrangements by which the mails were sent from London to Dublin. The correspondence of merchants and others was, in consequence, unnecessarily delayed. He thought it was quite practicable to obviate these delays by a very easy alteration in the hours of their departure.


said, the anomalies of the Post Office were general all over Ireland, and should be taken into immediate consideration, with a view to their removal.


said, a great many complaints had been made that the Report of the Commissioners intrusted, some time ago, with investigating the condition of the Dublin and Edinburgh Post Offices, had not as yet been acted upon, and the public were consequently the sufferers. Another matter calling loudly for complaint was the paltry sum allowed for salaries to provincial postmasters in Ireland. In some instances he could state these persons were paid as little as 4l. or 5l. per annum; while they were permitted to supply the deficiency by charging private individuals so much for depositing letters in their bags. He wished to know when the Report of the Commissioners would be laid upon the table of the House?


said, he begged to be allowed to ask whether there was any likelihood of the promised revision taking place in the salaries of the Edinburgh Post Office officials, or whether there was any immediate prospect of their being increased?


said, that without reference to the comparative merits of the complaints coming from Scotch and Irish Members, he could not help stating that, at all events, the estimate for Scotland was much less than that for Ireland. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Irish Members.]


For example, if the hon. Member will look to the printed statement, he will find that whereas the secretary in Scotland receives 1,000l. a year, the Irish secretary gets but 800l.


said, be wished to ask how it came to pass that the salaries of all the higher officials in the London Post Office had been raised, while such paltry sums were paid to country postmasters and letter-carriers? The whole establishment, in his opinion, required revision.


said, he could only describe the Irish Post Office arrangements as a "Heaven-born mull;" and he must complain that, although steps had been taken to accelerate the mails in England, no similar steps had been taken in Ireland, and it was actually a fact that in some districts the towns were further apart than they were 100 years ago. This was perfectly disgraceful to the Government. Things were done in Ireland which would not be tolerated by the most contemptible constituency of the meanest district in England or Scotland.


said, that even if the cost of the Irish establishment was greater than that for Scotland, there was sufficient reason for it in the fact, that the population of Ireland, and the business transacted by the Post Office in the latter country, were much greater than in the former. But in reality the fact was not as had been asserted. He wished to call the attention of the Committee to the inadequate remuneration of the provincial letter-carriers, both in England and Ireland. They were actually often paid less than ordinary field labourers. It was really holding out a premium for dishonesty, to pay men, intrusted often with registered letters containing money, some 9s. or 10s. per week. These wages were obviously very insufficient for men who had frequently to travel ten or twelve, or in some cases as much as twenty, miles a day.


said, the whole Post Office system was so ordered as to cut down the public accommodation in order to swell the public revenue. He wished to call attention to the necessity of some measure for sending the mails by railways, satisfactory to the railway companies and to the public.


said, if he, as an English Member, put a finger on a grievance, whether it referred to Ireland or England, he should not be deterred from pointing it out by disapproval of Irish Members.


said, that the most important point upon the subject of the Post Office which had been discussed that night was with reference to the conveyance of mails by railways. Last year a great many discussions arose upon the matter, and a Committee was appointed to investigate the whole question on the broadest basis. The Report of that Committee had been for many months upon the table of the House, and doubtless many hon. Gentlemen had seen it. One of the recommendations advanced by the Committee was, that some general basis should be laid down by a Commission of scientific men to serve as a guide to the referees appointed by the railways and the Post Office to determine the rate of payment to the railways. The duty of that Commission which had been recently appointed would be to examine the case with reference to the postal communications, and to lay down as clearly as possible some general rule of charge for the employment of railway carriages under three or four circumstances: first, carrying the mails by the ordinary passenger trains; secondly, by trains appointed specially for Post Office purposes, but carrying passengers; and thirdly, for carrying letters by railways without any passenger communication whatever. When the Government had obtained the Report of that Commission, he thought the House would be disposed to pass some Bill which should render it more compulsory and more easy than at present on the part of the railways to give their services upon reasonable terms to the public. There could be no doubt, as he had already stated, that there was some inconvenience attending the arrangements respecting the transmission of mails from London to Dublin, but the Government had made repeated efforts to effect improvements, many of which had worked well, and at the present moment there was under the consideration of the Government a plan for accelerating the mails by a more rapid transit from Holyhead to Kingstown. It would, however, be attended with considerable expense. The Government was most anxious that the Post Office service in all parts of the United Kingdom should be made as efficient as possible, and there was no practical suggestion for that purpose which they did not adopt without delay. With respect to the salaries of letter-carriers in country districts, they were, no doubt, small, but the men had important emoluments, and the places were eagerly looked after.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.

The House adjourned at One o'clock.