HC Deb 02 August 1890 vol 347 cc1705-7

"That a sum, not exceeding £1,583,845 (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 Working Expenses of the Post Office Telegraph Service."

MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)

I wish to call attention to what I may characterise as an extraordinary statement made last night by the Postmaster General in the Debate relating to the question of the telegraph clerks at Cardiff. I was not present during the Debate. I am sorry to hear that the Postmaster General has left town for Carlsbad. I was surprised to read the following in the report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in the Times:The editor of an infamous print, the Western Mail, seemed to have done his best to induce the servants of the Telegraph Office to disclose information for publication. The right hon. Gentleman was smarting under attacks made upon him in the Western Mail for his conduct in removing from Cardiff certain telegraph clerks who had written to the local Press, and be appears to have lent a ready ear to stories told to him about the way in which the Western Mail attempted to obtain official information from clerks in the Telegraph Office. Now I personally refrained from taking any part in the Debate, because it might be supposed I had an interest in the matter, as I am one of the proprietors of this newspaper, and I therefore left it in the hands of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff. I must say, however, it seems a most unwarrantable proceeding on the part of a Minister of the Crown to stand up in his place in Parliament and bring a shameful charge of that kind against a newspaper of large circulation and high standing, which has probably done as much service for the Conservative cause in the country, and for the public interest, as even the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General has done in the course of his long public life. I believe the only conceivable foundation for a charge of that kind is, that a telegram relating to the movements of the Postmaster General himself found its way into the columns of the Western Mail. The right hon. Gentleman was going down to Cardiff, and sent a telegram to say he could not come at the time he intended, but would a little later. That was a matter which interested the telegraph clerks more than ordinary telegrams would, and they appear to have talked about it to one another, and the news got round in the office, and one of the Post Office clerks—not one of the telegraph clerks—appears to have conveyed the information in a gossiping way to one of the reporters of the newspaper. Whether a thing of that kind justifies the Postmaster General in coming down and saying that a newspaper which publishes a telegram of that sort is an infamous print and tries to corrupt public servants I will leave it to the House to say. It seems to me to be an exceedingly unfair and improper thing for any Minister of the Crown to take advantage of his position as a Member of Parliament to bring such charges against men who are quite as honourable as himself. If the right hon. Gentleman had been present I should probably have used much stronger language; as it is, I will content myself with saying that the Western Mail is no more an infamous print than the right hon. Gentleman is an infamous Minister. If this is the way in which he deals with outside and unofficial critics, then I can only hope the right hon. Gentleman will come back from Carlsbad in better health and better temper, or I shall be very sorry for the unfortunate servants in the Post Office and Telegraph Service, who are at the right hon. Gentleman's mercy.

Resolution agreed to.