§ CAPTAIN M'CALMONT (Antrim, E.)
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether he can now make any statement with reference to the establishment of an accelerated mail service to and from the North of Ireland by Lame and Stranraer?
§ SIR J. ELLIS (Surrey, Kingston)
also asked the Postmaster General whether it is the intention of the Post Office authorities to divert the mail service from the 1068 main line of communication between Dublin viâ Portadown and Londonderry and Belfast, in favour of the North-Western route through England viâ Stranraer; and when the long-desired acceleration of the mail service may be expected?
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
further asked the right hon. Gentleman what is the result of the negotiations respecting the mail route viâ Stranraer and Larne?
§ *MR. RAIKES
I am glad to be at length in a position to make a definite-statement on this subject. After the most careful and exhaustive consideration, Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that, while the important industrial interests of Belfast have strong claims on their consideration in the matter of swift and efficient postal service, nothing should be done in any way tending to detract from the efficiency and completeness of the excellent mail packet service which has been for so many years established by the route of Holyhead and Kingstown. On the contrary, the views of the Government are that efforts should be made to improve that service, and I have with pleasure found that at moderate outlay an accelerated arrival to the extent of 55 minutes at Belfast and 1 hour 5 minutes at Londonderry can be effected by that route. Accordingly, and subject to a single stipulation as to the cost of special trains, I am about to make arrangements with the Great Northern Railway Company of Ireland for carrying out an alteration under what I should describe as scheme No. 2, and under which the mails will be due at Belfast at 9.30 a.m., and at Londonderry at 11.10 a.m. It is only right to state that under a scheme submitted as No. I the company have offered to effect a still further acceleration, but, irrespective of the additional cost involved, the departure of the mails from Dublin would take place at so early an hour as to endanger, in the opinion of my advisers, the punctual and proper performance of the service. At the same time, the Government are not insensible to the importance of providing for the City of Belfast and large towns in the North of Ireland, not only an alternate and in some respects an improved service for the conveyance of London letters, and also for the swifter exchange of letters 1069 between the North of Ireland and the northern and midland towns of England, and I am prepared with this object, and subject to a limitation of the contract to five years, to enter into an arrangement for the establishment of a regular mail service by the route of Stranraer and Larne, a statement which, I trust, will be satisfactory to the hon. Member and to all who are interested in the improvement of the postal communication with the large and flourishing towns of Ulster. The combined services when put into operation will raise the maximum interval for replies at Belfast from 5 hours 5 minutes to 7 hours 50 minutes, and at Derry from 1 hour 25 minutes to 3 hours 40 minutes. I trust the House will allow me to take this opportunity of expressing my acknowledgments of the fair and courteous spirit in which the respective corporations with whom I have been in communication on the subject have so far met the views of Her Majesty's Government on this somewhat complicated question.
§ SIR E. HARLAND (Belfast, N.)
Does the answer indicate that there is to be no subsidy whatever paid in respect of the route by Larne and Stranraer?
§ MR. SEXTON
Has the arrangement been completed, or is it only contemplated? If it is contemplated, will the right hon. Gentleman state the terms?
§ *MR. RAIKES
The arrangement must be subject to the ultimate decision of Parliament; but the present conditions in regard to the Larne route may be regarded as complete except as to the time over which the contract is to run. I have received a telegram from the North-Western Company stating that there will be little or no difficulty in arriving at an arrangement upon that point.