HC Deb 11 May 1866 vol 183 cc774-7

rose to call attention to the continued complaint of the way in which the Fife Postal Service is conducted, and to move a Resolution, and said he was sorry to say that, notwithstanding the complaints made to the Post Office authorities, there had been no improvement in reference to this matter. It was not until that morning that the Post Office authorities had thought proper to issue a circular explaining the reasons upon which they had acted. The Postmaster stated, in his defence, that he (Sir Robert Anstruther) regarded the negotiation as a mere dispute between the Post Office and the Railway Company as to terms; whereas it was, in fact, a question whether the Post Office could pay the sum demanded by the Company with duo regard to the correspondence to be benefited; and be said that the correspondence was very small, and that the £2,000 a year which the Post Office offered was the very utmost they would he justified in paying, the Company having refused to make that alteration in the hours of the trains, which Would alone justify their demand of a higher price. That could hardly be so, for £250 had been offered in order to secure other trains. In answer to this necessity for an alteration of trains he (Sir Robert Anstruther) could only say that be had posted a letter in Cupar, the county town of Fife, at half past eight o'clock in the evening, and it was not delivered in Edinburgh for twenty-lour hours; whereas if the Post Office would only use the one o'clock train a difference of fifteen hours would be secured in the delivery of letters. He could not but think it a very hard case that the time of the House should be wasted in having these questions so frequently discussed, and that notwithstanding their frequent discussion no redress should be obtained. He thought the Return called for by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Waldegrave-Leslie) sufficiently demonstrated the incon- venience suffered in Fife; and he had no doubt his hon. Friend would confirm him in what he had said.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words in the opinion of this House, the complaints which have so frequently been addressed to the Post Office authorities by the Commissioners of Supply and others in the County of Fife, deserve the prompt attention of that department,"—(Sir Robert Anstruther,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


, in seconding the Motion, said, he could fully confirm what had been said by the hon. Baronet as to the inconvenience experienced in the county of Fife. As Member for the county, he had constantly made complaints of the irregularities attending the transmission of letters.


said, that the despatch which was now asked for with reference to the conveyance of letters in Fife had, in the case of the borough which he represented, been granted, and the request with regard to the county which had been so long uncomplied with by the Post Office authorities was, he believed, a very reasonable one.


said, that this matter might easily have been settled out of doors but for the unwillingness which the Post Office authorities displayed to accede to the reasonable request of the inhabitants of Fifeshire. At present letters arriving in Edinburgh at seven in the morning were detained until half past four in the afternoon, before they were sent on, and that letters posted in Fife and reaching Edinburgh the same evening were kept in the Post Office all night and not delivered until the following morning; and great inconvenience was caused to the inhabitants of the county in question, in consequence of a difference between the Post Office authorities and the Railway Company with regard to what was really a trifling sum. He denied the assertion made by the Post Office authorities that the correspondence of Fife was so very small. It happened that the population of the county was over 100,000, and the Fife mails were the largest out of Edinburgh, except those of Glasgow.


said, his remarks would be few, since the interest in the subject was entirely local and not at all interesting to gentlemen not living in that part of the country. The facts were these. There were two mail-trains which run every day from Edinburgh to Fife. The first went early in the morning, and took over the London mail which arrived in Edinburgh the night before—in fact, it took over the whole correspondence which arrived in Edinburgh and Glasgow on the previous evening—and that mail was forwarded to every town in Fifeshire. There was another mail which left Edinburgh at half past four in the afternoon, and took all the morning letters from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Fifeshire, and also took the Fifeshire letters to other places further North. Now, the House knew very well that two mail-trains a day was the ordinary allowance which gentlemen, who lived in the country, were accustomed to expect. But in the case of Fifeshire there was an additional train, which left Edinburgh between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, immediately after the London mail had arrived in Edinburgh, and took the letters brought by this mail to every important town in Fifeshire. From a Return which he had had carefully made out he found that of 8,000 letters which arrived in Edinburgh to be despatched to Fife, no fewer than 6,500 went on without any delay. The whole question, therefore, out of which the complaint of delay had arisen related to the remaining 1,500. It was, therefore, a question whether for the rate of this sixth or seventh of the whole correspondence that was sent to Fife there should be a third mail-train every day. The interim train at nine in the morning, he must explain, was not a mail-train, but was an arrangement made with the Railway Company, under which the 6,500 letters were forwarded. That, then, was the question with regard to the down mails. As to the up mails there were also two. These seem to run satisfactorily, and to carry the mails without complaint, except that it was stated that the up train from Fife in the evening arrived too late for the letters to be delivered in Edinburgh the same night. That, he apprehended, to be a question more for the consideration of Edinburgh than Fife, he-cause it was admitted that the afternoon mail could not be accelerated; and, therefore, the question came to this—whether or not the whole of the correspondence of the other parts of the North to Edinburgh should be delayed for the sake of the com- paratively small portion that came from Fifeshire? He now came to another point. His hon. Friend seemed to think that the Post Office could do as they liked with the Railway Companies—that if the Railway Companies declined to carry on the necessary service all that was to be done was to call upon the Railway Companies to do so, and if they refused, to go to arbitration and claim damages. That was not the law. There was no power of arbitration except in letters sent by the regular mail-trains fixed by the Post Office, where the Railway Companies were compelled to keep particular time. The Act was imperfect in that respect; and all he could say was that he hoped an occasion would arise when the operations of the railways with the Post Office could be put on a more satisfactory footing. With respect to those two trains to which attention had been called, he had taken care that. the Post Office had been instructed to be put in immediate correspondence with the railway to ascertain distinctly on what terms they would give further facilities to the Post Office, both with regard to the intermediate down train, and, if necessary, with regard to an intermediate up train. If the result of the correspondence were not satisfactory, he could only say that he would do the best he could for the purpose of meeting the difficulties that had been complained of.

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