*MR. HANBURY moved—
That the contract dated the 1st day of July, 1895, entered into by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company for the conveyance of mails between Holyhead and Kingstown be approved.
The Irish Mail Contract was for sea service only, and was made with the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. It was signed on the 1st inst., and was for a period of 20 years from the 1st of April, 1897. It provided for an acceleration of half an hour in the time between Holyhead and Kingstown, and the subsidy was £100,000 less a fixed reduction of £2,000, or £98,000 net. The contract now running which would shortly expire was made in 1883, and the subsidy under that contract was £84,000, less a reduction of about £1,700 a year, representing one-half of the traffic receipts in excess of £35,000 a year. The Company had undertaken to build four new boats, which would be rather larger than the Ireland, the best of the existing boats. The contract time was at present 4 hours 7 min. from Holyhead to Kingstown and 4 hours 2 min. from Kingstown to Holyhead. In future it would be 3 hours 37 min. and 3 hours 32 min. respectively, or a saving of half-an-hour both ways. In addition to that, under a recent arrangement with the London and North Western Company the land service for the night mail had also been accelerated by half-an-hour, making the total saving for the night
mail of one hour. The Postmaster General had absolute control over the times of departure and arrival. With regard to what would happen at the end of 20 years, the contract ran for 20 years in any case, and might then be terminated by a year's notice on either side, and supposing it continued to run the subsidy would be reduced from £100,000 to £80,000 a year, a reduction of £20,000. He begged to move that the contract be approved.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he would have been glad to have seen, if possible, a copy of the contract. The question dealt with was one of the greatest practical importance, not only to Ireland but to England, and it was inconvenient, as the right hon. Gentleman had confessed, that a Motion of this kind should be made without Members of the House being afforded the slightest opportunity of considering the terms of the arrangement. Although the letter of the statute had been technically complied with by laying the contract on the Table, he believed the contract had not been printed or circulated, so that the House was asked to affirm a public contract of great importance when it had not had an opportunity of examining its terms and conditions. That, no doubt, was due to the pressure of the time and to the extreme peculiarity of the Parliamentary situation. There were, however, one or two questions he would like answered either by the right hon. Gentleman or by the late Postmaster General, and he could not refrain from acknowledging the debt due from the public to the latter Gentleman for the energy and care which he had applied to the subject. He was glad to hear that the Department retained absolute powers to arrange the times of departure and arrival of the steamers, because future acceleration of the service would have to depend upon the times of arrival and departure, and if the times were now fixed permanently the greatest inconvenience might arise hereafter. He also thought the arrangement whereby the service after the term of 20 years might be brought to an end by one year's notice on either side was a reasonable and satisfactory one. The public in Ireland did hope for a more material acceleration. They believed that if the Department had exerted itself as much as it might have done an acceleration of 207 nearer two hours than one might have been effected. He thought, however, a substantial improvement had been made, and that the arrangement might be regarded with general satisfaction. He desired to know what the estimate of cost of the new ships was, and what were to be the dimensions and powers of the new vessels. It might be more satisfactory if they were told how far the dimensions and powers of the new ships would exceed the dimensions and powers of the ships now in use. It was also well they should be informed what provision was made for such increased accommodation for the mails as the development of traffic in the next 20 years might render necessary.
§ MR. ARNOLD MORLEY (Nottingham, E.)
was obliged to the hon. Gentleman for what he had said with regard to the manner in which the negotiations had been carried through. The contract provided for ample accommodation on board the mail boats, but as a matter of fact it was found that a great deal of the work which now had to be done on board the ships would be done in the train and the result would be that in the future less instead of greater accommodation on the mail steamers would be required. The specification for the new ships provided that the vessels should be larger than the Ireland, which was the largest of the ships now in use. They would be 371 feet long, of 2,676 tons burden having an indicated horse power of 2,850 horses and have a draught of 14 feet.
§ Motion agreed to.