HC Deb 06 March 1857 vol 144 cc1954-6

said, he wished to ask the hon. Secretary to the Treasury whether any arrangement had been completed for the improvement of the communication between this country and Ireland? The North-western Railway Company and a Steampacket Company had been empowered to establish a line of communication between Kingstown and Holyhead, and the Government had stated that they would endeavour to effect arrangements with those companies for the conveyance of the mails. Parliament had been led to believe last Session that those arrangements were on the eve of completion, but the promised improvement of postal communication had not yet taken place. He understood that the terms of an agreement had been arranged between the Government and the companies, and he wished to know what obstacle prevented that agreement from being carried into effect?


said, that great dissatisfaction existed in Ireland, especially among the mercantile classes, in consequence of the delay that had taken place in establishing a more speedy postal communication between England and Ireland. He did not say that the delay was chargeable upon the Government, but he hoped the arrangements in progress would be completed with all possible despatch.


said, that members of every party connected with Ireland had much reason to complain on the subject. Promises had been made in every quarter that the service would be upon a completely different footing, and not one of those promises had been realized. Obstructions had been systematically thrown in the way, and the Postmaster General (the Duke of Argyll) had admitted in the House of Lords that he knew nothing whatever on the subject.


said, he must beg to inform the noble Lord that the Postmaster General had entered fully into the subject when questioned in the House of Lords. He admitted the great importance of the question to the commercial interests of Ireland and to the public generally, and he could assure the noble Lord that negotiations were at that moment in progress with a view to its settlement. In the course of last year the Treasury passed a Minute on the subject, and entered into communications with the Post Office and the Railway and Steam-packet Companies, on the basis of that Minute. The Treasury had reason to believe that the evidence given before the Select Committee by Captain Huish, the traffic manager of the London and North-Western Railway Company, might be depended upon as conveying the feeling of that Company, and that gentleman had stated that the service by land and sea could be performed in less than eleven hours for £45,000 per annum additional. It now turned out that the Company were not prepared to endorse the evidence of Captain Huish, as they stated that they could not do the service in the time with perfect safety, and therefore the Treasury Minute could not be carried out. That objection raised a new question, for if a longer period was consumed in the service the whole advantage of the proposed arrangement would be lost. It was absolutely necessary that the day mail from London to Dublin should arrive at the latter place in order to admit of the letters being forwarded to the provinces by the night mail, and that the letters by the day mail from the provinces should arrive in Dublin in time to be forwarded by the night mail to London; and, if that point could not be gained, no adequate measure of public convenience could be secured to the large towns in Ireland. The Treasury was now engaged in ascertaining whether they could not make such modifications at this side of the water, and in the provinces of Ireland, which might make the arrangement conformable with the views of the London and North-western Railway Company.


What is the time now proposed?


Eleven hours and three quarters.


said, he thought the reason why the Companies did not come into the terms of the Government was, that no allowance had been made for occasions when from stress of weather, or other unavoidable circumstances, the vessels were unable to perform the passage in the allotted time. There could be no difficulty in accomplishing the land journey in the time specified; it was when they came to the sea traffic that their difficulties occurred. And he thought if the Government would make allowance for casualties, that the Companies would come in to their terms.

Subject dropped.