§ SIR H. COTTON
I beg to ask the Postmaster-General whether a new contract has been concluded with the Peninsular and Oriental Company for the mail service with India, China, and Australia for a period of seven years from 1st February, 1908; and, if so, will he state what are the terms of speed, and the amount of subsidy as compared with the present contract.
§ MR. LAIDLAW (Renfrewshire, E.)
I beg also to ask the Postmaster-General what subsidy the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company are to receive for carrying the Indian mails under the new three years contract; what are the conditions regarding speed; if, when arranging the time-table for the Indian mails under the new contract, he will bear in mind the importance of providing for the arrival of the incoming mail before the departure of the 1325 outgoing; and if he will consult the chambers of commerce and trades associations in India regarding the most convenient time of departure from Bombay before concluding any arrangements.
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
No now Eastern Mail Packet contract has been concluded, but, after prolonged consultations with the Secretaries of State for India and the Colonies in regard to Indian and Colonial interests, I have decided to accept provisionally a tender of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company offering to make a contract for seven years from 1st February, 1908, under which, in return for an annual subsidy of £305,000, as against the present subsidy of £340,000 a year, an accelerated service will be provided. If, as I hope, the details of the contract can be satisfactorily settled, the duration of the voyage between Brindisi and Bombay is to be reduced to eleven days six hours in each direction, between Brindisi and Shanghai to twenty-eight days six hours outwards and twenty-eight days twenty-two hours homewards, and between Brindisi and Adelaide to twenty-six days fourteen hours outwards and twenty-seven days two hours homewards. The saving of time thus to be secured is:—Between Brindisi and Bombay, eight hours both outward and homeward; between Brindisi and Shanghai, thirty-four hours outward and twenty-four home ward; between Brindisi and Adelaide, thirty-six hours outward and twenty-four homeward. The time-table of the new service will be arranged to the best advantage which circumstances permit; and the hour of departure from Bombay will of course be fixed with the concurrence of the Indian Government as the proper representative of Indian interests in the matter.