HC Deb 10 June 1864 vol 175 cc1595-604

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) QUEEN'S MESSAGE [6th June] read; £20,000. Sir Rowland Hill, K.C.B.


Sir, I trust that the Committee will be disposed to concur, without any objection, in the recommendation which Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to make. Sir Rowland Hill is a man of great genius, of great sagacity, of great perseverance and industry, and he has rendered important service to this country, and I may say to other countries also. He formed the opinion, in which I concur, that the Post Office was more properly a department for the performance of service that for the mere collection of revenue; and with a boldness which staggered a great number of persons who had not looked at the matter form the same point of view, he recommended a very large reduction in the rate of postage with the confidence that it would in the end bring up the revenue to the same amount to which it had previously stood, and would in the meantime confer great benefit upon the community. Grave doubts were entertained, many people thought that he was too sanguine in his calculations, and that, although the number of letter might increase, the increase would not be sufficient to make the revenue recover the great shock which the introduction of the penny postage would inflict upon it. Those anticipations have been falsified, and the calculations of Sir Rowland Hill have turned out to be correct. Sir Rowland Hill had for nearly a quarter of a century performed, with some slight interval, the arduous duties which have devolved upon him in connection with the scheme, and he is now at a time of life when his health must have suffered to his office. The Treasury have on that ground given him permission to retire, and have done that which I am sure this House will not think too much—they have given him his fully salary for life. He is now, I believe, in the seventieth year of his age, and his health has been shattered by the labours which he has had to perform. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty thought that this House would be of opinion that the great services which he has performed would recommend him for a grant which should enable him to make those Arrangements for his family which the short period during which he may probably enjoy his pension would not otherwise permit him to make. His labours have produced more beneficial results that may strike persons at first sight. It is quite clear that the facilities which the penny postage has given to all the transactions of commerce and to all communication connected with business must have been infinitely advantageous to the industry, and, by that means, to the revenue—not to the revenue of the Post Office, but to that revenue which arises out of the general prosperity of the country. In that view Sir Rowland Hill has performed great service to the country; but there is another view in which he has produced still more startling results—namely, in the amount of happiness and comfort which his plan has conferred upon millions of the poorer classes of the community. When the rate of postage was as high as it was before that plan was introduced, communication between the members of a poor family who were scattered about the country was difficult and expensive. How could a poor labouring man pay 1s. or 6d. for a letter? Communication between the members of such families was more difficult than the communication between England and Australia is now. The cultivation of the affection, which frequent intercommunication assists, raises men in their own estimation and in the standing which they occupy in society. It improves their morals, and develops all those qualities which tend to make useful members of the community. Therefore, I say that Sir Rowland Hill, independently of the benefits which his plan has conferred upon the general interests and prosperity of the country, has the merit of having conferred a great benefit upon the labouring and poorer classes of the people, which would of itself entitle him to any mark of approbation and reward which the House may be disposed to confer upon him. In the year 1838, before the penny postage was introduced, the number of letters transmitted through the Post Office was 76,000,000; in 1863, the number was 642,000,000. That is a measure of the extent to which that plan has assisted the industry and contributed to the comfort and happiness of the community. There are many matters connected with the plan which are independent of the mere reduction of the amount paid for the postage of letter. Among other, there is the facility which his arrangements have given for the transmission of money in small sums from one part of the country to another. The amount of the Money Orders taken out in 1838 was £313,000; in 1863 it was £16,494,000. What an immense advantage to the community at large must have resulted from the facility for the safe transmission of so large an amount of small sums which it would other wise have been very difficult and in some cases expensive to transmit! Then, there is the book post. It is greatly conducive to the interests of literature, and the arrangements have been most extensively taken advantage of. The gross revenue of the Post office has increased very considerably, but of course the increase of facilities has led to the multiplication of establishments and officers, and has therefore largely increased the outgoings. In 1838 the gross receipts were £2,346,000; in 1863 they were £3,870,000; showing that Sir Rowland Hill was perfectly right in anticipating that at no distant period the receipts of the Post office would recover from the diminution which the first introduction of his plan naturally produced. In point of fact, everybody is so well acquainted with the merits of Sir Rowland Hill's plan and the good effects which it has produced, that I shall content myself, without further observations, with moving the Resolution of which I have given notice. The noble Viscount concluded by moving that a sum not exceeding £20,000 should be granted to Her Majesty as a provision for Sir Rowland Hill.


said, that no one more highly estimated the great services of Sir Rowland Hill than he did; but it ought to be remembered that he was not the only person who was concerned in carrying out the change in the postal system. The late Mr. Wallace, almost night after night, urged the subject upon the attention of that House, and did more to introduce the plan to the country than Sir Rowland Hill. No doubt great services ought to be rewarded; but years ago there had been a large subscription raised for Sir Rowland Hill, and he thought that and the pension were a sufficient recompense for his services, especially as the Post Office had yielded a very large revenue, whereas at present he did not think it paid its expenses.


, on behalf of the large mercantile community of Liverpool, said, that he desired to express his satisfaction at the proposal of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. His constituents would have wished the Government to go even further for at a public meeting at Liverpool, at which the mayor presided, the opinion was expressed that the proposed grant of £20,000 was inadequate.


said, that the people of Manchester felt the greatest respect for Sir Rowland Hill, and believed that he had conferred a benefit not only on them, but on the world. He was surprised at the objection s raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lambeth. He was glad that the noble Lord the Prime Minister had come forward with a more liberal proposition than had originally been made by the Government. He was sure that if he had gone round the Exchange of Manchester he could have raised more for a tribute to Sir Rowland Hill's family than the pension originally proposed by the Government.


said that, representing a large constituency, he fully believed that the whole mercantile interests of the country would most heartily concur in the proposition of the noble Viscount in proposing a liberal grant. The hon. Member for Lambeth had stated that Mr. Wallace had proposed a similar scheme many years before it was propounded by Sir Rowland Hill. [Mr. W. WILLIAMS: Not before.] The pamphlet of Sir Rewland Hill was one of the most consummate pieces of inductive reasoning he ever read, and it produced an effect which it was impossible for the Government of the day to resist. The measure was an exceedingly bold one. It proposed to reduce the postage from a shilling, and in some cases a larger amount, to a penny. That was thought most extravagant; yet it was proved by Sir Rowland Hill that the public revenue would be recouped by the increase of the correspondence that would ensue. And that had been doe by the most extraordinary success that attended the measure. He believed the advantages of the scheme were altogether inestimable; and it extended not to England alone, but to the whole civilized world. Therefore, with the greatest pleasure, he supported the Motion for conferring that handsome grant on the family of a distinguished man.


said, it was hardly necessary that further testimony should be given of the estimation in which Sir Rowland Hill's services were held; but representatives of large commercial communities Having expressed their opinions, he thought it was hardly proper that the City of London should be silent. He, therefore, on the part of the City of London, begged to express his hearty concurrence in all that had been said in favour of the vote. He hoped that the principle which Sir Rowland Hill applied to internal postage would be extended to commerce with the world, and that, before long, an ocean penny postage would be established.


said that, as the representative of a small constituency, he wished to express his hearty concurrence in all that had fallen from the other side to the House with regard to the vote. The hon. Member for Lambeth had expressed an opinion that Sir Rowland Hill had been amply remunerated by his salary during past years and its continuance in the shape of a retiring allowance during his life and the life of Lady Hill; but by usage Sir Rowland Hill would have been entitle to tow thirds of his salary as a retiring allowance for his services if they had been of an ordinary character. Allusion had also been made by the hon. Member to the public subscription for Sir Rowland Hill. In a great commercial country a gentleman often realized an enormous fortune for some happy thought and invention. Why, then, should not Sir Rowland Hill, who had conferred immense benefit, not only on this country, but on the whole civilized world, receive a moderate remuneration for his scheme? He trusted that Sir Rowland Hill would not only receive the sum proposed by the noble viscount, but that the example would be followed by the whole civilized world.


remarked that the hon. Member for Lambeth had mention that another gentleman had advocated the scheme cheap postage. It might be so; but the difference between Sir Rowland Hill and that gentleman was, that the one had succeeded in making hi suggestion a reality, while the other had not. It reminded him of the old story of Cobbett, who said, "I prophesied that, but never told anybody." The whole country would be grateful to the noble Viscount at the head of Her Majesty's Government for the proposition before the Committee.


said, he fully concurred in the proposition before the Committee, but he would venture to suggest that vast as were the advantages of the penny postage system, it had its disadvantages also, for it enable puffing tradesmen to cover gentlemen's tables with their circulars. Perhaps those individuals would be less prodigal with their penny stamps if they knew that, as a rule, their circulars were almost invariably consigned unread to the waste-paper basket.


said, he should be sorry if the feeling of the metropolis on this subject were supposed to be represented by the hon. Member for Lambeth. He was quite sure there was not a man in the metropolis who would not approve of the Vote. As to the subscription to Sir Rowland Hill, he was fully entitled to it. He thought it a gracious way of acknowledging the dept of gratitude they were all under to Sir Rowland Hill for the suggestion that he made, and for the ability with which he carried it into effect.


said, having been Chancellor of the exchequer at the time Sir Rowland Hill introduced his scheme, he wished to hear his testimony to the value of the services of that eminent public servant. The difficulties were great and at the time there was a strong feeling against it in many quarters, but Sir Rowland Hill, by his calm good sense, intelligence, and good humour, encountered and overcame them all.


said, he had the honour of being private Secretary of the right hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House, at the time the scheme was brought forward; and he wished to state that his right hon. Friend, in the panegyric he had just bestowed on Sir Rowland Hill, had for gotten his own share in developing the plan. He hoped the House would not lose sight of the patronage which Sir Rowland Hill had received from his official superior.


said, he wished to ask the noble Viscount at the head of the Government how it happened that Sir Rowland Hill always held a subordinate office, and was never made Postmaster General, an office which was reserved for Dukes and Earls? As Postmaster General he would have received £5,000 a year. In any other country in Europe, a man like Sir Rowland Hill would have been rewarded with such an appointment, and not been left in a subordinate post.


There si one very good reason why it would not have been an advantage to Sir Rowland Hill to have made him Postmaster General, it is, that he would not have received any increase of salary while he held the office, but would have to go out with a change of Government. The hon. Member for Lambeth doubted whether the Post Office paid its expenses. In answer to that, I beg to state that the net revenue for last year, after paying expenses, was £1,790,000.


said, it was a very remarkable thing that the practice should have sprung up of appointing Peers only to the office of Postmaster General, which was strictly of a commercial and mechanical character. The practice seemed to have grown up without any express warrant in the middle of last century, and he believed it to be a remnant of the old days of corruption in the department.


said, the noble Lord had forgotten to deduct form his estimate of Post Office revenues the sum of £1,000,000 for packet services. That would reduce the net revenue to £790, 000. At the same time, he regarded the present pro-position as one of the most creditable acts of the present Government.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £48,548, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1865, for the Salaries and Expenses in the Office of the Committee of Pricy Council for Trade including the Office of the Registrar of Merchant Seamen, the Joint Stock Companies Registration Office, and the Designs Office.


said, he wished to ask for some explanation of the increase which had taken place under the head the Board of Trade since 1859. A new office of Secretary of Marine Department, at a salary rising to £1,500 a year, had been created, and a new class of clerks called assistants to secretaries. It was not impossible that these new titles might have been introduced in order to get rid of some persons under the pretence that the offices to which they belonged had been abolished. Some information would likewise be acceptable as to the Meteorological Department. He wished to know what was the whole expense of the Meteorological Department. The weather returns were quite fallaeious, and it was a pity that they should be issued in their pre scutform, thereby deceiving the public.


said, that the Vote for the Board of Trade contained a greater increase than any other estimate. No less that four new places were created in the department, involving a very considerable expenditure. With respect to the appointment of temporary clerks, he would be bound to say, that if a permanent selection of proper men were made, a great step would be accomplished both in point of economy and efficiency.


said, the increase had arisen from various causes, and especially from changes made in the organization of the office, with a view to render it more efficient. It was true that some new places had been created, but some old places had been abolished. One principal cause of the increase of expenditure had been the increased amount of business which the Board had had to perform. There had been a considerable transfer of new business from the Admiralty in reference to harbours, and an increased establishment was therefore necessary. The whole increase was £3,363 over 1863–4; but this increase was absolutely necessary from the causes he had mentioned. As to the meteorological predictions, nobody, of course, pretended that Admiral Fitzroy had always foretold the weather, but no great storm had occurred which he had not foretold. The science of meteorology was at present experimental, and this was perfectly well understood by the House and the country. The experience gamed by Admiral Fitzroy had been most useful, but sufficient time had not elapsed to enable the House to decide whether the establishment was of such a character as entitle it to be permanently supported by a vote of the House.


said, he had been a witness to the dreadful accident which had occurred the other day on the South Western Railway. Two carriages were mixed up together, and three persons were entangled in the ruins. One was dead, and two were almost dead. They died before the eyes of the bystanders, who were unable to give them the least assistance. In the days of the road every coach or carriage used to carry a small tool-box in case of accident. If there had been ropes, hammers, and hatchets, by which the wreck might have been cleared away, two or three lives would have been saved. Could not the Inspectors of Railways of the Board of Trade insist upon some such apparatus being carried by every train assistance being rendered in the event of an accident.


said, he wished to ask for some explanation respecting the superannuations of the registrar and librarian of the Board of Trade.


said, the office of registrar had been abolished by the recommendation of the Treasury. The office of librarian was now discharged by a subordinate, at a reduced salary. In respect to the observations of the hon. and gallant Member for Limerick (Colonel Dickson), in reference to the late railway accident, he had to observe that the power of the inspectors was small as regarded the general management of railways. All the inspectors could do in regard to the inspectors could do in regard to the late accident was to hold an inquiry. That inquiry was being held, and he was bound to say that the railway authorities furnished every facility for the most thorough investigation. That accident might no doubt be the means be the means of adopting some such precautionary measures as the hon. and gallant Member suggested.


said, that Mr. Edgar Bowring, who filled the office of registrar and librarian, at a salary of £800 a year, had been superannuated at the age of thirty-eight on £426 per annum. Another gentleman had been appointed librarian at £456 a year. He should oppose the Vote unless some explanation could be given.


said, it was thought an improvement in the organization that the secretary should control the establishment—a duty which had formerly been discharged by the registrar. The office of registrar was, therefore, no longer required, and it was abolished, his duty of librarian being given to an officer of inferior salary.

Motion made, and Question, That the Item of £450, for the Salary of Librarian to the Board of Trade, be omitted from the proposed Vote,"—(Mr. M. Augustus Smith,) —put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Cox,)—put, and negatived.

(3). £1,908, Lord Privy Seal.


said, he should move to report Progress, and he was resolved to divide the Committee upon the Motion. He had been in the House until two o'clock on the previous day, and he had been there also from twelve o'clock on the previous day until the present hour (twelve o'clock).


said he was sorry that the constant attendance of the hon. Member was such an impediment to public business. He hoped the hon. Member would allow a fair chance of having the Estimates discussed.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Cox.)

The Committee divided:—Ayes 7; Noes 59: Majority 52.

Vote agreed to

(4.) £5,744, Civil Service Commissions.

(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £14,491, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1865, for the Salaries and Expenses in the Department of Her Majesty's Paymaster General, including the Branch Pay Office in Dublin.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Hennessy.)

After a short conversation,


said, if this Vote were passed the Government would consent to Progress being reported.


said, that the duties of the Paymaster General were performed by deputy, and he wished to know if any change were contemplated by the Government in reference to that department of the army?


said, he could hold out no hope of any change in the constitution of the Pay Office. An alteration would only entail expense, without affording any advantage upon the present system which was a good one.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported on Monday next; Committee to sit again on Monday next.