§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that if he were not precluded by the forms of the House from moving an Amendment to the Motion, he should certainly call upon the House to refer these Estimates for consideration to a Select Committee, especially as these Estimates were for the first time submitted to the revision of the House only two years ago. As it was, he must content himself with laying before them some facts in justification of such a course. In the first place these Estimates, dealing with such an enormous amount of public money, and referring to the three great departments of the Customs, the Excise, and the Post Office, had only been in their bands a day and a half; it was obvious, therefore, that there had been no time to consider them. The expenses in the Customs, Excise, and Post Office amounted to £4,588,000. There was an increase in 1855 over 1854 of £333,000; and in 1856 over 1855 of £202,500; making a total augmentation of charge within the short period of two years of no less than £535,000. Surely, then, an investigation of the circumstances which had led to so large an addition to the public expenditure was imperatively demanded, in order to ascertain whether every portion of it was absolutely unavoidable, or whether waste and extravagance were not practised somewhere. For this purpose the day and a half that had been allowed the House to examine these Estimates before being called on to vote them was manifestly insufficient; and a reference to a Select Committee would alone enable them to check the different items with the view to a proper economy. He would, however, call attention to a few instances. They had in the Post Office Department officers called packet agents all over the world, and supported at the public expense. Taking Jamaica for example, he found that the management of the post office there involved an expenditure of no less a sum than £11,080 a year out of the public money. There was at Jamaica a deputy postmaster with £1,000 a year, and the clerks in the establishment received £4,480. He found also that the 855 conveyance of mails in Jamaica cost this country £4,200, and that the surveyors' department cost £1,400, making together £11,080. Now he should like to know why the people of this country were to be called upon to be taxed to this enormous amount to maintain the post office of Jamaica. It was true that against that charge had to be set the receipts derived from postages, but it was obvious that the revenue accruing from that source must be very inadequate for reimbursing such a large outlay. Then there were the petty islands in the West Indies, whose names were hardly known, where postmasters were paid large sums out of the funds of this country. In Grenada, for example, the postmaster received £120 a year. Then, again, at Hong Kong, the postmaster received out of the public money a sum of £600 a year. At Canton the postmaster received £300 a year. These establishments altogether were put down in the Estimates at £2,200 a year. Then, again, we had a packet agent at New York. What could a packet agent have to do there? He did not think it would be found that New York had any such officer as a packet agent in this country. The Post-Office packet expenses cost the country the large sum of £800,000 a year, compared with which the receipts from the foreign and colonial postage was a trifle. In the Estimates of 1854 there was a charge for Custom-house officers in the North American colonies. In other words, we paid Custom-house officers for collecting the revenue of the colonies from which we derived no benefit whatever. In 1854 the charge under this head was £20,910 for the salaries and allowances to those officers in the North American colonies. On a previous occasion he had pointed that out to the Government, and last year it was reduced to £2,700. This year, he was happy to say, it had disappeared from the Estimates altogether. The other evening he brought the question of the Crown lands under the consideration of the House. He was sorry that nothing was said in the Estimates on that subject. He should like to know why these were withheld. It was a well-ascertained fact that in that department there was more waste than any other. It was a department which ought to be fully explained, for it belonged absolutely to the public, the Crown having, in consideration of the Civil List, made it over to the public. He had shown that £111,000 had 856 been expended without in any way being accounted for. If he had gone to a divivision, as he had intended to do, he should have stated some additional facts, with a view to show the enormous character of the expenditure, but he would not now detain the House with them.
said, he wished to impress upon the House that the Estimates must be voted before the 13th of March, which was perhaps the principal argument against their being referred to a Select Committee, as had been suggested by the hon. Member who had just addressed them. There had been of late years so many investigations by Commissions and otherwise, and he thought the work which the hon. Member for Lambeth desired to accomplish had been more effectually accomplished by Commissions than by any other means. In 1848, a Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole of the Customs department, and their labours were attended with very beneficial results, and many important changes had been effected. A Committee of that House had also laboured very beneficially in reference to improvements in the Custom system. Then, with regard to the Post Office. Last year, there was laid upon the table the result of a very careful inquiry into that establishment, the recommendations of which were now being carried into effect, and which had occasioned a part of the increase to which the hon. Member had referred. The increase to which the hon. Member had referred had been occasioned by the greater facilities of railways, and by the extension of district ports into every part of the United Kingdom. At present, the authorities of the Post Office were engaged in improving the communication with Ireland, in consequence of which there would probably be an increase in the Estimates next year. Then, again, with regard to the Customs, the labours of the department must be reckoned by the number of ships entering, and not by the amount of revenue received; and, to show how the business had increased, he need mention but one solitary fact—that, in 1820, the cost of collection was £8 19s. per cent, and the amount of shipping 2,115,000 tons, while, last year, the cost of collection was reduced to £5 14s. per cent, and the amount of shipping had increased to 9,151,000 tons. [Mr. W. WILLIAMS: What was the increase last year?] The increase in 1854 was 200,000 tons. With regard to the Post Office, it had been said that the charges 857 abroad ought not to be paid. If £800,000 a year were paid for packets, it was clear that we must have some persons to receive the letters thus conveyed. The hon. Member had said that there was no occasion for packet agents at Now York. The Government were obliged to send their Canadian letters and dispatches through the United States, and it was indispensable therefore that some one should be at New York to take charge of them in the interval between their arrival there and their despatch for Canada. Then, in regard to the Crown lands, he might state that a Return had been laid before the House, in which the whole revenue was stated in one column, the cost of collection in another, and the net receipts in a third. The public only held this property in trust, and at the death of any Sovereign the successor might take it, so that there was no constitutional reason why the House of Commons should not have the Estimates, more especially when it had the best possible information about the expenditure. As the hon. Gentleman was not to press his Motion for a Committee, he would not make any further remarks.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, in respect to the Crown lands, it was true that the accounts were given in the annual finance accounts, but they were given in such a confused shape, that he thought they would puzzle the hon. Secretary himself to understand them. He found amongst those accounts the item of £49,000 under one head, which was no account at all. The House was placed in a difficult position as regarded those Estimates. They were now called upon to Vote something like £5,000,000 without being able to ascertain whether the money was well applied or not. If the House had undertaken the duty of passing the annual Estimates, they ought to be prepared to examine into their details. He recollected when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) had made the change regarding the mode of dealing with those Estimates, and at the time he entertained much doubt as to the policy of the change. Now, with respect to those Estimates, what happened in 1854? Why, those Estimates were all passed on a Wednesday, within a period of eight minutes. The House had lost the security which it possessed before, when the heads of the various departments were held responsible for those Estimates. Between the responsibility attached to the 858 Government and that attached to the House if it passed those Estimates without inquiry, he was afraid that it would be difficult to place the responsibility upon any party. In respect to the payment of the clerks in the Custom House and the Post Office, there were great complaints from all parts of the country that their salaries were entirely too low. Unless they placed those Estimates in the hands of a small body of men for investigation, it would be impossible for the House to consider them properly. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he had taken into his consideration the propriety of submitting those Estimates to some special ordeal. Those Estimates had been only for three years presented to the House in their present shape. It behoved them to ascertain whether the right hon. Gentleman had considered the propriety of referring those Estimates to Select Committee.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was perfectly ready to enter into a fair discussion of the Motion of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams), whenever he brought it on. His answer to the question just put to him by the hon. Member who spoke last was this—If those Estimates had never undergone any ordeal—if they had never been submitted to any investigation—it would have been very proper, not only for the Government, but for every independent Member of the House of Commons, to demand that they should be submitted to a certain scrutiny; but, inasmuch as they had been annually submitted to Parliament, and from time to time had undergone a searching investigation, it would be only an unnecessary waste of time to refer them now to a Select Committee. It was, of course, the interest of the Government to collect the revenue in the cheapest and most efficacious manner. Not only had those Estimates from time to time been investigated by Commissioners of Revenue, but Commissions almost without number had investigated the collection of the revenue. There was scarcely any part of the expenditure more thoroughly considered during a long series of years— certainly as far back as the peace—by persons well skilled in all the departments of finance, with the double view—in the first place, of making the collection as economical as possible; and in the next, of organising the revenue department as efficiently as possible in order to prevent 859 evasions of the revenue. Those observations applied to the department of stamps and taxes, including the income tax, to the Excise, to the Customs, and to the Post Office. The perpetual complaints made to the Government were, that sufficient accommodation had not been given to the public in the delivery of letters; that the speed was not sufficiently great; that the deliveries should be more numerous; that not sufficient use was made of the railways; but that the old and less expeditious mode of conveyance was still resorted to. Now all the grounds of those complaints had been investigated, and the best remedies possible applied. Any further alterations would only lead to increased expenditure and greater cost in the collection of the revenue. Now, having given to those Estimates, in regard to that particular branch of the revenue, his especial care, he would express his confident opinion that there was no part of the public expenditure which could bear, without difficulty or without discredit, a more searching, a more jealous, and even a more hostile investigation than the expenditure for the different branches of the revenue. As far as any apprehension as to the result was concerned, he entertained none whatever as to the result of an inquiry into the subject by any impartial tribunal. If the House could satisfy itself that there was a rational ground to employ fifteen hon. Members as a Committee for the rest of the Session in investigating into the revenue departments—and if they thought that the result would be the introduction of some essential improvement, or that there would be a reduction effected in the expenses of the department, he should certainly offer no objection to such an inquiry. In the absence, however, of any such assurance, he confessed he did not see any advantage arising from the appointment of such a Committee.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee of Supply.
§ (1.) £840,001, Salaries and Expenses of the Customs Department.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he begged to ask for an explanation in respect to three items—namely, the medical inspector, with a salary of £800 a year; £28,000 for rent of warehouses for bonding tobacco; and the employment of three inspectors to look after twelve persons.
§ MR. WILSON
said, that a medical inspector was employed in the Customs department in the fulfilment, of the following 860 duties. The Committee would observe that 1,800 persons were employed in that department in London. To some of these an annual payment was made, to others a small daily addition whenever they were actually employed. Amongst so large a number of men, it was necessary to have some one competent to examine those who were desirous of entering the service. It was also necessary that a medical inspector should visit those who were absent on the ground of disease, in order, amongst so large a number, that the public should not be defrauded by simulated ill health. There was yet another reason for this officer; it was that it was found to be very essential to have some one to visit the poorer classes of employés when they were actually unwell. So necessary was this, that he could inform the Committee that many large establishments had of late years appointed such an officer, and as an example of this he would mention the Bank of England. The next question was as to the charge of £28,000 for bond ware-houses for tobacco, in respect of which only £8,000 was received from the merchants placing tobacco in bond. There was no doubt but that the revenue was a loser upon this item, but it was necessary to keep up the bond warehouse by reason of an Act of Parliament binding the Government to do so, the Government by statute being responsible for warehoused tobacco. The Act was rendered necessary from the character of the tobacco trade, and the probability there was of frauds occurring without especial care being taken. The last question of the hon. Member was, as to the employment of three inspectors to look after twelve under officers. The hon. Member seemed to suppose that the inspectors did nothing but look after those who were placed under them; but the fact was, that they worked at their particular branch in the same way is the subordinates, and were, in fact, a sort of superior officer.
§ MR. JOHN M'GREGOR
said, he should wish to see the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) taking up greater subjects than those connected with the payment of men, most of whom had discharged their duties in a manner most creditable to themselves, and advantageous to the public, at a miserably low rate of salary. Considering that the revenue from tobacco amounted to £5,000,000 a year, he thought that the Government could not do better than to provide proper ware- 861 houses for the article. He believed there was no other country in the world that paid their really working clerks such small salaries as ours did. He did not know any class of men so badly paid, and who worked so laboriously as the clerks in the department of the Post Office.
§ MR. MICHELL
said, he must complain of the inadequate remuneration given to the junior clerks in the Customs. He thought some of the higher officers should be reduced for the purpose of increasing the pay of the juniors. There wore thirty-four clerks receiving £38,000 a year amongst them, while there were 1,800 junior clerks, amongst whom £300,000 was given. Such an unjust discrepancy ought not to be allowed to exist. He must also complain of the manner in which the duties of those clerks were apportioned. Money was paid for extra time in the long room, but such money was most partially awarded, some getting nothing, while the more favoured ones got a great deal. Those who were required to attend before eight o'clock in the morning got nothing for overtime, but those who remained after four o'clock in the afternoon were those who were paid overtime. He trusted the whole system would be looked into and improved. He could bring forward circumstances connected with the Customs, which would astonish the House, He knew of a case of fm officer in the Customs who was so aged and infirm that he was carried out of a cab into his office, and had to sit in a chair every morning for half an hour before he could proceed with his duties.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he begged to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to an item of £28,500 for providing warehouses to store tobacco. This was reduced by a sum of;£8,000 received from merchants for the use of those stores. Now, what he desired to know was, why the sum received bore so small a proportion to the sum paid?
§ MR. WILSON
said, that warehouses of a very extensive and peculiar kind had to be provided for the storage of tobacco. Such provision was made for the protection of the revenue, but the merchants ought not to suffer for that, and therefore it was not thought right to charge them a higher storage rent than would be charged for ordinary warehouses. An additional reason for the disparity between the sum received and the sum paid under this head was, that while the Customs de- 862 partment were obliged to have warehouses sufficiently large to contain any quantity of tobacco which might be stored at any one time, they could only charge for the space occupied. During the greater part of the year there was a great deal of unoccupied storage in the warehouses.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he thought the revenue should not lose £20,500 a year by those warehouses. The parties who derived advantage from them ought to pay for them.
MR. LLOYD DAVIES
said, he thought an expenditure of £28,000 to get an income of £8,000 was an astounding fact. Either there was a great want of judgment in the expenditure, or of vigilance in collecting the income.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £486.028, Coast Guard.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, he wished to ask how had the vacancies caused in the coast-guard service, by so many of the coast guardsmen having joined the navy, been filled up? and whether the coast guards, who were now novices at their business, had been trained sufficiently to prevent any loss to the revenue from their want of skill and experience in their duties? The next question he would ask was, what average proportion did the pay of the now hands bear to that of those who had been placed in the navy?
§ MR. WILSON
said, that the vacancies which the hon. and gallant Member alluded to had not been all filled up. In the selections they had made of new hands the department had done the best they could to procure efficient officers. An increase of a sum of £2,700, that appeared in the Estimates, occurred in this way—the Customs had been obliged to provide pensions for a number of men who had joined the navy, but who, it appeared, were not entitled to pensions on account of naval service.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he begged to inquire whether there was not a difference between the pay of the coast guards employed in this country and those employed in Ireland? He did not know why there should be.
§ MR. WILSON
said, that up to a recent period there was a difference, owing to the coast guardsmen in Ireland having been paid in Irish currency. However, on a representation of that fact being made to them, the Lords of the Treasury had come to the conclusion that there was no reason why there should be this difference, 863 and an assimilation of pay had been the result.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he would also beg to ask whether care had been taken, when the recent appointments were being made, to appoint to the coast guard service men who had been to sea, and who were of such an age as that their services could be made available for the navy, in case of a continuance of the present war, or of a new war arising? He made this inquiry in consequence of the number of coast guardsmen who had come into the navy bald-headed and with, spectacles.
§ MR. WILSON
said, that every care had been taken to procure efficient men. It was, however, very difficult at the present time to get them. Many of those who had temporarily left the service to join the navy would expect to be restored to their former positions when peace should have been restored.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £1,459,207, Salaries and Expenses Inland Revenue Department.
§ MR. HANKEY
said, he wished, before this Vote was taken, to call the attention of the Committee to the amount of poundage paid for the collection of the income tax. Although under an increased taxation, the income tax collectors had only the same duty to perform as when the amount to be collected was much smaller, they were allowed the same poundage, and the result was, that they had made, in 1855, double what they had in the previous year. The poundage paid to one gentleman was, for the year 1855, £5,740, out of which he bad to pay a sum of £800 for clerks, leaving him a net income of £4,900 for the year. Now, if this gentleman were to be paid the same rate of poundage for the present year, his pay for collecting income tax would amount to between £6,000 and £7,000, besides which he was paid for other duties discharged by him in connection with the revenue. If there were no other mode of dealing with this matter a Bill ought to be brought in to change the system. There was an anomaly in the matter too; for the gentleman whoso name appeared first on the list of the London collection, and whose services were of the highest order, received only £450 a year.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE
said, that the Committee was aware that the collection of income tax was different in principle from that of any other tax. 864 As a general rule, the collector of a revenue tax was an officer paid by the department of the Government under which he was employed, and was an officer of the establishment; but on account of the jealousy that not unnaturally existed in regard to the particular nature of the income tax, Commissioners were appointed, who were not officers of the Crown, and those Commissioners appointed collectors, who were paid a poundage settled by Act of Parliament. This system might occasionally lead to such anomalies as that now under the consideration of the Committee. He confessed himself that, though he entertained great respect for the jealousy manifested by Parliament in all that pertained to the income tax, he nevertheless had some doubt as to the expediency of the present system of collection, and he believed that, on the whole, it would be more advisable to assimilate the system of income tax collection to that on which the other revenue taxes were collected. He had for some time had a plan for effecting this object under his consideration; but there were difficulties in the way of carrying it out, which must be overcome before he could submit any proposition on the subject to the House.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he must complain of the discrepancy of the incomes of the collectors, some being £6,000 a year and some only £27. In the country, farmers had to collect over large and thinly-populated districts for the latter remuneration. He also had to complain of an item of £10,000 for copying wills, he presumed with a view to the collection of the legacy and probate duty. The amount seemed enormous, and, he believed, gave an income of from £8,000 to £9,000 a year to an officer of Doctors' Commons. Why not have the wills copied by the clerks from the Inland Revenue Department? He also wished for information respecting £63,000 for the revenue police in Ireland, including a charge for a screw steamer.
§ MR. WILSON
said, that the fees alluded to by the hon. Member were paid in pursuance of a regulation of the Ecclesiastical Courts, with which the Treasury had nothing to do. However, from what bad recently been stated as to the number of wills lodged in Doctors' Commons in a year, this sum of £10,000 would show a fee of 5s. for each will, which was not an extravagant sum. The employment of the revenue police in Ireland had been rendered necessary by the increase which had 865 from time to time been made in the duty on whisky. The steamer was employed in consequence of a number of cargoes of tobacco having been landed on the coast of Ireland, which afforded facilities for that kind of smuggling.
§ Vote agreed to; as was also—
§ (4.) £63,025, Revenue Police,
§ (5.) £1,740,483, Post-Office Services.
said, he should like to have seen the increase made in the salaries of the superior officers of the Post Office in Ireland extended to the inferior class of officers; but he saw no reason whatever why the head of the department in that country should have his salary increased to £1,000 a year, especially as there were no additional duties imposed upon him. It would be in the recollection of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that last year a Committee was appointed to inquire respecting the conveyance of the mails and the manner in which the Post Office carried out the service in certain parts of Ireland. Subsequently the Committee was instructed to extend its inquiries to the whole of Ireland; but its sittings commenced so late in the Session that it found it could not get through the details in sufficient time to prepare any recommendations upon the subject. It recommended, therefore, that it should be permitted to resume its inquiries during the present year. He now wished to know if the Government were prepared to allow the Members of that Committee to re-assemble; for he believed he might say he was authorised to state that many of the most useful of its Members were ready to serve again. At the present moment there was a fresh necessity for the resumption by the Committee of its labours. Within the last two or three days a Treasury Minute had been issued with regard to the postal communication between England and Ireland, which was drawn up, as it appeared to him, satisfactorily to the Irish people. It pointed at some acceleration in the mail communication between London and Dublin; but he apprehended that those alterations would entail an almost total change of times of arrival and departure, not only between one country and the other, but in all the provincial towns of Ireland. He thought the Committee might well take these arrangements into its consideration, and he hoped the Government would allow it to reassemble for the purpose of concluding its labours.
§ MR. WILSON
said, there was no change 866 in the conditions upon which the office of secretary to the Post Office in Ireland was held, as his hon. and gallant Friend seemed to think; but, according to the original conditions, it was to be augmented £100 a year, from £700 until it reached £1,000. With regard to the Treasury Minute, his hon. and gallant Friend had fairly stated that the great changes which were contemplated by it might possibly cause an alteration in the hours of arrival and departure of the mail between the two countries, and in that event involve the necessity of some reorganisation of all the internal mails. But a work of that kind could not possibly be undertaken by a Committee of that House. It was of so extensive and minute a character that it would require the officers of the chief office themselves, in their individual capacity, to lay it down and work it before a Committee could possibly judge of the propriety of the arrangement. If, after the new arrangements were completed, it appeared to Irish Members that it was desirable the Committee should inquire further into the local postal regulations, he should not, on the part of the Government, oppose it.
said, he certainly considered that it would be better that the new arrangements should be carried out by the Post-Office officials. He would not, therefore, move for the reappointment of the Committee, until he saw how the arrangement worked.
said, he wished to draw attention to the circumstance that a memorial had been presented to the Post-Office authorities, from the local magistrates and inhabitants of Dundee, complaining of the small number of lettercarriers—seven only—employed in that town. He hoped the number would be increased, and also that the carriers would be provided with a distinctive uniform.
§ MR. MICHELL
said, he thought the letter-carriers were, as a rule, very badly remunerated. For his part he was not surprised that so many robberies were perpetrated by that class of servants; he rather wondered that there were not more. The poor men were kept on their feet for eight and ten hours a day, and received in wages the miserable pittance of 19s. a week. It was a disgrace to the department, that with so large a revenue, it should pay the men such scanty wages. He willingly admitted that Mr. Rowland Hill had done a great deal to improve the postal service and promote its efficiency; 867 but there was much more yet to do before he would have placed it on a proper footing. The times of Sir Robert Walpole had been referred to as distinguished for corruption. [Laughter.] The Secretary to the Treasury might laugh; but he (Mr. Michell) could tell him that the Post Office could furnish him with cases of corruption worthy only of the times of Walpole. See, for example, the invidious distinction that was made between the post offices in the borough towns and those in towns which were not boroughs. Why, in the former, the officials were paid double what they were in the latter; and the reason was palpable. Political considerations were at the bottom of it all. In Honiton, with a population of 3,437, the post-office expenditure was £161 per annum, and the letter-carrier was paid £36. Honiton was a borough represented by two Whigs. But in Sidmouth, with a population of 3,444, the expense of the post office was £90, and the letter-carrier was paid only £18. Sidmouth, however, was not a borough. These cases were not exceptional; for there was a long list of others precisely similar in their character, and among these he might mention Bridport. [An hon. MEMBER: "Bodmin."] Yes, Bodmin, too; he would not excuse it more than any other place; Chard, Crewkerne, and St. Austel. He considered the system was a disgrace to the Post-Office authorities, and the sooner a Committee was appointed to inquire into it the better.
MR. LLOYD DAVIES
said, he quite concurred with the hon. Member for Bodmin that the letter-carriers were most inadequately paid. He also wished to draw attention to the smallness of the remuneration awarded to postmasters in villages in remote districts. He did not, however, blame the officials for that, but the system. It clearly showed that there was something radically wrong in the mode in which the large funds of the Post Office were appropriated. If the revenue of the department was sufficient to cover the expenditure proposed, and give a surplus, he thought they should not have persons in the service who were insufficiently paid. The answer given by the General Post Office to the representations made to it on the subject was, that the profits of those districts were not enough to justify an increase of the allowance made to those persons. But he regarded the Post Office as a national establishment; and if they were receiving too little in one part of the king- 868 dom, they were receiving so much in another, that, in his opinion, they might with the greatest justice and propriety make that increase.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, he must confess that he was astonished at the wonderful regularity and despatch with which the Post-Office arrangements were carried out, although, no doubt, there might be some small matters which required adjustment. He thought it would be a useful change in London and large cities if all the receiving houses were required to have some sign or distinguishing mark in the day, and a coloured light after dark to attract the eye, so that a stranger might know where to go to post a letter by night and by day. He would also suggest that the letter-carriers should wear a similar kind of uniform in the country as they did in London.
§ Mr. WILSON
said, that the practice of giving uniforms had, within the last year, been extended to several towns, including Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Liverpool. In answer to some remarks which had been made by different hon. Members, he begged to observe, that there could be no question that the large towns had been well supplied with letter-carriers, but that the great difficulty of the Post Office hitherto had been in permeating the rural districts; and that was one of the special objects to which Lord Canning had with great assiduity directed his attention. Eight or ten years ago there was scarcely such a thing as a sub-post office in the small hamlets and villages throughout the country. In 1854, however, there were as many as 7,986 of such Post Offices; in 1855 the number bad been increased to 8,479; and at present there were 8,960—showing an increase of nearly 1,000 in two years. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Michell) had complained of the low rate at which the keepers of those offices were paid; but the fact was that either those persons must be paid a very small sum, or the sub-post offices must be given up. Small as the amount was, however, there was a great deal of competition for it, and it was somewhat enhanced by the poundage received upon the sale of postage and receipt stamps. The gross revenue of the Post Office was £2,700,000, and the cost of collection was £1,700,000, leaving a balance of £1,000,000, of which, however, the packet service consumed £800,000. Strictly speaking, the Post Office must not be regarded as a branch of revenue, but as a great public service which 869 conferred vast advantages upon the community, and did little more than pay its expenses.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, ho wished to point out that there was an increase in the salary of the solicitor to the Post Office at Edinburgh from £100 to £400 a year, and, without saying that the amount was too large, he wished to know the reason for the increase? He also begged to ask what this country had to do with paying for the postal arrangements of Jamaica and Hong Kong? There was a deputy postmaster general at Jamaica with a salary of £1,000 a year; what were his duties? There were numerous clerks also, and various incidental expenses, which brought up the item for salaries to £4,480. What did this country, he would ask, receive in return for that payment? The postmaster general at Hong Kong received £600 a year; that appeared to be an extravagant sum, and the Committee had a right to some explanation on the subject.
§ MR. WILSON
said, that the increase from £100 to £400, for the salary of the solicitor to the Post Office in Edinburgh was accounted for by the fact that the £100 had been paid to a deputy while the office of solicitor was vacant; but a new appointment having been since made, the salary of course returned to its former scale. With regard to the case of Jamaica, the amount of the post-office salaries (£4,480) was far more than compensated by the postal revenues derived from that island. Should the Colonies hereafter prefer to undertake the management of their own postal establishments entirely new arrangements would have to be made; but as long as the mother country collected the whole of these revenues she must be content to bear the whole of the expense. As to the salary of the postmaster at Hong Kong, £600 was not an excessive remuneration for a man who expatriated himself to an unhealthy climate to fill such an office; and when it was borne in mind that we carried on an export trade with China amounting to more than £2,000,000 annually, together with a very extensive import trade, it would he obvious that regular postal communication with that distant quarter was indispensable, and could not be provided except at considerable expense.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that a larger trade was carried on at Canton, where the postmaster's salary was but one-half the 870 sum paid at Hong Kong. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wilson) had not explained the whole of the items relating to Jamaica. There was a charge of £42,700, which he had not accounted for.
§ MR. WILSON
stated, that only £1,300 of the £42,700 applied to Jamaica. The hon. Member had committed the serious mistake of placing a charge, spreading over the whole of the British Empire, to the exclusive account of the island of Jamaica.
§ Vote agreed to, as was also—
§ (6.) £80,000, Medal Services.
§ House resumed.