HC Deb 07 March 1861 vol 161 c1539

said he would beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If his attention had been called to the fact that the Cunard Company's screw-steamer Australasian which sailed from Liverpool for New York on the 16th of February, has returned to Queenstown; and whether he will now direct the Post Office to make further inquiries as to the manner in which that Company are performing the conditions of their contract?


said he had no doubt that the Post Office authorities had permitted the mails to be taken out by the Australasian screw-steamer. He was not, however, aware of any reason why such permission should be questioned, and he had made no inquiry into the subject. It appeared, whilst proceeding on her passage the steamer broke two blades of her screw, and endeavoured to make her way through the Atlantic with the remaining one. The weather, however, proving so bad, this proved impracticable. After a long struggle she returned, and the mails were transferred to the Arabian. There were no stipulations on the part of the Government against the employment of screw-steamers, nor did it appear that in this case there was any ground of objection to that instrument of navigation. The fact was that an account of a very bad accident to a steamer of the Peninsular and Oriental Company had been received, namely, the breaking of the starboard paddle shaft off Gibraltar, at the same time as the account of the failure of the Australasian to make her way across the Atlantic. He was not, therefore, aware of any grounds for supposing that the incident indicated a general defective performance of the service by the Cunard Company; and unless he were cognisant of such grounds, it would, he thought, be most unseemly, on account of an accident happening to a particular vessel, to institute an inquiry which might imply dissatisfaction, and which, as far as he was informed, the Government had no reason to express.