HC Deb 15 March 1897 vol 47 cc656-7

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he is aware that the Adriatic, which left Queenstown on 11th February with the American mails, was overtaken and passed by the Lucania, which, leaving three days later, arrived 28 hours before the Adriatic; and that the steamer which left in the mid-week following only arrived one day sooner than the steamer which left at the end of the week; whether steps can be taken to prevent the twice-a-week service being practically made a single service; whether he is aware that on the eastern passage the Teutonic and Majestic frequently beat the steamers of the American Line which bring the mails, so that the public are inconvenienced both ways; and whether negotiations can be entered into with the American postal authorities for arranging that the mails leaving both sides of the Atlantic shall be conveyed by the fastest steamers.


The Adriatic, which left Queenstown on the 11th of February, arrived at Sandy Hook 21 hours after the Lucania, which started from Queenstown on the 14th, and, according to telegrams published in the newspapers, the steamer which left Queenstown on the following Thursday arrived 27 hours before the steamer which started three days later. As explained in this House a fortnight ago, the Adriatic is only used occasionally, when one of the better steamers has to be withdrawn for overhaul—a course which is expressly provided for in the mail contract. It cannot be admitted that the twice-a-week service is practically made a single service; there are generally intervals of two days or more between the arrivals of the mails at New York. So far as the homeward mails are concerned, the mails brought by vessels of the American Line during the last year were more frequently received in London before than after those brought by the Majestic and Teutonic, while there are other parts of the United Kingdom of which the reverse is the case. The Postmaster General does not propose to enter into negotiations with the American Post Office, as suggested by the hon. Member, because the contracts, which secure us all the year round the services of the fastest ships afloat, and which were made with the full knowledge and approval of this House, debar us from diverting, any letters, &c., except those specially marked, from the ships of the contractors.