§ MR. R. LONG
said, he rose to move for a Select Committee of inquiry respecting the operations of the Post Office, with an especial view to the improvement of the existing arrangements for the transmission of mails in the provincial districts. His object was duly to point out the defects in our postal system within the kingdom, and he hoped that the instances which he would lay before the House would he sufficient to convince hon. Members of the reasonableness of his Motion. Some time ago he had put a question to Her Majesty's Goverment on the subject, but the answer he had received appeared to him so ambiguous that he thought himself justified in now asking the House to assent to a Committee of Inquiry. He had no wish to make any attack on the leading principles of the postal system. On the contrary, he did not think that anything could he better than the general arrangements made some twenty-five or thirty years ago for the transmission of our mails from London to the most extreme points of the kingdom. Too little attention had, however, been paid to tin; public convenience in regard to the postal communications between certain provincial town- in which the arrangements still observed wore of an extremely objectionable character. When it was considered what an enormous increase had taken place of late years in the number of letters transmitted through the post, it became the 403 more necessary to accelerate as much as possible the communication between one provincial town and another. Now, it was undeniable that in many of our provincial towns advantage was not taken of facilities which really existed for the speedy despatch and delivery of letters, and the mails were still despatched by a horse and cart and sometimes even by messengers on foot. Notwithstanding the existence of railways, such clumsy arrangements were still adhered to, whereby three days were required for a letter to be received and an answer returned to the writer between towns of only a few miles distance from each other. Such facts proved distinctly a great want of supervision and of progress in the postal department. Remonstrances had been made over and over again against the continuance of such a system; private interest had likewise been brought to bear but without effect. That was the state of things in a district with which he was connected, and though improvements had been suggested they had been unable till January last to obtain the opinion of the Post Office on the subject. It was not, in fact, until February last, when a few hon. Members warmly took up the question, that the Treasury conceded certain facilities for the transmission of letters between some of those towns which complained of the inconvenience and delay of the then existing system. In many other provincial towns, however, the evil continued unabated. A memorial from Hereford had been forwarded to him, of which a copy had been presented to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. In that document it was stated that, notwithstanding the existence of railway communication between Hereford, Ross, and Gloucester, the mails were still conveyed through the district of those important towns by horse and cart along the turnpike road, which ran nearly parallel with the railway. That was, in his opinion, a gross piece of mismanagement, for which no defence could be set up. Again, he had received a letter from a gentleman residing near Newport, in South Wales, complaining of similar defects in the postal arrangements in that district. Between Newport, Cardiff, Merthyr, and other important towns, the mails were still conveyed by horse and cart, instead of by the railway, which communicated directly with them. With regard to the postal communications between Shrewsbury and Dublin, he had been informed by a gentleman, resident at the former, and having 404 large trade transactions with the latter place, that in consequence of the Irish mails arriving at Stafford one hour after the down mails left Shrewsbury, twenty-four hours' delay occurred in the despatch and receipt of letters between Shrewsbury and Dublin. That was an inconvenience to which the public had no right to be subjected. Then, again, with regard to the postal arrangements between Shrewsbury and Liverpool. A passenger could be conveyed from Shrewsbury to Liverpool in three hours, but it required twenty-four hours for a letter to reach Liverpool and for an answer to be received in Shrewsbury. That was a great grievance, and one which the public had a right to call upon the Post Office authorities to remedy. Coming nearer to London, he had received a letter from a gentleman, dated from Ash, near Sevenoaks, in Kent, complaining that letters from that place were sent by the South Eastern Railway by Croydon to Tunbridge, thence by omnibus to Seven-oaks, to Wrotham by mail cart, and the last seven miles to Ash by messenger. Remonstrances had been made over and over again to the Post Office, but the inhabitants could get no redress. Another letter from a magistrate resident at Uckfield, in Sussex, on behalf of the inhabitants of his locality, stated that it took two days to send a letter to a place only seven or nine miles distant. The letters were first sent to London, and then by a circuitous route to their destination, and when there happened to be a heavy fall of snow they were delayed several hours longer. Notwithstanding all their complaints they could get no redress from the Post Office authorities, and it was therefore to be inferred that no better arrangements could be made than that four days should be wasted in communicating with parties residing at a distance of only nine miles from each other, and in receiving an answer, in fact as long a time as would be required for a communication with Paris or Edinburgh. It would be easy to multiply instances of delay, but he had no wish to occupy the time of the House unnecessarily, in order to show that some beneficial change was absolutely necessary, and that the country generally had a right to expect to be provided with rapid and frequent postal communication. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury would, no doubt, ask what remedies he proposed to remedy the evils pointed out. Such remedies appeared to him very simple. First, let the Post Office 405 authorities adopt the railway system in its entirety; and secondly, let them place the central Post Office in the heart of die railway system. If the chief and central Post Office was removed from St. Martin's-le-Grand to Charing Cross, the old building might be advantageously sold, and thus a large sum might be placed at the Chancellor of the Exchequer's disposal, either for the building of a worthy national gallery, or for other purposes. Then there ought to be post offices at all the railway stations, and the letter boxes should be cleared and the letters forwarded by every train. Such a plan would multiply communications in definitely between different places on the line, in which case all delays arising from cross posts would be obviated. The adoption of such a system would greatly increase the revenue and give great satisfaction to the public. There should also be a free delivery of letters all over the country, the same as in the metropolitan districts, and an additional expense should not be thrown on remote districts, as was now the case. Local newspapers ought to have the privilege of transmission through the Post Office, as well as newspapers generally, by the issue of a cheap postage stamp. The ability now displayed in the conduct of the cheap press, the increased intelligence of the people who read those newspapers, and the immense number now in daily circulation throughout the country, rendered it necessary that such accommodation of cheap and easy transit should be given to the public. But so far from the Post Office authorities having done anything to assist the diffusion of knowledge in that respect, they levied 100 per cent tax on every penny newspaper transmitted through the Post Office. Hitherto the Post Office had allowed the mail carts to take packages of newspapers into the rural districts, but an order had recently been issued prohibiting the continuance of that arrangement unless each paper bore a stamp. So far from the present system being advantageous to the revenue it was the reverse, but the issue of a cheap stamp such as he had referred to would, he was certain, add considerably to the Post Office returns. In that opinion he was borne out by a passage in the last Post Office Report, which stated, that whilst the Post Office had incurred additional expense by reason of the improved arrangements throughout the country to the amount of l½ per cent, the increase of revenue in 1862 over 1861 was 3 per cent; clearly showing, he contended, that every 406 advantage given to the public was appreciated, and was made a means of usefulness and a positive benefit to the revenue. He hoped he should not plead in vain to the House for that support which he now ventured to ask for his Motion for a Select Committee.
§ MR. CLIVE
begged to second the Motion, and said, when he came down to the House he was under the impression that the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Long) would not have brought it forward until to-morrow, and he was, therefore, not prepared with the facts which he had intended to bring forward in order to fortify the arguments of the hon. Member. He might state, however, that several complaints of delay in the transmission of letters through the post had come under his own personal knowledge. He particularly referred to Hereford and its neighbourhood, where the greatest inconvenience was experienced, owing to the mails being sent round through Shrewsbury, He had been in constant communication with his constituents on the subject for the last two years, and had made several representations to the Postmaster General, but without success. They were much obliged to the Postmaster General for some improvements he had effected, but grievances remained unredressed which subjected the public to much inconvenience. He hoped that the statements that had been made would have some influence on the mind of the noble Lord Her Majesty's Postmaster General.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Post Office, with an especial view to the improvement of existing arrangements for the transmission of Mails in the provincial districts,"— (Mr. Richard Long,)
§ MR. PUGH
said, the country was much indebted to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Long) for having brought forward the subject. Great dissatisfaction had existed in the neighbourhood of Carmarthen for some years past relative to the postal arrangements of the district The great cause for complaint was that sufficient use was not made of the facilities afforded by railways for the transmission of letters; and he was able to endorse the statements of the hon. Member with regard to the insufficiency of the arrangements at Gloucester and Car- 407 marthen. He could give other instances but he thought it unnecessary, feeling satisfied that right would be done on the proposed Committee. He was sure that the districts in South Wales, especially Carmarthen, would derive great benefit from the labours of such a Committee.
§ MR. AYTOUN
said, he could corroborate the statements that had been made with reference to the great dissatisfaction that prevailed in country districts with regard to the present postal arrangements. The inhabitants of the rural districts of Scotland had also great reason for complaint, and he hoped the Committee would not be refused. The indifference shown by the Post Office authorities to the convenience of important places in the country, and the great delay in remedying a grievance when stated, were universally condemned. He brought a grievance complained of by his constituents before the notice of Her Majesty's Postmaster General in October last; and though the remedy for the same was, in itself, but a simple matter—an additional post in the middle of the day— five months elapsed before it was applied. The insufficiency of the present system was complained of in all parts of the country, and he hoped the Committee would be granted.
§ MR. WYLD
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would accede to the Motion. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Long) had not complained so much of Post Office mismanagement as of the persistent non-adoption of modern facilities offered by railways for improved postal arrangements. He spoke for the inhabitants of a large portion of the West of England, and though they were very thankful for what had already been done—and they knew how much they owed to the great man, who had till very recently held a high position in the General Post Office—still much remained to he accomplished, in order to give even absolutely necessary accommodation. He believed, that so far from Her Majesty's revenue losing by the improvements which were suggested for facilitating the delivery of letters, it would be greatly augmented thereby.
§ MR. LIDDELL
begged to remind the House that the subject of the postal arrangements of the country was a very wide one. In 1853 he obtained a Select Committee of Inquiry, similar to the one now asked for, and they found it an Herculean task. He, therefore, ventured to 408 suggest the expediency of defining, as correctly as possible, the precise branches of inquiry into which the Committee ought to enter, Without such definition, our postal arrangements were so extensive that several Sessions would elapse before the inquiry would be concluded. It was now urged that our postal arrangements had not kept pace with the requirements of the times, and he, as the representative of a large commercial community, could add his testimony to many of the statements of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Long) with regard to the great complaints that were made in many parts of the country, that our present postal arrangements did not meet the requirements and growing wants of the public. The right hon. Baronet the present Home Secretary (Sir George Grey) gave some valuable information before the Committee of 1853 relative to his own locality, and some of the suggestions he then made had, he believed, been since carried out. He had received a letter from the largest journalist in his neighbourhood, complaining of the serious inconvenience to which the public had been put, in consequence of the order recently issued by the Post Office, forbidding the Post Office messengers from taking parcels of newspapers into the rural districts, without each paper were stamped. He would urge the Government to grant the Committee which had been asked for, the scope of its inquiry being strictly limited to the matters of grievance which were wished to be remedied.
§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
begged to corroborate what had fallen from the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Wyld), as to the dissatisfaction which prevailed in the West of England respecting the present postal arrangements. Scarcely any use was there made of the railways for postal purposes, and the inhabitants were at present absolutely worse off, with regard to the transmission of letters, than they were before the ago of railways. In one district there was only one post a day where formerly there were two. A few years ago, he brought before the House the case of a parish in Wilts, where a letter received from a place only five miles distant, occupied four days in its journey, having been taken round by Bristol, London, and possibly to other places. He had hoped that the Post Office authorities might have been able to improve the system, but nothing whatever had been done. He had been on deputation after deputation to the Post- 409 master General, having for their object the facilitation of the conveyance of letters, but no remedy had been devised. He, therefore, thought it time that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the existing arrangements, and to suggest improvements therein.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that the postal communication with Aberdeen had been thrown into the greatest confusion in consequence of the discontinuance of the direct mails from Aberdeen. The railway companies were always ready to make the most liberal arrangements for the conveyance of the mails, and which would ensure the convenience of the district, but they were met by the remark, "Oh, you are too costly; the Post Office cannot afford it." But, in his opinion, whether the arrangements were costly or not, they ought to be adopted if the convenience of the public would be thereby enhanced. He thought that out of the large revenue of the Post Office a portion might well be devoted to remedying the grievances now complained of.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, that in ninny cases improved arrangements had not been carried out, in consequence of the extravagant sums demanded by railway companies for the conveyance of mails. With regard to the complaints which had been made, he believed that the Post Office authorities had made great efforts lo meet the wants of the public, but in so widely extended a system there must always be some particular cases of grievance, and it was impossible to satisfy every one.
said, the Motion of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Lonjr) sought to establish two propositions, first, that country places and provincial districts were not well and satisfactorily served with regard to their local correspondence; and secondly, that it was expedient to appoint a Committee to consider what improvements could be made, and in what manner they could be carried out. He thought that country places, generally speaking, had no great reason to complain of the present postal arrangements. The hon. Gentleman admitted that they had shared to the full extent with other parts of the country the advantages of a low and uniform rate of postage, and all the other improvements with regard to the registration of letters, money order offices and Post Office savings banks; and there was scarcely a place, however out of the way 410 and remote, that a letter did not reach its destination in the course of a single night. The hon. Gentleman had complained of the restriction on free delivery of letters at the residence of the persons to whom they were addressed; but the Report of the Post Master General stated that more than 95 per cent of all letters were delivered free at the residences to which they were addressed, and that this percentage was being continually enlarged. He by no means wished to imply that the system was perfect, or that there might not be ground for complaint in particular cases. Indeed, if it were possible to perfect the system to-day, change of circumstances would render it imperfect to-morrow. What was wanted, however, was not the enunciation of some new principle within the scope of a recommendation of a Committee of Inquiry, but rather arrangements in detail for the consideration of the heads of the Post Office Department. The hon. Member for Chippenham had cited a number of particular cases with the view of showing that there was ground for inquiry on the part of the House; but it was very difficult to form any positive opinion as to whether those cases proved defective management, for the House had not the contra statement of the Post Office, nor could they have had it, because the hon. Gentleman's notice did not state the cases on which he intended to rely. Doubtless, as the hon. Member had stated, there were isolated cases in which the arrangements were not perfect; but probably the inconveniences resulting there from were greatly outweighed by the advantages of the general system on which the business of the Post Office was conducted, from which some inconveniences could not be severed. The hon. Gentleman had complained of want of expeditious communication between contiguous places. But he did not think it was the duty of the Post Office to establish communications between places merely because they were near, and without taking into consideration the correspondence which passed between them. The places might be very near, and the number of letters very small; and, in that ease, the Post Office would not be justified in incurring a large expense to meet the demands of a very small correspondence. Again, it was conducive to the general convenience that the mails of the different localities should arrive at the same time as the London mails. The correspondence between London and any particular locality 411 had to be considered in the first place; and the delivery of letters in rural districts must be regulated in connection with that correspondence. Complaints had been made of the few deliveries in the country; hut it must he remembered that letters could not be delivered on the arrival of every mail without an army of letter carriers. The arrangements must be so contrived as to make one or two deliveries suffice for all the correspondence of the place. It sometimes happened that the mail course between two places near each other might be circuitous and yet not inconvenient, as for instance when mails were dispatched by an up-train on one line to be met and brought back by a down-train on another. Another complaint had been that the facilities afforded by railways were not sufficiently made use of by the Post Office. The Post Office had power in some cases to demand the running of a mail train; in others, to arrange for the use of particular trains; and in others to make use of all the trains, letter carriers being sent as passengers carrying the mail hags with them. It was for the public convenience that the Post Office should make a large use of railways; but the Post Office had to consider also the amount of the expense, and in the Scotch case referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) the charge was considered too high, and the inconvenience complained of arose from the Post Office and the railway company not being able to agree to terms. It was the duty of the Post Office authorities to provide as much public accommodation as possible; but it was likewise their duty to obtain as large a revenue as possible, and to guard against useless expenditure. If an inflexible rule were laid down that the Post Office must use every railway as soon as constructed, a greatly increased tax would be laid on the public. The time in which the mails were in transit was principally at night, a period when railway companies might fairly urge that a train would have few passengers, and could not he remunerative. What was wanted, then, was to get the train on moderate terms. The case of the Shrewsbury and Aberyst-with Railway had been instanced. In that case, if the Post Office had demanded mail trains on the opening of the line they would have had to pay a heavy charge. They waited till the traffic had been somewhat developed; and then arrangements were easily concluded by which the mails 412 were carried at fair rates. The Post Office acted on a fair rule. When a country place claimed increased postal accommodation, the question asked was, whether such increase would he likely to he self-supporting? He did not think that the surplus revenue of one part of the country should be employed in defraying the expenses of another. If the question of remunerative postal arrangements were to be ignored, the Post Office would speedily cease to bring in any revenue at all. He was far from saying that there was not room for improvement in details, but he thought that the desired improvement could be best effected by the Post Office authorities. In point of fact, improvements were constantly being made. The annual Report of the Post Master General gave an account of the improvements effected during the year. They consisted mainly of acceleration of the mails and extensions of delivery. The Post Office authorities had special facilities for obtaining local information. They had surveyors constantly travelling about the country, making personal inquiries as to the operation of the Post Office, and wherever improvements were needed they were introduced as speedily as possible. The suggestions which had been made in the course of the debate were entitled to consideration, but he did not think the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry would be the best means of remedying the defects complained of.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, that the county which he had the honour to represent, enjoyed fewer facilities, in the way of postal communication, than any of the districts to which allusion had been made in the course of the debate. The question to be considered was entirely one of principle. It was, whether the Post Office ought to give increased accommodation to those districts only the inhabitants of which were able and willing to pay for it; or whether, having a large surplus revenue, the business was so to be conducted as to be altogether at the service of the country, although some of the correspondence would not be remunerative. The rule of the Post Office was to give increased accommodation only where it could be proved that it would pay, or where a guarantee was given against a possibly accruing deficit. He had presented a petition praying for increased postal facilities from the Isle of Skye, where, with a population of 20,000 inhabitants, there wag a mail 413 only three times a week. The answer of the Post Office was, that a daily service would cost £1,200 a year, and that they had not been assured that what was demanded would be attended with adequate returns. He had likewise presented a similar petition from Fort William, which had only a mail twice a week, and though distant only sixty miles from Inverness the mail was forty-eight hours on the road, and the request was for a mail which would take only twelve hours. The Post Office authorities made a similar reply in this case —it would not pay. He thought these cases worthy of consideration by a Select Committee. Was the Post Office established for the occasion of revenue, or for the general benefit of the public? Believing the latter to be the case, he would support the Motion.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peel), had complained that specific cases of grievances had not been adduced. In a case represented to him as occurring in the district which he had the honour to represent, he thought there was a substantial grievance. By recent orders of the Postmaster General, the letter carriers were no longer to carry penny newspapers unless they were stamped. The consequence was that those papers were thereby doubled in price. It had been suggested that a smaller stamp might be adopted. That was altogether another matter. A grievance of that nature— which was entirely in opposition to the assistance which the Post Office ought to give to the diffusion of information—might very well be inquired into by the proposed Committee. He considered he had furnished the right hon. Gentleman with a specific case of grievance, and he should certainly support the Motion.
§ MR. BENT1NCK
thought that the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peel) favoured, rather than otherwise, the Motion which he intended to oppose. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Long), who brought forward the Motion, had no wish to pass any censure on the general conduct of the Post Office; but, being fully aware of the enormous difficulties attendant on the successful working out the complicated details of the system of the Post Office, he had moved that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into those difficulties, and also into the best means of affording facilities to the Poet Office for meeting the evils 414 the existence of which scarcely a Member of that House would venture to doubt. He complained, in the first place, that the facilities for transit afforded by railways were not made the most of, and secondly that, in consequence, localities within a few miles of each other might as well, for purposes of postal communication, be 500 miles apart.
But the real grievance was, that in the present, as in most other cases, the convenience and the advantage of the metropolis and large towns was studied before that of rural and thinly peopled districts. He admitted the difficulties of the case; and that the order of reference to a Committee such as had been proposed, ought to be very carefully worded, lest the subject should become unmanageable. But there were two points which, he thought, would well repay investigation, and both related to money. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of losses sustained by the Post Office through the employment of railways. He thought that, considering the practical monopoly which the railway companies had obtained, they ought to be compelled to carry the mail bags at a reasonable rate. The other question was, whether in cases where it could be shown that the correspondence would not be sufficient to pay the extra expense, the Post Office might not be empowered to charge additional rates? [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] An hon. Member said "No" He thought it a question well worthy of serious consideration whether, in such cases, the inhabitants of these districts might not be allowed to decide whether they would not pay an increased postage-rate in order to obtain the advantage of improved postal communication. A Select Committee, he was convinced, would facilitate the labours of the Post Office authorities, and he would therefore support the Motion.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
thought the Post Office authorities were sometimes in error, proceeding as they did upon the principle, that because the number of letters for a particular locality would not pay live expense of conveyance and delivery, therefore increased postal facilities should not be extended to that locality. At the same time, he was of opinion that the attention of the Treasury should in the first instance be drawn to the subject, and then, if that Department refused to provide remedies for the grievances complained of, recourse might be had to a Select Committee of Inquiry.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Baillie) had broadly and fairly laid down the principle that the Post Office ought not to be considered as a source of revenue to the Government, but that the surplus revenue derived from it ought to be expended in providing increased postal accommodation. For his own part, however, he should be very reluctant, by acceding to the proposal before the House, to commit himself to the acceptance of such a principle. The Post Office now yielded a net revenue of a million and a half; that million and a half was received in return for services, and stood in the place and performed the functions of a million and a half raised by taxation. If, therefore, the suggestion were acceded to that that million and a half was to be laid out in providing additional accommodation, the result would be that there would be a gap to that extent which would have to be stopped by the levying of a now tax, or by the augmentation of some tax already in existence. Now it was desirable to know, whether the principle involved in such a scheme was one upon which hon. Members were prepared to proceed, because any Committee appointed to try a particular case, would evidently derive the greatest possible light and assistance from the possession of information as to whether the House did or did not deem it right that the funds of the Post Office should be applied freely and without stint to the extension of local accommodation. Independently of that objection, which he naturally felt, as the person who would be expected to discover the unpleasant substitute for the revenue which was now raised without taxing anybody, he was disposed to doubt and question the justice of the doctrine which had that evening been laid down by more than one hon. Member; for what did it amount to, and where would it lead them? It would lead them to the conclusion that, while a largo revenue was raised in populous districts, in connection with the Post Office, that revenue might be appropriated to supplying the wants of remote districts with isolated houses difficult of access. Under that seemingly popular proposition, that the Post Office should not be a source of revenue, was concealed, not intentionally of course, a doctrine of a very different nature—namely, that one portion of the country ought to be taxed for the purposes of another. He did not agree with the doctrine that the Post 416 Office was never to extend the facilities for communication, except when there was a moral certainty of a remunerative return. Such a doctrine, in his opinion, involved a most narrow, undue, and improper view of the functions of the Department. The Post Office ought to consider particular cases in a liberal spirit, and if the hon. Member was correct in stating that the Post Office excluded from its view the extension of the means of communication, that was wrong; but he thought his hon. Friend was misinformed. He wished, at the same time, to remark that the Department of the Post Office was not directly represented in the House of Commons, and it, therefore, devolved on his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. Peel), or upon himself, to speak on behalf of that Department when it became the subject of discussion in that House. Consequently the means at the disposal of his right hon. Friend and himself, as regarded forming a correct opinion and expressing their views to the House, must entirely depend on whether they had, or had not, been put in possession beforehand of the nature of the complaints to be made; if that had not been done, to invite the House to appoint a Committee of Inquiry, was to pass by the Executive Government. He did not deny the right of the House to take that step if it pleased; it had rather been to refer executive questions to be dealt with by the Executive; and if the redress sought was not obtained, then to bring the matter before the House. He would suggest to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Long), that the best course to pursue would be for him to bring before the Treasury, by way of appeal, some of the cases which he had cited, and thus give that Department an opportunity of seeing how the difficulties could be best met. If, after reviewing the matter, in conjunction with the Post Office, they declined to act in the direction which he indicated, then it would be open to him to appeal to the House, and to call upon it, through the medium of a Committee, or otherwise, to take the question into its own hands. The hon. Member for West Norfolk laid down a reasonable doctrine, that localities should be allowed to contribute where they were not sufficiently large to render them remunerative to the Post Office, and that was to some extent already done. He hoped the hon. Member for Chippenham would adopt this suggestion, and give the Treasury an opportunity of reviewing the matter.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
hoped that no consideration would induce either the House or the Government to increase the rate of postage, or to make in any district the slightest variation from the uniform rate that now prevailed. Of all financial reforms that had taken place, the reduction in postage rates was the most important.
said, he should not have taken any part in that discussion but for an observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He told the House that the Post Office gave a revenue of a million and a half; and if that were taken away he must find some other means of raising that sum. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, that it would not be just to the taxpayers at large to call on them for that amount in order to give the convenience of additional postal communication to sparsely populated districts that would not pay the expenses.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I expressly guarded myself against saying that in no case should there be increased accommodation unless the service were remunerative. My argument went to the extent of controverting the principle that the revenue of the Post Office ought generally to be applied to furnishing such accommodation to thinly inhabited localities.
said, he perfectly understood that the right hon. Gentleman did not say in no case; but he thought if the principle were to he applied to the packet service different results to those which existed would he produced. He apprehended that the packet service was not included in the expense of the Post Office. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had so flourishing a figure as a million and a half after deducting the packet service, which was only for the advantage of those persons using it. He hoped the principle would not he carried too far, that districts were to he deprived of postal privileges because they were not sufficiently populated to make them remunerative to the Post Office. Not only was there the local advantage, but the advantage to the sender, and it must he remembered that a great deal of the Post Office business was the carrying of circulars from populous places, and where there were not postal facilities for delivering these circulars, private individuals in large towns were put to considerable expense to deliver them. He should be the last person to say that the 418 Post Office was not an immense advantage to the community in all parts of the country, but those persons who had not its advantages, seeing others in possession of them, of course became dissatisfied. He hoped the Government would not draw the line too tightly. He, for one, did not think it unreasonahle that all those cases should be brought before the notice of the Treasury, because, if they could not provide an I adequate remedy, an appeal could then he made to the House; in fact, he considered that course the most likely to be attended with success.
MR. T. BARING
said, he did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), that the packet service was merely for the benefit of those persons who sent letters by it; it was an advantage to the whole country. That service involved an outlay, whether too large or not was not then the question, which was not merely for the advantage of the individuals who sent those letters, hut for the good of the community at large. Any other view of steam communication would he narrow and one sided, seeing that the advantages extended to the whole productive industry of the country,
§ Question, "That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.