§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he rose to ask the House to consent to the appointment of a Select Committee for the purpose of inquiring into a subject of great and general interest among the commercial classes—namely, the practical working of the present systems of telegraphic and postal communications between this country and the East Indies. He would have been glad if the concurrence of the Government had enabled him to make the Motion as an unopposed one; but he thought it no slight thing to ask the House to lend the weight of its authority to an inquiry of this nature at any period, and especially at the present moment, when so many Members were called on to sacrifice their time in attendance on Election Committees and in the disposal of a very large amount of Private Bill business. Among the many remarkable circumstances which characterized the present day, none was more remarkable than the marvellous development of the commerce of this country during the last few years. This result had been ascribed to various circumstances—to the discovery of gold, to free trade, and other causes; but, in his opinion, nothing could be said to have more led to the promotion of the commerce of this country than the application of the science of the country to extend communication with foreign nations by means of steam navigation and the electric telegraph. Without entering on a disquisition more suitable for a lecture-room than for the floor of the House of Commons, he would content himself with adverting to a few facts connected with commerce, for the purpose of showing the great interest which the trade of this country with the East Indies had in the subject. That trade formed an important part of the whole trade of this country. In 1864, the last year for which we have official accounts in a complete form, the commodities imported into this country amounted in value to £275,000,000, and the commodities exported to £212,500,000. Of the 1219 goods imported India supplied no less than 20 per cent, and Ceylon, Singapore, China, Japan, Australia, and the Mauritius supplied II or 12 per cent in addition; so that that portion of the world which was the subject of his Motion supplied no less than one-third of the whole of the imports. In the case of exports, out of the total of 212½ millions those countries took no less than forty-two millions sterling. It might also he important to see what was the description of the goods imported. Of the goods imported from those countries, there had been received no less than £38,000,000 in value of cotton, more than £9,000,000 of various other goods, which entered into the manufacturing industry of this country, and £2,500,000 of articles of food, rice, sugar, tea, coffee, &c. The proposition he submitted to the House was that it was essential not only to maintain the present means of communication between this country and the East Indies, but to push to the utmost the advantages which telegraphic communication afforded. Our trade was now carried on in a manner very different to that which formerly prevailed. The telegraph had almost superseded the post, which had become subsidiary and ancillary to the telegraph, and no important transactions were entered into which were not now communicated by telegraph. In relation to the trade with India it was the custom when goods were shipped for telegraphic information to be sent of that fact. On the receipt of the bill of Jading, if the market were favourable, the goods were sold while on their way to their destination, and by that means the shipper was relieved from a great part of the risk, and was therefore content to receive less than he otherwise would accept, and as the element of risk entered largely into the cost, the public were enabled to obtain the goods at a reduced price. That was one of the advantages derived from telegraphic communication but certainty and rapidity in the delivery of the message were absolutely requisite. The information should be correct and of recent date; but he regretted to say that at present the telegraphic messages between this country and India were most incorrectly rendered. Since the period when he gave notice of his Motion he had received hundreds of letters complaining of the length of time occupied, with the exception of within the last few days, in the transmission of the messages, and of the incorrect 1220 manner in which (hey were rendered. He would state a few facts, which would show also in what a remarkably absurd manner the business of the country was treated by the companies to which we confided these telegraphic messages. A mercantile house in Liverpool sent a message in September last to India, as follows:—"Contract for 1,000 bales of cotton"—of a particular description, the value of which was about £20 a bale, and thus the transaction represented a sum of £20,000. The message received in India was "Contract for 21,000 bales," and thus, instead of £20,000, the amount involved was £400,000 more than that sum. Another order sent was, "Buy 500 bales at 12d." —meaning, of course, that the highest limit at which the agent was to buy was 12d. The message delivered was, "Buy 500 bales at 20d.," making a very considerable difference in the price. Indeed, it was well known in the City that the cause of the failure of a mercantile house which took place about sixteen months ago was a telegraphic blunder of this kind. An order was sent to Egypt to buy 500 bales of cotton, and, pursuant to the message as delivered, 5,000 bales were bought, and the house was unable to meet the sum due upon this large purchase. He had been particularly requested to mention other cases which had been forwarded to him from the Chamber of Commerce at Madras, involving similar mistakes. The most ridiculous of all the mistakes in the translation of messages was one that happened to himself during the time the messages were forwarded by way of Italy. He had occasion to send a message to a gentleman in India to the effect that the news from America was to the 10th of the month, and that cotton was in favour of holders. The translation was —"News from America to the 10th—a savour of soldiers." Of course his correspondent did not know what it meant. What our trade required was rapidity and accuracy in telegraphic communication with India. He did not speak, boastfully, but he might state that he himself spent £3,000 a year in sending telegraphic messages to India, the greater part of which he recovered from his correspondents, and this amount was probably less than that paid by many others. He might send a message either through the office of the Electric Telegraph Company or that of the Submarine Company. If he sent it by the former, the message was forwarded to Berlin or Frankfort, thence to Vienna, 1221 Belgrade, Constantinople, to the head of the Persian Gulf and to Kurrachee, whence it was distributed throughout India by the internal telegraphic system of India. This telegram passed through seven different administrations. If he sent the message by the Submarine Company it went first to Paris, then through the Austro-German union as in the other case, or by way of Italy through Macedonia, Thessaly, and so on to India. The worst of it was that it was impossible to fix these blunders upon any one. Messages sent from this country to India had to pass through Turkey. The mistakes did not occur in London, nor in Germany, or France, but in Turkey. It was impossible to look for any change for the better so long as messages were forwarded through Turkey, by persons ignorant of the English language, and apathetic as to our customs and wishes. As soon as the message got into the Turkish administration it became subject to the treatment he had described. Many representations had been addressed to the Turkish Government in favour of the appointment of English signallers, but no sooner was anything proposed for the benefit of England than France and Russia became jealous and interposed to prevent it. He had no doubt that if France or Russia asked for anything, England would be equally jealous, and he was assured that it was hopeless to expect any improvement as long as these national jealousies existed. A petition had been presented the other day by the hon. Member for Glasgow from the Bombay Chamber of Commerce, which showed that the telegraphic communication with India had an enormous substratum of business. It was stated that during the seven months from May to November, 1865, there had been 16,462 messages passed to and fro on the line between India and England and the Continent of Europe, of which only 82 were Government messages. The sum received for their transmission was about £51,500, being nearly at the rate of £100,000 per annum for the Mekran portion of the line belonging to the Indian Government. The charge for a message of twenty words from this country to India was £5 1s., of which the Submarine Company only received 2s, 6d., and the Electric Telegraph Company 3s. 6d. or 4s., the remainder being absorbed by the other States and systems through which it travelled. On arming at Kurrachee, the port of Scinde, and the most westerly town of India, the 1222 messages were distributed to the various places of business in India. Until lately the service there was almost as bad as that in the Turkish dominions, but it was now improved. Some knowing people I went into the country, and affixing an instrument to the wires brought down the messages. They then sent off men on horseback and sold the intelligence. These persons were apprehended and convicted. When the telegraphic communication with India was carried on by way of Egypt and Point de Galle, some two or three messages were always satisfactorily conveyed. Then it was said the wires were out of order, and no more were transmitted, which, of course, gave a great advantage to those whose messages were sent. Some time ago some gentlemen came to him, as Chairman of the East Indian Railway, and asked if he would consent to an arrangement by which a public company should transmit these messages. It was not the business of a railway company to carry telegraphic messages, and the directors signified their willingness to treat with these gentlemen. They agreed to the terms of the directors, but being a line with a Government guarantee, the directors were unable to act without the sanction of the Secretary of State for India. Their application was sent out to India by the Secretary of State, and when it returned they received a communication that their proposition could not be entetrained. The directors inquired the reasons for this refusal, but the Secretary of State very wisely refused to give any. Why should not this company be established in India for the conveyance of messages along the railway system? A railway was the proper course for the telegraph wires to take. The wires were inspected and could he repaired by every passing train, while the wires of the Government system, passing over mountains and over the plains, could only be inspected by persons employed for the purpose. If the Indian Government intended to set up the principle that the carrying of telegraphic messages in India ought to be in the hands of the Government for political purposes, he ventured to say that the proposition which he should make was deserving of the attentive consideration of the House. In this country the whole of the telegraphic system was in the hands of private companies; but in India the Government, as far as he was aware, intended to institute a totally different system. Now, he 1223 thought he subject might fairly be discussed in that House, if the Government defended on such a ground their refusal to allow a private company to utilize for the benefit of India the advantages which railways conferred. He attributed the failure of the existing overland system to the fact that the only line of communication passed through Turkey. As long as we were dependent upon that line alone, it would be hopeless to expect that our communication with India could be satisfactorily maintained. A certain company had possessed itself by a lease from this Government of the exclusive use of the Malta and Alexandria wire, and they had also entered into arrangements with the Italian Government, by which they would be granted the use of a wire through Italy with the privilege of employing English signallers. When all the arrangements were completed the company would be able to carry messages to Alexandria without any of the inconveniences which now existed. The Pasha of Egypt was constructing a telegraph on the banks of the Nile, and it would cross to the Red Sea in latitude 19, where a better bottom was to be found than in the upper parts of the Red Sea. This line would then proceed by way of Aden, and the southern coast of Arabia. In fact, there would be a complete and entire line from England to Bombay in the hands of an English company, who would be responsible to the public for any loss arising from their neglect. He had mentioned the progress which had been made in establishing a different system altogether, and he might remark that the company would require no pecuniary assistance from the Government at all. He wished it to be perfectly understood that he was not stating these particulars with the view of serving the interests of this particular company, and that he was not personally interested in the undertaking. He deemed it right to make this remark, because, on a former occasion, when he and Mr. Sotheron Estcourt addressed the House on the subject of telegraphic communication through Asiatic Turkey, the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer took the opportunity of warning the House against Members making use of their position to support undertakings in which they were personally concerned. If this line were constructed, there would be two separate and wholly distinct lines of telegraphic communication between this country and 1224 India. Practically, indeed, there would be three lines of communication, because if anything were to go wrong with that part of the new system which had been suggested eastward of Egypt, messages could be forwarded to Alexandria and then be passed along the Turkish line between that place and Diasbekir on the main Turkish line. He thought he had said enough to lead the House to believe that the subject into which he asked them to authorize a Committee to inquire was one deserving of the attention of the Government. He would now make some remarks on the postal communication with India, which rested on the basis of a contract entered into with the Peninsular and Oriental Company in January, 1853, for the conveying of the India mails for fourteen years. Considering the enormous advances which had been made in the science of steam navigation between 1853 and the present time, it was only fair that the public should have the advantage of any improvement in respect to speed and price which had been brought about by any change during that period. There were besides other reasons which rendered it desirable that the relations existing between the Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Company should be inquired into. He was no opponent of the company, which he believed had for many years past rendered good service to the public, but their vessels were not quite up to the requirements of the present day in regard to speed. Then, again, the Peninsular and Oriental Company now had a monopoly of the whole service, and he thought it was desirable that the contract, which was now subject to annual renewal, should terminate a year hence. The Indian railway system, it should be remembered, was approaching completion. In the course of another year the rail between Bombay and Calcutta would be completed, excepting about seventy miles. Then, of course, the whole postal service of India would pass through Bombay by railway, and it would be wholly unnecessary that any postal communication should be maintained between Aden and Calcutta. At present the postal days to India were the 3rd, 12th, 18th, and 27th of the month, without reference to the days of the week on which those dates fall. About a year ago the mercantile community in England connected with India memorialized the Postmaster General for a mail to India on a certain day of each week instead of 1225 specified days of the month, it being suggested that Friday was the day which would best suit the convenience of the whole trading community. The traders in India also presented a similar memorial. In reply to those memorials it was stated in that House by the Secretary to the Treasury that the proposed change would be attended with expense, and would necessitate an extra charge of 6d. on each letter, and that those letters which were now charged 10d. through France would be charged 1s. 4d. The mercantile community thought that that suggestion was unreasonable, and declined to accede to it. Thus there were abundant reasons why a Committee should be appointed to inquire both into the telegraphic and postal service of India. In recommending that the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Company should be remodelled, there was no desire to ask the Government to submit to any additional charge; he was quite content to abide by the language used in the Report of the Commission on Postal Contracts in 1853. The Commission held that Parliamentary grants might be properly made to meet the first outlay required for the opening up of new lines of communication and the encouragement of new methods of conveyance; but afterwards, except where there were important political advantages to be gained, these services ought to be self-supporting, and the cost of continuing them should be borne by the persons who availed themselves of them for commercial or other purposes. In the case of the Indian service there was an amount of receipt in the shape of contributions from the mercantile classes which went far to pay the whole of the cost, and there were also political advantages arising from it, such as those contemplated in the Report of the Commission of 1853, and in consideration of which the State might be prepared to defray a certain portion of the expense of maintaining the communication. From the same Report it appeared that in the year 1852 the India and China postal receipts were estimated at £152,564. That was the result of a very elaborate process of calculation, the particulars for which were furnished in the appendix. In the Report of the Postmaster General for the year 1865 it would be found that the number of letters carried between Great Britain and Ireland and India, China, and Japan was 3,632,000, being a considerable increase over the previous year. It was only fair to assume that the number bad been in- 1226 creasing from 1852 to 1865; and if the receipts were upwards of £152,000 in the former year they must amount to a sum considerably in excess of that amount at the present time. If that were so, that service must recoup, if not the whole, at all events a large proportion of the sum total paid for it. Therefore, the whole amount voted for the postal service of the country being £850,000 per annum, and the surmised receipts being some £500,000, those who contributed so largely to the maintenance of the communication with India ought not to be made to pay for other lines of communication which were not so successful, such as those to the West Indies. In the Report of the Commission, it was stated that the postal services should be kept up partly at the expense of those whose correspondence was conveyed by them, and partly by the State, in consideration for the advantages it derived from them. He concurred in that recommendation. The advantages which the State derived from our whole organized system of postal communication were not very insignificant. Take some recent instances in illustration. When it was necessary, in connection with the Trent affair, to send troops to Canada, where would ready means of transport for them have been found if the vessels employed on the North American postal service had not been available? Again, in the case of Jamaica, the other day, great benefit resulted from the fact that they were able immediately to send out Sir Henry Storks to that island by one of the West India mail packets which also brought the first intelligence to the Government. In the case of the Crimean War the French largely availed themselves of our vessels for the transport of troops; and so alive were the French to the importance of having always at command a large number of these steamers that in every quarter of the globe where we were at this moment maintaining a subsidized line of communication they were eagerly coming forward to share in the enterprize. They had established a line to Cochin-China; they had also lines connecting Bordeaux with Brazil and Buenos Ayres, Havre with the United States, and other ports with Mexico and other parts of the world. The French saw that if their merchants profited by that system the State likewise derived immense advantages from it. He was not asking the Government to run a race of competition in that matter with our French neighbours or any other foreign nation; yet, as in the case of the line of com- 1227 munication with the East Indies, the receipts from the carriage of letters nearly equalled the whole expense incurred, surely the public might reasonably expect that the service should be maintained on a footing of perfect efficiency. They did not want the Government to go to any great expenditure, but only to place their postal communication between this country and the East Indies in a thoroughly efficient state, and on a sound economical basis. The way in which that should be carried out was, that as Bombay should be held to be the great port of India, there should be a separate contract for the service between this country and that port; that parties should be invited to tender separately for these service from Bombay to Suez; and that the services for China, Japan, and the Straits, and for Australia, should be unconnected with the main postal communication between this country and India. By that plan they would break up the practical monopoly now in the hands of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Company, and enable other persons to compete with it. The time had come when they should endeavour to secure the advantages of competition to the utmost, and when they should be able to look upon the one service of India as wholly distinct from that of Australia. He had been asked whether he would consent to the insertion of words in his Motion which would enable the Committee to include the telegraphic communication with China and with Australia within the scope of its inquiry; but it would tend to hamper the inquiry if, in the first instance, such a vast addition were made to the labours of the Committee. He came forward with a specific complaint—namely, a complaint as to the manner in which the telegraphic services with India were carried on, and also with a distinct allegation that as far as the postal communication was concerned it was susceptible of great improvement without any heavy increase of expense. The Committee should, therefore, in the first instance at least, restrict its inquiry to the particular subjects to which he had referred, and if, when it had completed that part of its task, the inquiry could, upon instruction from the House, be extended to other portions of the question, he, for one, would be very glad. He moved for a Select Committee to inquire into the practical working of the present systems of telegraphic and postal communication between this country and the East Indies.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, that he seconded 1228 the Motion. The clear and able statement of his hon. Friend rendered it unnecessary for him to detain the House for more than a few moments. He should have been glad if his hon. Friend had confined his proposal to an inquiry into the telegraphic communication, without adding the postal communication to it. The two questions were too wide for a Committee to deal with within any reasonable period. As to the telegraphic communication, there were great complaints, both of its extreme irregularity in delivery and its great incorrectness. He would confine himself to stating a few facts to corroborate what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for London relative to telegraphs. Like his hon. Friend he had received a great number of communications which he had been requested to submit to the House. He had made a selection, and would give the House a few illustrations of telegraphic irregularity. The first letter to which he would call their attention was one complaining of the telegraphic communication with Bombay. It stated that an order had been sent by telegraph to Bombay for a considerable purchase of cotton. The message, which ought to have been delivered in twenty-four, or at most in thirty-six hours, had not come to hand for thirty-six days, not till after a letter containing a duplicate of the order had been received. The same party received a telegram last month, stating that Mr. H., the managing partner of the concern in Bombay, was leaving in consequence of ill-health, and requesting that a gentleman should be sent out immediately to take his place. A gentleman was sent out at a salary of about £1,000 a year; but soon after a letter arrived from which it appeared that the telegram was not from Bombay; that it was not a man in the position of the partner there who was wanted, but that a clerk of the same name having fallen ill at Madras a person was required to replace him. Within a short period the same parties complained that eleven messages were not delivered at all; four reached in about a month after transmission, and two were unintelligible when delivered. Some four or five months ago application was made to the Electric and International Telegraph Company for repayment of a sum of about £66 for these useless messages. They said they would communicate with the foreign telegraph office, but nothing had been heard of the matter since. He had another letter from Calcutta which stated that in the case of a number of telegraphic messages from 1229 Calcutta the time of transmission was from five to thirty-one days. Two messages were sent out on the 16th of December. One reached in seven, and the other in twenty-three days. One writer said he had sent out "a limit" for the purchase of cotton, which limit was very much increased. In another case this limit was sent "Increase 5 per cent," which was altered to "Increase liver per cent." One house sent to Madras in six months 250 messages, and received 153, at a cost of nearly £4,000, and it so happened that many of those telegrams had never been delivered at all, while in other cases those which had been sent last were delivered first. The only way in which this could be accounted for was that the operators in Turkey not being fond of hard work, waited till they got a number of those messages, when, having previously filed them, they commenced to work them off; so that those which were filed last got their turn first. He did not vouch for that as a fact, but it was one of the statements put forward. He had received one or two suggestions to the effect that the only remedy for the irregularity was to have British "signallers" appointed. They had the evidence of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Sir Charles Bright) that between Bussorah and Kurrachee, that portion of the line being worked by English signallers, messages were sent a distance of 1,500 miles in little more than half an hour. He had received a communication from the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, which had been endeavouring to collect information on the subject. In answer to the inquiries made by the Chamber, an extensive house said that, in their experience, the irregularity was so uniform that they found it difficult to single out instances of irregularity. Every telegram they received was a fresh illustration of the very defective and unsatisfactory working of the system. His hon. Friend had made out a very clear case on the part of the mercantile community; but those who asked for a reform in this telegraphic system might go further. There was no one who had relatives in India but felt that this was a social question, and no one knew better than Her Majesty's Government its importance in a political point of view. He hoped that when his hon. Friend got his Committee he would put practical men upon it—men competent to grapple with the subject; and that if we could not have a perfect, we should at least have an improved system of telegraphic 1230 communication between this country and India.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the practical working of' the present systems of Telegraphic and Postal Communications between this Country and the East Indies."— (Mr. Crawford.)
§ SIR CHARLES BRIGHT
said, that having been practically engaged in the construction and laying down of the portion of the line under discussion in the first part of the speech of the hon. Member for London, he hoped the House would permit him to add the expression of his regret that a line with which so much pains had been taken, and which had cost so much money, should have occasioned so much disappointment. He took it for granted that the Turkish Government was desirous of carrying out the convention; but so little interest did the Turks feel in the matter, that when he arrived from Scinde he found that the line between Bussorah and Bagdad was delayed for a year, owing to some miserable local squabble between the Governor of Bagdad and some of the tribes, and operations in the Turkish dominions had been retarded a whole year. The working of the Indian line had been described as the most wretched in the world. Except for the bad working on the Turkish portion of the line, messages might be sent with the greatest possible regularity between England and Kurrachee in three or four hours, But on arrival at Kurrachee, the distribution of messages to Bombay and Madras was performed in a wretchedly bad manner. He had met a gentleman waiting as long as seven days at Bombay for a telegram, and he had been obliged to wait himself for two or three days for a telegram between Kurrachee and Bombay, a distance of 500 miles. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of this line in a political sense, and while it was working so badly it would be impossible to extend our telegraphic system through Australia and China.
said, he was glad his hon. Friend the Member for the City (Mr. Crawford) had put the telegraphic before the postal communication, but he did not concur with his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) that he ought to have omitted the postal communication altogether. On the contrary, he believed the one was so connected with the other that a Committee would arrive at very imperfect conclusions if it separated them. In expressing the gratitude of the mercantile community to his lion. Friend for having 1231 brought the subject — which he hoped would meet with a full inquiry—under the notice of the House, he might say in reference to a great corporate body, the Peninsular and Oriental Company, that, instead of shrinking from inquiry, or wishing to evade it, they courted the fullest investigation. They were justly proud of their position, for where was the corporate body which had progressed more rapidly and with greater benefit to the public as well as to themselves? It must be admitted that they had done much to promote intercommunication between England and our Indian Empire. It was quite true that that Company was established fourteen years ago, but they had progressed more rapidly than any other trading corporation. Again, it was said that there was a monopoly, but the corporation to which he referred invited all comers, if they were able to do the work better. Still, there were many things which ought to be done which were not done. The service might be greatly improved, the expense possibly lessened, and the public in every way benefited by inquiry. As a mercantile man, and representing a great mercantile and shipping constituency, he entirely concurred in the appointment of a Committee.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that the House was much obliged to the hon. Member for the City for the very lucid and interesting statement he had made in introducing his Motion. It would be unnecessary for him to enter into any lengthened discussion of the various points adverted to by his hon. Friend, because the Government, as had already been intimated, did not intend to oppose the Motion; on the contrary, indeed, they would afford him their hearty support, as they were of opinion that benefit would result from the investigation of a Committee. The proposed inquiry would be divided into two branches—the working of the telegraph system, and the working of the postal system between this country and India. His hon. Friend had, he thought, done right in including the postal system in his proposal, for the two subjects were intimately connected. But the other question was he considered rightly placed first, the telegraph being now so generally used for purposes of business that it was rapidly superseding postal communications. It was expedient that the House should know exactly what faults existed in the great telegraph lines connecting this country with those countries with which our commercial intercourse was on so large a scale. At the same time, his hon. Friend must not 1232 take it for granted that the Amendments which he had suggested—however easy of execution they might appear—would entirely remedy the faults which he had pointed out, or that the existence of those faults was a matter of special blame to the companies who happened at the present moment to have the whole of this business in their hands. If the lines of other telegraphic companies were to be subjected to as minute an examination, it might happen that as grave blots would be found in them as those with the description of which his hon. Friend had amused the House. The subject was one of great difficulty, and where the line passed through several foreign countries, in which different systems prevailed, difficulties existed which could not be grappled with at once. Considering the short period during which the lines had been in operation, it would be unjust to treat them in a hostile spirit and broadly to condemn their operations. On the other hand, he must admit that the present state of affairs was not satisfactory. It must be understood that the Committee was not to be used for the purposes of attack on one company or obtaining subventions for another, but to consider what practical improvements could be made in the system. With respect to postal communication with India, the remarks of his hon. Friend ought to have great weight with the House. The postal arrangement with India had not hitherto been made upon a regular plan, but almost haphazard, as it were, extending now in one direction, now in another, as the temporary occasion required. We had been in such a state of transition both as regarded commerce and political affairs in the East, that he could not point to any particular moment when it would have been thoroughly safe to take up the whole question. He thought, however that the present was a time when the subject might be looked into with great advantage to the public service, especially as a new route to Calcutta, which, with the exception of sixty miles, would be completed in a few months, was about to be brought into operation. That would put the whole question upon an entirely new footing, for communications would be far more rapid by the new railway through Bombay than the present route through Madras and Point de Galle. We were also now approaching a time when the railway would be completed to South Italy, and the communications with Alexandria by Brindisi would be much quicker than they were by Marseilles. The hon. Gentleman had not 1233 noticed the present well-organized system under the French Government through Marseilles, Egypt, Point de Galle, Suez, Singapore, and China. It appeared to him that we had not sufficiently considered to what extent we could avail ourselves of that service which another Government, in a spirit of enterprise, had extended to the extreme East. The present was a fitting occasion for considering the whole matter dispassionately, and the Government would desire to have in the Committee the assistance of thoughtful men of business who could devote time to the inquiry. It was most desirable that in dealing with the question of postal communication the question of economy should not be lost sight of; for at present, notwithstanding the annual contribution of £30,000 by Australia towards the line between England and India, there was a loss on this line of between £80,000 and £90,000 to the Home Government. On these grounds the Government had much pleasure in acceding to the proposal of his hon. Friend.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he rose to make a personal explanation which was forced from him. In former years he had warned the House against being led astray by recommendations with respect to telegraphic communications with the East, made by hon. Members on behalf of undertakings in which they were personally interested. In doing so there was no intention to make any reflection on any particular person, and least of all was there any such intention with respect to his hon. Friend (Mr. Crawford). In the year 1857 his hon. Friend had distinctly recommended that public money should be used in order to establish a line of railway in connection with India. Not having any official responsibility, he did what he hoped independent Members would ever agree to do—defend the public purse. On that occasion he said the House of Commons should regard with great jealousy recommendations made by Members of Parliament of schemes which, however interesting they might be from a benevolent point of view, were substantially commercial undertakings, and ought to be allowed to stand or fall as such. That was the head and front of his offending.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, that when the railway over Mont Cenis was completed there would be a saving of forty-two hours in the communication between this country and the East.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that independently 1234 of the Mont Cenis Railway, there was another line through Italy in a very advanced state, by the Splugen Pass and Brindisi. When it was completed it would open another route to Egypt, by which the inconvenience of crossing the snow-clad Alps would be avoided.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Select Committee appointed, "to inquire into the practical working of the present systems of Telegraphic and Postal Communications between this Country and the East Indies."—(Mr. Crawford.)
§ And, on March 9, Select Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. CRAWFORD, Lord STANLEY, Mr. GUILDERS, Lord ROBERT MONTAGU, Mr. STANSFELD, Admiral SEYMOUR, Mr. AYRTON, Mr. TURNER, Sir HENRY RAWLINSON, Mr. BAILLIE, Mr. WEGUELIN, Sir CHARLES BRIGHT, Mr. LAIRD, Mr. MOFFATT, and Mr. SCHREIBER: Power to send for persona, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.