§ MR. MACFIE
said, he would beg to ask the Postmaster General, What are the reasons why the advantage of being conveyed by the Book Post is limited to printed and such-like matter; of what nature are the obstacles that stand in the way of a properly guarded removal of the present limitation; whether the Evening Mails for England are despatched from the Metropolis at about the same hour as in the era of Stage Coaches; whether there would not arise much public benefit from despatching these Mails at a later hour; what are the reasons why that benefit has not yet been conferred; and, whether he has any hope of being able to favour the Nation with the concessions that form the subject of the foregoing Questions?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The reason, Sir, why the book post and pattern post rates have not been extended to parcels is, I believe, that those rates have not been found sufficiently remunerative to justify their further extension. This obstacle, of course, still stands in the way of the removal of the present limitation. I believe, however, there also other obstacles. One of the principal is, that if the Post Office were to encumber itself with the conveyance of a much larger quantity of heavy matter than it does now, it is probable that the chief object of the Post Office—namely, the rapid and certain delivery of letters—would be very injuriously interfered with. With regard to the other Question, I believe it is true that the 1896 evening mails are despatched about the same hour as they used to be in the time of mail coaches, but it ought to be remembered that under the present system letters are delivered much earlier all over the country than they were formerly. The Post Office, I may mention, takes the opportunity whenever a later train is despatched of sending a bag by that train, but I do not think that there would be any general advantage in altering the hours at which the mails are despatched. It was obviously impossible, for financial reasons, to run trains at a late hour in the evening solely for Post Office purposes.