§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Tzeasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether the West Indian mail steamer arrived at Plymouth at 10 p.m. on the 13th instant, and whether the mails were to be forwarded by a goods train at 4 a.m., and could not have been delivered in London till the following afternoon; whether in fact the mails could have reached London earlier via Southampton had the steamer not been bound by contract to land them at Plymouth; whether on the occasion referred to the passengers who had landed procured a special train, making up the cost by private subscription, of which the post office authority availed himself, so that the mails arrived in London at 6.15 a.m. at the cost of private individuals, and without any contribution by the Post Office; and whether the recent practice of not forwarding the mails at any hour by special train, in cases where the mail steamer does not arrive before her contract time, and so misses the ordinary mail train, does not cause a delay of many hours and occasionally postpones the delivery of the letters beyond business hours in London.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The facts are substantially as stated in the 1041 first paragraph. If the mail had been landed at Southampton instead of at Plymouth, it would perhaps have reached London earlier than if forwarded from Plymouth by goods train, but later than it did by the means actually employed. It is the fact that the mails were brought to London by special train, but the hon. Member is under a misapprehension in supposing that this was done at the cost of private individuals. The Postmaster General pays for the haulage of the mail carriages, and this fact doubtless affected the price charged to the passengers. As has been more than once explained in this House in answer to similar questions, the principle governing the engagement by the Post Office of special trains for the conveyance from Plymouth of mails landed at that port is to engage them when, by such means and no other, an interval for reply by the next outgoing mail can be afforded. The present was not such a case.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
Are the Post Office authorities indifferent whether the mails are delivered the following day?