HC Deb 09 November 1888 vol 330 cc767-9
MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)

asked the Postmaster General, Whether his attention has been called to a letter in The Times newspaper of October 25, purporting to be signed by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton), and bearing the title Cheap Postage to Australia—A Breach of Faith, stating that the writer had received a written assurance, given by the Postmaster General on January 31, 1886, that a 3d. rate for Australian letters would be conceded; and, whether there is any foundation for the statements made in that letter?


There has been no breach of faith whatever; and no such promise was made to the hon. Member for Canterbury, inasmuch as I had only a voice in recommending whether the rate should be 3d. or 4d. I was decidedly in favour of the lower rate, and I so expressed myself in several Official Reports; but at a meeting held in Sydney in January it was unanimously decided by the Colonial Governments to fix a 4d. rate, and Her Majesty's Government did not think it desirable to defer a substantial reduction in Colonial postage by further controversy on this point. My letter to the hon. Member for Canterbury simply stated that I had very little doubt that the rate would be 3d. I gave no kind of assurance; and, indeed, I was not in a position to do so.


said, that, as this was a matter of not only personal but of public interest, and as the House had always shown itself sympathetic to Australian interests, he begged their indulgence while he made his statement of the facts. On October 25 he wrote the following letter to The Times:In May, 1887, I was able to announce in The Times that a 3d. rate for Australian letters would be conceded. I have since received (on January 31, 1888) a written assurance from the Postmaster General on the subject, and the Postmaster General of New South Wales and several Agents General also promised their support, or openly favoured the scheme. This morning I am informed that the postage will be 4d., instead of 3d., for the ocean-borne letters to Australia. I strongly denounce this charge as being most unsatisfactory to the public. Threepence is a convenient charge in itself; the man with many letters to write, or few sixpences to spend, being able to send two letters to Australia for 6d. instead of one, would not be likely to forget the been. The threepenny-bit, too, still circulates, and the fourpenny is doomed. The 3d. rate would be accepted as a real instalment by myself and others. But Mr. Raikes should clearly understand that we would prefer to wait rather than accept the 4d. rate. It may be said that at a Conference in Sydney the 4d. rate was decided on. In reply to this, I beg to say that a majority of the members of the Conference were in favour of the 3d. rate; but the officials were too strong. England was not represented at this Conference, and you have already pointed out that it is the duty of England, with a £3,000,000 Post Office surplus, to take the lead in these reductions. Well, his foundation for that statement was numerous interviews with the Postmaster General, who, on every occasion, expressed himself strongly in favour of the 3d. rate; and the following note, which, from a Member of the Government, he (Mr. Heaton) regarded as quite as satisfactory as a promise:—

"General Post Office, Jan. 31, 1888.

Dear Mr. Henniker Heaton,—I am much obliged for your letter of yesterday. …. I think there is very little reason to doubt that the 3d. rate will be adopted.

Yours very truly,


He regretted the circumstance; but he still maintained that he was right in the language used in the letter to The Times. He again thanked the House for their courtesy.