§ (24.) £857,733, to complete the sum for Customs.
§ (25.) £1,643,157, to complete the sum for Inland Revenue.180
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £4,254,659, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Post Office Services, the Expenses of Post Office Savings Banks, and Government Annuities and Insurances, and the Collection of the Post Office Revenue.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had not expected this Vote to be brought on that night. At Question time he had given Notice that when the Vote came on, he would call attention to the course pursued by the Post Office in regard to the service of mails in Ireland. He thought he had some just ground of complaint. When he gave that Notice the Postmaster General made no intimation that he would take the Vote that night, and he (Mr. Sexton) certainly had not expected that it would be so taken. Attempts had been made on previous occasions to procure a better Mail Service between Dublin and the West of Ireland, the present Service involving a serious dislocation of the business of the country. At that late hour, however, he could not undertake to place this matter properly before the Committee; and he would, therefore, appeal to the Government to bring the matter on on some other occasion. He would move to report Progress; but if the Government would see their way to grant the claim of Ireland in regard to this Mail Service—which would only involve an additional expenditure of £3,000—he would not press the Motion.
§ MR. ION HAMILTON
supported the claim put forward on behalf of the mercantile interests of Ireland. The matter had been carefully considered; it was of importance to the whole of Ireland, and he trusted the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) would be able to see his way to put the matter right. The question was purely one of public and private convenience.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Lord JOHN MANNERS)
said, he quite understood the interest taken in this question on both sides of the House. He was quite aware of the importance attached to it in Ireland. It was the fact that no intimation had been given to the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr Sexton), when he put his Question that day, that the Vote would be taken tonight. He (Lord John Manners) had 181 been himself under the impression that it would not be taken; and, under the circumstances, it would be only reasonable to postpone the Vote.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (26.) £553,781, to complete the sum for the Post Office Packet Service.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he was in a state of perfect maze as to the system which was being adopted in taking the Votes that night. He could not make out what they were voting. He would venture to ask whether they were voting Supplementary Estimates?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
No doubt, the Votes have been put with some irregularity; but those we are now dealing with are for the Revenue Department. We are on the Vote for the Post Office Packet Service.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, that, a short time ago, he bad represented to the Post Office authorities that the West Indian mails for the future should sail from Plymouth instead of Southampton. He regretted that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Stewart Macliver) was not in his place that night, for he knew that that hon. Gentleman was anxious to be present when this Vote was taken. Liverpool, Manchester, and all the towns in the North, were anxious that the mails should start from Plymouth. The late Government had assured the Committee that arrangements would be made to enable the mails to start from Plymouth, if the Post Office could see its way to make the alteration. There could bono doubt that Scotland and all the towns in the North of England were greatly interested in this matter, as the fact of the West Indian mails starting from Plymouth would materially accelerate their mercantile and business arrangements. The late Government had said that a sum would probably be included in the Estimates to enable this acceleration to be effected; but he regretted to see that there was no such provision made. He 182 could assure the noble Lord the Postmaster General that this change was not only desired by Plymouth. It would give some places in Great Britain an accelerated mail service not only of some hours, but of as much even as a day. He hoped the noble Lord would consider the interests of the commercial classes, and yield to them by holding out some prospect—as the late Government had done—to the constituency he represented, and to towns like Manchester in the North of England, that this much desired change would be brought about.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Lord JOHN MANNERS)
said, he could only say that, in preparing the Estimate of another year, he would pay great attention to the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitley). He was not aware, however, that the late Government had ever gone so far as to say they would give the increased sum of money which had been mentioned. If those of the late Government who had been responsible for these matters had been present and had replied, they would, he believed, have disputed the proposition. At any rate, there was no such sum to be found in the Votes on the present occasion. It was impossible for the present Government to say more than that, when they came to prepare the Estimates for next year, they would pay great attention to the suggestion made.
§ MR. WHITLEY
Is it not the fact that in the contract there is a provision to the effect that this change can be effected?
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, that hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House were not sure where this Vote was, or where it could be found. The subject just alluded to was one which they in Ireland had little opportunity of making themselves acquainted with, because all the foreign mails—or with only one or two exceptions—started from England. He did not think Irish Members ought to let this opportunity pass without pointing out to the Committee how Ireland was treated in this matter—without pointing out that nearly all the money spent on these mail services was spent on vessels which started 183 from England. The whole of the expenditure—the whole of the largo subsidies paid to the Steamship Companies—went to English ports. No one could go to Southampton without being struck by the immense advantage the commerce of that place derived from having these mail steamers start from there. The mere touching at Cork did not compensate for this; and he thought that as Ireland, which, owing to its westerly position, had many advantages, could despatch mails in the shortest possible time, her ports ought to be availed of as the starting place for some of the mail steamers. The adoption of such a system would confer a great advantage upon Ireland, and would let her know that she was getting her fair share of this expenditure. He wished to draw the attention of the Government to the complete neglect of Ireland in these matters, and to declare his opinion that these Votes should never be allowed to pass without a protest being made by Irish representatives.
§ Vote agreed, to.
§ (27.) £1,259,816, to complete the sum for the Post Office Telegraphs.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he did not know that this Vote was to be brought on to-night. He was anxious to make a statement upon it, and to urge upon the Government the desirability of their taking over the telephone systems of the country, and working them as part of the telegraphs. There could be no doubt that the telephone system was largely developing in the country. It was every day becoming more important, and it seemed certain that no complete telephone system could ever be established by any private body or Company. They had not the plant which was at the disposal of the Government; and he had no hesitation in saying that the Government alone, availing itself of the facilities and the experience it had acquired in the telegraph service, would be able to arrange a complete system of telephones. The late Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had on several occasions declared that the profits of the telegraph business were not increasing; and he (Mr. Tomlinson) ventured to say that the principal reason for that was the enormous extension of the telephone systems throughout the country. The Post Office, he was sure, would never be 184 able to make a satisfactory profit out of the telegraphs, unless it took up the the telephones also. A number of private firms and private individuals in the country had telephones; and supposing that, in addition, there were public telephones by the aid of which people could communicate with private telephones for a small charge, it was obvious that a considerable number of persons would avail themselves of the privilege. He would not dwell further upon the matter at the present moment; but he was convinced, that the opinions of many Members of the House and of an enormous number outside was that the Government should take up the telephones. In the interest of those who used this novel and useful expedient for sending messages this should be done.
§ Vote agreed to.