§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury what is the number of steam vessels which the post Office agreed with the European and Australian Mail Company should be placed on the line from Australia to Suez; was proper security taken by the Post Office before the line was opened that the proper number of vessels were placed on the station; did the number of vessels agreed upon provide against a contingency, or loss, or break down of one or more of the vessels?
said, the contract between the Australian Mail Company and the Government provided that they should have at least six vessels engaged in the service, but they were bound to perform the service irrespective of this, and to have therefore in reserve a sufficient number of steamers to provide for breakdowns. The full number of packets was put upon the station in October last, but the Oneida, as the House was aware, broke down. The Government had called for the enforcement of the penalty for the non-performance of that voyage, but he felt bound to say, with regard to the rest of the service, that it had been performed entirely to the satisfaction of the Post Office, and that the arrivals had been within the time limited by the contract. Immediately on its being known that the Oneida had broken down, another steamer was despatched by the Company round the Cape of Good Hope. Everything, therefore, had been done which could be done by the company; and, on the other hand, the Government, as he had stated, had enforced the penalty under the terms of the contract for the non-performance of that particular voyage.