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an annual fight in the New Zealand Parliament over postal subsidies. I was only a private member, but I took a certain part in this, and I know that we used to get our letters regularly from New Zealand to Great Britain in 30 days. I do not say that that was so on every occasion, but it was usual-oftener under 30 days than over. do not think we have got a mail through under 30 days for years past; generally it takes 35 or 36 days, and sometimes over 40. It all depends how the letters are sent.
Three Main Mail Routes between Great Britain and New Zealand.
There are three main mail routes between New Zealand and Britain; one is through the Panamá Canal. I believe that will be the fastest of the three routes before long when an improved service is inaugurated, but it is certainly not yet, because the vessels trading through the Panamá Canal from New Zealand to England are mostly cargo vessels with passenger accommodation— good ships and comfortable ones to travel by-but the voyage usually takes 36 days, very seldom under 40. The other two routes are viâ San Francisco and New York, and by way of Vancouver and one of the ports on the eastern side of Canada, either Halifax or Montreal.
I do not think there is much difference in the time occupied by either of these two routes, but I wanted to find out for myself what could be done with regard to this matter. That was one of the reasons for my coming on this occasion across the United States in coming to England. I came from New Zealand to London in twentyseven and a half days actual travelling time.
The Problem of the Time Factor.
Naturally it occurs to me that if it is possible to get passengers from New Zealand to England in twenty-seven and a half days, it should surely be possible to get mails across. There is the problem to be solved. We are paying subsidies-I am speaking of the New Zealand Government-to the Shipping Company for the steamers. coming from Wellington to San Francisco and also from Auckland to Vancouver. I think the amout is about £25,000 in each case. The New Zealand people are grumbling, and the matter was recently brought up in the New Zealand Parliament when the postal estimates were before the House. I promised that I would look into it, and I thought this was a good opportunity for doing so. The vessels are being improved. There is a very fine steamer, likely to be the best in the Pacific when she is placed in the service, being built for the Sydney-Auckland-Vancouver route. Sydney will be the terminal port. She is to be fitted with new Diesel Engines, and is expected to steam 19 knots. There are, of course, faster vessels on the Atlantic, but in the Pacific an average speed of 19 knots is very good. The vessel I travelled in when I did the journey in twenty-seven and a half days was just an ordinary ship carrying both passengers and cargo. She was built originally to carry fruit from the West Indies to England, but the trade did not pay, and she
was sold to the present Company, who have used her for several years. The best speed she could attain was 17 knots, and yet the whole journey here took only twenty-seven and a half days. Much faster steamers are wanted-of course, that is a big consideration— perhaps a better time-table on the railways, and that may be difficult to manage.
I am not finding fault with the time taken in crossing the continent of America, but what is wanted is a more businesslike arrangement so that when the steamers come either to Canada or San Francisco no time is lost in getting the necessary train connections. On the night I arrived at San Francisco there was a train. going to New York. About 500 bags of mails were entrained. stopped two and a half days in the States, and was able to make a long promised visit in Washington. I cannot vouch for this-and honestly I should like to think my information was not correctbut I was informed by people in London, whose correspondence came in the steamer in which I travelled to San Francisco and which was placed on board the train for New York that night, that the mail was not delivered until the day we arrived in London, though I remained two and a half days in the States, during which I was not travelling. Now there is something wrong there. I am not able to say what it is; I hope I shall be able to find out, but I do want the British Post Office to help us in these matters. Nowadays it is far too long to occupy thirty-five or forty days in carrying mails between New Zealand and England, and we ought to do a great deal better than that. What is wanted is speeding up, and, so far as we are concerned, we are quite ready to do our share at the other end if the British Post Office Authorities will help us at this end, and I hope they will.
Appeal for restoration of Penny Post by Great Britain.
With regard to penny postage-I do not need to repeat what has been said before on this occasion-but New Zealand has led the way. Many years ago the British Government led the way in connection with penny postage, and there was a loss. New Zealand followed up closely with regard to penny postage, and soon the revenue was increased. We were making a profit with penny postage, but when mention is made of the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would lose £5,000,000 by adopting penny postage, what I think is forgotten is that there is bound to be a large increase in the number of letters carried and therefore a corresponding increase in the revenue. I am not able to say that the one will balance the other, because I think it is very doubtful that it will, and, as far as I am concerned, I am looking at it as Finance Minister, and I have to watch very carefully that my accounts balance at the end of the year. I quite expect to make a loss with penny postage for three or six months before we get back to a normal revenue. All the same, I think that the authorities here are taking a pessimistic view of what will happen by its adoption. I am simply expressing an opinion on a subject in which we are both interested. Here is an anomaly.
A letter is posted in New Zealand to Great Britain and the postage is 1d. The reply from Britain to New Zealand costs 14d. I think it is an anomaly that ought to be put right, and I believe it will be perhaps before very long.
Mr. Massey to confer with G.P.O. regarding New Zealand Mail Service.
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans: May I say one word in answer to Mr. Massey. I do not want to debate your statement at all, but I am told that it is New Zealand herself who makes the arrangements in regard to the Pacific, the sailings in the Pacific.
Mr. Massey: Yes.
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans: It is in your contract, not in the British Post Office contract, but I would very much like to take the opportunity while you are over here of having a conference with you, because I entirely sympathise with your desire to shorten the time. If you can get a passenger across in twentyseven and a half days, why not get the mails across? I quite agree that that question has got to be answered, and I would very much like, if you yourself were going to go into it, or if you could depute somebody to go into it, that you should come to the Post Office and do us the honour of conferring down there about it. We ought to do something together to reduce the time.
Mr. Massey: Thank you very much; I shall be very glad. As a matter of fact if it were possible to get the mails through the Canal there is no reason why we should not have a weekly service, but the vessels through the Canal are slower than the others and I hesitated to suggest it. With the others we can have a fortnightly service with no trouble at all.
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans: We could go into all these points.
Mr. Massey: I should be very glad.
Imperial Penny Post and possible Revenue Loss.
Colonel Guinness: There is just one point which Mr. Massey raised about the Imperial penny post. I am sure the Treasury will not forget the Imperial value of any such change, but Mr. Massey mentioned that it was possible that the increased revenue would very soon wipe out the anticipated loss. Well, I am informed that the increased cost of handling the greatly increased mails would be so great, especially for the internal post of which the volume is probably ten times greater than the external post, that it might well be that we should repeat the experience when the penny post was originally instituted when I understand it took twenty-five years to make up the loss in revenue. I can only say that I will see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is made aware of the opinions that have been expressed this afternoon and I am quite
sure he will bear this Imperial consideration in mind when he comes to consider the point.
Mr. Massey: I am quite sure he will be sympathetic if it is possible to do it.
India desires Regularity of Mails rather than Increased Speed. Mr. Innes I have very little to say. As regards our mails it is true that our services are one day longer than before the war, but the mail steamers do what is after all their main duty, they bring documents of title before the goods to which those documents of title refer arrive. What we chiefly desire in India, since we do so much of our business by cable, is regularity rather than increased speed, especially as we recognise that increased speed must mean a largely increased cost.
The discussion was resumed at the Tenth Meeting of the Conference, on the 17th October, 1923, when Sir Halford Mackinder, Chairman of the Imperial Shipping Committee, attended and made the following statement :
Origin and Character of the Imperial Shipping Committee.
Sir Halford Mackinder: Mr. President, I imagine that the Conference would probably like me, in the first instance, to say a few words by way of report on the work of the Committee itself, because, of course, the Committee was the child of the Imperial Conference. It originated, you will remember, in a Resolution passed at the 1918 Conference, on the initiative, I think, of Mr. Massey. I may remind you that at first the idea was that there should be two bodies concerned with the shipping of the Empire, the one charged with considering improvements, the other charged with the consideration of complaints. But after discussion at the 1918 Conference, it was determined that there should only be one Imperial Shipping Committee, because it was felt that such a single body would carry more weight and also that you would get better people to serve upon it. The Committee is technically what is known here as a Prime Minister's Committee. It is appointed by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but practically it is an Imperial Committee, because the Prime Minister nominates the representatives of the different parts of the Empire at the suggestion of the several parts. Several Dominions have for their representatives their High Commissioners in London; that is so in the case of India also. Others, as in the case of Australia, have chosen shipping experts. Then, in addition, there is a certain number of persons experienced in shipping and commerce-two chairmen of great shipping companies, one chairman of a great ship-building company, and two merchants, who have both of them, I think, been presidents of important Chambers of Commerce. So that the Committee is both representative of the whole Empire and it is also, within limits, expert. The Committee, of course, differs from all ordinary com
mittees appointed by the British Prime Minister, in that it is instructed to report direct to all or any of the Governments of the Empire; and nearly all our reports, as the Prime Ministers will remember, have been addressed to the Prime Ministers of all the Governments of the Empire.
Powers of the Committee.
Well, Sir, there was some delay after the 1918 Conference because there were negotiations in regard to the constitution of the Committee, and the Committee did not get to work until the autumn of 1920, just three years ago. Since that time there have been sixty meetings of the full Committee, many meetings of sub-committees, and a certain number of conferences between parties in dispute, over which I have presided as the impartial chairman of the Imperial Shipping Committee. I think we may say that if you exclude the months of August and September the Committee has held a meeting of some sort on an average every week during the three years. Well, then, Sir, more important than those points, are the powers of the Committee; it is purely an advisory Committee, of course, but if you are to measure what the Committee has been able to do and to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction, it is necessary also to remember that it has no power to compel the attendance of witnesses or to compel the production of papers or accounts, and it has no money wherewith to obtain technical advice or criticism in regard to any propositions that may be put before it.
The Habit of Unanimity.
Now, recognising these limitations we decided very early in the history of the Committee that it was necessary that we should set to work in order to accomplish two things; in the first place that, if possible, we should always be unanimous. Our advice would carry weight in proportion to the degree of our agreement. When you have to do practical things, and when execution will not wait, you may have to act by a majority. But in the case of such a committee as ours we felt that unanimity and a habit of unanimity was essential. There were two possible sources of difference. One part of the Empire might take one view and another part of the Empire another view, or you might have had the representatives of the Governments taking one view and the experts experienced in commerce and shipping taking another view. In either case, our report would have failed to carry weight, and I am glad to say that all the reports from time to time sent to the Prime Ministers have been, as a fact, unanimous. That has been accomplished by a method to which I would venture to draw your attention.
Method of obtaining Unanimity
We determined that actual members of the Committee, representative of particular Governments, should not themselves initiate subjects for our discussion. Had they done so, they would have become advocates. A man who laid himself out to convince his