HL Deb 07 June 1880 vol 252 cc1309-12

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, When Her Majesty's Government intend to remove the British Post Office from Constantinople, and to give effect to the reforms in the Turkish Post Office carried out under the direction of Mr. Scudamore in fulfilment of the International Postal Treaty of Berne? and moved for Papers. In putting the Question, the noble Lord said: There is no question of any complaint whatever against the British Post Office at Constantinople; it has given satisfaction, and the rival Postmasters, Mr. Dew and Mr. Scudamore, are both children the London General Post Office may be proud of. There are several post offices at Constantinople belonging to different European nations; none of these exist by Treaty, but only by the permission of the Ottoman Government. The English Post Office was established at Constantinople in 1857, and it has branches at Smyrna and Beyrout. It is several years since the Porte thought of extending its own Post Office so as for it to do the work of the various offices scattered about Pera; but it was not till after the signature of the International Postal Treaty of 1874 at Berne that the Porte commenced its preparations for carrying on the postal business with Europe. In the year 1875 the Ottoman Government applied to the Postmaster General for the services of one of his principal officials capable of re-organizing the Turkish Post Office. Mr. Scudamore was selected and accepted the offer made to him; and he has now got the post office at Galata into such good order and condition that it has begun to draw away the correspondence from the rival post offices; so much so, that the Turkish Post Office sends to Europe a larger quantity of correspondence than is transmitted by all the foreign post offices together. During the year 1877, about 7,000 registered letters passed through the Turkish Office, in 1878 more than 16,000 registered letters were sent to this office, and in 1879 the number of registered letters ascended to 22,000, and as yet no registered letter has been lost. I have visited and gone over the International Ottoman Post Office in Galata last autumn, and it is good and commodious as any to be found out of the large capitals of Europe. Mr. Scudamore has been known in this country rather for over zeal in carrying out the telegraphic part of the Post Office business; but at Constantinople he has been most cautious and has advanced step by step, and he is about to introduce a Postal Service on the Bosphorus steamers. Though the Turkish Post Office receives postage for the letters sent from it, yet it receives none for those which arrive from Europe, and which it forwards to any point in the Ottoman Empire; it also carries out the obligations of the Treaty of Berne, and carries letters from any part of the Empire for 2½d ., which are to be delivered to any foreign Government for transmission. The postage on a letter from Bagdad to Constantinople would be 1 franc 25 centimes; but on a letter from Bagdad to London or Paris the postage would be 25 centimes. The postage on a letter from Constantinople to Bagdad is 1 franc 25 centimes; but the Turkish post receives nothing for a letter from London or Paris to Bagdad. It also pays certain transit dues by sea and land. Turkey, therefore, whilst carrying out the Treaty of Berne at a loss to herself, is entitled to all the advantages which that Treaty would give to her. Some of those who have opposed the closing of the foreign postal agencies in Turkey have dwelt upon the fact that Turkey gives no postal subventions to her lines of steamers. There is no force in this argument, since the Treaty of Berne contains nothing making it obligatory to keep up steamers with postal subventions. The Treaty requires each contracting party having any facilities to offer for the transmission of letters by sea or land to give these facilities in exchange for certain payments duly established by Treaty. Turkey, they say, has not subventioned steamers, and therefore foreign post offices should be maintained in her territory; but have Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, or Portugal got any subventioned lines of steamers? They have not, yet their letters are transported in accordance with the stipulations of Berne and Paris. The English General Post Office seems to have attributed much importance to the fact that Turkey has not got regularly subventioned maritime lines; but England sends and receives a great number of letters at her offices at Constantinople, Smyrna, and Beyrout, though she has no steam packets; but these letters are sent and received under the stipulations of the Treaty of Berne and Paris by means of Russian, Austrian, French, and Italian steamers. Why cannot Turkey do under the Treaty that which England does? The Russian Government has for some time announced its readiness to accede to the desire of the Porte, and use the Turkish posts. Great Britain should set the example, as the friend of Turkey, and an Englishman having been employed to re-organize the Turkish Post Office. Besides, the English Post Office was only established in 1857, and has only two branch offices. This is not the only cause of the suffering of the Turkish Treasury. Owing to the resistance of a few of the foreign Legations, the immunity of the European or Levantine privileged traders from all contribution towards the expense of government in the country they reside in is still prolonged. This reform of the Post Office was undertaken by the Turks themselves; and if the desire for reforms in Turkey is sincere it should be encouraged. The only reform that at present has been carried out in the Ottoman Empire at the instigation of our Consuls is that, at the instance of Her Majesty's Agent and Consul General, Sunday races and a Jockey Club have been instituted at Bucharest, and this Jockey Club has served to increase the gambling of which there is enough already in this city.


In reply to the Question of my noble Friend, I have to say that in September last the Director General of the Ottoman Post Office invited the Postmaster General to despatch an officer to Constantinople to investigate the arrangements of the Turkish Post Office, with a view, if those arrangements were found to be satisfactory, to the withdrawal of the British Post Offices established at Constantinople, Smyrna, and Beyrout. After full consideration of this proposal, the Postmaster General replied that Her Majesty's Government had come to the conclusion that it is not expedient at present to withdraw the British Post Offices in question, and that, consequently, there would be no advantage in sending an officer to Constantinople as suggested. I believe that decision was arrived at after full communication with Sir Henry Layard. With reference to the Papers moved for, I will cause a search to be made; and if there are any that can be laid upon the Table without public inconvenience they shall be produced.