HC Deb 12 February 1872 vol 209 cc212-4

asked the Postmaster General, Whether during the recent strike of Telegraph Clerks a Government official suppressed, delayed, or otherwise interfered with certain telegraph messages; whether that was done with the knowledge or sanction of the Government; and, if not, whether Government has censured or is prepared to justify the act?


, in reply, said, that on the 7th of December four postal telegrams were delayed for, he thought, about four hours. On the 8th of December six more were delayed, but only, he believed, for a few minutes. That was done without the knowledge or sanction of the Government. The best answer he could give to the last part of the Question was to read the following reply which he had directed to be addressed to the Manchester Chamber of Commerce on the 20th of January last:— I am directed by the Postmaster General to acknowledge the Resolution of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, complaining of the delay of telegrams by the Department during the recent strike. Mr. Monsell desires me to call your attention to the fact that the Department had to deal not only with an organized opposition within itself, but also with an intention to put the public to the greatest possible inconvenience as a means of coercion. When it was found that the machinery of the Department was used against the objects for which it was established, the necessity arose for immediate action in the interest of the public, and the detainment of the telegraphs of which you complain was made openly and without any attempt at concealment. But the language of the Acts of Parliament bearing on the subject appears to Mr. Monsell so clear and precise, and the importance of retaining public confidence in the inviolability of telegrams sent through the Post Office so manifest, that he has found himself unable to give an official sanction to proceedings which nevertheless he believes to have been dictated by a sense of public duty. Mr. Monsell desires me to add that he has directed an order to be issued calling the attention of the Department to the Acts of Parliament defining the duties of Post Office telegraph officers with respect to the transmission of telegraphic messages, and requiring strict obedience to the law. Clear and definite instructions, to prevent a recurrence of what had occurred, had been drawn up and issued to the whole of the Telegraph Department; and he therefore trusted that the course he had taken had secured the inviolability of telegrams—to which the public naturally attached the greatest possible importance—without, however, casting a censure, which he was sure everybody in that House would regret, on a meritorious public servant.


asked the Postmaster General, with reference to a Resolution recently passed by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Whether he has received a written explanation from the officer who is charged in that Resolution with committing a breach of the Law in delaying private Telegrams; and, if so, whether he will lay that explanation upon the Table of the House?


, in reply, said, he had called for the explanation referred to in the hon. Gentleman's Question; and if the hon. Gentleman thought fit to move for a copy of it, it would be laid on the Table.