§ MR. R. POWER (Waterford)
asked the Postmaster General, Whether he has issued written instructions to the Orient and the Peninsular and Oriental Companies, carrying Her Majesty's mails under contract to Australia, directing that no surgeons shall be employed on the mail steamers who are not first approved by him, and that their age shall not be less than 23 or more than 30 years; if he will state how the age and qualifications of the surgeon affect the proper carriage and custody of the mails; what benefit the travelling public will derive from a Rule providing that the surgeons on mail steamers shall not be more than 30 years of age; and, whether he has issued the same instructions to other ocean-going Mail Companies; and, if not, can he explain for what reason?
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)
The contracts recently entered into between the Post Office and the two Companies mentioned by the hon. Member require them to carry, as a part of their ship's complement, a competent surgeon, who, according to the usual custom in such cases, is appointed subject to the approval of the Postmaster General. This approval is given under certain long established conditions as to fitness, and I find that those conditions were communicated to the Orient Company on the commencement of their contract in February last. The other Company, being old contractors, were already 1828 aware of the Post Office Regulations on this point. One of the conditions laid down is, that the candidate for employment as surgeon shall not be less than 23 years of age, nor more than 30 years of age. The Rule is a general one, and was not laid down with reference to any particular contract. I apprehend that any arrangement affecting the health and efficiency of the ship's company affects the proper carriage and custody of the mails. This arrangement, though I have no doubt calculated to benefit the travelling public, has reference primarily to the efficiency of the Postal Service.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
inquired, whether the Postmaster General intended to carry out that Rule; and if he thought that medical men over 30 years of age were incompetent to carry on their profession?
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he was afraid that the hon. Gentleman was not an unprejudiced witness as to the value of the services of medical gentlemen over 30; but he saw no reason to alter the Rule.