HC Deb 23 March 1891 vol 351 cc1655-7
MR. COBB (Warwick, S. E., Rugby)

I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether the Boy Messengers' and the District Messengers' Companies could be allowed to carry out and to reap the benefit of the system which their labour and capital inaugurated, and if he will, with that view, grant them licences to work the electric call system upon payment of a royalty to the Post Office; and' whether, if it should be legally necessary, he will introduce a short Bill to authorise charging a royalty?


It is my first duty to vindicate the rights of the State in the Courts of Law if necessary. After this has been done, I am quite willing to consider any suggestions that may be made in the interest of public convenience, so far as they can be reconciled with the law. If the hon. Member has read the correspondence which has passed between the Post Office and the companies, he must be aware that the system inaugurated by these undertakings has-been commenced and carried on in the* face of repeated warnings of its illegality.

*DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury sends, five times a week, written communications to the Government's supporters by messenger; whether that is not an infringement of the rights of the State; and whether the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take any steps to vindicate those rights in this case?


Of course I cannot suppose that the hon. Member's question is serious; but I have no reason to believe that the action to which he refers is in any way illegal.

LORD ELCHO (Ipswich)

May I ask whether it is illegal to employ commissionaires in the delivery of letters; and, if it is not illegal, whether the right hon. Gentleman will say where legality ends and illegality begins in this matter?


There is no illegality in the employment of commissionaires for the delivery of letters. We are advised that it is equivalent to the employment of any ordinary messenger for a particular message. It is not a system for the collection and delivery of letters to the profit of a company which, by that profit, trenches upon the revenue. There is no profit to any company in the employment of commissionaires.


Will the right hon. Gentleman be willing to grant some ready way of deciding the legal point involved—as to the right of these companies to deliver letters? Further, when the point is decided, will the right hon. Gentleman be willing to grant licences to the Messenger Companies for the use of the electric call system?


It is my intention to have the legal point decided almost immediately. An information will be filed before the Easter holidays, and the case will be heard as soon as the Courts re-assemble. When a decision is given, I shall be in a position to consider the proposal of the hon. Gentleman as to the electric call system, together with any other proposal which may be made.