HC Deb 23 February 1866 vol 181 cc979-80

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether he is aware that certain Railways have commenced carrying Newspapers along the whole extent of their lines by means of an adhesive Stamp of the price of a halfpenny for each transmission; and, if so, whether it would not be expedient that the Stamp for the transmission of Newspapers through the Post Office should be reduced to the same amount? For some time past most of the railways had adopted the system of conveying newspapers and other periodicals for half the price of the Post Office charge; and he now received his newspaper by the Great Western Railway with a halfpenny stamp affixed. Under the ordinary law of competition the practice would soon become universal. The present postal law was altogether anomalous; for while the impressed stamp served to carry a newspaper through the Post Office several times for a period of fifteen days, the affixed stamp answered the purpose of only one transmission. The tax also fell upon the newspapers with great inequality; for whereas the impressed stamp on the old and high-priced papers amounted to 30 per cent of the selling price, in the case of the cheap journals the percentage was 100. He received a short time since a communication from a gentleman at Hawick, stating that the North British, the Caledonian, and some other of the great Scotch railways were carrying newspapers at a farthing each, and he held in his hand some of their stamps. If the railway companies could, in a commercial point of view, carry newspapers on their whole line for a farthing it was evident that the Post Office could convey them for less than a penny. There was a margin of 300 per cent difference. He confessed that he thought the railway price almost incredibly low. Having a grateful recollection of the kind consideration which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had on former occasions given to similar representations, he would leave the matter in his hands without requiring any positive answer from him at present; but would be quite satisfied with an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman would consider the subject.