HC Deb 04 March 1859 vol 152 cc1278-9

said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he will cause Postage Stamps to be issued of the value of ninepence for the convenience of persons despatching letters to India. When the great and beneficial change was made in the Post Office arrangements, and the old fashioned system of paying for a letter on its receipt was done away, the great boon to the public was the facility of prepaying letters by means of postage stamps. This new system had not been developed. In some cases it was impossible to prepay letters by stamps. At present the stamps issued were 1d., 2d., 6d., and 1s., whereas the variety of sums charged for the postage of letters was almost infinite. Prepayment of letters to India was compulsory; the charge was 9d., and it would be a great convenience to the public if the Post Office would issue a stamp of that amount. There was the same charge on letters to Ceylon and Australia. There were many places on the Continent of Europe to which it was impossible to prepay a letter by stamps, because the postage included a fraction of a penny. Thus, the postage to Denmark was 10½d; to Greece, viâ Belgium, 1s.d.; Poland 11½d.; Russia, 11½d.; Switzerland, 10½d. The answer that the fraction might be easily raised to 1d., and that if the postage were 11½d. it might be made a 1s., could not he recognized as a matter of business. There was another point to which he wished to call attention; at present the postmen in the rural districts were authorized to sell stamps, but were not compelled to do so. They were bound to accept money in prepayment of letters, and to affix the stamps to the proper amount. The rural postmen, he knew, were a very honest class of men, but this arrangement subjected them to considerable temptation, which would be obviated if they were compelled to have a certain amount in their possession, so that persons purchasing them might affix them themselves. He would ask whether the Secretary of the Treasury would cause postage stamps to be issued of the value of 9d., for the convenience of persons sending letters to India.


said, he wished to add another word to the inquiry. A promise was made last June that a stamp of 3d. should be provided for newspapers in India. He wished to know whether the construction of this stamp was in progress?


said, that with regard to the last question, of which the right hon. Gentleman had kindly given him notice, he was enabled to state that though circumstances had occurred to delay its preparation, the 3d.stamp had been in progress for a considerable time, arid would soon be completed. The work was one of a very delicate and peculiar kind, and there were only two persons who were known to be capable of executing it. One of these had declined to undertake it, and the other was occupied with a great deal of other business, and had had a long illness. With regard to the question put to him by his hon. Friend behind him, he (Sir S. Northcote) had inquired at the Post Office to know whether there was any objection to issue a Post Office stamp for 9d., and he had been told that it would lead to considerable complication of the accounts. Of course it was the object of the Post Office to supply the country offices with stamps in the number and of the value that were likely to be generally useful; and inconvenience would arise if a great variety of stamps that were not often called for were supplied to country postmasters, and bad to lie on hand with them till they got injured. There need be no practical difficulty experienced, whether in regard to a 9d. or 3d. stamp on the part of the public, because persons could easily have their newspaper wrappers stamped, and their envelopes for letters impressed with an embossed stamp if they employed a stationer to go to the Inland Revenue Department for that purpose. As to the other questions which had been put to him without notice, he roust put himself in communication with the Post Office before giving an answer to them.