HC Deb 08 March 1881 vol 259 cc542-3

asked the Postmaster General, Whether he sanctions the extension to such assistants as are relatives of the postmaster, in whose office they are engaged, of privileges which are not accorded to those holding appointments in the service; whether he sanctions the withdrawal, partially or entirely, from telegraph duty of telegraph clerks in offices where the full number of assistants allowed for by the Department is not provided, in order that they may be employed on postal work, and thereby enable the postmaster to dispense with the assistants and absorb their salaries; whether it is not the duty of surveyors, when inspecting offices, to see that the full number of assistants is provided, and none suppressed, and also to see that these are paid at the rate fixed by the Department; does any check exist to make surveyors and their assistants perform these duties; whether he sanctions, in cases where two assistants are allowed for by the Department, the suppression of one, or the suppression of two where three are allowed for; is he aware that the work of the suppressed assistants must be discharged by telegraph clerks, in addition to their own duties; whether, also, postmasters may benefit pecuniarily to any degree by the "assistance" allowances granted to their offices, other than that which they reap by having relatives appointed to assistantships; and, whether it is permissible to postmasters to derive any pecuniary benefit from the allowances made to their offices by not devoting these allowances to the objects for which they are voted?


I conclude, Sir, from the series of divisions contained in the Question which has been addressed to me by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), that he believes that at some post-offices work which ought to be done by the assistants, who are paid out of a lump sum given to the postmasters to provide such assistance, is imposed on telegraphists or other established officers of the Department, and that in this way the postmasters are able to appropriate money which is intended for the payment of their assistants. I can only say that if such practices prevail, I should regard them as grave irregularities, which ought at once to be put a stop to. Such irregularities have not been reported to me. I shall be much obliged if the hon. Member will give me the names of any offices at which he considers that the irregularities in question exist, in order that an investigation may at once be instituted.