Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Contract entered into between the South Eastern Railway Company and the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company
and the Postmaster General for the conveyance of the
Mails between Dover and Calais be approved."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
SIR WILLIAM FRASER moved, as an Amendment—
That this House declines to approve the said Contract until an undertaking be given by the South Eastern Company and the London, Chatham, and Dover Company to provide more adequate service in their steam vessels.
He complained that the boats which were used by these two Companies for the cross-Channel traffic were not what they should be; that they were often overcrowded; and that the accommodation for the vast number of inhabitants of this country who went and returned from abroad every year was most inadequate. Seeing that in the course of the autumn very large numbers of the public would be proceeding to France, he felt that it was necessary some steps should be taken to remedy the present wants, so that something like decent accommodation should be provided for the public. He therefore declined to assent to the proposed contract, which showed an increase of £8,000 over the former terms, until some satisfactory assurances were given for the future. The House had no other means of objecting to the present inferior service than the present Motion, and therefore he begged to move his Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House declines to approve the said Contract until an undertaking be given by the South Eastern Company and the London, Chatham, and Dover Company to provide more adequate service in their steam vessels,"—(Sir William Fraser,)
—instead there of.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, the moment chosen by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Kidderminster (Sir William Fraser) for making his proposal was most inopportune, as the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company were at that moment engaged upon some costly experiments, which, if successful, would prove a great boon to 1238 those travelling between Dover and Calais. It had been found impossible, in the present state of Calais harbour, to use ships with single keels of larger size than those at present employed in the service. The Company had therefore purchased the the Calais-Douvres, a twin ship of considerable size, in order to carry on a difficult service in a satisfactory manner. He denied that the accommodation afforded was so bad as it was represented to be; and with respect to the increase in the amount of the contract, he explained that it was necessary by reason of the fact that they had to carry a much heavier quantity of mails, and that their expenses had largely increased through the increased cost of materials and wages. It was the desire of those who conducted the Continental service between Dover and Calais to do so in the most efficient manner; but to do so at the rates the Companies were at present receiving involved a great loss, and he was sure that the House would not require such a sacrifice from any Company. The French Government were making a large increase in the size and capabilities of Calais harbour, and when those works were completed, as they would be in about four years, the Company would be able to have larger and more powerful boats than could be employed under existing circumstances.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he could not admit that the answer of the hon. and gallant Member for Dover (Major Dickson) on behalf of the Company was satisfactory, for the reason that the only answer they had made to offers on the part of the Government of assistance in the work they had to perform was a demand for an increased subsidy. This had resulted, he supposed, from the fact that the railway communication was practically in the hands of one Company, which rendered it difficult for the Government to do anything except submit. At the same time, however, he wished to point out that the service in question was a very peculiar one, and that there had to be considered the disadvantages of the harbours at both sides of the Channel. He thought that what had been done in the matter was the best that could be done in the circumstances. On the whole, therefore, he hoped that the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for 1239 Kidderminster (Sir William Fraser) would be satisfied with simply having called attention to the subject, and would not press his Motion to a division. There was no doubt that great public good would result from the improvement of the harbours in connection with the service, and that when those harbours were improved larger boats could be employed, and the service could be conducted more satisfactorily. Meanwhile, he hoped that the proposal of the Government to continue the existing contract would meet with general approval, and that it would be seen that the course taken by the Government was the only one that could well be adopted in the circumstances.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Main Question put.
Resolved, That the Contract entered into between the South Eastern Hallway Company and the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company and the Postmaster General for the conveyance of the Mails between Dover and Calais be approved.