§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
, in rising to move a Resolution in favour of universal International Penny Postage, said: Sir, I rise to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived for the Government of this Country to open negotiations with other Governments, 262 with a view to the establishment of a Universal International Penny Postage system.I presume that it is unnecessary for me, Sir, in addressing the House on this subject, to say one word as to the immense advantages which Sir Rowland Hill's bold idea has conferred upon this country. The subject is worthy of eloquence to which I do not pretend. But it is obvious to every mind that, by the supply of a cheap, rapid, and trustworthy method of communication, not only have our people, high and low, enjoyed a means of continuous intercourse and fellowship with absent friends, not only have works of charity been facilitated, sympathies enlarged, and unity of feeling promoted, but, in addition, an incalculable stimulus has been given to trade and industry of every kind and degree. "Time is money," says the philosopher, and nobody assents more heartily to the proposition than the man of business. All this, I know, will be granted me. Now, Sir, in respect of the postal communication of this country with our Colonies and with foreign nations, there are new and distinct advantages to be secured, provided always, that the service is cheap, rapid, and trustworthy. I assert that it is, however, wanting in the first of these qualifications. And I further assert that the distinct advantages to which I have referred as attainable are, to a large extent, sacrificed. These are, first, the promotion of cousinly feeling with the millions of Englishmen dwelling in our Colonies—I will say brotherly feeling—and, secondly, the creation and fostering of a feeling of solidarity and common interest among all the nations of the earth. I may pretend to speak with some degree of knowledge respecting one of the greatest, most prosperous, and, I may be permitted to add, most loyal of the British Colonies—Australia. To that country a large proportion of the more intelligent and deserving emigrants annually go from "the old country," while a much larger proportion goes to a second Continent, also peopled by men of English lineage, and speaking our mother tongue. Now, it is notorious that the mass of these exiles are persons in the humblest circumstances, who work for a daily wage, and calculate every farthing of expenditure as carefully as do their equally indigent 263 relatives left behind in England or Ireland. What is the consequence? All communication between the divided members of the family is looted upon as an expensive indulgence, and economy too often begins with a practical casting off of all the ties that bind, or ought to bind, the emigrant to the land of his fathers. Sir, in these days of industrial crisis and Colonial extension, when envious glances mark the extent of our Empire, and keen men of business, commissioned as Consuls, rove up every creek with offers of a Protectorate and of Protectionist duties, it is surely no sound policy to set a tax of a deterrent character upon indulgence in that natural affection which is so considerable a factor in patriotism. Surely it were wiser to encourage the wanderer to retain a lively interest in all that relates to his native land, his village, and his cottage home. On the difficult question, whether the cheapening of postal communication with foreign countries would tend to the averting of those terrible conflicts which so frequently disgrace humanity in this 19th century of Christianity, I am not qualified to speak with authority. Yet surely, Sir, we may fairly assume that two peoples, in constant communication with one another, exchanging daily tens of thousands of letters, on business, and on social and political events, must be less ready to quarrel than two which remain as Nature placed them, in savage isolation. I now approach a subject which I suspect is uppermost in the minds of the opponents of this Motion—that of the cost of transmission. I will here lay down what may seem to financiers in this House a somewhat startling proposition. I hold that the State has no right to make a profit out of the Post Office. A large part of the business of life is now absolutely dependent on the Postal Service. Probably half the letters sent are business letters; and another very large share is sent by persons of small means, who have many stern inducements to take care of their pence. In other words, one-half of your postal revenue is derived from a tax on the machinery of trade, and another large share from the poorest class of citizens. This is practically a tax on commerce. Whether the merchant pays the money at the Custom House, or at the Post Office, is all the same to him. A paternal 264 Government allows the foreigner to introduce his goods duty free to compete with home products, but lays a tax, through the Post Office, on the British exporter. The true principle, I maintain, is for the State to encourage, by a moderate contribution, those operations of commerce, in the initial stage, which ultimately furnish work to English workers, and thus benefit the entire community. The State should, secondly, abstain from discouraging friendly intercourse between our home-keeping citizens and their kinsmen and friends beyond the seas, or even between Englishmen and Frenchmen, Germans or Russians. There can be no objection to the principle of this "moderate contribution," for you have practically admitted it by paying subsidies to several of the transoceanic mail lines; and the other day you voted £380,000 for a West African cable subsidy. Let us abandon half-measures. Your subsidies pass unnoticed, for few persons perceive the ultimate beneficial operation of them. But confer a substantial reduction in the cost of postage as a palpable, immediate benefit on the community, and you will reap a harvest of universal gratitude, not only among Englishmen, but wherever the English tongue is spoken. But it may be urged, in view of the operations of the Postal Union—of which I would speak with the utmost gratitude—other nations must have something to say to this scheme. Granted; it is for that very reason that I have cast my Resolution in its present shape. I have no doubt that the inhabitants of other lands will be as willing as Englishmen to enjoy a cheap Postal Service. Let Her Majesty's Government propose a Conference, or an extraordinary meeting of the Postal Union, or adopt any other procedure which, in their judgment, may be best. It will, doubtless, be necessary to make elaborate calculations as to the amounts of the initial loss of Revenue to be respectively borne by the several States. But these calculations are not more difficult than those already completed by the Members of the Union. I shall now ask the indulgence of the House while I quote some statistics and read a few brief extracts from letters received from representative men. The profit now derived from the Post Office is almost £3,000,000 sterling per annum; but the Postmaster General alleges that 265 that profit is all made at home, and that there is a loss on foreign business. Surely that is an argument in favour of foreign penny postage. Profit made in one direction should be applied to balance losses in another. The revenue from the General Post Office in 1875 was £7,418,324, and the net profit £2,534,306. The revenue last year had risen to £10,053,457, and the net profit to £2,932,267, an increase of more than £2,500,000 in revenue, and nearly £400,000 in profit. I shall now, with your permission, point out some of the anomalies in the present system. In the first place, the price charged for the conveyance of letters to Australia is 6d. per letter of half-an-ounce in weight, or no less than £1,792 per ton. There are no post-cards to Australia. In the second place, the cost of the postage of a newspaper weighing 4 ozs. to the ends of the earth is only 1d. A letter of the same weight would cost 4s. We might send eight letters for 1d. But we offer the Government 8d. for the eight letters, for it is only suggested that one letter should be sent for 1d. Thirdly, the cost of carriage by a first-class steamer is only 40s. per ton, or 4⅔ lbs. for 1d. to Australia. The Postal Authorities might pay the steamship owners 1s. per lb. At 1d. per letter, 32 letters would cost the public 2s. 8d. The Postal Authorities would then have 1s. 8d. for the cost of delivery, &c. Fourthly, the French Government carries a post-card from, say, Calais to New Caledonia—1,000 miles beyond Australia—for 1d. Fifthly, the Post Office charges 2½d. for carrying a letter from, say, Folkestone to Boulogne—a distance of about 32 miles by sea; and only 1d. for carrying it to the Orkneys—nearly all the way by rail—a distance of 750 or 800 miles. On this subject one of my correspondents says—If it be worth the while of the French Government to take so much trouble, and go to a little expense for the sake of the few pokey Colonies which it has been left for them to acquire, what shall we say of the obligations of the English Government, with whole continents for Colonies, and a population of 300 millions of possible correspondents through the post?But is it certain that there will be a loss to the Postal Service in consequence of the reduction which I advocate? As bearing upon this question, let us take the case of the great reduction of postage in 1839. In the year 1839, there were 266 carried or delivered in the United Kingdom in all 82,500,000 letters. In the year 1840, there were delivered in the United Kingdom 169,000,000; and there were delivered last year no less than 1,360,000,000, or 16 times as many as in 1839. Assuming, as I am fairly entitled to do, that the number of letters now carried at a prohibitive price by the Post Office for transmission abroad would be only six times greater than at present, the Revenue would be the same as it is now. But I set no such bounds on the communicativeness of the race. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, with confidence, in view of his most recent experience, whether, given a 1d. postal rate, even with a sea to be crossed, and long railway journeys to make, the epistolary tendencies of mankind can be "cribb'd, cabined, and confined." Among letters received, the Consul General of Denmark writes—Between European countries near to each other, as, for instance, England and France, or Germany, the present charge of 2½d. is somewhat high, and might with great advantage be reduced. As regards Denmark, she would naturally follow the lead of the great European countries in such a matter, and would, I feel sure, take part in an International Conference, and cordially co-operate in any practical scheme which would further develop the great reform of Sir Rowland Hill.An American gentleman writes from New York—A penny post between England and America would pay well. It is not more expensive to send a letter from London to New York than from London to Scotland.A well-known emigration agent writes—One advantage of your scheme will be that the friends of the emigrant, instead of writing quarterly, will write weekly; and a great body of persons, who never think at present of buying a costly foreign postage stamp, will develope a surprising interest in men and things abroad.A gentleman connected with an Agent General's office writes—It will be said that the Colonial postage service will not pay, and that large losses are already borne. The present results are from bad management. Last year Australia sent and received from England 12,000,000 letters, 10,000,000 newspapers, and 1,500,000 packets, at a cost of £270,000. With this enormous subsidy, if the Colonies and the Mother Country would unite, we could have a first-class mail service to and from Australia. From one to three first-class mail steamers now leave Australia every week for England.The manager of the Australian Joint 267 Stock Bank, one of our largest institutions, writes—I am entirely in accord with you as to the desirability of a universal penny post.A well-known Australian writes—I wish the Postmaster General could, in spirit, transport himself into some rough, log-built shanty on the fringe of a virgin forest, where a knot of shaggy, brown-faced men are gathered in a circle to hear a letter from home read aloud. If he could mark the keen interest on every face, the rapt attention, the lively interest displayed in the history, health, and doings of their comrade's family circle at home in England, perhaps even the passing shade of envy at his happiness, and remember that such happiness would be returned a thousandfold, when the wanderer's reply reached his friends at home, I am not sure that his official sternness would not for a passing moment relax, and he might think more favourably of your Motion.A leading merchant of the City of London writes to me as follows:—There is no doubt the sympathy of the whole commercial world will be with you in your patriotic endeavour of obtaining a uniform and cheaper international postage, which would greatly facilitate commercial intercourse and considerably reduce office expenses, which, especially in these hard times, form a heavy item.It should here be pointed out that a letter can be conveyed to Australia today as cheaply as it could have been conveyed to many parts of Great Britain and Ireland during Sir Rowland Hill's agitation. Mr. S. W. Silver, the emigrant's friend, writes—I believe that nothing is more likely to foster that regard which exists between the various members that compose the British Empire than a uniform penny postage. With such rapid communication as now exists, all that is required is to neutralize the expense to the greatest possible degree to render the Union more facile.The Portuguese Consul General also writes in favour of the proposal. The head of a large commercial firm in the City writes—The State should look upon the Post Office as a merchant does on an advertisement. The day has passed when the State could tax advertisements. I calculate that the increase of letter writers strictly corresponds to the increased number of children now being educated. Quite an army of letter writers is now being drilled and taught all over the country. The increase in our correspondence with foreign countries, and with our Colonies, must therefore show a great increase during the next few years, fully compensating us for the largest possible expenditure foreseen by the Postmaster General.268 The Consul General of Austria-Hungary writes—I beg to assure you that I sincerely sympathize with the object you have in view; and I do not hesitate to think that the two difficulties you mention might be easily surmounted by an International Conference.The well-known firm of W. and A. Gilbey, whose commercial transactions extend to every country in the world, writes—We unhesitatingly and emphatically state that not only would such a result be beneficial to our trade, but it must undoubtedly tend to the advantage of British commerce generally. At the same time, it would greatly cement that international good-will, so desirable at all times to cultivate, from every point of view. It would also without doubt cause an increased revenue to the Postal Department in a very short period of time.The fact should be borne in mind that, at the present time, Australia only sends on average four letters per head of the population per year to England; while among themselves the people of England exchange 40 letters per head. The Australian Governments say the British Government will not consent to reduce the cost of letters, on the ground that the British Government would be opposed to the proposal; but the Australian people are really anxious for the reduction. I therefore simply ask for negotiations to be opened up. Now I approach a portion of my subject on which imaginative powers of the highest order would not be wasted. To such powers, as I have before stated, I make no pretension. But I am somewhat consoled for the consciousness of my intellectual poverty in this respect from having observed that, as a rule, flights of imagination are not followed in this House with any great exhibition of interest or appreciation. I may be told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or by some less exalted authority in connection with our finances, that there are already very heavy drains upon the public purse, and that a policy of rigid retrenchment will be required to set it right. Sir, in view of the intention attributed to the Government to propose a loan of £100,000,000 or £200,000,000 sterling, in order to round off and complete the grand Irish policy of the First Lord of the Treasury, I shall, in case the Chancellor of the Exchequer uses the economical argument, observe with some curiosity the facial control of the 269 right hon. Gentleman. Far be it from me to sneer at the sufferings of the loyal and unhappy class, the Irish landlords, for whose relief this vast expenditure is intended. I trust that they will duly receive this bounty, this "conscience money," of the First Lord of the Treasury, and that the loan will be punctually repaid. But, Sir, these are not the only deserving class of Her Majesty's subjects. Surely those who are carrying on the vast business of this country, who labour to maintain and to increase the wealth on which we are all, high and low, dependent, the merchants, artizans, and labourers engaged in commercial undertakings, deserve some consideration. Surely we can spare a moment's thought, and even, if need be, a little money, to soften the rigour of exile to those millions of our countrymen beyond the sea, who have not this happiness which we enjoy, of dwelling in the land of their fathers, the land that still contains those dearest to them by the ties of nature and affection. Sir, I am afraid that the House has perhaps been too long detained by what I have said upon the consideration of a certain sentimental grievance affecting a limited, but resolute, class of Her Majesty's subjects. My excuse must be, that coming into this Assembly from the great Southern Island, which is the largest and among the most lustrous of the jewels in the Imperial Crown, I naturally utter grievances of which Englishmen in that distant latitude are painfully conscious, but of which only a faint, occasional echo may have previously reached your ears. Doubtless, objections will be raised to the proposal on the score of its boldness, its innovating nature, its ingratitude, and so on. I make this appeal, however, not to the cold, calculating economists on the Treasury Bench, but to the hundreds of millions who own our gracious Sovereign's sway. I ask them to make intercourse between their sundered coasts as easy as speech, as free as air. I entreat them to tolerate no longer this unworthy profit on the expression of their fraternal sympathies, and on the natural development of their trade. And I foretell that this reform, when it is ours—as it soon must be—will confer a widespread benefit on commerce, it will bring new happiness into myriads of English homes here, in this country, and scattered by the brimming 270 margent of the Australasian seas, over pathless praries in America, over trackless plains in Australia, and along glancing Equatorial streams, and it will form the last and not the least tenacious of the ties that bind our Colonies to their beloved Mother Country. I beg to move the Resolution standing in my name.
§ MR. H. G. REID (Aston Manor)
, in seconding the Motion, said: I should not have consented to occupy the place I do now, with so many here who could more fitly, if not with greater sincerity, perform the task, had it not been that for many years I have been identified outside with the movement which has culminated to-day in the moderate and eminently practical Motion submitted by my hon. Friend on the opposite side of the House. And it is some satisfaction to take a part, however modest, in a discussion which can be carried on without regard to creed, class, or Party considerations. This is no new agitation. It dates back in its origin to the time when we had secured the penny postage in this country, after a brief, but somewhat bitter, contest. The history and results of that great change have a bearing upon the subject now before the House. The benefits of cheap and frequent postal facilities need no comment here; in every respect, commercial and social, they are recognized—written in every counting-house, and engraven in every home. I see to-day that, in some quarters, doubt is cast on the wisdom, and even the safety, of this proposal. The old story is being repeated. It can scarcely be credited that, little more than 40 years ago, this beneficent scheme was denounced in Parliament and in the Press as revolutionary and dangerous, certain, to involve enormous loss of Revenue, to disturb existing postal arrangements, and cause dispeace—one high authority actually describing it as being nothing less than "sedition made easy." All these pessimist prognostications have been signally belied, as like predictions in respect to a wide extension of the system will, I venture to predict, be falsified by experience. For a time there must be some loss first, as there was a large sacrifice when this country made the change. The sacrifice extended over only a few years, although in one year at least it exceeded £1,000,000 sterling; whilst at present, as you have heard, our 271 clear postal revenue or profit is at the rate of nearly £3,000,000 per annum, and business and friendship have beer incalculaby benefited and strengthened, as they certainly would be under a widely-extended scheme of International Penny Postage. I have been informed, within the last few minutes, on reliable authority that, in addition to the large profit realized, the Post Office charges the cost of the new buildings throughout the country to revenue; so that there is a huge sum invested which, in any ordinary business, would beset down as forming part of the capital account. Even if there were, at the outset, some losses—a small percentage off the handsome profit—the sacrifice would be made in a good and noble cause. Look at the facts for a moment. When many of the Members of this House were young men the then Postmaster General was protesting against the new departure, because, as he alleged, the number of letters delivered in the United Kingdom only averaged 170,000,000 per annum; and it would, he argued, require the improbable number of 416,000,000 even to meet the deficiency that would be created in the Revenue. As indicating how surely extended postal facilities multiply the number of communications, the letters delivered in the United Kingdom in 1863 were 642,000,000, and last year they exceeded the unprecedented figure of over 1,360,000,000. These fears and these facts are equally notable to us; for, although the conditions differ considerably, they are sufficiently alike to warrant the conclusion that similar results would follow the extension which is now submitted to the judgment of the House. One argument used in favour of adopting in this country a penny postage was, that whilst the population had increased, the revenue had been stagnant; and the same applies in this case, that although the population of the world has enormously increased, the postal deficit remains virtually the same. Take any department of the Post Office—the Savings Bank, the book and newspaper post; or look at the growth of the halfpenny post-card, in the last 10 years, from 87,000,000 to over 160,000,000 per annum. Even the recently-established Parcels Post shows a wholesome development, and is so satisfactory to the authorities, that arrangements are now in progress at the Post Office for extending 272 the system to our Colonies and to foreign countries. There is, in our postal system, no finality, and the authorities at home evince a desire and capacity to adapt themselves and their plans to new requirements as they are asked. It is significant, in reference to the present discussion, that, after tomorrow, a limited form of International Penny Postage will actually be introduced, by which any person can send a post-card, with a duplicate card attached for reply, so that, for example, whereas a letter to France costs at present 2½d., and a reply from France costs the same amount, henceforth, by means of the reply post-card, the two will only cost 2d., or less than half the rate for letters, which do not, on the average, involve a larger expense for carriage than do the post-cards. The plan has been in existence for some time, in the Irish Service and in other parts, and so workable and successful has it been, that the system will now be extended to all countries embraced in the Postal Union. All this indicates the spirit of the time—that we are silently preparing for the greater change; and it shows how almost, without exception, cheapness, regularity, and frequency of communication lead to a larger demand—a steadily increasing number of letters, and a relative improvement in the net revenue. And it is in accordance with the general rule—given a sufficiently numerous constituency and an article universally required, and the cheaper it is made the more will it be taken, and the greater will be the relative or cumulative profits made. During recent years our shipping accommodation with other countries has immensely improved, augmenting the volume of trade and intercommunication, and there is keen competition for trade, of which unrestricted advantage should be taken; and it only needs a capable hand, backed up by the authority of Parliament, to introduce and successfully establish an extension which would give an immediate and much-needed stimulus to trade, and tend to strengthen friendly international intercourse. We may safely take example from the past, and push forward to the one legitimate and assuredly ultimate attainment in a uniform Penny Postage to every part of the world. It is interesting to remember that, when the last decisive effort was made to induce our Government and the 273 Post Office Authorities to adopt the uniform penny system, a powerful deputation waited upon the then Postmaster General, and when it was breaking up, one whose voice has often been heard in this House leaped upon a chair and made a final appeal. It was Mr. Daniel O'Connell, and he said—One word for Ireland! My countrymen are poor, and if you shut the Post Office to them, which you now do, you shut out warm hearts and generous affections from home, kindred, and friends.This last appeal was effectual, and the words have a vastly wider scope in the light of the proposal which we have now made—the adoption of a system which would bring the nations together and "make the whole world kin." The reform and extension of the postal system has been a long and weary struggle against prejudice and hide-bound custom, and not infrequently stupid officialism. It is instructive to note the various stages of the movement, and the advances that have been slowly made in the direction of cheapness and efficiency. Thirty-three years ago, a restricted effort was made in this country for securing cheaper postage to our own Colonies; and after years of effort and agitation a uniform rate of 6d. was conceded. On the morning that that concession culminated The Times, which has for half-a-century consistently and courageously advocated every postal extension, made this historic declaration—We have this day to announce a step which, simple and unpretending as it may seem, is really a greater move towards a complete unity of our independent Empire than the most splendid conquest, or the largest annexation.The writer added this stinging comment—Considering how much there is that is questionable in our dominion, in its means and its results, it is satisfactory to find one remedy and one result of undoubted advantage to the whole human race—namely, that we draw mankind together, and bring the whole human family, so to speak, withing hearing distance.If these utterances are true—and they are true—in reference to the high and oppressive rate of 6d., they are infinitely more forceful to-day as applied to the proposal which would bring inestimable postal privileges within the reach of all, even the poorest, in every clime. These words should rouse and stimulate us to carry unflinchingly forward this beneficent work. Since then, negotiation and 274 agitation have accomplished much; but the topstone has yet to be placed on the magnificent postal system which, year by year, slowly, but surely, we have been building up. It would be instructive to trace the various stages and concessions in this postal record. I shall only remind the House that 25 years ago a now and important departure was taken which produced results that will yet bear rich fruit. The agitation—a kind of mission service—went on for years both in this country and in America, and Congress was pressed to consider the question, with the outcome that a definite and permanent policy was adopted. An authoritative reporter, writing from the American House of Representatives, places on record this remarkable passage—This is a matter which meets with the approval of all commercial classes in the United States, and its adoption has been repeatedly urged. The Postmaster General is an advocate of cheap rates of international postage. He states that in negotiating the present Postal Treaty between this country and Great Britain which has come into operation, the United States proposed and urged a further reduction of the rate of international letter postage, but without success, the British Post Office declining any reduction. He (the Postmaster General) is really anxious further to reduce the present rates of postage to the lowest practicable standard, and his successor in President Grant's Cabinet will do the same thing, that being the American policy.And a high authority, The New York Commercial Advertiser, commenting on the subject, makes this indictment—The real opposition to the ocean penny postage is in the British Post Office. Our Postmaster General is really for it.The spirit of our Post Office has been liberalized since that date; and I would say here that the officials, and especially the able and courteous Secretary, are always ready to give information and aid in any effort, so far as they are able, to remove grievances and extend our postal conveniences both at home and abroad. It must be admitted, however, that in respect to cheap ocean postage, the United States have taken the honourable place of pioneer. We cannot forget one distinguished American who rendered priceless services—one who in his later years worthily represented his own country in the Midland counties of England—I refer to Elihu Burritt—a name revered in this and every other civilized country. So long ago as 1842, 275 stimulated by the bold and brilliant example of our own Rowland Hill, he issued a pamphlet, urging on our country and his own, the unspeakable blessings of what he for the first time, designated an Ocean Penny Postage. In that pamphlet—now in the British Museum—he uttered sentiments which, in one form or another, were repeated in his speeches when he subsequently visited this country. He would set forth the simplicity of the proposal and the benefits sure to follow the adoption of the beneficent scheme, and say—To thousands and tens of thousands of families in town, in village, and in hamlet, the dispensation of the penny post comes almost as gratuitously and silently as the morning dew upon the flowers that breathe and blush in the winds.["Oh, oh!"] Someone cries "Oh!" but it cannot be ignored that sympathy is one of the most potent factors in all human progress. At other times he would show how commerce would be promoted, and point with moving pathos to the white-winged messengers coming over the quivering waters, whispering words of love and good-will to millions bound together by ties of brotherhood. To the far-reaching foresight, nobleness of purpose, and simple eloquence of Elihu Burritt, we owe largely the consensus of opinion in postal advancement which unquestionably exists in this country and in other countries. He asked for much less than would now satisfy us; indeed, not much more than has actually been attained, so far as the United States are concerned. But he ever urged that there is no standing still, that the liberalizing process must go steadily on; and I well remember, when he was addessing an assembly of some 2,000 or 3,000 on this subject, that he asked those present who had business or friendly connections with distant countries, and considered cheap postage to be a boon, to hold up their hands. I see yet the forest of hands that arose; and I unhesitatingly say that, were meetings held to-night in every town and hamlet throughout the country, there would be the same unanimity, enthusiasm, and determination to secure this boon. Think of the millions that have gone out from Scotland, that have gone out from parts of England and Wales, or that have been driven from every part of Ireland to people other countries—many of them poor, and all 276 still cleaving with warm feelings to their native land, and surely it would be worthy of this Parliament to do something to bridge over the distance and bring the peoples more closely together. Let me say that since these stirring times the interest is not dead. Within the past 10 or 12 days I have received many communications from all parts of the country, and also from over the sea, every one expressing a common sentiment. In some, it is urged that a national agitation should be commenced, with the view of giving full expression to the feelings of the people. I trust that will not be necessary, and that the Government will see its way to comply with this most reasonable request. We have no desire to force its hand or precipitate change—no wish to reduce the Revenue, or incur additional Expenditure. What we want is to take now one practical step, in order to show the feeling of this country, and to test the feelings of other countries. We want, after all these years of discussion and agitation, to make a beginning, and the time seems opportune. The American Consul in the Midlands writes that the effort to be made in this House to increase international postal facilities merits commendation. From the Far West of Canada comes a message, and it is this—We are one race, each with our own Home Government, and both loyal to one Sovereign. Let us now extend our business helps, and bind the kinship more closely by the inestimable privilege of an ocean penny postage.More remarkable still, a cable message reaches me through one of the chief agencies from New York, and it runs thus—The World, which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in this great city, commenting editorially on the Motion before the British Parliament, says it is a matter in which the American people are vitally interested; and the writer calls for similar and immediate action in Congress. The movement (adds the telegram) awakens great interest and universal satisfaction on this side of the water, and is vigorously endorsed as essential to the commercial prosperity of both nations.This is a welcome voice, and to us full of significance. It indicates that the conditions are exceptionally favourable for opening negotiations. The widespread interest in this country, the spirit of liberty and enterprize in our own Post Office, the open-hearted response from some of the Colonies and from the 277 United States, the desire for closer federation, the need for doing something that might help to overcome the depression in trade—all are singularly favourable for entering on the course which the Motion before the House recommends. Whatever happens now, we shall, at any rate, make our protest, and trust that this Parliament, fresh from the country, elected on a widely extended franchise, representing poor as well as rich, will do something speedily in the direction suggested—something to foster business, strengthen international friendship, and bring consolation and brightness into many a lowly and loyal home in this and other lands.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived for the Government of this Country to open negotiations with other Governments, with a view to the establishment of a Universal International Penny Postage system."—(Mr. Henniker Heaton.)
§ MR. JAMES HUTTON (Manchester, N.)
, in rising to move, as an Amendment—That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived for the Government of this Country to take the necessary steps with a view to the establishment of a Penny Postage system throughout the British Empire,said, that although he rose for that purpose, he was fully in accord with the principle of the Resolution; but he could not go quite so far in favour of an international postage system as they did, in advocating a change which should at once extend to the whole world. To effect this many difficulties would have to be overcome, for the Government would have to enter into negotiations with something like 80 or 90 foreign countries to carry out the object of the Resolution; and this would lead, not only to difficulties, but also to very great delays. They had, at the present time, three different categories of foreign postage. They had the 2½d. postage to European countries and to the United States; the 4d. postage to countries in South and Central America; and a 5d. postage to China, Japan, and other Eastern countries; and he was afraid that the difficulties in negotiating with these countries would be so great that the Government would not be able to carry out the Resolution. The carriage of the mails was principally done by British ships, and yet there were no fewer than three different 278 rates to China and Japan—the rate viâ Russia being 2½d., by the United States 4d., and by a British ship 5d. This was an injustice to the people and merchants of this country. Another great injustice to this country was the charging of what was really a differential postage on letters to the Colonies and British Possessions, and the Amendment he had moved was quite in accord with the view that had been expressed, that we should be able to communicate with the whole British Empire at the rate of 1d. per ½ oz. They had at present only one large and important Colony with which they could communicate at the 2½d. rate, and that was the Dominion of Canada, the only other British Possessions to which this rate applied being Gibraltar and those in the Mediterranean. When they came to the British Possessions of the West Indies, West Africa, and the Mauritius, they had to pay 4d. per ½ oz.; while the Post Office allowed any other country to send letters to these Possessions by British steamers at the rate of 2½d. per ½ oz. That was, he held, an injustice done by the Post Office to the British people. But a still greater injustice was done in the case of India. Under the present regulations, the people of this country had to pay 5d. per ½ oz. on letters, and 1½d. on newspapers of 4 ozs. to India; but every one of the European countries could send letters to India by British steamers for just half these prices. The present charges, therefore, were simply a differential duty on the trade and people of England. At the present time, a very strong feeling was rising up in this country against differential rates of every class—whether upon foreign trade, or in connection with the railways—and so long as an injustice was done to the British people, he held it was the duty of every Member of the House to support any movement which would bring about an equalization of the rates. But there was still another Colonial rate of postage, for they had to pay 6d. per ½ oz. on all letters to Australia and the Cape. This, he thought, was an excessive rate to pay for the transmission of letters to Australia, compared with those paid on letters to other countries about the same distance from England. But he moved the Amendment not only on the ground of the injustice done to the British people, but also on economic and patriotic grounds. The 279 House must recollect that something like 9–10ths of the correspondence of the world was carried in British ships and to British-speaking people. If foreign countries used British steamers for their mails, and sent their letters at a lower rate than we could, then either we paid too high a rate, or other countries paid too low a rate. In a Return presented only the other day to the House, it was distinctly shown that during the last 10 years the Post Office had been making a profit of £2,500,000 or £3,000,000 on the postal system; and, therefore, on economic grounds, he thought the British people should no longer be compelled to pay differential rates of postage. He might mention that in some cases British houses, to avoid these higher charges, habitually sent their letters to Italy and Germany to be posted there, in order to go by the same mails as they would have gone by from England, thus saving 1d. per ½ oz.; and he had himself sent letters to France which were there posted and sent back again to this country to go out to British Possessions, and he had saved money by this means. It was an anomaly that such a thing should be possible, and surely it was high time it was rectified; but, although strenuous efforts had been made with the Post Office for two years, merchants obtained no redress. It was a tax upon commerce to levy these higher rates on the correspondence carried on by the people of this country, and he trusted the Government would look into the matter and would see what could be done for their relief. They should cease to inflict upon the people of this country any differential rates in connection with their postage. He had mentioned the surplus which the Post Office had made in the last 10 years; but he looked upon it as a tax on education and civilization. On the still higher grounds of patriotism, could any measure better tend to bring about a unity of feeling than the establishment of a penny postage to all British Possessions and Colonies throughout the world? He felt convinced that the effect of such an action on the part of the House and the Government would not only be hailed with satisfaction and pleasure by every one of the British-speaking communities in the world, but would strengthen the union and the ties of affection between this country and every other part of Her Majesty's Dominions. He would conclude by moving 280 the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. MATHER (Salford, S.)
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that he was desirous that the debate should terminate in something practical. He did not think the Resolution would have that effect; but hoped that, by the adoption of the Amendment, the Government would be induced to take into consideration, and effect at once, the establishment of a penny postal system within the British Empire. He thought that by entering into negotiations to persuade all the nations of the world to adopt that proposal, a great loss of time would probably ensue; certainly some years would be occupied in making them see this matter in the same light as we did. We had, however, the British Dominions under our control, and there could be no doubt that the establishment of a penny postage between this country and the Dependencies would enormously increase our intimacy, and would encourage that idea of Federation which could be served in no better way than by increasing such ties. He rather regretted that his hon. Friend had not made his Amendment larger; and, instead of confining it to the British Colonies, had extended it to the whole English-speaking people of the world, so that they might all have the benefits of the penny postage. He believed it would not be at all difficult to persuade the American Government to come into closer relations with us on the question. They were becoming more and more our own kith and kin on the other side of the Atlantic; and, though their forms of Government were different, they were becoming daily closer to us in every relation. The closer they became the better for us and for them. He trusted that the Amendment would be accepted by the Mover of the Resolution. It was really a matter, however, to be dealt with by the Government. He acknowledged the force of the argument that, this being a question of fiscal arrangement, it should only be dealt with by the Government, and that any loss which might be incurred must be made up in some other way. Surely the profit obtained by the Post Office Department might be drawn upon to some extent, with the object of carrying out this proposal, and in order to show their sympathy with the Colonies. He hoped the Government would give the question their best attention, 281 and that the lesser scheme suggested by his hon. Friend would gain their support and favour.
To leave out from the word "Country," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "to take the necessary steps with, a view to the establishment of a Penny Postage system throughout the British Empire,"—(Mr. James Hutton,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER) (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, that while he should be obliged to look at this matter with the eye of a cold, calculating economist, he could not refrain from expressing his strong sympathy with the motives and objects of both the Motion and the Amendment. He was sure that anything which could tend to strengthen the ties which subsisted, not only between this country and its Colonies, but between this country and all the nations of the world was a step which would meet with the approval not only of the House, but of all sections of the community. It was not to be supposed that he in any way dissented from the views put forward by hon. Members who had spoken with respect to the patriotic or commercial aspect of the question. It was his duty, however, to present to the House the facts of the case, after which it would be for the House to pronounce its judgment on the facts and figures which he would submit, and to say whether the time had arrived to carry out what would, no doubt, be a very great reform and boon if safely and wisely carried out. In order that the House might clearly understand the scope of the Motion, he would explain what our postal relations were with other countries and what they were with our own Colonies. The Postal Union practically comprised, with two notable exceptions, the whole postal world. All civilized nations, he thought he might say, in Europe and in America, and also in a portion of the East, belonged to the Postal Union. The only exceptions were our Australian Colonies, New Zealand, the South Pacific Colonies, and the South African Colonies. Practically, therefore, for all purposes of postal regulation and legislation, the world outside the British 282 Empire, and a great part of the British. Empire, were within the Postal Union. This Union consisted of Representatives of all countries belonging to it. They met at various fixed intervals, and they legislated internationally as to what was to be the rate of postage between all the countries which formed part of that Postal Union. There were no differential rates within the limits of that Union. The Congress or Convention of those Plenipotentiaries had assembled at Berne, Paris, and Lisbon, and the rates which were now being paid were fixed by them. Inside the Postal Union the charge was a uniform one of 2½d., with a power to any country to charge another 2½d. in respect of sea communication where letters had to go beyond the seas. In addition to that they had post-cards inside the Postal Union, the prices varying from 1½d. to 2d. as the case might be. The hon. Member had referred to differential postal rates of 4d. and 5d. on letters to India. The English Post Office only charged the maximum amount upon letters which travelled to India by the expensive Brindisi route; letters by any other route being charged only 4d. He thought the House would agree that we had already made a great advance towards a cheap, speedy, and uniform service to all parts of the world at the 2½d. rate; and with regard to the objection that had been raised, he must say that if 1d. was charged for a letter from London to Croydon, 2½d. was certainly not an out-of-the-way charge for a letter to San Francisco. The Post Office Authorities were satisfied that the postal rates by no means worked unfairly for England, and they were of opinion that a great deal of discrepancy did not exist as between England and other countries. The question now arose whether this country lost or gained by the Postal Union. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution (Mr. Henniker Heaton) said that the Post Office was taxing the people both at home and abroad, and making a large profit. As a matter of fact, they were, on the contrary, making a heavy loss by this ocean service. The entire loss last year had amounted to £365,000, or £1,000 a-day. He would give the House a concrete illustration of the loss which they had to suffer. Fur the postal service between this country and India they paid a subsidy to the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company, for which 283 the Company carried all the mails, the loss on the arrangement being borne proportionately by this country and India and the Colonies concerned. The result was, that last year the contribution which India had paid out of the Indian Revenue to make up the loss had been £68,000, while Ceylon paid £1,400, the Straits Settlements paid £6,000, and Hong Kong also £6,000. Therefore, with this rate of 5d. the mails were carried at a heavy loss, and subsidies had to be paid out of the Revenues of India and the Colonies concerned and the Imperial Exchequer. It was, then, hardly fair to talk of taxing commerce and making a profit. Then he came to the countries outside the Postal Union—namely, Australia, South Africa, and the South Pacific Colonies. He quite agreed with the hon. Member that it was of the last importance that they should have the freest and fullest communication with the Australian Colonies, and that they should have as complete and cheap, yet efficient, system of postage as possible; but they must look into the matter, and see whether they could alter it, and whether they could improve it. The present charge for a letter to Australia was 6d., and for a newspaper 1d. The principal route was that by the East—by Brindisi and Ceylon. The Post Office carried the mails from England to Colombo; then the Australian Colony took them up, and carried them, at its own expense, from Colombo to Melbourne, or Sydney, or elsewhere. Of the charge of 6d. upon all outward letters
|Service.||Payment to Company.||Contributions towards the Cost of the Service.||Estimated Receipts for Sea Postage.||Estimated British Loss on the Service.|
|East India and China||360,000||India||68,000||55,000||223,600|
|West Indies and Mexico||84,000||27,000||57,000|
|Queenstown to New York||97,000||42,000||55,000|
|Halifax, Bermuda, and Jamaica||17,500||200||17,300|
|Brazil, River Plate, and Chili||14,100||10,600||3,500|
|Panama and Valparaiso||3,400||1,400||2,000|
|West Coast of Africa||11,800||5,200||6,600|
§ from England to Australia, the English Post Office took 3½d. and Australia 2½d., there thus being a slight difference in favour of this country. But, on the homeward letters, the Colony took the whole 6d., and this country got nothing at all; so that the 3½d. received upon the outward letter had to cover the whole cost of the outward letter and also of the reply. What became of that 3½d.? For transit through France and Italy they paid 1%d. for each letter each way, and therefore they had only ½d. left for the inland post, and not one farthing for the sea service. The net loss to the English Post Office last year under this head had been £60,216; and he believed that the Australians complained of the very heavy loss to which they also were subjected, and were much more opposed than we were to any change which would impose a heavier burden upon them. There was another route which was popular for some reasons—by San Francisco. In the case of letters sent by that route 4d. out of the 6d. was paid to the Colonies, and for the remaining 2d. the Post Office had to take the letters to San Francisco, and the loss was estimated at £11,879 a-year. In the case of the South African and Natal mails, the Cape and Natal provided their own packet service, the Post Office taking 2d. and the Colonies 4d. Upon homeward letters, however, the Colonies took the whole 6d. Upon the Canadian Post there was no loss, as Canada paid its own way. The whole loss of £365,000 a-year was made up as follows:—285
§ Then came the question of what their loss would be by this scheme. He was informed by competent accountant officers of the Post Office, who had had great experience in these matters, that the estimated loss, if the Motion of the hon. Member was carried, would be somewhere between £400,000 and £500,000 more, in addition to the loss which was at present sustained. Speaking upon a similar question, a good many years ago, Sir Rowland Hill had stated that, in his judgment, unless under exceptional circumstances, each branch of the Post Office ought to be self-supporting. So far from that being the case now, he (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) thought that the House could not fail to see that, at any rate, the branch he had referred to was carried on at a heavy loss. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aston Manor (Mr. Reid) remarked that to put a tax upon correspondence was to tax civilization; that we had no right to tax letters; that they were taxing education; and that the State had no right to make a profit of the transmission of letters. That was a fair subject for discussion, if the question of the Post Office were being debated for the first time in Parliament. But it had become part of our fiscal system; it had grown with our strength, and the difficulty now was what to raise in its stead if it were once displaced. He would quote the figures from the Post Office Report, which would speak for themselves. In 1875–6, the profits from the Post Office had been £2,500,000; in 1876–7, £2,400,000; in 1877–8, £2,600,000; in 1878–9, £2,900,000; in 1879–80, £2,800,000; in 1880–1, £3,250,000; and the same in 1881–2 and 1882–3; while he would call the attention of the House to the fact that in 1883–4 and 1884–5 the amount had sunk to £2,900,000. Therefore, not owing to decreasing correspondence, but to increased expenditure demanded by that House, they were bringing down the profits of the Post Office. If they were going to tamper with that revenue, what were they going to put in its place, representing as it did something like 1½d. of Income Tax? He was reminded of a saying of Mr. Cobden, quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), that it seemed to be the faith of some hon. Members that there was an inexhaustible 286 receptacle for money behind Mr. Speaker's Chair to which the Treasury could always apply. It was, however, important to remember that I every item of expenditure meant an additional item of taxation; and it was an idle thing—and worse than idle—for the House of Commons to make an economical profession of faith, and lead an extravagant life. It must show its faith by its works; and he hoped that the great Liberal Party would resist all proposals, from whatever quarter of the House they came, for increasing the National Expenditure, unless they were prepared to provide the mode and the ways and means by which that increased expenditure should be met. He would point out, also, that we were inside the Postal Union, by which we were bound. We had entered into Treaty obligations, and unless all the Members of the Postal Union consented to a reduction it could not be made. The information of the Government led them to the conclusion that the Powers would strongly object to any reduction below 2½d.; and that if such a reduction were proposed by the Union, some additional burden would be put upon us. With reference to the Colonies, the fact was, that the Colonies had expressed no dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs; and their Representatives in this country had deprecated the passing of the Resolution, as the Colonial Governments were not prepared to accept the heavy financial burdens which would thus be cast upon them. Therefore, whilst he sympathized with the hon. Member who had moved the Resolution, and would welcome the day when there should be a penny postage all over the world, he would ask the House to apply to this transaction, dealing with the National Exchequer, the same principle of making both ends meet that they would apply to their private or their business affairs, and that they would refuse to assent to it.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Eccleshall)
said, that the appeal in favour of economy to which the House has just listened came strangely from a Member of the Government who, during the past six years, had thrown away in the most wanton manner some £28,000,000 of public money in needless and cruel wars That amount would have provided for the reinforcement of the Postal Service, by the amount which 287 the hon. Member (Mr. Henniker Heaton) stated would be necessary, if his Motion were carried, for a period of 70 years. [Cries of "Question!"] He would confine his remarks to the subject of Colonial postage, for any change which touched the Postal Union would involve great delay. He desired to see a universal penny postage between all the Dominions of the Queen. What were the figures which the Secretary to the Treasury adduced as a reason for refusing that most important boon to the Colonies and the Parent Country? The present loss on the inter-oceanic postage amounted to £365,000, and, according to an estimate given by the Post Office Authorities, which naturally would not be very optimistic, the loss, if the Motion was carried, would be about as much again. The real question for the House to decide was, whether the advantages to Britain and her Colonies, which would result from a penny postage, were worth £300,000 to £400,000 a-year? That question he answered in the affirmative. The boon of a cheap postage between our different Colonies and the Mother Country was of such value, that he felt sure that, in the opinion of the great majority of the people of this country, that boon was well worth this expenditure. If a universal penny postage between all parts of the Empire involved further expenditure, the loss to the Revenue would be cheerfully borne. He entirely shared the opinion of the hon. Member who seconded the Motion (Mr. Reid) that the Post Office was never intended to be a financial speculation, and the greater portion of the expense of the proposed reduction might well be borne by this country, especially as the Post Office made the enormous profit of £3,000,000 a-year. He doubted whether, if the people and Legislatures of the Colonies were consulted, they would bear out the views stated by the Financial Secretary to have been expressed by their Representatives in London. In any change, the greater part of the expense ought, he thought, to be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. Prance, with its Budget of £130,000,000, thereby greatly exceeding that marvellous Budget of £100,000,000 with which the Liberals had favoured the country, could nevertheless afford the boon of penny post-cards between her Colonies and the Mother Country. England ought to be equally 288 generous, especially as the Post Office was now a source of large profit, and might well institute this penny postage. He looked upon the Postal Department as a means of benefiting the people, and not as a source of profit. He thought it would be well not to raise the question of the International Postal Union at present, and ventured to suggest to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton) that he should withdraw his Motion in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Manchester (Mr. Hutton).
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
said, it was quite clear that the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury rested mainly on the assertion that, by the adoption of the Motion of the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton), a loss of something like £365,000 would be entailed. He (Mr. O'Hea) believed that that would be a very small matter indeed, when compared with the almost profligate expenditure that had been imposed upon the nation at large through what he might fearlessly call the wicked warfare that had been engaged in. He would be sorry indeed if the Motion were withdrawn, or weakened in its force and effect by the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Manchester (Mr. Hutton). The House should not forget that there were several millions of people who spoke the same language in America, and there was scarcely a family in England, Ireland, or Scotland, some members of which were not citizens of the United States of America, and with whom correspondence was kept up; and any Amendment that would bar the creation of a greatly reduced and uniform postage would, he thought, be a sad and serious misfortune. The postage rates as applied to newspapers, as contrasted with that of letters, presented a curious anomaly. For instance, the postage to South Africa for a letter was 6d., and for a newspaper 1d., and in other cases, whilst 5d. was charged for letters, 1½d. was imposed for newspapers. The fact should not be overlooked, that a very large number of people to whom letters were sent in distant countries were soldiers in the British Army and sailors in the Navy. The soldiers and sailors were recruited from the very poorest classes of the community, and he believed that an excessive postage on letters tended greatly to reduce the correspondence 289 between these men and their friends in these countries. The same argument applied to the poor people who had relatives in these distant places; and, in conclusion, he hoped that the better judgment of that House would go entirely in favour of the original Motion, and that the subject should not be weakened by the acceptance of the Amendment.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. OSBORNE MORGAN) (Denbighshire, E.)
said, he must refuse to follow the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) into the question of the comparative extravagance of Liberal and Tory Governments; he would only remind him that the Tory Party, to which he belonged, were the strongest opponents of the first proposal to establish a penny post. He felt sure that anything that might help to knit together the Colonies and the Mother Country would always commend itself to the British Parliament, and to no one more than himself. At the same time he hoped that he would not be accused of being a heartless economist if he were to remind the House that the question before it was one of pounds, shillings, and pence. Whatever might be done in this matter ought to be done with the consent of our Colonies, because a large amount of the pecuniary loss involved in the changes proposed would fall on the Colonies. The cost of the Postal Service between the Mother Country and the Colonies was divided between them. In the case of Australia, for example, the Mother Country was responsible for the loss incurred in connection with the mails as far as Colombo, and from there the Colonies were responsible. Nothing could be done in the direction of reducing the postage without consulting our self-governing Colonies; and he had not received from them any communications in favour of a change in the present tariff. If the 6d. postage were reduced to a 1d. postage, the consequent pecuniary loss could only be made good by the carriage of six times as many letters as were transmitted at present. This was a time of great and universal financial depression. The Australian Colonies had hitherto weathered the storm as well as most countries; but their finances could not be said to be in a flourishing condition, and the same thing might be said of 290 almost every portion of the Empire. It was, therefore, no time for making a gigantic financial experiment. He entreated the House not to commit itself to an abstract Resolution, which could not be carried into execution without the consent of those who would share both the benefit and the burden of the proposed change.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS (Leicestershire, E.)
said, that having had the honour to fill the Office of Postmaster General he desired to say a few words, and to express his regret that after listening to the debate he found it was impossible for him to support either the original Motion or the Amendment. With regard to the Motion, he thought the House would admit that the Secretary to the Treasury had fairly disposed of all that portion of it which related to countries within the Postal Union. His hon. Friend the Member for North Manchester (Mr. Hutton) seemed to take that view when he advised the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henniker Heaton) to withdraw his Motion, and allow the Amendment to be put as a substantive proposal. But with regard to the Amendment also, he (Lord John Manners) felt bound to sustain the objections which had been taken from the Government Benches. He cordially sympathized with all those aspirations which had been uttered for knitting still more closely together India, the Colonies, and the Mother Country; but he opposed the Amendment because he believed it would have precisely the opposite effect. His view was that they ought to consult the Colonies, and not act without their consent before the desirability of a reduction in the postage was affirmed, for they would be materially affected by the change. He could not approve the suggestion that the Mother Country should bear the whole, or the greater part, of the loss of Revenue that would be entailed if the Motion were agreed to.
An hon. MEMBER objected to the proposal contained in the Resolution. He could not understand why the country should be put to the expense proposed by it, which amounted to between £400,000 and £500,000 a-year. He was the last man in the world to object to legitimate expense; but he did really object to that expenditure upon the Post Office. He was one of those who was disposed to put matters of that kind down.
§ MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, the whole difficulty felt by the Treasury arose from the existing system on which the packet system was organized. So long as the country had £360,000 to pay to one Company and £90,000 to another, without taking into account the vast development of private enterprize, and the vast number of steamship owners whose vessels were at present entirely unutilized, unless they took into consideration other means of carrying the mails at a cheaper rate than was now paid, he did not think the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to meet the demand for an International Penny Postage. But an opportunity offered this year of making a great change in this respect; because, in the present year, one of our largest contracts, which incurred a loss of £150,000 a-year, must be renewed; and before it was renewed it should be considered whether the mails might not be distributed and carried for a less sum by private lines than by the present lines. Again, the contract in connection with the American Service only existed until September next. Under that contract the country was paying for three mails a-week; but, practically, there was only one mail a-week, because, though ships really left weekly, they all crowded into New York on the Sunday morning. If a Committee was formed to consider the present state of the Packet Service, and what changes might be made in it, a means might be found of working the Service at a greater economy over the present course to the country, and of giving to the Colonies and the more important foreign countries all the benefits of the present Service without costing the Treasury one sixpence.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
said, he confidently believed he represented the feeling of the people of Australia in saying that if they were under the impression that they would be met half way in the matter of the reduction of the postage they would be happy to co-operate in the project. Some of the speakers had contended that this reformation could not be carried out without consulting the Colonies; but the terms of the Motion showed that all that was wanted was an expression of opinion by the House that the time had arrived for the Government of the country to open 292 negotiations. Therefore, it was ridiculous for people to get up and say that this proposition could not be carried out without consultation. The people of Australia over and over again had pressed this matter of reduced postage on the Colonial Government; and he had known, at elections there, candidates to be pledged to use their influence with the Government to get a cheaper rate of postage. There had been a considerable profit made by the Government on the whole Post Office administration; and the fact that there was a loss in any one section of that administration was no argument against the Motion. A sixpenny postage was a monstrous and infamous thing, and formed a distinct grievance. The fact was that the matter had never been brought before the Colonies. If the Motion were thrown out, it would have the result of making the Australian Governments, in their turn, pass Resolutions calling upon this country to co-operate with them in bringing about a cheap postage. Suppose that the alteration suggested by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton) did result in the loss of a few thousands of pounds a-year, he (Mr. W. Redmond) did not think the Australians would be flattered at the idea that Great Britain did not think her Colonies worth the expenditure of a few thousands a-year extra. He was perfectly certain that if they got the impression out there that this country was so stingy, the Colonists would send no more Contingents to assist her in her difficulties.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby)
said, he rose to say a word, not upon the discussion, but upon the course which might be taken on the division, as there had been some misunderstanding lately on a similar occasion. There were two courses which might be followed by those who were opposed both to the Motion and the Amendment. They might either negative the original words when the Question was put, and afterwards negative the Amendment or—what he ventured to think was a more convenient course—when the Question was put from the Chair, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," they might sustain the original words, and afterwards, when the original words became 293 the substantive Question, vote against them.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 127; Noes [...] Majority 131.—(Div. List, No.[...])