HC Deb 29 June 1880 vol 253 cc1123-4

asked the Postmaster General, Whether he will have any objection to lay upon the Table of the House, Copies of the Informations in the case of the Queen v. Burton, a telegraph clerk, sworn before the police magistrates of the city of Dublin on or about the 20th May last; of the bail bonds entered into by the prisoner and his bailsmen; of the official or special shorthand writers' report of the trial at Green Street on Friday, June 18, 1880, when the aforesaid Henry Burton was convicted of, and sentenced to two months' imprisonment for, disclosing telegrams in reference to the late election for the county of Meath; and, whether, considering the grave nature of the circumstances disclosed at said trial, and the importance of securing the confidence of the public in the inviolability of telegraph messages, he will advise Her Majesty's Government that a Commission, independent of the department, shall issue to inquire into the working of, and the complaints made of, alleged divulgations in the telegraph office, Dublin, with directions to report thereon?


Mr. Speaker, in reply to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan), I beg to state that I have no objection to lay on the Table copies of the information and of the bail bonds, if these copies can be secured. With regard to the shorthand writers' notes in the case of the "Queen v. Burton," I shall also have no objection to lay those on the Table; but as they are somewhat voluminous, I think it would be undesirable to have them printed, unless the House subsequently desires it, which is in the discretion of hon. Members. With regard to the proceedings adopted in the Post Office, in any case where it is supposed that the contents of any telegram have been divulged by any official connected with the Post Office, an inquiry of the most searching kind is at once undertaken, and if the report is that the charges have been proved against the official, he is invariably prosecuted. In this ease, against the express wish of the sender of the telegram, the telegraph clerk was prosecuted, and as a result of that prosecution, he was sentenced to two months' imprisonment with hard labour. Under the circumstances I have explained I cannot recommend the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the matter referred to, and I think the proceedings adopted by the Post Office are quite sufficient.


Sir, in consequence of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to give Notice that on Thursday next I shall ask the Postmaster General, Whether any reports have been made by the Post Office authorities in Dublin to the Head Office here as to complaints having been made in Dublin of the divulgation of telegrams with reference to the candidature of any party at the late election for the county of West-meath, and also, as to instructions sent and details of intended movements of Mr. Donnelly in the bye-election for Louth in the month of April last having been divulged to certain members of the Land League in Dublin?