MR. YELL (Orkney and Shetland)
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether he is aware that the mail steamship St. Magnus, due at Lerwick about midnight on the 7th May, did not arrive until after 5 p.m. on the 8th May, having been detained at St. Margaret's Hope in Orkney for the purpose of discharging cargo, thereby causing a delay of nearly 18 hours to the Shetland-mails; also that the SS. St. Nicholas, which was due at Lerwick about midnight on the 9th May, did not arrive till 6.30 a.m. on the 11th May, having been detained between Leith and Orkney in shipping cattle, and thus delaying the Shetland mails fully 30 hours; whether he will take steps to secure greater punctuality in the times of arrival and departure of these mailsteamers; whether 965 the mail steamers of the North of Scotland Steamship Company are bound by contract to steam at a prescribed speed which will allow of the trips being completed in fair weather well within the time allowed; whether he is aware that the average time taken by the mail steamers between Aberdeen and Lerwick during the last nine years is about 30 hours, whereas the time should not exceed 24 hours; and if the steamers carried direct from Aberdeen to Lerwick need not exceed 13 hours; and in view of the proposed increase of the mail service between Aberdeen and Shetland, he will time and keep a record of the dispatch and arrivals of the mail steamers at the different ports?
§ MR. RAIKES
The mail steamers were delayed as stated by the hon. Member. As regards the St. Magnus, which was entitled under the contract to call at St. Margaret's Hope, I am informed that a large part of the delay was unforeseen and arose from the unfavourable state of the tide. There was also foggy weather in the early part of the voyage. As regards the St. Nicholas, I am not satisfied that the delay was unavoidable, and my Department is in communication with the contractors on the subject. The average time taken by the steamers employed on this Service appears to be 26 hours. A record of their working has for a long time been kept, and will continue to be kept; and the hon. Member may rest assured that in giving effect to any improvement of the Mail Service with the Shetland Isles the Department will take care to provide as far as possible against irregularities.