§ MR. GRAVES
, in rising to move the following Resolutions:—1. That it is desirable to restore and extend those facilities for the transmission of Small Parcels by Post which the public enjoyed prior to the 1st day of October 1870. 2. That it is desirable to increase the number of Money Order Offices, especially in the rural districts, and to amend the rates charged for the transmission of Money Orders by establishing a scale of charge which shall press less heavily on the poorer classes of remitters,Said, it was with some reluctance that he again troubled the House on the matter of postal administration. The large and liberal concessions made by the Government last year would have satisfied all the requirements for the time, but for the fact that, at the moment of conferring them, the equally valuable facility conferred by the pattern post in 1865 was withdrawn. When the pattern post was established, the Postmaster General, in more than one of his annual Reports announced to the public that he had established in the Post Office a new 2004 branch of business, which would afford unusual facilities for the extension of trade and commerce. It was an essential condition of the pattern post that no article sent through it should be of any intrinsic value; but, however easy this might appear to be in theory, in practice it was found impossible to determine what was intrinsic value. For instance, a single glove, shoe, slipper, or stocking might be sent as having no intrinsic value; but a pair of these articles could not go through the post, because an intrinsic value was supposed to exist. Again, a merchant in London could send by post a pattern or sample to a retailer living hundreds of miles away, but the retailer was not allowed to re-transmit the same article back to the merchant, or to a customer who might reside within a few miles of him. It was not to be wondered at, therefore, that these regulations soon broke down; and the pattern post drifted into what was, to all intents and purposes, a small parcels post. This proved a great advantage to the public, so far as cheapness and rapidity of transmission were concerned; and it also caused a marked development throughout the country in the manufacture and sale of small articles of trade. The Post Office took credit to itself for the facilities which had been given; and no later than the early part of last year, with a view still further to extend these facilities and to create more business, it reduced the charge for the transmission of small parcels. In October last, however, for some reason at present unexplained, the policy of the Post Office underwent a complete change. A retrograde step was taken, and the public were coolly informed that, for the future, the pattern post would be restricted to the transmission of articles which were bonâ fide patterns and samples, thus going back to the system which was found perfectly impracticable in 1865. If this change had been made in order to avoid any obstruction to the legitimate work of the Post Office, consequent on the introduction of the halfpenny stamp, the public would have admitted that to be a reasonable ground for a temporary withdrawal of the privilege. But it did not require a week to prove that the Post Office was perfectly equal to the emergency; and, if the reason which he had suggested had been the 2005 one which influenced the authorities, so soon as it was found that no hindrance was caused to the ordinary postal business by the introduction of the halfpenny cards, he thought the pattern post should have been restored. He did not know of any alteration which could have caused more disturbance to the whole daily current of our commercial and social intercourse. The Post Office had established a system upon which certain trades of very great importance to the industry of the country had sprung up; but no sooner had these trades began to develop themselves than that which was their main support was suddenly withdrawn. He maintained that the public were entitled to regard the use of the pattern post in the manner which had existed for so many years, as in some degree a prescriptive right; and he did not think the Post Office was justified in withdrawing the arrangement without stronger grounds than any yet stated. He could hardly do justice to his case without reading a few representative extracts from documents which had been forwarded to him. The first was from a Petition which had been presented from the Liverpool Tradesmen's Guild. It stated that, in the opinion of the petitioners, the privilege enjoyed by the public had created an entirely new traffic in very small articles; the facilities given by the post were highly advantageous to the public, and much valued; but the new regulations had caused injury to business, inconvenience to the public, and, they believed, loss to the Revenue. A Petition from the Guardian Society also stated that the new restrictions had, to a large extent, nullified the advantages intended to be conferred by the halfpenny postage. A memorial adopted at a meeting of seedsmen in London, set forth that the privilege which had been withdrawn had been a great boon to both buyer and seller, and had tended to develop the production of seeds. It was impossible for the postal authorities or themselves to tell what orders were for samples, or which for sowing; the result was indescribable annoyance to all concerned. A statement from Coventry showed how advantageous the post had been to manufacturers, and declared that the stringent rule now imposed had deprived them of a cheap and rapid means of delivering small articles at remote parts of the country, 2006 while it had led to the dismissal of many employés who had been compelled to seek engagements elsewhere. Then, as to the transmission of articles connected with science, he had a communication from a microscopical society, which stated that the society had received its death blow, because, under the new restrictions as to the pattern post, they could not send by post their prepared subjects. He had also a letter—one of many—from an indigent gentlewoman, who eked out a small pittance by fancy needlework, but now she could no longer send her work by post, and her small profit would be absorbed if she paid railway charges; and he had another letter from a person in similar circumstances, who complained that she could not get silk and other articles necessary for her work by post. The new regulation was that the articles which passed through the Post Office must be bonâ fide samples; and all articles having a saleable value were excluded. He would ask the House to consider how the new regulation was enforced. If any hon. Member sent for a small article to be supplied to him, he would find that in nine cases out of ten it would come through the post with the words "sample" or "pattern" marked legibly upon it. He had, to test the matter, sent orders to metropolitan tradesmen and others, and though the articles required were all for private use and of intrinsic value, the packages were all marked "patterns," with a 1d. postage in place of 1d., 6d., or 8d. There was, in fact, a systematic evasion of the Post Office regulations most demoralizing in the results. The Post Office officials themselves were unable to lay down any uniform rule as to what had or had not an intrinsic value, or was a bonâ fide pattern or sample. For instance, he had in his hand two envelopes which had received the approval of the Post Office as patterns, yet whilst one of these envelopes passed through the Post Office, the other was overcharged, upon the ground that it was not in conformity with the Post Office regulations, though it had actually been approved by the postal authorities themselves. A druggist at Brighton complained that he had been prevented from sending small boxes of pills through the post. He had written first to the Post Office to know whether he could send them, and, having received a favourable answer, he issued 2007 circulars that he would send the article post free all over the country. Now, however, the article was prevented passing through the post, and his trade was seriously injured. He had also a letter from a cripple, who got his living by knitting stockings; and when he had received an order, it had been his practice to send the first stocking to his customer through the post to see whether it would suit. After the new regulation he sent a stocking to a customer by post, and the customer was charged 2s. 8d. extra postage. On another occasion, the local postmaster returned the sample because the sender's was not a recognized place of business. These anomalies must continue so long as the present absurd regulations existed. Again, this system must produce great confusion, and it must, in the Post Office itself, create a serious hindrance to the rapid manipulation of letters, upon which the success of the Post Office so materially depended. Now what was the object attained by all this? So far as he could gather, of all the letters transmitted through the Post Office by inland post, over nine-tenths were sent by 1d. stamp, they being within the weight that would, be carried for that amount, thus showing that the residue of letters over ½ oz., and patterns only realized 10 per cent of the gross inland postage. He hoped that some system would be devised by which all distinctions between articles should be done away with, so that, over and within a certain weight, all articles, be they letters, patterns, parcels, closed or open, it mattered not which, should be carried at one uniform rate; for he believed that until some such system were adopted the public would not be satisfied, and the Post Office would not be free from the unceasing system of espionage necessitated by existing prohibitions. There seemed to be a fear, on the part of some of the officials, lest the Post Office should undertake extra work; but Sir Rowland Hill, in his evidence before the Committee, when asked whether he was not afraid that the Post Office would undertake more than it could manage, said—"We are not afraid of that; the more work we get the more profit we make." He (Mr. Graves) believed that that opinion was as good now as it was when it was first uttered: if the work was excessive for the existing staff, increase it; let the remuneration of postal officials— 2008 the carriers especially—be in keeping with the increased requirements, and there need be no fear of the ability of the Post Office to fulfil every duty demanded of it. In looking into the history of the Post Office, he was much struck with the fact that over 200 years ago our ancestors were in the enjoyment of what we were now asking—namely, a parcel post, and it was a curious fact that in 1690 the then head of the Post Office was removed from his office for stopping parcels. He did not wish the present Postmaster General to be dealt with in that way. In a memorial which was presented to the King, it was stated that the Postmaster General forbad the taking of any band-box except very small ones, and stopped all parcels above 1lb. which formerly went by the 1d. post. There was another curious fact, as to the use that was made of the Post Office in and since those days. He found that among the articles sent were 15 couples of hounds to the King of the Romans, and these were sent with a free pass. There were also some parcels of cloth for clothing colonels; two servant maids, who were going out as laundresses to Lord Ambassador Methuen; two cows, and divers other things, the last being four flitches of bacon. Those facts were to be found in the Report of the Postmaster General for the year 1855, which would well repay perusal. One word on a point which, had some considerable bearing on this question—namely, the effect of his proposal on the railways. He had always considered that it was an advantage to the railways that the Post Office should carry small parcels, because this system enabled traders to send the pioneers of larger quantities of goods that must go by railways. Be that as it might, he held it to be essential to the restoration and extension of the parcel system that the active co-operation of the railways should be secured; that we should not, as now, be dependent on one or two trains in the day to convey these parcels, but that every train going out of a station should be placed at the disposal of the Post Office. He believed that could be done, and that the railway interest would offer every facility should fair and reasonable proposals be made by the Postmaster General. On the other hand, the public would not permit such an opportunity to be spoilt if inadequate terms were offered 2009 by the postal authorities. The House would observe that he had divided his Motion into two sections. He would at once state his views on the money-order question, which he found to be so much associated with the parcel post, that he could not separate the two. In 1839 the utility of a money-order branch of the Post Office was first recognized by the Department. It was expressly stated by the Postmaster General in one of his Reports, to have been established for the purpose of enabling the poor to transmit money from one part of the country to another, and allusion was made to the Irish reapers going back to Ireland, who used to send their money through the money-order offices from town to town, that they might see that it was safe as they passed along. This money-order system in the first year turned over a sum of £300,000, and last year something like 10,000,000 of orders, and £20,000,000 sterling passed through the Post Office. From inquiries made at some of the large provincial offices, he found that more than two-thirds of the whole amount was transmitted in orders of £2 and under. Now, the charge for an order for any sum under £2 was 3d., and it was not to be wondered at that such a charge should lead people to resort to other means of making remittances. They sent coin, contrary to regulation, in registered letters, and very large quantities of postage stamps were sent in payment of small sums. The Post Office authorities had systematically, year after year, asked the public to desist from sending coin and stamps, because of the temptation that the practice offered to the employés. In 1864 the registration fee was lowered with a view to stop the robberies which had become so frequent; and in 1865 the Postmaster General said that the result of the combined measures of reducing the fee and prohibiting the sending of coin had been satisfactory; that the number of applications for missing letters containing coin had fallen from 6,000 to 2,000 per annum; but, on the other hand, the good effect of this had been neutralized by the practice of transmitting postage stamps through the post; the applications for missing letters with postage stamps having increased in exactly the same proportion as the others had decreased. In the previous year when the Postmaster General was asked to reduce the charge for money-orders he 2010 refused to do so, because the 3d. charged was not sufficient to pay the costs; and he pointed out in his annual Report that many facilities for the transmission of small sums were afforded by postage stamps; so that the Post Office recommended the very thing that next year they appealed to the public in earnest terms to assist them in preventing. What he (Mr. Graves) suggested, was that they should try the results of reduction, and a large extension of money-order offices throughout the country—the rural districts especially. If a money-order for 10s or £1 would be given for 1d.—if a simple system was established which everyone could remember, such as a penny in the pound for an order—he believed we should hear no more of robberies of letters, and the Postmaster General would have no occasion to make further appeals to the public to assist him in preventing them. He regretted that some Returns which he had moved for had not been as yet put into the hands of Members; but it appeared that in 1860, after which year the Post Office ceased to give any Returns of the profits from money-orders, there was a gain of £28,000; and from a calculation he had made it would probably now amount to between £40,000 and £50,000, which was not a bad result upon £176,000 receipts. For his own part, he did not care whether there was a profit or a loss upon a particular part of the work done by the Post Office. He contended that the Post Office had no right to say that in one department there might be a loss, and therefore they would do nothing to foster it. The Post Office should be looked upon as a whole, and should give to the starved districts facilities which per se would not be profitable. Upon the same principle he would reduce the charge for small orders, even although there should be a loss upon that particular transaction. He could send his money by a cheque and a 1d. stamp all over the country; why should not Government, in the interest of the poorer classes, assist them in doing the same, where it could be done without loss? The Committee of 1838 said that the speedy conveyance of letters was the primary consideration, and revenue of minor importance, and that the Post Office should be looked upon not only as a source of revenue, but as a means by which a price was paid by the public for a parti 2011 cular service. Since he had given Notice of his Motion he had received many communications asking for an extension of the money-order system, and in many places it was complained that there were no facilities for the inhabitants obtaining money-orders. In urging the Government to make this concession, he was aware he was raising a question of revenue at the very moment when the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarded it as of more than ordinary importance. The same argument was used, against him last year, or the year before, when he asked for a reduction of a halfpenny on the newspaper stamp. The whole history of the Post Office went to show that whenever it gave increased facilities the public took advantage of them; that the loss of revenue at the outset was soon more than recouped, and that a new business was established. So it would be, he firmly believed, in the present instance, and he had no doubt we should have the Chancellor of the Exchequer stating in aonther year, as he expected he would be able to do in the present one, when introducing his Estimates, that he was able to inform the House that no loss had been incurred by those concessions which the Government had so wisely and liberally made. Most men who had been in Switzerland knew what the parcel post was there, and how far it was in advance of the parcel post of this country. Those who had been in Belgium knew what the parcel and money-order posts were there, In France they seemed to have got greatly ahead of us, as money-orders up to 15 francs were granted for a charge of 10 centimes, and for sums of 1,000 francs the Post Office was responsible for a charge of 1 per cent. The French Postmaster General, in 1868 or 1869, called upon the Government to adopt vigorous measures to improve the system in France; and he reminded the Government that the Post Office was a system which was meant to serve the interests of the country, and that it should have no limits but these interests. He also recommended, in the same Report, that the profits from the Post Office should be given up for two or three years, to develop all the various branches of the Post Office work. Comparing the facilities in France with the facilities afforded in this country, it was a curious fact that in France there were 43,000 letter-boxes, 2012 which were emptied, at least, once every day in the year, while in this country we had 18,000 only. France had, also, a complete rural service by which letters were taken to every house in the smallest hamlet of the country; while in England, in country places, people had to send miles to the post office for their letters. Within the last few years travelling letter-boxes had also been established in France, and there were 500 of these travelling letterboxes going on wheels up and down the country, so that people were able to post their letters as the box passed by. He had shown the necessity of amending the parcels post system, and it would be for the interest of the money-order system also that the charge should be reduced and the system largely extended. In advancing these two propositions he had endeavoured to disassociate from them every other issue. Hereafter it was possible that it might be desirable there should be a discussion on the Post Office itself, and the principles on which it was managed. But, for the present, he would rest satisfied with laying before the House the two simple propositions, to which he had called attention. They were, to his mind, great blots on the Post Office system. He believed by their removal confidence would be reposed in the institution, and if they were removed there was no reason whatever why the Post Office should not have before it a long career of great usefulness, and that it would confer benefits on the people of this country, which, in the words of the Postmaster General of France, had no limits but the limits of the public requirements. The propositions which he had brought forward, he regarded as moderate. The Government would, he hoped, accept them in that light, and he now submitted them to the House, feeling satisfied that he had with him not only the sympathy of the country, but the judgment of the House. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolutions.
§ MR. AKROYD
seconded the Motion, observing that the Halifax Chamber of Commerce had come to a unanimous opinion in favour of the restoration of the pattern post. There was no doubt that the traders in this country who dealt in small articles would be benefited by the restoration; he would even venture to say that there was not a household among the middle and upper classes the 2013 ladies of which would not like to be able to send small parcels by post. Although, he might add, we in England had been the first to introduce a system of cheap postage, we had since remained comparatively stationary, while the continental nations had gone on improving upon our system, and the adoption of the Motion of his hon. Friend would, he felt sure, be hailed with satisfaction on all sides throughout the country.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is desirable to restore and extend those facilities for the transmission of Small Parcels by Post which the public enjoyed prior to the 1st day of October 1870."—(Mr. Graves.)
§ MR. MONSELL
said, he fully appreciated the importance of the two questions which had been raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) in the course of his temperate and able speech. He trusted he should be able to show him that the Government were not indifferent to the considerations which he had advanced, and that he would be satisfied with the proposals which he was about to lay before the House. Before, however, he proceeded to explain those proposals he must venture to comment on the comparison which had been drawn by his hon. Friend between our postal system and that of foreign countries. His hon. Friend had alluded to the importance of establishing some understanding between the Post Office and the railways; but he must remind him that the relations which prevailed among us between the Post Office and the railways were very different from those which existed abroad. In the case of France, for instance, except for special trains, the Post Office had not to pay one halfpenny to the railways. In Belgium many of the important railways belonged to the State, and no payment was therefore made to them; while on most of the other lines there was a gratuitous conveyance of mails stipulated for when the lines were conceded, the total payments last year having amounted to only £1,307. Again, in North Germany there was no payment made except for heavy parcels carried by State railways, and for all parcels by private railways. It was clear, therefore, that there was a wide distinction between our position in that respect and that of foreign countries, and yet in very important cases 2014 our Post Office charges were less than those of France, Belgium, and North Germany. His hon. Friend very properly remarked that the greater portion of the postal revenue was connected with the sending of penny letters. Now, in the case of France the charge for letters was double the charge in this country; in that of Belgium the same; while in North Germany the scale of charge was one and one-third. Indeed, in the very instance of the pattern post the present charge in this country was lower than that in France, Belgium, or North Germany. The difference between the rates was — in those countries 3d. was charged for 10 ounces, whereas with us 12 ounces were sent for 3d. In the next place, he must take exception to the hon. Gentleman's history of the rise and progress of the pattern post. The Post Office had never relaxed the essential condition which had been established, that nothing should be sent by pattern post except patterns. He quite admitted that the rules of the Post Office in that respect had been evaded to a considerable extent, and that it was quite impossible to distinguish between patterns and other articles. Take the case of the seedsmen. Suppose a sorter had to decide between an ounce of picotee seed and half a pound of grass seed. The latter might be a sample; but he would, perhaps, decide that it was not a sample, while he would pass the other, which might be no sample. Such a distinction, therefore, must be absolutely given up. If the transmission of patterns by post was to be maintained it was absolutely necessary that parcels should go by post. But it was very important, indeed, in a matter of this sort to arrive at some system which contained within it the elements of finality. In politics unsettled questions were the cause of grave mischiefs, and in commercial affairs, also, they had the worst possible effect; for people did not know where they stood, and could not make the necessary calculations for carrying on their business when the conditions on which the business depended were being constantly altered. In considering this question he would put aside altogether the question of newspapers, books, and trade circulars, which involved considerations of a different order. Newspapers and books were carried at a low rate, for the sake 2015 of the education and general information of the people; and, with, regard to trade circulars and halfpenny cards, experience showed that they had not supplanted in any great degree the letter post; but that a great number of announcements hitherto sent by hand, or not sent at all, were now conveyed through the Post Office, the general increase in the number of letters being not diminished by the concession, in obtaining which his hon. Friend took so important a part. Putting aside, therefore, these branches of the service, it appeared to him, with reference to the pattern post, that there was no ground for any distinction between closed and open parcels, and that parcels of whatever sort should be sent either closed or open as the sender desired. Among other results such a change would have the important advantage of diminishing the work of officers in the Post Office, because it would render unnecessary an examination to determine to which class each article belonged. In this way the change would produce economy; and it was also founded on reason and common sense, for if any system were desired containing the elements of finality the present absurd distinction must be abolished, and closed and open parcels must be allowed to go henceforth at the same rate. Now, the next point that they had to consider was, what should the limit of the weight of parcels be? He had consulted a number of persons from different parts of the country, having had the advantage of receiving a deputation representing the greater number of the most important manufacturing towns in the North of England, and the general opinion was that if the limit of weight were fixed at 12 oz. the public would be satisfied. There was no great desire to send any larger parcels by the Post Office. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes, up to a pound.] If the House went with him, as he thought it generally did on these two points, the next matter for consideration was one of vital importance—what should be the initial charge? There could be very little difference of opinion among Gentlemen who really paid any attention to this subject. The mainspring of our whole postal system was the penny letter. Ninety-five per cent of the letters sent were penny letters, and 90 per cent of the postal revenue was derived from the same source. In the year 1863 the 2016 number of these letters sent through the Post Office was, in round numbers, 600,000,000, and that number had increased now to 800,000,000. The increase had contributed somewhere about £800,000 a year to the Revenue. It was by means of this initial penny that the Post Office had been able to supply distant districts, establish new modes of conveyance, and make experiments with regard, to the pattern or parcel post. The efficiency of the Post Office depended on the maintenance of that initial penny. If they retained it, their system would work satisfactorily, whatever they did; but, if they were to abandon it, they would abandon at once £1,500,000 a-year. The Post Office, instead of being a revenue department, would become merely a spending department; there would be all those difficulties which were experienced by other spending departments in the attempt to carry out any public advantage which cost money, and the Post Office, instead of every year conferring greater blessing upon the people, would cease its career of progress and become a saving and niggardly instead of a liberal and generous department. He therefore submitted that the initial amount should be a penny. He would give the rates founded on that principle which he should ask the House to adopt. For parcels and letters of all sorts, closed or open, making no distinction between them, the charge would be—Not exceeding 1 oz., 1d.; above 1 oz., but not exceeding 2 oz., 1½d.; above 2 oz., but not exceeding 4. oz., 2d.; above 4 oz., but not exceeding 6 oz., 2½d.; above 6 oz., but not exceeding 8 oz., 3d.; above 8 oz., but not exceeding 10 oz., 3½d.; above 10 oz., but not exceeding 12 oz., 4d. 12 oz. to be the limit of weight for letters.The present rate of letter postage was, for letters not exceeding ½ oz., 1d.; above ½ oz., but not exceeding 1 oz., 2d.; 1 oz., 3d.; 2 oz., 4d.; and so on. By the present pattern post, the charge for 12 oz. was 3d.; under the arrangement he proposed it would be 4d. Therefore, those whom his hon. Friend represented would make a sacrifice to this extent; but, on the other hand, they would gain the advantage of having their parcels closed or open as they pleased. The postage upon letters would be considerably reduced, and upon the whole the advantage to the public, by the proposal he now made, would be considerably greater than that which would be got if they 2017 were to relax the present rates and accept the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool. The plan of the Government was a sufficient answer to the supposition that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be likely to interpose an obstacle in the way of the munificence of the Post Office, because under the plan of his hon. Friend the loss to the Exchequer would be less than that which would arise from the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. But the advantage of the proposal made on the part of the Government was that it was founded upon a sound principle, and that, containing within it the elements of finality, they might hope that the public would be satisfied, and that no future changes would be called for. Perhaps the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) might say the plan proposed involved inconsistencies; but it was impossible to avoid inconsistency in any plan. Would the noble Lord, for instance, propose that the postage on The Times should be at the same rate as a letter? Then instead of a halfpenny The Times would be charged 1s. Or, would he propose that there should be any distinction between the postage on a parcel or letter from London to Hampstead, and that on a parcel or letter from the Orkneys to the Channel Islands? There must be such inconsistencies, and the object was to have as few as possible, and to adopt a system which, upon the whole, should be logical, definite, and precise. These, he thought, were the characteristics of the proposal before the House. With regard to what had been stated by his hon. Friend in respect to the co-operation of the railway companies, he had to observe that nothing would be more agreeable to him than to come to some arrangement with the railway companies. It would be necessary for him, he believed, to introduce a Bill in regard to the alterations now proposed, and before that time the railway companies would have had the opportunity of considering the subject, or some arrangement might have been possibly arrived at between them and the Government. He should most willingly co-operate in any such understanding, which, he thought, would be beneficial both to the public and to the companies, and it would then become possible, that, not only two or three trains, but all of them, might be utilized for the conveyance of letters. With respect 2018 to the question of money-orders he confessed he felt very much with his hon. Friend. He admitted that the main object of those orders was to benefit the poorer classes, and it was distinctly stated at the time they were first established that revenue was not their principal object. His hon. Friend had somewhat understated the profit derived from money-orders by putting it at £45,000. [Mr. GRAVES: Between £40,000 and £50,000.] He believed, in fact, that the profit on the £20,000,000 of orders annually issued was about £55,000 a year. The Money Order Office had entirely out-shot its original purpose, and had become a great banking concern for retail tradesmen. Take, as an example, the excess of payments over receipts in places were articles in general use were largely manufactured. In Birmingham the orders exceeded the issues by about £250,000 a-year, and how largely orders were sent on business was shown by the fact, that in London about 35 per cent of them were paid through bankers. In King Street, Covent Garden, 35 per cent of the amount sent for money-orders was sent by persons connected with Covent Garden Market, and in other parts of London the proportion was about the same; in some it was even rather higher. He was informed that the average cost of money-orders to the Post Office was about 3d. The money-orders for sums not exceeding £1, amounted to £4,271,000; not exceeding £2, to £2,743,000; and the whole amount of all the orders was £9,967,000. Now, it was quite clear that if the precise proposition of his hon. Friend were adopted, there would be not only an immediate and considerable loss of revenue, but that the more money-order business the Post Office did the greater would the loss become. If the rate were fixed at 1d. per pound, the Post Office, instead of gaining about £55,000 annually, would lose about £5,000 a-year, and would lose more and more in proportion as the business was extended. The proposal, therefore, he should be disposed to make would be to substitute the following for the present rates:—For sums under 10s., 1d.; for 10s., and under £1, 2d.; for £1, and under £2, 3d.; for £2, and under £3, 4d.; for £3, and under £4, 5d.; for £4, and under £5, 6d.; for £5, and under £6, 7d.; for £6, and under £7, 8d.; for £7, and under £8, 9d.; for £8, and 2019 under £9,. 10d.; for £9, and under £10, 11d.; and for £10 orders, 1s. That proposal would accomplish one of the objects of his hon. Friend, and would confer on the poor a very great benefit. Moreover, it would, he thought, tend to produce, as his hon. Friend said, the great benefit of putting a stop to the most fertile source of demoralization and theft among the employés of the Post Office, which arose from the transmission of postage stamps. No doubt the quotations that they had heard that night from his hon. Friend proved the inconsistency of the Post Office in that respect in former times; but it was found that a very great proportion of cases of theft arose from the transmission of postage stamps, and not only did it injuriously affect the morality of the letter-carriers, but it was also doubly detrimental to the public, because it had generally happened that, where cases of theft had been brought home, the accused person was found to have abstracted and destroyed a large number of letters in the hope that they might contain stamps. He also proposed that postmasters should not in future be allowed to purchase stamps. He did not know whether that would have much effect; but, at any rate, it would help to free them from any participation in a system calculated to place temptation in the way of the servants of the Post Office. He was afraid that the statement he had made must have been felt by the House to be dry; but it affected the interests of multitudes of their fellow-countrymen, and if they could arrive at a just solution of the questions he had dealt with, they would not only contribute to the comfort of the wealthy, but would, by facilitating the exchange of the productions of industry, improve the condition of those who live by their daily toil.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, it had not been his intention to trouble the House with any remarks; but after the pointed challenge thrown out by the Postmaster General he felt obliged to say a few words. He congratulated the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) on the triumph he had gained, and he also congratulated the Postmaster General on the statement he had made of his views, and on the abolition of the distinction between open and closed parcels; but, on behalf of the society which he represented, and which had spent much time 2020 and money in the prosecution of the subject, he could not subscribe to the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman that his present proposals had the merit of finality. They were a great step in advance; but he hoped some day to be able to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to extend a little further the boons he was about to confer on the community. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to grudge the exceptional privilege enjoyed by The Times and other newspapers; but that privilege ought not to be grudged, because the Press of this country must be looked upon as a most useful and cheap means of assisting education. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the expediency of considering whether he could not make arrangents to extend to periodicals published once a fortnight the same privilege as that given to newspapers.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, he believed the scheme, as a whole, would afford great facilities, and would, meet the approbation of the country. Thanks were, he thought, peculiarly due to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose hand was plainly visible in these new arrangements. No doubt, there must be a material disturbance in the receipts of the Post Office for some time. There would also be a certain amount of expense in despatching heavy parcels by the post. He hoped there would be no delay in the delivery of ordinary letters in consequence of an increase in the heavier parcels. Letters ought to be delivered at the earliest possible moment. He hoped this point would receive the attention of the Postmaster General. With regard to railways, no doubt the Government did not occupy the same position that foreign Governments did; at the same time they possessed a very powerful lever in the enormous surplus revenue of the Post Office. They had in this case a very good object, and might make a very serious impression on the railway companies. It would be highly desirable if postal facilities were given at the railway stations, which might be done at a very small cost. Only a few days ago he was staying at the house of a friend, about 18 miles from London, which was seven miles from the nearest post town, while three railway stations were within a radius of three miles. Many other anomalies also existed, which he hoped the right hon. Gentleman 2021 would exert himself to discover and redress. If he did so, he was quite confident he would give universal satisfaction to the country.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
expressed the hope that the proposals of the Government would be brought into operation, at the earliest possible date. He also directed the attention of the Postmaster General to the fact that in London the pillar letter-boxes were often not large enough to hold the number of letters required to be posted in them on Sundays.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he did not expect to hear anything about finality as applicable to any scheme emanating from the Post Office Department, which, as a system of progress and extension, was peculiarly beneficent to the country at large. He was not quite satisfied with the plan now proposed. He regretted that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) for Post Office money-orders of small amounts had not been adopted. It would have been a great convenience, especially to the poorer classes. The expense of a money-order must be very small, certainly not more than 1d., and the increase in the number granted must have been so great that any loss of revenue would have been easily made up. He hoped before the plan actually came into operation some modification would be made in it with respect to Post Office money-orders. It also occurred to him that the limit of parcels should have been fixed at 16 oz., instead of 12 oz., because that was an ordinary standard of commerce, and it would be extremely convenient if the Post Office undertook to carry parcels of that weight for 6d. There was another subject mentioned in the Resolution of the hon. Member for Liverpool which had not been alluded to by the Postmaster General—an increase of money-order offices. He believed the more those offices were disseminated the more would the income of the Department be increased. He congratulated his right hon. Friend on the plan he had proposed, as far as it went.
§ MR. EYKYN
said, he would avail himself of this opportunity of urging on the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of considering how soon he could enable them to obtain cheaper telegrams than they could at present. That was a subject in which mercantile men took a very deep interest. He hoped there would 2022 be such an expression of opinion on this matter as would lead to a reduction to that level which was promised previous to the transfer of the telegraphs from the companies to the Post Office.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he hoped money-order offices would be increased in the rural districts. In many parts of the country it was impossible to obtain those facilities which were required in this respect, and he hoped some assurance would be given that the subject would not be lost sight of. With regard to the limit of the weight of parcels, he thought there was nothing to complain of. Parcels over 12 oz. came fairly within the scope of railways, and there was a danger, if the limit in weight were further extended, of seriously adding to the labours of the already overworked and underpaid letter-carriers.
§ An hon. MEMBER asked the Postmaster General, whether he could fix the date when the alterations would come into operation?
§ MR. MONSELL
said, that it was not yet possible to assign the precise date. With, regard to the other points that had been raised he hoped that some increase would be made in the number of rural money-order offices; it had been decided to reduce the amount of guarantee now required for money-order offices. In respect to the price of telegrams the difficulty was really a physical one. There was not room for increased business in the present buildings, neither were the clerks sufficiently trained to manage it with efficiency. The reduction in the tariff must, therefore, be postponed.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, after the assurances which had been given, and the information which had been communicated on the part of the Government, he should be wanting in appreciation if he cavilled about the minor details of their scheme, though he could have wished a lower and simpler scale for money-orders had been adopted. He tendered them his thanks for the enlightened concessions they had made, and congratulated the Postmaster General not only on the nature of the announcements he had made, but also on the tone and spirit in which he had made them. It augured well for the future of the Post Office that the right hon. Gentleman thoroughly appreciated the responsibilities of his post. He was satisfied, as he believed the country 2023 would be satisfied, with the scheme of the Government, considered as a whole, and he therefore asked permission to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, there was another Notice on the Paper in his name of a Motion in reference to postal administration; but it would be more convenient to discuss the matter on another occasion, and he would not, therefore, propose it now.