HL Deb 14 July 1857 vol 146 cc1431-2

said, he wished to put a question to the Postmaster General, as to whether any arrangements had been made for expediting the India mails through France. In consequence of the existing state of circumstances, the conveyance of the India mails was a matter of great importance. At present, however, a delay took place in France, which might, and he believed would, be obviated if the subject were brought under the notice of the Emperor, whose kind feelings towards this country were known. The homeward Indian mails now generally arrived at Marseilles either in the middle of the night or early in the morning. The mail bags were then conveyed to the French Post Office and lodged there. Of the magnitude of the mail, some idea might be formed when he stated that, in consequence of the vast increase of the French trade with the East, in one instance lately the French portion of the mail consisted of 118 boxes. Then, having been lodged in the Post Office, the French authorities first sorted their own letters, and until they had done that they would not allow our letters to proceed. The consequence was, that our mails were delayed at Marseilles from twelve to twenty-four hours. Now nothing could be more easy than to have the English mails, on the arrival of the steamer at Marseilles, conveyed direct to the railway station, and then despatched at once. A special train might either be put on by the railway company, or, if they did not think that the conveyance of the passengers and mails would pay its expense, we might ourselves, at our own expense, put on a special train, which should proceed direct to the port of embarkation on the Channel. By this means he thought that from eighteen to twenty-four hours might be saved in the conveyance of the mail, which was a matter of very great importance at the present time.


said, he had taken some pains to inform himself of the exact state of the facts relating to this matter, and he was happy to say that his noble Friend had considerably overrated the delay that had taken place in any one instance. During the last six months, there had been thirteen overland mails, and only in one case, on the 27th January last, had there been a delay of more than twelve hours. Representations had been made to the French Government, and in February new arrangements were made for forwarding the overland mail. There were two mail trains despatched from Marseilles to Paris each day, one in the morning and the other in the evening, and if our mails did not arrive in time for the departure of these trains, we had no right to demand that the French Government should put on fresh ones for our convenience. We had a right to demand that they should forward our mails by the first train after their arrival, but nothing more. However, the French Government had very kindly and considerately made an arrangement by which, if our mail bag arrived at Marseilles within two hours of the departure of the morning mail, and provided it was not beyond noon, they would forward it by an express train, and should that train not overtake the mail at Lyons, they agreed to send it on all the way to Paris. If, however, the mail bag arrived after the departure of the night train, it was thought in that case to be unsafe to send it forward by express, on account of the traffic. He could assure the noble Earl that every effort was made by the Post Office Department to facilitate the communication between this country and India, and that no time was lost in conveying the correspondence all over the country. As a proof of this, he might state that last night the India mail arrived about eleven o'clock, and that no fewer than 20,000 letters were distributed by the first delivery in London, and sent off by the first trains to all parts of the kingdom.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.