§ MR. JOHN DEWAR () Inverness-shire
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether his attention has been drawn to the character of the boats carrying His Majesty's mails in the Western Hebrides, and to the fact that the time occupied in the run from Oban to Barra is from eight and a half to nine and a half hours, while, on one occasion lately, the steamship "Staffa" took from 1.30 to 8.30 to go from Lochboisdale to Castlebay, a distance of twenty-one miles, and on another occasion, after trying for three or four hours to steam to Barra, the boat had to put back into Lochboisdale; and whether he will arrange that the contractor shall substitute faster and safer boats.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
I have made enquiry the mails in the Western Hebrides. I find that the steamer "Flowerdale" takes from seven to eight hours for the voyage from Oban to Castlebay (Barra), and that the "Staffa," which performs this portion of the service in the reverse direction, generally takes from eight and a half to nine and a half hours in winter and about eight and a quarter hours in summer. Mr. MacBrayne has undertaken to have the "Staffa" fitted with new 246 engines this winter, and it is expected that her speed will thereby be appreciably increased. With regard to the incidents referred to by the hon. Member, the first occurred on the morning of the 7th instant. The "Staffa" left Lochboisdale at 2 a. m. on that day, but, owing to stress of weather and extreme darkness, the leading lights of Castlebay Harbour were invisible, and the steamer had to lie off until the weather cleared sufficiently to enable her to enter the harbour. This she ultimately did at 8.25 a. m. The second incident occurred on the 15th of October during a severe gale, when the steamer traffic generally on the West Coast of Scotland was disorganised. Both of the steamers in question are certified as "safe" by the Board of Trade each year, and in view of the heavy loss already incurred on the service, I cannot promise to take any steps to secure the substitution of faster boats.