HC Deb 01 August 1890 vol 347 cc1644-8

1. "That a sum, not exceeding £4,898,551 (including a Supplementary sum of £50,000), be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Post Office Services, the Expenses of Post Office Savings Banks, and Government Annuities and Insurances, and the Collection of the Post Office-Revenue."

(12.2.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I have to bring forward a case which I should not mention were it not for the fact that other cases have from time to time occurred. It argues a very bad system that postmen against whom no complaint can be made and who are credited by the Post Office itself with a clean record, may on some pretence—it may be on a false accusation made by persons having a grudge against them—be deprived of their means of livelihood without being allowed a chance of clearing themselves or having the case properly investigated. A man named Cornwell had been engaged in a Department of the Post Office in which it was his duty to investigate cases of theft. He served the Post Office so faithfully that in a particular case of robbery he was complimented at the trial, I think by the Judge, upon his skill in unravelling the plot. At a later period, when he was in a different position, and had to supervise the transmission of parcels, a certain parcel was found to be missing. Some months afterwards the loss of that parcel was attributed to him. Comwell alleges that the charge was trumped up against him by certain other officials whom he had offended when on detective duty. After the parcel had passed through his hands it was placed in an ordinary basket, and he received no receipt to show that he had properly handed it over. On the charge against him being made, a detective went to his house, and, after treating him with something like contumely, actually carried away the keys of his desk. As I understand, no inquiry has been vouchsafed to this gentleman, and he was simply dismissed the Service. Surely, in such a case, it is only right that a man should have the opportunity of clearing himself of the charge made against him.

(12.10.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give me an answer to the question I have addressed to him regarding the mail service in the North of Ireland. The matter was fully explained to the right hon. Gentleman by a very powerful deputation representing every class in the North of Ireland; and the right hon. Gentleman made so satisfactory and significant a reply that there was the very general belief that the case would be promptly dealt with. In order to emphasise the urgency of the case, let me say that twice this very week in Belfast letters which ought to have been delivered at noon were not delivered until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The outward mail leaves at 2.55 p.m., so that there were only 55 minutes on these two days to answer the general and commercial correspondence in that great community. In several other towns in the North of Ireland the inward mails are not delivered until the outward mails have left. The City of Belfast is a most important contribution to the Customs Revenue of the United Kingdom—it is next to London and Liverpool—and taking all the circumstances into account, I do trust the right hon. Gentleman will lose no time in dealing with the case.

(12.14.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

There has been a grievance of a local character brought to my notice, and I desire to lay it before the Postmaster General. It relates to the allowance of overtime to postmen in some districts in the North of Ireland. Owing to the difficulties of the sea passage, the delivery of the Scotch mails in Belfast and along the Great Northern line is sometimes extremely irregular, and the postmen who are charged with the delivery of the letters in Belfast and Lurgan and other towns receive an allowance for overtime. I have been informed that in Lisburn there is no allowance for overtime. The postmen charged with the delivery of these letters in Lisburn have to wait on two or three occasions during the week for an hour or an hour and a half before they can get the letters. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will inquire into the matter, and that, if he finds my statement to be correct, he will place the postmen of Lisburn on the same footing as the postmen of Belfast and other towns.

(12.16.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

I trust the right hon. Gentleman will soon be able to see his way to effect an improvement in the postal arrangements at Macroom. I have brought the matter under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman before, and, therefore, there is no necessity that I should say more now.

(12.17) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)

I only wish to say one word with regard to the Stranraer service. We hope the right hon. Gentleman will take steps as soon as possible to improve the Mail Service from England to the North of Ireland.

MR. M'CARTAN (Down, S.)

It is a matter of paramount urgency to the commercial community of Belfast that the evening Service from Stranraer should be improved. The community are inconvenienced very much by the lateness of the mails. The deputation which waited upon the Postmaster General was influential and representative of all classes and of all shades of politics. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to act upon their suggestions, and thus afford the commercial community of Belfast the postal facilities they are justly entitled to.

(12.18.) MR. RAIKES

The hon. Member for Camborne has brought for- ward the case of a man named Cornwell, who has recently been dismissed from the Post Office service. The hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. The case is one to which I have given a great deal of personal attention; indeed, I may say that in cases of dismissal or punishment I have always endeavoured to satisfy myself thoroughly as to the facts, and to mitigate, if I can, the effect of the regulations of the Department. Cornwell has now been dismissed for the second time. He was dismissed two years ago for making extremely glaring false statements relating to a brother officer, who is since deceased, and I have always regretted that I was induced to reinstate him upon his making a very full apology and retraction of the charge, because I had great doubt at the time as to whether he was a fit person, under the circumstances, to remain in the Service. Cornwell had a superabundant opportunity of stating his case, and I could come to no other conclusion than that it was necessary, in the interest not merely of the Service at large, but especially in that of the other men employed on the same duty, that his case should be dealt with in an exemplary manner. Therefore, it is impossible to hold out any hope that Cornwell will be restored to the Service. The hon. Members for West Belfast and Down have very naturally pressed for some further statement as regards the Mail Service to the North of Ireland. I admit all that has been said by the hon. Members, both as to the importance of the interests involved and as to the influential and representative character of the deputation I had the honour to receive. I have lost no time in endeavouring to obtain the necessary data on which to form an opinion. As soon as I have those data I will lose no time in arriving at a decision in the matter. The hon. Member for Antrim has called attention to some inequality which exists in regard to the pay of postmen in Ulster. I will see whether there is any foundation for the complaint. I have to thank the hon. Member for Mid Cork for the patience he has shown in dealing with the question of Macroom, which he brought under my notice two years ago. If I am able to do anything in the direction he desires, I shall be most happy to do so.

Resolution agreed to.

2."That a sum, not exceeding £539,829 (including an additional sum of £37,169), be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of Starch, 1891, for the Expense of the Post Office Packet Service."

Resolution agreed to.