§ MR. WATT
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether proposals were made to the Australian Colonies some time ago to the effect that the rates both out and home might with advantage be reduced to 3d. per letter by the direct ocean route, and declined; whether the Colonies were unanimous in their decision; and whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to reduce the outward rate by all routes to 2½d. per letter in the event of the refusal of the Colonies and India to make a similar reduction homewards?
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the question, may I ask if he is aware that the Australian people and Press are strongly in favour of the reduction, and that the Australian-Chancellors of the Exchequer opposed it simply upon fiscal grounds, sitting as tightly on the Australian Treasury Chests as an English Chancellor of the Exchequer does here?
§ *MR. RAIKES
The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. H. Heaton) is perhaps not aware that to-morrow I am to have an official interview with the Representatives of the Australian Colonies. Under those circumstances, I do not think it is desirable to enter further into the question which he has raised. In reply to the question upon the Paper, I have to say that in 1887 proposals were made to the Australasian Colonies to institute a 3d. or 4d. postage on letters forwarded between this country and the Colonies, in both directions, by the all sea route. My own wish was to establish a 3d. rate, but, at a Conference held in Sydney, the Colonies adopted a Resolution in favour of a 4d. rate; and, in deference to their wishes, that rate was adopted. As regards the last part of the hon. Member's question, I am not in a position to add anything to the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his recent Budget Speech.