§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £15,517,845, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in the Estimates for Revenue Departments."
§ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th August, 1911, col. 1696.]
§ Mr. TOUCHE
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100. I do so in order to direct attention to the question of the new postage stamps and the arrangements made for their manufacture. The House will remember that the Postmaster-General, in his annual statement, promised that the new issue of stamps should be a great improvement on the former 1825 issue. I think there is a general consensus of opinion that this promise has not been fulfilled.
§ Mr. TOUCHE
I regret then that it was a hope which has not been realised. I trust, however, that the Postmaster-General is still hopeful, and that he is taking steps to see that his hope is realised in the future. It is essential that the stamps for postal and revenue purposes should possess great clearness of design and execution, and it is in these respects, amongst others, that the present stamps are greatly lacking. In that way they differ very much from the Victorian stamps engraved by Joubert, to which reference has been made by the Press and by the public in the discussion of this matter. They represent a very remarkable contrast to the present monstrosities. The two chief considerations in connection with the nation's issue of postage stamps are, first, the question of dignity, which, I take it, includes all artistic and aesthetic considerations and good workmanship; and, secondly, protection to the revenue by securing it against forgery and against the removal of the cancellation marks.
The dignity of the country requires that the postage stamps, which go into every corner of the King's Dominions, and into every foreign country, should be a good likeness of His Majesty, and should be printed in a manner worthy of the traditions of a great industrial country. The protection to the revenue requires that there should be great clearness in the completed form. I am informed that any photographer of average skill could soon prepare the necessary photographic formes, and that from these any lithographer of ordinary experience could print stamps very similar to those of recent issue. The element of protection is therefore lacking, and it is lacking, because recent issues lack that clearness of printing which alone baffles the combined skill of the photographer and the lithographic printer. These facts were realised as far back as 1880 by the then Postmaster-General. There is in the library a very interesting Bluebook, published in 1888, containing a report of a Select Committee appointed to consider the Revenue Department Estimates. Any Member who desires to make himself better acquainted with the many difficulties connected with what super- 1826 ficially appears the very simple matter of the preparation of postage stamps cannot do better than read that Bluebook; also the memorandum prepared by Sir Charles Herries and the various documents handed in by Mr. De la Rue. From the evidence of the Select Committee it appears that previous to 1880 stamps nearly as bad as the recent issue were in general use for the lower denominations—that is, for the penny and halfpenny denominations. These stamps did not fulfil the requirements of the then Postmaster-General, and after investigation a public competition was held. The result of that competition was that Messrs. De la Rue, who were then printing the stamps of the higher denomination, obtained also the contract for printing the stamps of the lower denominations. We heard a good deal lately about a saving upon the cost of production. The amount of saving has not been revealed to the House, although it is frequently asked for, but in connection with this it is interesting to recall the fact that the contract then given, as the report shows, was not given solely upon the question of price but even more upon the question of quality. The tender which at that time was accepted was not the lowest tender. The work of the contractors was the only work reported to fulfil the chemical conditions which the safety of the Revenue required rigid adherence to. At that time the method of the manufacture was very carefully examined by the Government. They took the evidence of experts as to the possibility of fraudulent printing and as to the possibility of the removal of the cancellation marks. The contract was only given to the former contractor after the most careful investigation, and I believe up to last year this contractor supplied the stamps required by the Government on the whole very satisfactorily. The consideration to which at that time a great deal of weight was given, and which does not appear to have received the same weight lately, was the ability of the contractor to produce stamps clearly printed from finely engraved plates. It is not work that can be undertaken by any commercial printer, no matter how enterprising he may be; it is necessary, if good results are to be obtained, that an engraver should be engaged who has a knowledge of printing as well as engraving, so that he may be able to determine the exact degree of fineness of line and the exact proximity of line to line which could be worked commercially on the printing press, and it is necessary also that he 1827 should have other qualifications; that he should possess sufficient artistic ability to be able to make such alterations in the original design as are necessitated by the transposition from paper to steel and subsequent surface printing on paper.
The Government, in their new arrangements, have observed none of these considerations, and they have discarded the very healthy past practice of making the contractor completely responsible for the whole process, from the original engraving of the die to the reproduction of the design in the completed stamp. We understand that the plates for the new issue have not been made by the contractors; they have been made at the Mint. I do not wish to reflect in any way upon the ability of those who are engaged in the Mint. I am confident we have engravers of very great skill there, but I would submit that the experience of engravers at the Mint is chiefly in respect of cutting dies for medals and coins in relief, which is totally different to the art of line engraving for surface printing. The remainder of the work has to be done by the contractor, and is given to printers who have not had previous experience in the manufacture of postage stamps.
I asked the Secretary to the Treasury if they had any experience, and he very courteously told me they had manufactured stamps for one of our small Colonies. That was the limit of their experience, and a very inadequate experience it is for the large and important contract of supplying stamps for the United Kingdom. The Secretary to the Treasury stated that in his opinion the division of the responsibility which arises from the fact that the contractor does not do the whole of the work from start to finish, has worked satisfactorily. I do not think that is the general opinion, judging by the results. It is not the opinion of the Postmaster-General, for he has very frankly expressed disappointment with the new stamps produced under this arrangement. What is the result of this division of responsibility? The result is that neither the Mint nor the contractors can be held wholly responsible for the present abominations. Each of them can, with some measure of reason and justification no doubt, complain of the work of the other. The Government tell us they are disappointed with the work, but if the contractor alone had been responsible, as in the past, then it would have been open to the Government to refuse the work 1828 with which they profess to be disappointed. I can well understand, however, it is difficult for them to refuse work when it is impossible to lay the entire blame for the unsatisfactory result upon the present firm of printers engaged in producing these stamps.
There is a remarkable feature about this supply of our stamps, and it is this, that at the present time, or at least so recently as last month—I have not asked what happened during the present month—but as recently as July, the new contractors were still printing stamps from the plates of the old contractors. I want to know why they are doing that, and why they continue to do it to a very large extent? Is it because the Government are ashamed of the new issue? Is it because the contractors have been experiencing a difficulty with the plates manufactured by the Mint? The Secretary to the Treasury assured me that was not the reason, and I should like to know why, after this long period of time, it is still necessary for the new contractors to use the old plates and the old stamps? And if their difficulty is with the present plates, and if the present contractors feel inability to take entire charge of the work, from start to finish, then I should like to know how are the requirements of the country to be satisfied when the present De la Rue plates are worn out? I should like to know whether the old contractors have been requested to continue the supply of plates until the Mint has learned how to execute the necessary work. Another remarkable feature is that although the old plates have been used, the stamps printed from the old plates by the new contractors are not satisfactory. I am told they can be readily distinguished by the scarcity of gum, by their bad sticking qualities and by the irregularity of the perforation. I am told also the paper is of precisely the same quality, and generally I believe it comes from the same mill, yet you hear people complain of the flimsiness of the new stamp. As there is no difference in the inherent quality of the material, this can. only be attributed to the difference in manipulation. You have the same plates and the same paper, and yet an inferior article is produced. It tears across the face of the stamp and not in the line of perforation. Possibly to some extent, that is due to the machinery used by the new contractors.
I elicited the other day that the machinery in use comes from abroad. I believe it is imported, like our new sea law, from Germany. I asked if there was 1829 any provision in the contract requiring that the machinery should be British made, and I was told that, owing to an oversight, that provision had not been inserted. The right hon. Gentleman went further and said there were no British firms who were able to produce that machinery. If that were so, it is difficult to reconcile it with the theory of the oversight, because it would be unreasonable to put in such a provision that only British firms were to be employed, if no British firm could supply the machinery. If I am not misinformed, the old contractors did not use German machinery. I have seen, from statements in the Blue Book, that the old contractors made a great deal of their own machinery, and if it was possible for them to make machinery of British origin for the manufacture of British postage stamps, I cannot understand why it should be necessary to enter into an arrangement by which we are now dependent upon Germany for our stamps. The Secretary to the Treasury informed me the other day that a certain number of adhesive stamps are to be printed at Somerset House. The 6d. and 2s. 6d. unified and revenue stamps are to be printed there, and 5s., 10s., and 20s. postage, and all the revenue and fee stamps proper. These are all to be printed by the Government at Somerset House. Might I suggest that, as the work of the new contractors is proved to be of a retrograde character, although stamps of a better quality and more highly finished were promised, the Government should undertake the entire work of the printing of postage stamps? Are they not in a better position to do so than the present contractors? If not, the issue of the higher denominational stamps must be anticipated with grave apprehension from the safety of the Revenue. In times past it was, I understand, the custom to keep six months' supply of stamps in the country. That was done in order to meet any possible contingency, such as fire, or any possible interruption of production owing to strikes. We all know that strikes break out in the most unlikely way. On the 8th March I was told, not that we had six months' supply of stamps in the country, but that we had only two months' supply, and on the 19th July I was informed there was only seven weeks' supply, although the contractors were working day and night in order to accumulate a stock. It is a very serious position that we should be left with such an attenuated supply 1830 of postage stamps as that, and if that is the position a year after the contract is given, how can the Government expect to supply the country's requirements in the event of some unforeseen event arising? Formerly, I believe it was an essential condition of the contract, inserted by a late Comptroller, that the contractors should maintain a duplication of the stamp-producing machinery in a fireproof building. But that condition has not been maintained. It has not been required from the present contractors, and the explanation given is that it is not required because the Government have the right, in the event of failure, to go elsewhere. What security is that if the present contract breaks down. There are only a few weeks' supply of postage stamps in the country. It is all very well to say that the Government have, the right to go elsewhere, but you cannot go elsewhere and order stamps like coals or even steel rails. Stamps require a very special degree of skill and experience in their manufacture. They require a very special kind of plant, and it took many long years before the former contractors were able to get over all the difficulties of manufacture. It seems to me idle to tell business men that the position of the country is sufficiently safeguarded by the right to go elsewhere on short notice and order stamps from someone else in the event of the Government contractors breaking down.
We are told there has been a large saving of £40,000 to place against these obvious disadvantages. That sum has been frequently mentioned, and I believe it has now expanded to £45,000. I suggest that this is a very misleading figure. It may represent the difference between the old contract price and the new contract price, but it does not represent the difference between the new contract price and the tender of the old contractors for the new work. The true comparison is not between the old price and the new price, but between the price which the old contractors would have undertaken the new contract at, and the price at which it was given to the other people. We know in times past there have been many reductions in the contract price as the result of negotiations. There was a reduction on one occasion of £40,000, and upon another occasion a larger amount. These reductions were, to a great extent, made possible owing to the fact that the contractors had invented machinery of their own which cheapened the cost of production. Because the cost of production was cheapened they were 1831 able to continue their contract at a lower figure. It would have been a more businesslike procedure to have stuck to those who had turned out good work in the past, provided that by negotiations the Government were able to obtain a substantial saving instead of, for the sake of a few thousand pounds, plunging into all the risks associated with an arrangement with inexperienced people in a matter of so much importance.
I think the House is entitled to know what the real saving has been, because we have never been informed on this point. We have asked what the difference is between the two tenders and we have been told that both the contractors, although for different reasons, object to the price being revealed. I do not think it will be unreasonable to ask what are the results of all the tenders. That course was followed on a previous occasion, and they are all in print. I notice that many years ago, at the time when the contract was given to Messrs. De la Rue, the results of the different tenders were published and communicated to this House, and if it could be done then I do not see any sufficient reason—and no sufficient reason has been advanced—why it should not be done now. It would be very soothing to our feelings to know the exact amount of the cash savings which we have to our credit against all the disagreeable-ness connected with the present issue of stamps and the manner in which the recent issue of stamps has offended the aesthetic tastes of those who look at this matter from an artistic point of view. I look at it chiefly from a commercial point of view. The complaint which we make against the Government is, that in an attempt at false economy, they have supplied a stamp which is a libel on His Majesty's personal appearance, and which is a national disgrace to the workmanship of the country. I say that the so-called saving of £45,000 is not a true and complete representation of the facts. I doubt whether there has been any very large saving at all if against the cash difference we place all the cost, waste, loss, the necessity for extra supervision and all the disappointments and delay connected with the operation. As I have said before, I believe a very substantial saving could have been effected, and at the same time the country might have been spared the risks connected with the present venture.
1832 I say further that the stamps supplied are not so good as those stamps which were condemned in 1880, more than thirty years ago, and this in spite of the advances which have been made in stamp-producing machinery since that date. The stamps ought to be infinitely better now than they were then, The present stamps are open to all the disadvantages of the ante-1880 stamps. They are open to their disadvantages as to sticking qualities. The Postmaster-General informed me only yesterday that the Post Office is recognising claims for a refundment where stamps have been put on letters and parcels before being posted, and have fallen off because of their non-adhesive qualities before they reached their destination. The present stamps are very similar to those formerly used as regards inadequate sticking qualities, and also as to the danger of forgery. That danger is greater now than it was then because in the interval there have been great strides in the photographic and lithographic processes. We complain that the Government have light-heartedly during the last year undertaken a very serious risk—that is, a risk of shortage of stamp supplies—which may cripple the work of the Post Office and paralyse the business of the country. I fear that, notwithstanding all the efforts made to speed-up production by overtime and working all night and on Sundays, there is still no adequate accumulation of surplus stocks, and no adequate precautions have been taken to safeguard a continuous supply. A considerable time must necessarily elapse before a continuous supply can be abundantly secured to place the carrying on of the business of this country beyond all risk.
§ Sir HILDRED CARLILE
I rise with very much pleasure to second the Amendment for the reduction which has been moved by my hon. Friend. I think it is not unlikely that many Members of the House may feel that postage stamps constitute so small a matter that really their influence is not very great, and that the design which they bear need not be considered as a matter of any moment. Perhaps some hon. Members feel like that, but if those hon. Members had had the experience many of us have had of collecting stamps in our early days and the charming influence which the designs of those stamps exercised upon our minds away back in those years long since gone they would realise that, especially in certain sections 1833 of the community, the design of the native stamp must exercise great educative influence, specially upon the young. Therefore, I think my hon. Friend need make no apology for speaking as strongly as he has done, and I believe that he has placed us under a debt of gratitude for the masterly way in which he has studied this subject. There is no doubt about it if we want a good stamp we ought to have it. We are able to find the money and artistic power for all sorts of things, and clearly such a question, as the supply of an artistic stamp ought to be beyond all cavil and easily accomplished. It is perfectly clear that this has not been done up to the present time. I have in my hand some of our recent stamps. There is a quiet dignity even about the recent stamps of His late Majesty King Edward which is absolutely lacking in the new stamp we are now called upon to use. The representation of His gracious Majesty reminds me more than anything else of some of the earlier productions years ago of the Emperor of Austria. The resemblance is far stronger to him than it is to the King. Anyone who knows His gracious Majesty's face—which is daily becoming more and more known and more and more beloved—must realise that the recent stamp is a grotesque parody of his face. Anyone casually looking at the stamp must realise the patchy design represented upon it, made up of all sorts of little patchy bits of ornaments with no sort of homogeneous design about it at all. Apparently at the foot of the stamp there is some sort of a white patch which looks more like some nude figure than what it really is. It really is a most comic representation of the British lion. Altogether the design is a poor and miserable one, and I cannot imagine how it came to pass that the Postmaster-General approved of it.
Of course, the design must have been presented to someone, and we must hold the right hon. Gentleman responsible for it. It is a very serious thing that the right hon. Gentleman should have been so badly advised as to approve of this production. Reference has been made by the Mover of this Motion to the altered conditions under which the stamps are produced. I say quite frankly that I know nothing at all about that part of the question, but I have had considerable difficulty at times in making the stamps adhere, and I have also noticed that the perforation is not as good as it formerly was. I suppose the adhesive material is inferior, and 1834 whether it is a foreign or British product I do not know. Anyhow, it is not satisfactory. We ought to know where that adhesive material is produced. There can be little question that the present stamps are highly unsatisfactory. If we have reserve stores of stamps, and my hon. Friend suggests that they are inadequate, if we are going to produce a new stamp—I hope to goodness the stores are in a reduced condition—if they can be adequately and speedily replaced by something which would appeal to us all. After all, it is a mere truism to say there is no design used in the country that goes so generally to the homes of the people as a design of our postage stamp. Therefore, I think it is more or less of an outrage on the taste of the country. Certainly the design, far from having any educative or elevating tendency, is just the reverse, and on all the grounds which my hon. Friend has so efficiently brought before us I trust this Motion for the reduction of the Vote may be accepted by the House as a protest against the acceptance by the right hon. Gentleman of this most inferior design, and in order to bring the strongest and most efficient pressure upon the Post Office to replace the present design by something of beauty and a pleasure to us all with the least possible delay.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I desire to support this Motion, and I should like to know something more of the supposed manufacture of stamps at Somerset House. On 4th July I put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject, and he informed me two men were employed in the manufacture of adhesive postage stamps in Somerset House, and that the amount of machinery that had been set up for the purpose had only cost £1,500. He also informed me, in answer to another question, that it was not proposed to manufacture the ordinary stamps with the exception of the 6d. stamp. Of course, if two men can really make something like £300,000 worth of face-value of stamps, it is an extraordinary economical factory, and should be encouraged and developed to the utmost extent. Of course, if an official, speaking in this House, gives an answer like that, one is naturally obliged to believe him, but ninety-nine men out of a hundred certainly would not. As a matter of fact, it is very well known these stamps are being manufactured at Somerset House, instead of only the 6d. stamp. The Postmaster-General himself, in answer to another question the other day, stated 1835 that stamps of 2s. 6d., 5s., and £1 were also being manufactured. Of course, there is nothing in the fact that stamps should be manufactured in Somerset House, but I should really like to know whether we are getting value for the stamps manufactured. There are rumours that £25,000 of penny stamps manufactured at Somerset House had to be destroyed, or at any rate withheld from issue owing to their inferior quality. We have never had an answer on that subject, although the Postmaster-General has been questioned.
I also understand the inspector of stamping and another official have gone abroad, I believe at the public expense, to study the methods in vogue in foreign countries. If it is not intended to set up this factory at Somerset House, why should they be sent abroad to study the methods there. I therefore ask that we may be informed whether it is intended to set up this factory for manufacturing stamps at Somerset House. If so, what number of men are employed, and what are the results so far produced at this factory? Has the manufacture of these stamps been carried out in an economical and proper way? If so, why cannot the whole manufacture of stamps for this country be carried out at Somerset House altogether instead of being handed over to contractors? There is one other small question I should like to put. Why is there no Post Office official at Somerset House? I believe it is a fact there is no Post Office official there to check the manufacture of these stamps by the Inland Revenue Department. I may be wrongly informed, but I would like to have some information on that point.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I will answer the questions which have been put to me by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down before proceeding to reply to the hon. Gentleman who moved the reduction of the Vote. The hon. Member for Central Finsbury asks why no Post Office official is at Somerset House. The answer is contained in one of those apparent anomalies which are to be found all over the government of this country and Empire. Under the Stamp Act of 1891, the manufacture of stamps is under the control of the Inland Revenue Department. They are responsible for the manufacture and distribution of all stamps, and the Post Office are really nothing more than a sleeping partner. That is haw the law stands. I confess I am very much 1836 in sympathy with the view of the Post Office that they ought to be responsible, or at all events equally responsible, for the production of those stamps which are used for general postal purposes. If the hon. Member will look at any postage stamp which has been manufactured in this country, certainly for the last thirty years, he will see they are always marked "Postage and Revenue." Therefore, so far as the manufacture of stamps is concerned, there is no need for a Post Office official at Somerset House. He then proceeded to argue there was some inaccuracy in the reply of my right hon. Friend. The Inland Revenue Department proposed after the dissolution of Messrs. De la Rue's contract to undertake the manufacture of all 6d., 2s. 6d., 5s. and 20s. stamps themselves. They have got a large quantity of these stamps in stock, and until that stock is practically exhausted there is no necessity to begin the manufacture of them at Somerset House. Therefore the number of persons employed at Somerset House when the reply was given was exactly as stated. There was neither inaccuracy nor misdirection.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The answer I received was that stamps, representing nearly £300,000 face value, were manufactured, and only two men were employed in the manufacture.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It is quite possible. There has been a certain amount of justifiable complaint on the part of the public with regard to the gumming of the stamps. I wish in respect of that to remove some misapprehension. The contract is for the printing, gumming and calendaring of all postage stamps, with the exception of those which are manufactured at Somerset House. There has been a very large reduction in the cost of manufacture, and I may add, in passing, that through the splitting of the contract we have been saving not only on the manufacture of stamps but also on the stationery—on letter-cards and postcards, the saving on the stationery item representing 33 per cent. of the cost of manufacture. There is a contract now for gumming, printing, and calendaring all postage stamps with the exception of those I have mentioned. The designs from which the stamps were engraved was obtained by the Post Office after a great deal of trouble. Perhaps opinions may differ as to the beauty of the design or the execution of the work, but much trouble was taken in order to arrive at a satisfactory-result, and I hope that, whatever may be 1837 said with regard to the printing, there can be nothing said against the design of the stamps.
The hon. Member suggested that the present contractors for gumming stamps used an inferior article, and that, for that reason, the gum separates itself from the stamp. I can assure him that under the terms of the contract the contractors were required to use the best gum arabic, and that was supposed by the Inland Revenue authorities to be the most adhesive thing that could be used. It is quite possible that, owing to the extreme heat which we have experienced during the last few weeks, there is a defect in the adhesive property in gum arabic. We have made the most elaborate experiments in the Government laboratories on this point. The experiments have been repeated weekly, and I confess we cannot find any reason why the gum arabic is defective. We only know that it is defective. The experiments are being continued. We may have to alter the material the contractors are required to use, and the power given under the contract enables the Inland Revenue authorities to do that. We hope to obtain something which will prove a better article for the public in the point of adhesiveness. Let me say at once there is no blame to be attached to the contractors. They have acted in every way up to the terms of their contract. We may have required them to do something which has not proved a success. If so, it is our fault and not their fault. We are continually experimenting from week to week, and we hope soon to arrive at a solution of the difficulty. I know the hon. Gentleman who raised this question has taken great interest in the matter; he has put a great number of questions from time to time. He has expressed an opinion that it would be better to have left the manufacture of stamps in the hands of the old contractors. But I expect that after a little longer time the production of stamps under the new system will be equally as satisfactory as under the old, while the saving to the public, in the matter of money, will be so great that it will be seen that we have been thoroughly justified in the course we have adopted.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
If it is found to be economical to manufacture certain classes of stamps at Somerset House would it not be equally practicable to manufacture all the stamps required for the Post Office and Inland Revenue?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I think I recognise the object of the hon. Member in putting that question. We have undertaken the manufacture at Somerset House of sixpenny stamps, and those of higher denominations, for the reason that these special sixpenny stamps are used in hundreds of thousands of agreements. They are fiscal stamps, and not postage stamps, and they have to be printed in a special manner to prevent the possibility of the removal of the date stamp.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I want to say a word about the design of the stamp and its general appearance. I do not think the design is in any way satisfactory or worthy of the country which was the pioneer in the postal stamp movement. The right hon. Gentleman has frankly admitted that the adhesiveness of the stamps is defective, and I can only hope that the experiments his Department are now conducting may prove successful. Everybody in this House must have experience of the fact that the 1d. and ½d. stamps will not now adhere to anything except very smooth envelopes. I would like to utter one word of warning. I do not think the defect in the matter of adhesiveness can be properly attributed to the temperature. Those who have travelled in Algeria, or India, or other countries in which the temperature is much higher than in this country, must admit that there the stamps do stick to the envelopes. With regard to the paper on which the stamps are printed, I understand it is identically the same as that used for the old stamps. But there can be no doubt that the treatment of it has an effect on its quality. The present penny stamp is transparent so far as a blot of ink is concerned. The last penny stamp was not. The last penny stamp was torn pretty easily and was supposed at the time to be the low denomination stamp which tore more readily than any other stamp of its date in Europe, but I am afraid that evil quality applies even more to the King George stamp than to the last King Edward stamp, so that it loses some of the qualities, and they are not very numerous, which the King Edward stamp possessed.
In the Tea Room this afternoon I had the pleasure of sitting with three hon. Gentlemen opposite and we produced stamps out of our pocket books, and the one thing that struck us, and on which we were all agreed, was the extraordinary variation of colour. The colour of mine was rather pretty cherry pink. The 1839 stamp shown me by the other Gentlemen were essentially different. They were very much darker and at the same time of a very much warmer hue. Of course that is all wrong. There should be absolute uniformity in colour. People think that the danger of forgery of stamps is very small. Who would forge stamps in order to retail them in small sheets, or even isolated stamps, at a penny a piece? That, of course, is not the danger of forgery in postage stamps. The danger lies in a different direction. It is the man who forges stamps in considerable sheets and does not buy his small commodities by handing stamps over the counter or selling one or two or half-a-dozen to his friends for as many coppers. The danger is that a man in a big way of trade gets in touch with people who use an immense number of stamps and who, it was shown when the last enquiry took place, are prepared to buy these forged stamps at a figure, of course, substantially below their face value. If your stamps are different in design and in colour the danger of forgery is ipso facto increased, and it is most undesirable that the Post Office should consent to the issue of a postage stamp, still more of course of a revenue stamp, if it contains any feature or any item which increases the temptation to forgery, so that the question of colour is really a material question.
I should like to say a word with regard to design. One's first impression, of course, is that the design of the penny and halfpenny stamps is a little involved. It is not exactly clear what is the meaning of all the emblems. The halfpenny stamp has what my Friend on the Liberal side at tea time assured me was meant to be a dolphin on either side below the effigy. That may or may not be, but if it is a dolphin it is a type of dolphin with a beak or bill corresponding to that peculiar animal known as the ornithorhynchus or the duck billed platypus. I have no objection to the conventional dolphin at all. The conventional dolphins, as one may see them outside the Admiralty, are beautiful things. At all events, if you are having a conventional dolphin let it be one which does not puzzle the humble individual or suggest odious or ridiculous comparisons. The whole frame-work of these halfpenny stamps is really fantastic, and equally on the penny stamps it is so heavy as practically to dwarf the head of the Sovereign, so that both as regards proportion and 1840 decoration, quite apart from the point of colour, perforation, or the nature of the paper, in my opinion the stamp is not one which really conforms itself to our conditions. It is really most necessary to have uniformity of design, and the great technical blot on these stamps is that, for some cause which I will not pretend to explain, either defective printing or the ink not being sufficiently equalised or owing to inexperience on the part of those who have cut the plates, on each of the stamps upon this twelve-stamp sheet there is a variation between one stamp and its neighbour. It applies more to the penny than to the halfpenny stamps. If hon. Members take a dozen stamps in ordinary good daylight they will see how defective the actual printing is. The top left-hand stamp, which I will call No. 1, has got the white mark on the chin. No. 2 has got it on the neck, No. 3 has got it close to the right ear. No. 4 has got it on the nose, No. 5 I cannot see, and No. 6 has got it just below the right ear. It is the white mark where the impression of the plate either fails to strike the paper on a perfectly flat surface or where, owing to some defect in the quality of the ink, it does not reach the paper perfectly evenly.
The Financial Secretary told us that his colleague was a "sleeping partner," but the sleeping partner has answered most of the questions during the Session about stamps. I do not mind who is responsible. My only interest is to get stamps worthy of the country, and really the stamp is not worthy of the country. Quite recently a friend of mine sent me a stamp produced in Bavaria in memory of the festival of the Prince Regent. It really is a magnificent work of art. It is superb. The Germans, of course, have had this advantage; there have been provincial stamps for years past, and consequently a greater artistic spirit exists, and to some extent, therefore, there has been increased competition. The French develop their stamps magnificently. I would implore the Financial Secretary and his colleague to consider whether some method ought not to be tried to secure better stamps. I know the difficulty, and I know, indeed, the dangers, in putting these things out to public competition. There is always a difficulty about who is to be the judge, and there is always the question as to the expenses of the unsuccessful competitor. The matter has to be settled by a Committee instead of an individual. A Committee is not a very good body to determine a question of artistic merit, but nevertheless I 1841 am quite convinced myself that there are dozens, if not scores, of men and women in this country who could produce a design which, though very unlikely in itself to be suitable for translation into postage stamp purposes, could none the less, with the advice and the technical assistance which the Postmaster-General is in a position to give, make a really good, effective, and artistic stamp. It is an experiment. It is not unattended by risks, but you would be creating an interest in the subject among designers. If the right hon. Gentleman were to say that he would consider that suggestion favourably, I undertake to say that a hundred artists would soon be preparing designs, and some good would come out of this even if it only familiarised those people-many of them students and many of them artists in practice-with the idea that a postage stamp is a great national entity, and that it is a work of art which is more widely used, and which, when good, is more widely enjoyed than any other work of art in the British Empire. It deserves an effort even to the extent of losing a few thousands of the pounds which have been saved over these wretched stamps. It would be really worth while from that point of view that the two right hon. Gentlemen should give their very careful, and, I hope, their sympathetic attention to this suggestion.
I rise to express my strong sympathy with the admirable speech to which we have listened from the Noble Lord (Lord Balcarres). I think he has expressed and summed up most admirably what hundreds and thousands of people have been feeling and saying to one another about these stamps ever since they came out. Personally, I looked forward to this issue of new postage stamps as something which might prove worthy of the occasion and of this great nation, so rich and capable in almost every respect, and I must express my feeling of the very deepest disappointment at the extremely inadequate result in the new issue of postage stamps. As to the design, the Noble Lord has spoken with an authority and ex-
§ perience in art which I cannot pretend to equal. The design for the halfpenny stamp is confused, inferior, and utterly unintelligible to anybody who has any appreciation of the artistic appearance of a good postage stamp. It is a curious thing that since the early days of Queen Victoria almost every department of national art has advanced and improved, but there can be no doubt whatever that the penny and halfpenny stamps now being issued are entirely inferior to the stamps of the early Victorian time.
§ Why that is I do not know, except that a very unfortunate choice has been made in the artist or the person from whom the artistic device has been sought in connection with these stamps. I know that they emanated from an eminent sculptor, but really I think a sculptor is the last person you ought to go to for a design for postage stamps. A design for postage stamps ought to come from an artist who has shown a faculty for simplicity in design, and not complexity. This design is certainly the most complicated and confused that, I suppose, has ever appeared on a postage stamp. I should like to make a practical suggestion to the Postmaster-General. It is that in some form or other he should offer the artists of our nation the opportunity of submitting a new design. I am sure nobody will like these stamps any better, however long they may be used. There is no reason why, after a year's condemnation of these stamps, we should not have a new design either for the penny stamp or for the halfpenny stamp, and preferably for both. If a new design could be produced in different colours, I think it would be the right way to treat the subject. I think that would be distinctly popular; I will even venture to say that it would be a really benevolent act if we could say that we might look forward in a year's time to having the opportunity of using something more beautiful than the stamps recently issued.
§ Question put, "That '£15,517,845' stand part of the said Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 151; Noes, 40.1843
|Division No. 333.]||AYES.||[8.55 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.)||Bryce, J. Annan|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Beale, William Phipson||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Beck, Arthur||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Boland, John Plus||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Booth, Frederick Handel||Byles, Sir William Pollard|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Bowerman, C. W.||Chancellor, Henry George|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Brocklehurst, William B.||Chapple, Dr. William Allen|
|Barnes, George N.||Brunner, John F. L.||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Clough, William||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Clynes, John R.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Radford, George Heynes|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Johnson, W.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Crooks, William||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts., Stepney)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Rowlands, James|
|Dawes, J. A.||Lambert, George (Devon, Molton)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Crickdale)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Leach, Charles||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Shortt, Edward|
|Essex, Richard Walter||Logan, John William||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Snowden, Philip|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N.W.)|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Sutton, John E.|
|Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Maclean, Donald||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Gill, A. H.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Macpherson, James Ian||Tennant, Harold John|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Macveagh, Jeremiah||Thorne, G. [...]. (Wolverhampton)|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Wadsworth, John|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Millar, James Duncan||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Hackett, John||Morgan, George Hay||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Hancock, J. G.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wardle, George J.|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Waring, Walter|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||Needham, Christopher T.||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Neilson, Francis||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Nolan, Joseph||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Whyte, A. F.|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Nuttall, Harry||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Haworth, Sir Arthur A.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Hayward, Evan||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Doherty, Philip||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Henry, Sir Charles S.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Hinds, John||Power, Patrick Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Gulland and Mr. Dudley Ward|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Hodge, John||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Fell, Arthur||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Fleming, Valentine||Pryce-Jones, Col, E.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Balcarres, Lord||Goldman, C. S.||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Gretton, John||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Boyton, James||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hills, John Waller||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Homer, Andrew Long||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Cator, John||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)|
|Clyde, James Avon||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Touche and Mr. Cassel.|
|Courthope, George Loyd||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
Resolution agreed to.