§ MR. ALFRED THOMAS (Glamorgan, E.)
I beg to ask the Postmaster General, with reference to a Circular purporting to be issued by him, forbidding certain meetings of the officers of the Post Office, whether he will suspend the operation of the Order until the Departmental Committee which, on the 15th inst., he informed the House had been appointed to examine the grievances put forward by the telegraph clerks, have reported on the matter; and whether that Committee's Report will be laid before the House?
§ *MR. C. GRAHAM
Will the Postmaster General communicate to the House the full and exact terms of the notice issued recently with reference to the holding of meetings by Postal employés; and will he state the authority by which he is entitled to prohibit postmen from meeting to discuss their grievances, or to insist upon Government shorthand writers being present at such meetings?
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
Has the Postmaster General prohibited meetings of telegraphists, sorters, and postmen outside the Post Office building for the discussion of official questions, except under certain conditions; and is it one of those conditions that "an official shorthand writer be present if required by the authorities"?
§ *MR. RAIKES
What has been done has been to relax the rule of the Service on the subject of meetings outside the Post Office building for the discussion of official questions, not to make the rule 1271 more stringent, and at the same time to make it known to the telegraphists, who appear to have had no intimation of it before, that from this rule they are not exempt. The conditions on which Post Office servants are now allowed to meet are—(1) that ample notice be given to the Local Post Office Authority that such a meeting will be held, and where it is proposed to hold it; (2) that the meeting will be confined to Post Office servants, and to those Post Office servants only, who are directly interested in the matter or matters to be discussed; (3) that an official shorthand writer be present if required by the authorities. I see no reason for suspending the operation of this rule, which is far less stringent than the one it supersedes. Although it would be contrary to precedent, and obviously most inconvenient to the Public Service, to communicate to Parliament any confidential Papers prepared by the Department for Departmental use, I shall, of course, be glad to lay upon the Table such documents as embody the decisions at which the Government may arrive.
§ Replying to a further question by Mr. C. GRAHAM,
§ MR. RAIKES
said: It is certainly my object to confine the meetings to Post Office servants. I wish to protect the Public Service and the State from the incursion of agitators, either hired or otherwise; and with regard to the other part of the hon. Member's question, I have only to say that my wish is that the Department may be accurately informed of the grievances which are alleged at these meetings. With that object it is desirable there should be an authentic report of what takes place at the meetings; but the Post Office servants are, and must be, well aware that to statements made bonâ fide and couched in proper and suitable language, as I am sure they will be, no serious consequences can be attached.
§ In further reply to Mr. C. GRAHAM and Mr. FENWICK.
§ *MR. RAIKES
said: Because this rule is entirely adapted to the persons who are in the service of the State, and my only wish is that accurate information should be obtained of the discussions at these meetings; and I am quite sure that 1272 the fact that an authentic report is made of the meetings will keep within bounds the rhetoric of some of the gentlemen who address the meetings, and that they will confine themselves to the statement of ascertained facts.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
Is it a rule of the Service that none of the officials shall attend Party or political meetings?
§ *MR. RAIKES
I do not think there is any rule which prevents an official attending a-Party meeting; but there has always been a very clear understanding that they should not take any active part in them.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
Under these circumstances, is it true that the right hon. Gentleman himself attended a political meeting?
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
In consequence of the unsatisfactory reply given by the Postmaster General as to the Circular which he has issued respecting the meetings of Post Office servants to discuss official question, I shall on the Post Office Vote call further attention to the matter, and by moving a reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary give the House an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion on the subject.