HC Deb 22 March 1847 vol 91 cc265-9

begged leave to ask the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether any and what steps had been taken to prevent public servants employed in the Post Office being also employed in a private speculation called the Post Office London Directory? It would be in the recollection of the House, that in the last Session of Parliament a very grave charge was brought against the Post Office authorities, with regard to one of the principal officers of that establishment employing inferior persons belonging to the Post Office (the letter-carriers) in a private speculation of his own; and of evading his duty at the Post Office. There was also another charge of a very grave nature brought against the same superior officer. Those charges were, when first brought forward, but very faintly apologized for; and an inquiry was promised to be instituted. The result of that inquiry had not yet transpired; but he (Mr. Moffatt) had been informed that the system of employing public servants (the letter-carriers) to assist Mr. Kelly, the inspector, in getting up a work called the Post Office Directory, was still continued; and that the result of the inquiry would establish against Mr. Kelly the grave charge of his having made an inaccurate return to Parliament of the sum realized by him from the publication of the Directory. Mr. Kelly stated that the sum he received on account of that publication was 1,200l. a year; whereas the statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) showed that Mr. Kelly made something like a sum of 2,500l. a year from that source. Consequently, there had been a distinct inaccurate statement laid before the House of Commons by a public servant. He would not dwell upon the circumstance of the very high price charged to the public for the work in question, though there could be no doubt that Mr. Kelly demanded full 30 or 40 per cent more for the work than it could be profitably sold for by any other publisher. He would simply ask whether any and what steps had been taken to prevent public servants employed in the Post Office being also employed in the manner he had described?


said, that the subject to which the question of the hon. Gentleman referred, was brought under the consideration of the Postmaster General and the Government in the course of last autumn; but considerable difficulties arose on the subject of the amount of compensation to be made to Mr. Kelly, in the event of the publication called the Post Office Directory being taken from him, with a view of its being published under the immediate authority of the Government. That Mr. Kelly's claim to compensation was valid to a certain extent, could not be denied. At that time it was necessary for the Government to come to some immediate decision, in order that the requisite preparations should be made for the publication of the Post Office Directory at the usual period; but the Government were certainly unwilling to accede to the proposal submitted by Mr. Kelly; and at length a communication was made to that gentleman, informing him that he should be permitted to continue to publish the Directory until such time as a decision should be come to. That decision had now been come to, and it was to this effect—that Mr. Kelly himself, who bought the concern from his predecessor in office, and who had spent a considerable sum of money in setting up a printing-office of his own, and erecting the machinery appertaining thereto, for the purpose of carrying on the Post Office Directory in partnership with his brother, who was not in any way connected with the Post Office, was to be permitted to continue the publication of the work, but without any compensation whatever from the public (so we understood the right hon. Baronet to say). Mr. Kelly was, however, prohibited from employing any person connected with the Post Office in the getting up of the Directory; and it was distinctly understood, that if he at any time should employ any public servant belonging to the Post Office to serve him in his private character as the publisher of the Post Office Directory, he would be subject to heavy penalties.


was of opinion that, so far from Mr. Kelly being entitled to compensation in consideration of the publishing of the Post Office Directory being taken from him, the public were justly entitled to restitution from Mr. Kelly for the large sums he had obtained by the publication of that work, which had been entirely got up by the labours of the letter-carriers. Mr. Kelly made a return of his receipts, on account of the Directory, to the amount of 1,200l. a year; whereas if a Committee of Inquiry were granted, he would undertake to prove that Mr. Kelly had made 12,000l. a year out of the Post Office establishment. There was a question he wished to ask the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Mr. Duncombe) understood that Mr. Rowland Hill had got employment in the Post Office, and that he was smothered in a small room, surrounded by three or four clerks. Now, what he wished exactly to know was, what were the duties which Mr. R. Hill had to perform, and what was the amount of salary he received? He was informed that Mr. Hill was perfectly powerless, and could not receive any assistance either from Mr. Kelly or from Mr. Bokenham; and a notice was publicly placarded in the Post Office, stating that any persons (meaning of course the letter-carriers) having any suggestions to offer to Mr. Rowland Hill for the improvement of the Post Office establishment, were to have the goodness to lay their suggestions before Mr. Rowland Hill through the heads of their respective offices. Now, the heads of the offices were Mr. Kelly and Mr. Bokenham. Was it not clear, that even if any of the letter-carriers were to make suggestions for the improvement of the Post Office establishment, or to make known any complaint against the working of that establishment, through the medium of those two gentlemen, no such suggestions or complaints would ever arrive at Mr. R. Hill's table? It was his decided opinion that every communication ought to go directly to Mr. Rowland Hill. To show how much Mr. Kelly and Mr. Bokenham respected Mr. Rowland Hill, he would just remind the House of what occurred when that gentleman left the Post Office in 1842. On that occasion a notice was stuck up to this effect:— Whereas Mr. Rowland Hill's connexion with the Post Office having ceased, notice is hereby given, that any officer belonging to this department (that is to say, the letter-carriers' department) holding communication with him, directly or indirectly, shall be dismissed the public service. Under these circumstances, he should like to know what possible chance Mr. Rowland Hill had of receiving any suggestion for the public benefit through such parties as those who put that notice forward? He thought it therefore important, since the public were paying Mr. Rowland Hill and two or three clerks, that the House should know exactly what was the salary Mr. Rowland Hill received, what were his duties, and what the chance of his receiving any communication for the improvement of the Post Office department through such channels as those?


had been misunderstood by the hon. Gentleman as to what he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said in answer to the question put by the hon. Member for Dartmouth. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had admitted that, according to precedents, Mr. Kelly had a right to compensation to some extent; but that at present Mr. Kelly was permitted to carry on the work on his own account, being at the same time debarred from receiving the services of any person whatsoever employed in the Post Office, for the purpose of aiding him in such publication. But if the Post Office authorities were to take away the publication of the Directory from Mr. Kelly, then his claim for compensation would stand as at present. With regard to Mr. Rowland Hill, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Duucombe) had stated what had been done by certain parties in 1842; and he had also mentioned the fact of a certain notice having been put up at the Post Office. Now, whether those gentlemen, whose names his hon. Friend mentioned, had so acted or not, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had had no opportunity of ascertaining; for no notice had been given to him that his hon. Friend intended to put any question respecting- Mr. Rowland Hill. It might be known to most hon. Gentlemen that the business of the Post Office had increased to a most enormous extent. A few days ago, he had received a return, showing that the number of letters passing through the Post Office in one week was now more than double the number that passed through it five years ago. For the particular week at the present time, the number of letters was upwards of 6,000,000; whereas five years ago the number for the week was only 3,000,000. This, of course, had very much increased the labours of the Post Office. This being so, it was thought desirable that additional assistance should be given to that department; and the Government were of opinion that no one in this country was so well qualified to give that assistance as Mr. Rowland Hill. That gentleman was accordingly appointed Secretary to the Postmaster General, with several clerks of his own. The salary of Mr. Rowland Hill was 1,200l. a year. [Mr. T. DUNCOMBE: What are the salaries of the clerks?] He could not exactly say what they were; and his hon. Friend must admit that it was not too much to say that he could not carry in his head the exact amount of the salaries of all the clerks. But the salary of Mr. R. Hill himself was, as he had stated, 1,200l. a year; and he was happy to say, in relation to the services of that gentleman, that in a conversation which he had with his noble Friend the Postmaster General a few days ago, his noble Friend informed him that Mr. Rowland Hill had been the means of introducing very great reforms in the Post Office establishment.