§ (4.) £2,369,235, Post Office, &c.
§ VISCOUNT MILTON
called attention to the absence of any direct communication between this country and British Columbia.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, the matter could be more conveniently entered into if the noble Lord would give Notice of a Question upon it.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
remarked upon the insufficient redress given with respect to lost letters, and gave an instance which recently came under his own notice. He 832 was not quite sure that the Post Office was so well-managed as it was stated to be, and complained that the authorities were rather harshly prosecuting a company for delivering circulars at a fourth of the cost which they charged.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
expressed an opinion that much improvement might be made in the postal service by the adoption of a system of country sorting offices, to which letters might be sent direct, instead of, as in many cases, being first sent to London, whereby much time was lost. Some years ago he drew the attention of the Post Office to this subject. He found that if a letter intended to be sent to Chatham were put in the Post Office at Woolwich at seven o'clock, it was sent up to London, and passed by Woolwich again at twelve o'clock the next day, and was not delivered at Chatham till about two o'clock in the day. He admitted that the great commercial communities were well served; but he thought greater advantages might be conferred on the rural districts.
§ MR. M'LAREN
called attention to the expediency of carrying printed matters cheaply by the Post Office. The Post Office, having a monopoly, was able to drive private carriers out of the market. But when the private carriers were allowed to deliver circulars, they could carry with profit to themselves for a farthing what the Post Office charged a penny for carrying. Agencies were established in Liverpool, London, Edinburgh, and other towns for the delivery of circulars; but the Post Office took legal means of establishing its monopoly, and put down the private trade. The Post Office now proposed that they should be allowed to do all the telegraph business of the country, on the ground that they could do the work much more cheaply than the telegraphic companies. If that was true, why could not the Post Office carry circulars for double the charge that would be asked by private carriers? He thought the Post Office ought to carry any printed matter not exceeding one ounce for a halfpenny. If that price were charged a very large number of circulars would be sent through the Post Office. There was a special reason why circulars should be carried by the Post Office cheaply at this time. Millions of circulars were sent out at election tune, and it had been calculated that if a candidate for a large town, such as Liverpool, Glasgow, or Manchester, were to send four circulars to each elector by the penny post it would cost him 833 £1,000. He (Mr. M'Laren) did not know whether the rules of the House would allow him to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Post Office should carry printed matter, not exceeding one ounce in weight, for a halfpenny." No Act of Parliament was necessary to effect the alteration. An Order from the Treasury to-morrow would be as effectual as any Act of Parliament. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury would take this matter into their serious consideration, and give an assurance that the reform he suggested should be carried into effect without delay.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
said, that with reference to the matter so ably advocated by his hon. Friend, he could not help suggesting to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would be very proper to carry bonâ fide election circulars through the Post Office free. If that were done it might come to pass that candidates would address their constituents much more by circulars than by speeches. Election expenses were increased much more than hon. Gentlemen were aware by the charges for the delivery of election circulars.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, that hon. Gentlemen seemed to forget that the Post Office contributed to the revenue of the country. In his opinion no person had reason to complain of 1d. being charged for any quantity of printed matter not exceeding four ounces. The efficiency and economy of the Post Office had been recognized in every country. As to the complaint of want of accommodation in the rural districts, he could say that as far as his experience went it was not well founded.
§ MR. WYLD
called the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a prosecution which was being carried on against the Circular Delivery Company. That Company charged only one farthing for a circular for which the Post Office charged 1d. Now, a most important question was involved in this prosecution; because if the Government could prosecute the Company they could also prosecute any private person who delivered his own circulars. If it were true that the country derived a revenue from the Post Office, it should not be forgotten that the Post Office was established for the benefit of the country.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, that the object of the Post Office was to bring the different 834 parts of the country within reach of each other. He could assure the hon. and gallant Member below him (Colonel French) that his experience as to the accommodation given to the rural districts was very different. He knew parts of Scotland where the post from London could not be reckoned to reach in less than a month, and where a letter from New York would arrive as soon as one from London. He had himself conveyed Her Majesty's Mails for the last fifty years for nothing in some of the remote districts of Scotland.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was not able to answer the question of the hon. Member (Mr. Wyld) about the prosecution, as he had not received Notice that it would be put; but if the hon. Member would repeat it he would be happy to let him know how the matter stood at another time. With respect to the Circular Delivery Agency, be understood that some of those agencies professed to deliver circulars; but it was found that a great many of the circulars which it was alleged were delivered were thrown into rivers and ponds and out-of-the-way place, and that some of them were put into pillar-boxes without being paid for, in order that they might be delivered by the Post Office. He was not sure, therefore, that those agencies really carried out what they professed to do. He had been several times in communication with the Post Office to see whether printed matter weighing less than four ounces could not be carried cheaper than 1d. The question was still under consideration, and he hoped that they should arrive at a satisfactory solution of it.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LAWRENCE
complained that the postal communication with the Continent of Europe was very defective, and that no progress had been made in the delivery of letters. They were told in the Post Office Directory that there were two mails a day made up for France, Belgium, Holland, Hamburgh, Bremen, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Denmark; and therefore one might imagine that, as two mails left England for those places, there were two deliveries; but that was not the case. It was true that two mails were daily sent to Italy, but there was only one delivery; because when the letters posted in London in the evening reached Paris in the morning they they remained there all day until evening, when the French mail left Paris for Italy. 835 A letter posted in London at seven o'clock in the evening readied Italy exactly at the same time as a letter posted at Liverpool. He thought the time was come for all the nations of Europe arriving at an understanding not only upon the question of postal intercommunication between the various countries, but also upon the matter of establishing some uniform system and rate of postage. The subject was one well worthy of investigation and consideration by the Post Office authorities in England. It was of the utmost importance that the great bulk of the correspondence of this country should not be delayed at Paris, as was the custom at present. Nobody could guarantee when a letter posted at London would reach Berlin, Madrid, or other distant places, as no information on this point was given in the Postal Guide. This clearly demanded a remedy. He considered that if the subject were properly discussed an uniform rate of postage might be procured.
§ Vote agreed to.