§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee—CUSTOMS, SALARIES AND EXPENSES.—INLAND REVENUE.—SUPERANNCATIONS.—POST OFFICE PACKET SERVICE.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £598,493, to complete the sum for Customs, Salaries and Expenses.
§ (2.) £995,645, to complete the sum for Inland Revenue, Salaries and Expenses.
§ (3.) £1,836,016, to complete the sum for Post Office Salaries and Expenses.
§ MR. WALDEGRAVE-LESLIE
took occasion to complain of the manner in which money was doled out to the provincial postmasters. The country post offices, so far as he had been enabled to ascertain, were provided for by means of small allowances which were granted by 911 the Post Office surveyors, and which comprised house rent, office rent, and other expenses, including the painting of the post offices on the outside. Now, the country postmasters had to answer all inquiries in reference to the conveyance of letters, to sell stamps, to attend to all the business of Post Office savings banks, and also to transact the new business connected with Post Office insurances. He had been told by a postmaster that these insurances had entirely failed in his district because of the questions which he was obliged to put to those who sought to effect them. He was compelled, for instance, to ask a woman, no matter how many persons might be present in the room—which sometimes was not more than four foot square—at the time, such questions as what was her age, whether she was married or single, and whether she was of sober habits. Much inconvenience, in short, was the result of the want of accommodation, but he should not at the period of the Session at which we had arrived enter further into the matter, but he hoped the hon. Member for Northamptonshire would look into it during the recess.
§ MR. AYRTON,
who had given notice of his intention to bring before the House the course taken by the late Postmaster General, in entering into certain contracts for the Indian Mail Service, said, that, as the noble Lord had retired from office, he thought it would be useless to enter into the subject at any length. It was, however, of some importance that the Government of the day should be warned of the necessity of paying attention to the Resolutions to which the House had some years ago come for the purpose of protecting the public revenue in the case of such contracts. These Resolutions were of the utmost importance. One declared that if any contract were entered into by the Postmaster General, it should be laid on the table of the House in order that Parliament might have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject, and another provided that no contract should take effect unless it was approved by the House of Commons. Last Session he had called the attention of the House to the state of the Post Office Service for India, and the Postmaster General took the subject into consideration. He, however, entered into a new contract in February last, but it had not been laid on the table of the House in accordance with the Resolutions to which he had referred. The 912 matter had come within his cognizance, and he had given notice that he would bring it under the consideration of the House. The result was that the Postmaster General caused the contract to be laid on the table, but when he looked into it he found that it had been framed in contravention of the Resolutions, a state of things for his part in which the noble Lord rendered himself liable to a Vote of Censure. He had fortunately, however, retired from office, and it might be said on his behalf that in entering into the contract he had not imposed any new charges upon the public.
reminded the hon. and learned Member that the Vote for the Packet Service was not before the Committee, and therefore his remarks on a Packet Service contract were not in order.
§ In reply to Mr. WALDEGRAITE-LESLIE,
§ MR. HUNT
said, that in the smaller offices in which accommodation was provided by the persons who kept the Post Office, an allowance was made on that account in the amount of salary paid to them. There was a second class of cases, in which a sum was directly allowed for the accommodation; and there was a third class, in which the premises were supplied by the Government. Periodical surveys were made by the Post Office; but if his hon. Friend would bring any particular case of grievance under the notice of the Department, it should receive attentive consideration.
called attention to the fact that in the Scotch limited mail, passengers who required to travel only a part of the journey performed by the train were obliged to pay the fare for the entire distance. He wished to know whether the Post Office had any objection to travellers by the mails between England and Scotland, and between England and Ireland, being booked for those points at which mails were deposited?
complained that some of the Post Office runners in Scotland were very badly paid. There were cases in which runners who travelled twenty miles a day were paid only 7s. or 8s. a week.
§ MR. O'REILLY
drew attention to the great interval that elapsed between the deliveries of letters in the island of Alderney.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, there were very few persons in the island, and the inconvenience referred to by his hon. Friend was experienced principally by the contractor there. The postal communication with the island would not justify a large expenditure.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £355,544, to complete the sum for Superannuations, &c., Customs, Inland Revenue, and Post Office.
§ (5.) £591,164, to complete the sum for Post Office Packet Service; no part of which sum is to be applicable to or applied in or towards making any payment in respect of any period subsequent to the 20th day of June 1863, to Mr. Joseph George Churchward, or to any person claiming through or under him by virtue of a certain Contract bearing date the 26th day of April 1859, made between the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Admiralty (for and on behalf of Her Majesty) of the first part, and the said Joseph George Churchward of the second part, or in or towards the satisfaction of any claim whatsoever of the said Joseph George Churchward, by virtue of that Contract, so far as relates to any period subsequent to the 20th day of June 1863.
§ MR. CHILDERS,
in reference to the observations made by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, said, that, under a Resolution of the House, contracts for the conveyance of mails which created a charge on the revenue were not binding till they had lain on the table of the House for a certain time. The contract alluded to by his hon. Friend was not of that character, because it was one effecting modifications which had the effect of reducing the net charge of a contract previously entered into.
§ MR. AYRTON
contended that the contract in question was one which did not come under the Order of the House. It granted a premium to the contractors to delay the mails to the prejudice of the public.
called attention to a matter connected with the arrival and despatch of the West Indian mails. Twenty years ago the West Indian mails used to be lauded at a point in the West of England, but the mail station was afterwards removed to Southampton, because there was a railway between that place and London. Now, however, railways went almost to the Land's End, and it would be of very great importance to merchants in Scotland and the North of England if the West Indian mails should be landed and despatched at some point in the West of England. In that way a saving of nine hours might 914 be effected in the arrival of the letters in London, and forty-eight hours in Glasgow. The advantage would be equal as regarded the despatch of mails.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, the question as between Falmouth and Southampton was one of many years' standing, but a change would probably entail considerable cost upon the public. He believed that the sum spent on the West Indian mail service was far beyond what ought to be expended. He was also told, with respect to the conveyance of mails to America, that there were several lines of packets constantly crossing the Atlantic ready to carry the American mails without any subvention. He should be glad to know what was the present position of the contract.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, that he had ascertained by careful observation, that during a whole year there would have been, with a single exception, no saving of time by landing of the mails at Falmouth. At present there was considerable convenience to the public in the adoption of Southampton as the port for the arrival and departure of the West Indian mails; and the substitution of Falmouth would be attended with inconvenience, and even danger.
§ MR. CHILDERS
stated that the Cunard contract terminated at the end of next year, and it was anticipated that the postage of the letters would be sufficient to pay for the service, the shilling rate being reduced to sixpence, and all letters being carried to New York. By the arrangements which were contemplated there would be something like a daily postal communication between this country and America, and it was hoped that the confederation of the North American Colonies would facilitate improved arrangements for the mail service between them and England. The subject of the removal of the West Indian mail station from Southampton to a point further west had received the attention of the late Government. He believed that the removal would lead to some saving in the time required for communicating with Scotland and the North of England, but that London would gain very little by the alteration.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that the removal of the West Indian mail station as proposed would be attended with the advantage of giving more time to merchants in the North of England for answering their letters. He never heard 915 before of the danger of entering the port of Falmouth, but had always supposed it to be the best harbour in England. A case had been made out for the consideration of the present Government, and he hoped it would receive attention.
stated that as regarded the postal communication between the East and West Indies and the metropolis, there was a clear gain by continuing the use of the port of Southampton, and that in regard to the northern towns, any disadvantage in regard to them might be easily and cheaply remedied by some alterations in the postal communications from Southampton to Birmingham, making the deliveries of letters more speedy, punctual, and economical than by any alteration of the port of arrival and departure.
said, he should be prepared to prove before a Committee that forty-eight hours would be saved in the case of Glasgow letters if the mails were landed at Falmouth.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.