asked the Postmaster General, If he can now state the decision of the Treasury and Postal Authorities on the question of the Irish Mail Contract, tenders for which were sent in on the 11th instant?
In reply to the hon. Member, I may state that the Government have decided to make an arrangement with the London and North-Western Railway Company for an accelerated service by land, and I hope the acceleration will be brought into operation in the spring. It has also been decided to accept a tender of the City of Dublin Company for an accelerated sea service, and this will be secured as soon as the machinery has been improved, and other structural alterations have been made in their boats. The Company agree to complete these alterations within two years. Contracts are being prepared, and will be ready shortly, to give effect to these arrangements. Without describing the contracts in detail—which, I think, had better be postponed until they have been submitted to the London and North-Western Company and City of Dublin Company—I may state that an acceleration of about three-quarters of an hour each way between London and Kingstown will be secured; that through booking facilities at reasonable rates will be afforded; and that as soon as the necessary alterations can be carried out in the existing beats, improved accommodation for the sorting of the mails, as well as for passengers, will be provided. Immediately the contract with the City of Dublin Company has been agreed to, it will be laid on the Table with the accompanying Papers.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether he is about to take any steps in the contract with the London and North-Western Railway Company to secure that passengers by the mail trains from London to Holyhead shall not be charged a higher rate than that charged by mail trains in other services of the same Company? The right hon. Gentleman promised, on a former occasion, that this matter would have his attention.
I think, as I said, it will be better not to enter into any details; but I can assure the hon. Member that the matter has not been lost sight of, and I think he will see that the Government have done what they could in the matter.
I am sorry to trouble the right hon. Gentleman with a further Question; but I would ask him whether he will see that an acceleration out from Dublin of the mails dependent upon the cross-Channel service is also secured? I ask the Question with reference to the passenger rates now, because when the contract is made it will be too late to discuss the question.
I very much regret that there has been any delay; but the matter has been hastened as much as possible. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and those interested in Ireland that the question of accelerating the mails as far as is practicable in Ireland, now that this question has been virtually settled, will be at once carefully attended to.
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government will use their good offices with the Dublin and Kingstown Railway to put an end to the frequent delays which are caused to the passen- gers and mails after the arrival of the mail beat at Kingstown?
That is one of the points that will be considered.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is able to give the House any information with regard to accelerating the mails between Scotland and Ireland viâ the Larne and Stranraer route?
No, Sir; I am not able to give any information on this subject. I informed the right hon. and gallant Baronet and a deputation who waited upon me that we really could not come to any conclusion in reference to it until the question of the conveyance of the mails between London and Kingstown has been settled; and, of course, it is not settled until it has been approved by Parliament.