§ Motion made, and Question proposed, 'That the Contract dated the 25th day of July, 1904, between the Postmaster-General and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, for the conveyance of the East India, China, and Australia Mails, printed in Parliamentary 535 Paper No. 328. of session 1904, be approved."—(Mr. Victor Cavendish.)
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)
said he could not allow this contract to pass without protest. It was one of the most important contracts which the Government had, and one in which the people of India were very deeply interested. The object of this Resolution was to renew for three years the existing contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Company at an increase of £10,000 a year. There had been many complaints with regard to the Peninsular and Oriental service to India as to the exorbitant rates for passengers. It might be said that the ships of other countries running to India were subsidised, but in such cases there was always a proviso regulating the passenger fares. On the English lines the interest of the traders and the passengers travelling were not consulted at all. He noticed that the time was to be shortened by twenty-four hours, but from past experience of the Peninsular and Oriental Company they might know that there would be no increase of speed, and the time of the journey would not be shortened in any way. The Peninsular and Oriental Company did not keep up to their time at all. We had the slowest boats on the India, China, and Ceylon stations, because the Government had practically given a monopoly to this company. The enormous subsidy that the Government paid represented a 12 per cent. dividend on the capital of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and it kept off all British competition. Foreign competition could take care of itself, and the best boats on those routes were the German boats. He recognised that this was a contract that must be renewed every three 536 years. He did not take exception to that course, but he felt it necessary to bring before the notice of the noble Lord the great dissatisfaction which existed with regard to this monopoly, in the hope that something would be done in the direction of getting competitive tenders, either for the whole or for sections of this service. A huge monopoly of this kind was detrimental to communication between this country and India. He hoped no time would be lost by the Post Office in making arrangements for inviting competitive tenders in order to get rid of this monopoly.
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Lord STANLEY, Lancashire, Westhoughton)
said he agreed with a great deal of what the hon. Member had said. The Government were only asking for this contract for another three years in order to give them time to arrange a competitive scheme which would give all those who desired to compete time to build vessels in order to join in the competition for this contract.
Resolved, "That the Contract dated the 25th day of July, 1904, between the Postmaster-General and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, for the conveyance of the East India, China, and Australia Mails, printed in Parliamentary Paper, No. 328, of session 1904, be approved."—(M. Victor Cavendish.)
Whereupon, in pursuance of the Order of the House of the 2nd day of August, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned at thirteen minutes after Two o'clock till Monday next.