HC Deb 17 June 1881 vol 262 cc759-60

asked the Postmaster General, Whether the scheme for dealing with the representations contained in the memorials of the sorting clerks will be issued at the same time as that with respect to the telegraphists?


Sir, although I am very reluctant to occupy the time of the House, I think it will be desirable to answer this Question in some detail. I am glad that the noble Viscount has addressed this inquiry to me, for I should be sorry if it were thought that the case of the postal or, as they are sometimes called, sorting clerks had not received as much consideration as that of the telegraphists. As I have stated on previous occasions, various Memorials were forwarded to me some months since from the postal clerks and the telegraphists referring to certain grievances under which they alleged they were Buffering. In repty, I stated that I would give careful consideration to all the matters complained of, and that I would spare no effort to arrive with the least delay possible at a just conclusion. The postal clerks at once accepted this assurance in the spirit in which it was given, and they have waited quietly for the decision which was promised them. It is scarcely necessary for me to remind the House of the very different course which has been pursued by the telegraphists. Almost before I had time to commence the necessary investigation, before even I had received some of the communications which the telegraphists themselves had expressed to me, I was again and again pressed with Questions in this House. Meetings were repeatedly held by the telegraphists, in which threats of a strike were freely indulged in, and my own action and that of the Department in the matter was denounced in no very measured terms. Under these circumstances, I feel that the postal clerks ought to receive, at least, as much consideration as the telegraphists, and I am glad to be able to state that the same steps will be taken in their case as those which I think are necessary to improve the position of the telegraphists. The scheme by which it is proposed to carry out the changes contemplated will be laid on the Table almost immediately. When I mention that these changes will involve an immediate charge of £68,000 a-year, and an ultimate charge of not less than £150,000 a-year, I am sure the House will feel that no one who is responsible for the administration of a Department would be justified in proposing, nor would the Treasury be justified in sanctioning, so large an increase in the expenditure of public money before the subject had been thoroughly investigated in all its aspects.