HC Deb 09 March 1896 vol 38 cc429-30

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General (1), whether the contracts for the sea conveyance of mails to India, the East, Australia, West Indies, Canada, and South Africa, are made irrespective of weight, no more being charged for any additional quantity of letters; (2) whether he has been informed that the requirement fixing half an ounce as the limit of weight in a letter to be carried for 2½d. to the countries included in the Postal Union necessitates the use of flimsy paper, inconvenient in use, without corresponding gain to the Department; (3) whether the United States and Canada long ago entered into a "restricted Union" (under the authority of the Postal Union Convention), by which the minimum rate of postage covers the transmission of a letter weighing one ounce from one to the other of those two countries; and, (4) whether he will take the necessary steps for raising the weight of a letter to India, the East, Australia, the West Indies, Canada, and South Africa, from half an ounce to one ounce for the present minimum rate of postage?


The facts are not exactly such as the hon. Member supposes. The Postmaster General has at present contracts with shipping companies for the sea carriage of mails to and from India, Australia, the East, and the West Indies, irrespective of weight; but he has no contracts for mails to Canada and South Africa, and pays the Colonial Governments by weight—a ½ d. on an average for each letter in one case and 1½d. in the other. The hon. Member is also aware that for the conveyance of mails for India, Australia, and the East across Europe the payment is by weight. The answer to the second paragraph is No. On the contrary, a longer letter than most people now care to write or read can be written on excellent paper and enclosed in an envelope of excellent quality without exceeding half-an-ounce in weight. The United States and Canada have arranged that the domestic letter-rate of each country shall apply to a letter for the other. The effect is that from Canada to the States an ounce letter costs three cents, from the States to Canada two. There is no demand for an increased weight, and no intention of raising it.