HC Deb 07 February 1881 vol 258 cc249-50

asked the Postmaster General, Whether postmasters of those offices to which grants are annually made for the providing of assistance in their offices, and which sums so granted are tabulated in the Estimates under the heading of "Allowance for Assistance" to the respective offices to which such grants are made, are required to furnish receipts for disbursements made under such heading as a guarantee that they devote the grant in its entirety to the purposes for which it is provided; whether they merely claim the sum in their monthly "voted account" which is forwarded to their respective account branch, and furnish no receipts for amounts (if any) paid out of grant; whether any check exists upon postmasters that they duly provide and keep up the assistant staff of their offices to its requisite strength; whether it is true that the allowances provided to certain provincial post offices for the purposes of "assistance" is not so disposed of; whether any cases have come to his knowledge of postmasters appointing their wife and sisters to the position of assistantships in their offices, the duties of which in some instances they do not share in, in others only to a very limited extent; whether also it is a common practice in some provincial offices in Ireland where allowances for two or more assistants are provided, that the postmasters suppress such assistant-ships, providing only one assistant, who is invariably their wife or sister, or female relative, who may he engaged with household affairs; whether he is aware that in such cases the work devolves on the postal and telegraph clerks, in conjunction with letter carriers and telegraph messengers; whether it is regular to employ those in the discharge of the internal work of the office; whether the salaries of suppressed assistants is ever appropriated by the postmaster; and, what steps he is prepared to take to correct such abuses where found to exist?


in reply, said, the hon. Gentleman, in the form of a single Question, had addressed to him 11 Questions, which he would answer as briefly as possible. It had been found advantageous to allow postmasters a limited sum to provide assistance in their offices. A receipt was required for the money thus given. Surveyors were instructed to see whether the work done by the assistants was properly done. If the work was properly done no restriction was placed upon the employment by the postmasters of their wives, sisters, and daughters. From Ireland particularly, he had repeatedly received reports that the post offices where postmasters employed those female members of their households were stated to be most efficiently managed. Of course, it would be irregular for a postmaster to throw upon the established clerks work that should be done by the assistant, but no such instance had come under his notice; and if the hon. Member knew any cases in which it occurred, and directed his (Mr. Fawcett's) attention to it, he would institute an inquiry into the matter.