HC Deb 07 February 1887 vol 310 cc761-2
MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

asked the Postmaster General, Whether he has entered into a new arrangement for the conveyance of the American mails with British shipowners only; granting them an annual subsidy (in addition to the payment for the mails), and in return for which the owners are to place their vessels under the absolute command of the Government in the event of war; if so, whether he will be good enough to inform the House of the nature of the new arrangement?

THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)

I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Member that I have concluded arrangements with two British Companies, the Cunard and Oceanic, for the conveyance of mails from Queenstown to New York by their best ships throughout the year, in winter as well as in summer. The price to be paid for letters is 3s. per lb., as compared with 4s. paid under the old contract, and 3s. 6d., the lowest sum for which the Cunard and Oceanic Companies tendered on the last occasion. The despatch of the mails for conveyance by the contract packets will take place every Wednesday and Saturday night; and, in addition to these two regular despatches, the Post Office will send mails by other fast steamers either from Queenstown or from Southampton. As the names of the ships sailing are not commonly known to the public, letters can be marked "by Inman Line" or "by German Line" when intended for those steamers. This plan will practically give four mails a week from this country to America—namely, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, besides the occasional chance of sending by such fast steamers as the Alaska, the Arizona, and the City of Rome; and I think this will satisfy all reasonable requirements. As regards the latter part of the Question, I can only say that the negotiations are not yet sufficiently advanced to enable my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, who has the matter in hand, to describe the arrangements.

In answer to Mr. GOURLEY,


said: I cannot, give any sufficient answer to the hon. Member's question within the limits of a Parliamentary answer. The contracts entered into with these Companies, however, will be laid upon the Table, and the House will then be able to judge of their merits.

MR. WHITLEY (Liverpool, Everton)

asked how long these contracts would last?


The new contracts have been concluded for 13 months from March 1 next, so as to make them coincide with the duration of the financial year. After the expiration of that period they, will be terminable by a year's notice upon either side.