HL Deb 30 May 1837 vol 38 cc1098-100
Lord Ashburton

rose to present a petition signed by the bankers of the metropolis, by several solicitors and attornies, and by many men of science. It was on the subject of the Post-office— one most important, yet one which had been unfortunately neglected. Its object was, to state the inconveniences which arose from the present charges for the conveyance of letters, inconveniences which disturbed social life, and strewed impediments in the way of science. He concurred in the view of the case taken by the petitioners, for he considered a tax on the transmission of letters, when carried to such an extent as in this country, to be one most ill-judged and pernicious. The system required thorough reconsideration and an entire reform. He recommended to their Lordships the perusal of a pamphlet written by a gentleman named Rowland Hill. That pamphlet confirmed the impression which he had, that the grievances complained of by the petitioners might be remedied without a sacrifice of revenue, and with additional simplicity of collecting it. The remedies suggested by that gentleman were—1st, a reduction of the charges; 2d, the payment of the charges in advance; 3d, equalization of the rate of charging. The expense of a Post-office establishment was the same whether the letters were conveyed twenty miles or 200 miles to Barnet or to Edinburg. The only difference effected by distance was the expense of conveyance; and Mr. Hill had shown that the expense of conveying a letter from London to Edinburgh did not amount to more than the 1–36th part of a penny, or the 1–9th part of a farthing. He thought, therefore it was an injustice to persons in distant towns to impose on them the present charge. Mr. Hill proposed that no payment should be made at the post-office, but that covers or stamped envelops should be purchased, which should carry the letter free. Mr. Hill had calculated that 1d. for a letter not weighing more than half an ounce would prove sufficient. He requested the noble Lords connected with the Government to give the matter their consideration, if it were only from the fact that the revenue was affected by the system. During the years 1825 and 1830 the Post-office revenue had fallen off 1-l0th, and in the year 1835 that revenue was 130,000l. less than it had been in 1825; at the same time the increase of wealth and the spread of intelligence had a direct tendency to augment it. It was clear, therefore, that the charge was too heavy, and also that it was fraudulently evaded. It certainly was necessary, as well for the comforts of the people as the sake of the revenue, that the matter should be seriously considered.

Viscount Duncannon

said, that the pamphlet alluded to had been under the consideration of the Post-office Commissioners for some time. They did not feel themselves justified in recommending that the whole plan should be adopted, but they were willing that to a certain extent it should be tried. The system of stamps could be used for the two penny-post. He did not think that the entire plan was practicable, and he felt that there would be a difficulty with regard to foreign letters.

The Duke of Wellington

remarked, that the plan, if adopted, should be adopted uniformly.

The Duke of Richmond

said, that the gentleman who was the author of the pamphlet considered 1d. a sufficient charge. This, however, was because he thought that there would be three, four or even six times as many letters sent as at present. In that case, however, there would be a necessity for more conveyances, and thereby additional expenses would be incurred. He was glad, however, that the plan was about to be tried. Their Lordships would recollect that a great outcry had been raised at the proposal that letters should be paid for when put into the box. Should that system be adopted, the number of officers and of receiving-boxes, or windows, as they were termed, must be increased; for letters were seldom put in till the last moment. He was glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had agreed to reduce the rate of postage. With regard to the Post-office, he thought that the management of it had been progressively improving during the last ten (he might say twenty) years.

Lord Ashburton

observed, that the complaint was of the charges of the Post-office, not of the administration of it.

Petition laid on the table.

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