HC Deb 15 June 1880 vol 253 cc65-6

asked the Postmaster General, What has been the annual loss between the 31st March 1876 and the 31st of March 1879, under the Postal Contract of 1st August 1874, on carrying the India, China, and Australian Mails; what would be the estimated annual loss on that Contract were the postage reduced to the Postal Union rate of 2½d, in compliance with the wishes of various public bodies and meetings in India; and, if his attention has been called to the fact that the Peninsular and Oriental Contract speed to Australia is 10½ to 11 knots, whereas the average speed of the steamers of the unsubsidised Orient Company is 14 to 15 knots, and that, although upwards of 1,000 miles are added to the distance traversed by the latter in consequence of their going out round the Cape, the average length of their passages in 1880 has been only forty days, whereas that of the Peninsular and Oriental vessels during the same period has been forty-eight days?


The annual loss to the revenues of the United Kingdom on the contract for the mails to India, China, and Australia was, in 1876, £216,000; in 1877–8, £239,000; and the estimated loss on the year 1878–9 is £246,000. The estimate of the loss which would have been incurred if the postage had been reduced to half the amount would be about £28,000 in addition to the loss actually incurred. With regard to the other Question, it is correct to state that the contract speed of the Peninsular and Oriental Company in carrying the mails to India, China, and Australia is about 11 knots an hour. I am by no means answerable for this contract, which was entered into before the present Government came into Office, and I voted against it. The average time taken by the Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamers between London and Melbourne via Brindisi in the transmission of mails is not, as my right hon. Friend says, 48 days, but the contract period is 39½ days, and that time, I believe, has been in only one instance exceeded. It is true that the average rate of passage in the vessels of the unsubsidized Orient Company is considerably faster than that of the subsidized line of the Peninsular and Oriental Company. The average rate of speed of the former is between 14 and 15 knots an hour, and from information sent to the Post Office I believe the length of the passage from Plymouth to Adelaide, the first port at which they stop, is a few hours under 40 days. In one instance the passage was completed in 35 days. By the Peninsular and Oriental Line the mails from London to Adelaide are delivered in 37 days on the average.