HC Deb 13 April 1893 vol 11 cc302-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Contract, dated the 22nd day of December, 1892, entered into with the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company, the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Committee, and the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company, for the performance of the Mail Service between Great Britain and Ireland, rid Stranraer and Larne. be approved.'"—(Sir John Hibbert.)

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

said, he had given notice that he intended to make a few observations upon the Contract. It was one of great importance, and though he did not wish to offer opposition, it was right that the House should know what was being done—namely, that to save one hour of time in the delivery of letters in Belfast they were entering into an arrangement for five years to pay £13,500 a year. He did not object to that in the smallest degree. He thought it right that some arrangement of the kind should be made, though whether they were not paying rather too high a price for it was a question. In. regard to the Contract itself, he thought the Government should compel the combined Railway and Steamboat Companies to give a better service from Belfast to Glasgow and from Glasgow to Belfast. At present almost the whole of the benefit from this Contract was enjoyed by people going to London or Newcastle or other parts of England, the people travelling to and from Scotland deriving very little advantage indeed. The contract seemed to him to he made for too long a period. If it was made shorter, and if some pressure was put upon the little company (which, by the way, might have been bought up by the larger railway, though of that he was not aware) a better service between Belfast and Glasgow might be secured. There was a clause in the Contract to the effect that if the 8.30 train for Scotland was altered certain things should take effect, and this had a bearing on the Irish mail service between Holy head and Kingstown. Great inconvenience was sometimes caused by the Irish mail having to wait until the 8.30 train came up. He had been kept waiting at Crewe some 20 or 25 minutes. It was not right that this delay should take place, and now that the present alteration was to be made he was anxious to know how it would affect the Irish mail service? They ought to closely watch the arrangement and see that no benefit was conferred in Scotland at the expense of a speedy transit between London and Dublin. He did not say that such a thing was going to take place, but the matter was one which the Postmaster General should closely watch. As he did not raise objection to this large sum going to Belfast, he thought the opportunity a fitting one to urge the claims of Wexford for an improved Mail Contract. The service was very slow, and a very small subsidy—some £2,000 a year—would suffice to make it satisfactory. The late Government had made promises in regard to this matter, and he thought the time had come when those pledges could be redeemed by the present Government.


said he could assure the hon. and learned Member that the Wexford ease was one which was receiving the consideration both of the Postmaster General and the Treasury. There was this difficulty: that the line was a single line, and he was told that the acceleration that could be given in the actual running of the mail train would probably be about half-an-hour or three-quarters of an hour at the most over the whole route. Whether or not that was correct he was not prepared to say, but that was the information he had received.


said, this was the first time in two years that they had heard of the objection, and he believed it was unsustainable.


said, that if his information was correct £2,000 was a large sum to spend for so small an advantage. He was quite sure that if a more moderate demand were made by the Railway Company it would receive careful consideration by the Treasury. As to the Contract, before them, although apparently costing a large sum of money, it was a great convenience to different localities. It increased the time for answering letters in the case of Deny from one hour 25 minutes under the present arrangement to three hours 20 minutes, and Belfast from five hours 5 minutes to seven hours 50 minutes. And not only would these places be benefited, but advantage would be gained by other towns in Ireland and many places in England, beginning with Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Sheffield, Hull, and so on. As to the service between Belfast and Glasgow, he would prefer to leave that point to the Postmaster General.

MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

said he had no idea of opposing the Contract, because he considered additional facilities for the Postal Service beneficial in all parts of the country; but he must impress on the Postmaster General the importance of endeavouring to do away with the great delay that took place on the trunk line between Holyhead and Dublin, in consequence of the present arrangements respecting late-fee letters. Almost every night a delay was occasioned by the fact that it was necessary to wait for the Postmaster General's train, which carried only late-fee letters. Sometimes these letters filled one or two bags, but on many occasions he had known the Irish mail delayed 20 or 25 minutes in order that a few dozen letters might be transferred from the postal train to the mail. It was almost impossible, especially in winter, to make up the lost time between Crowe and Holyhead. He would suggest to the Postmaster General, who had dealt in a very liberal and broad-minded way with the Postal Service, that it-would be advantageous to all parties that some alteration should be made in the time of the departure of the Irish mail from Easton. Why should not the mail leave five minutes earlier, and carry the late-fee letters as well as the ordinary letters? He understood that the Railway Companies and Steamboat Companies were prepared to meet the Post Office on this point, and he believed that some such alteration as he had suggested would obviate the derangement of a Service for which the public paid a great deal, and would make the Service to Ireland as complete as it could be made. He did not share the views of the Secretary to the Treasury as to the great advantages of the Stranraer route, either to Deny or Belfast; but he admitted that it was advantageous as far as some parts of Scotland were concerned, and, therefore, he had no intention of opposing the Contract.

MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

desired to remind the Postmaster General of the three memorials which had been forwarded to him from Youghal respecting the late delivery of letters there. The right hon. Gentleman had promised to consider the question, but the last reply given by him had left no hope whatever that the mails would be accelerated. He therefore took this opportunity of reminding him that great dissatisfaction existed on the subject.

*MR. J. STEWART WALLACE (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)

said, it seemed to him that much time was wasted in transferring the Irish mails from the steamers to the trains at Larne.


I will deal very shortly with the various points that have been raised. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) lays stress on the advantages which would accrue to passengers if his suggestion respecting the Glasgow mail were adopted. That hardly comes into my Department. I know it is frequently used as an argument, but the Post Office can hardly be expected to make arrangements with the object of giving facilities to passengers. However, I will see what can be done. I quite agree that the trunk lines ought to be greatly considered by the Post Office, and I have been in communication with the London and North Western Railway Company on the question of the delay on their line. As to the late-fee letters, the suggestion made by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) has not been brought to my notice before, but. I will inquire whether one of the causes of the delay is that which he suggests: and, if so, I will see whether it can be removed by some new arrangement. I hope that, at all events, some improvement may shortly be brought about in consequence of the communications I have had with the Company. As to the question of communication with Youghal, I am afraid I have not been able to satisfy the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Field) respecting it. I think the difficulty arises from the railway communications. I have not vet been able to persuade the Railway Companies to accelerate their service of trains, but I have not given up hope of being able to do so.

*MR. DANE (Fermanagh, N.)

wished to emphasize what had been stated by the hon. and learned Member for North Louth as to the feeling of the inhabitants of every creed and class in Wexford as to the state of the Mail Service. He sincerely hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General would seriously take into consideration the imperfect service which existed in that county at present.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

said, the question had been raised before, and he hoped that without the assistance of hon. Members who did not represent the district the Postmaster General would pay attention to the imperative necessities of the case.


said, that in the North of Ireland they owed a great deal to the Postmaster General. From what he (Mr. McCartan) knew, the right hon. Gentleman had done more to meet the wishes and requirements of the people than any other Postmaster General who had ever held office during his time. This new Contract affecting the Larne and Stranraer route would be a great ad vantage to the North of Ireland. He would appeal to the Postmaster General, as a North of Ireland Member, to try and give improved mail facilities to the people of Wexford.

Question, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Contract, dated the 22nd day of December, 1892, entered into with the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company, the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Committee, and the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company, for the performance of the Mail Service between Great Britain and Ireland, viâ. Stranraer and Larne, be approved.— (Sir John Hibbert.)