3. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £120,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1892, for the Post Office Services.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I regret that the Postmaster General should not be in his place when the Post Office Vote comes before the Committee, because I wish to call attention to several matters which can properly be discussed on this Vote. A few days ago I asked a question with respect to a most respectable official of the Dublin Post Office who committed suicide. The evidence at the inquest showed that this unfortunate gentleman had been harshly treated by his superior in the Department in some matter arising out of the discharge of his duties, and that he got into such a state of nervous tension that he unfortunately lost self-control and took away his own life. The case was a sad one, because the man left a widow and nine children totally unprovided for. I should like to have suggested to the Postmaster General that some provision should be made for them, but as the right hon. Gentleman is not here it is scarcely worth while to go on with the matter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman will be here directly. He did not know the Vote would be reached so soon; but he has been sent for.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose that in the meantime we should have a recess?
§ MR. SEXTON
The jury added to their verdict a rider that the suicide was due to the harsh treatment of this official by his superiors. I should have thought that it was not the part of the Government to remain silent in the face of such a verdict, and I, as a Member of the House, am unwilling to remain in ignorance of the facts. I, therefore, ask that any correspondence 1096 which took place between this man Cleary and his superiors should be laid on the Table of the House. I think we ought to be in a position to judge as to the treatment the man received, and I ask, further, that the widow and orphans should not be left to ruin and beggary. The Department are under some responsibility in this matter, and it is no answer to say that there is no fund for the purpose. The Imperial Purse is open for this purpose, and this matter might very well be included in the Vote for miscellaneous and compassionate purposes, which we shall be asked to pass. I have also to complain that in the Belfast Post Office a system totally different from that in other post offices prevails—namely, that the nomination to appointments in that office is left purely in the discretion of the Postmaster of Belfast. The local postmaster is the master of the situation in the matter of appointments, and he exercises a kind of regal irresponsibility in so far that his nomination is necessary before a candidate can be examined. I see no reason why the ordinary rule of the Civil Service should not apply to this office, and I should like to hear the explanation of the Postmaster General on that matter. Then there is another matter which I wish to raise on this Vote, with respect to the appointment of a sub-postmaster at Ligoniel, near Belfast. The post became vacant, and the sub-postmaster was succeeded on the premises by a person named William Smyrl. The Belfast postmaster, of whom I have previously spoken, went down, saw the new tenant of the premises, arranged with him that the premises should be used as a post office, and undertook that, if Smyrl applied for the office of sub-postmaster, his application should be recommended. The new tenant accommodated the postmaster, and sent in an application, which was supported by nine-tenths of the inhabitants of the place, and at the end of two months the post was given to another man whose shop was a very small place. Another curious matter in connection with this case is that the memorial which was signed by the inhabitants did not reach Dublin, and I cannot help thinking that the whole matter was a job.
§ (6.19.) THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) (who had entered the House while Mr. Sexton was speaking) Manchester, N.E.
I am very sorry I was out of the House when this Vote was reached. I have been waiting for days for the Estimates, and just at the time I was busy and did not know that the question was before the House. With regard to the case of the Dublin Post Office official who committed suicide, it is quite true, as I said in answer to a question, that the jury appended to their verdict an expression of opinion that he had been harshly treated by his superiors. But, as I stated, I have most carefully inquired into this case, and I cannot think that the allegation of the jury was supported by any real evidence. The facts of the case are these. In the course of last year Cleary was censured for delay in carrying out certain orders of his superiors. He was cautioned and reprimanded, and there the matter ended. Some months afterwards he received promotion, which certainly would not have been the case had he not been a man of good character, and who had, on the whole, given satisfaction. It is quite true that he was not promoted to be assistant superintendent, because he was not thought strong enough, for all the superior posts in the Post Office must be filled by men with special qualifications. This fact appears to have preyed upon his mind. He was a man of nervous temperament, and had been under the treatment of the Post Office medical officer for nervous depression or exhaustion, so much so that he was advised to take a considerable period of rest from his duties. This, being a man with a large family, he did not like to do, and after having done his morning duties one day, he went home and destroyed himself. There is absolutely no ground for the allegation of harshness. The only occasion on which he was found fault with was on the occasion to which I have referred, and he was afterwards promoted. I see, therefore, no reason for the production of the correspondence, or for any imputation on the officials under whom he served—officials, I may say, with respect to whom I have ascertained 1098 that they are men of exceptional kindness of heart, and were not likely to treat anyone harshly.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
The officials under whom this unfortunate man immediately served. Next, with respect to the appointments in the Belfast Post Office, the hon. Member will be surprised to hear that the same system is in operation in every post office in the country outside of the Metropolitan district, excluding Edinburgh and Dublin. I must confess it surprised me, but it has the advantage that it gives the postmasters an idea that they are responsible for the conduct of the office, and they are likely then to choose their subordinates well. The system, however, is the same as in all other provincial post offices, and I have no reason to believe that the selections made by the Belfast postmaster have given any ground for complaint. If, however, any case were reported to me, I should take pains to inquire fully into all the circumstances. With respect to the sub-postmaster at Ligoniel, I answered a question the other day when the question of the appointment came up; there was a choice between two men, and the reason why one was appointed was because the other had licensed premises. The other man's premises were more central, and I dare say, had there been no objection, he would have had the appointment.
§ (6.26.) MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I beg to thank the Postmaster General for having removed this post office from a public-house, as I think it is most undesirable that licensed premises should be used for any purpose of this kind. I hope the same policy will be pursued in other parts of Ireland. With respect to the Belfast Postmaster, who has been referred to, I should like to say that he is a most painstaking official, a man who is highly respected, and the value of whose public services is recognised.
§ MR. SEXTON
I do not know the gentleman, and that is why I consider the public interest of the case in a more impartial way.
§ MR. JOHNSTON
I do not know him in the sense that the hon. Member suggests. I know him as a public 1099 officer, and in that capacity I speak of him.
§ (6.27.) MR. SEXTON
I desire that the office of this postmaster should be administered in an ordinary manner, and with all respect for the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Fergusson) I think the inhabitants of Ligoniel were better judges of the requirements of the place than he is. This is another instance of the way in which the government of Ireland is conducted, not for the public interest, but for the benefit of some anonymous friends and supporters of the Government. With respect to the administration of the Belfast office, I can only say that the same system of appointment does not prevail in Dublin or in London, and Belfast is as large as Dublin, and quite as important to the North of Ireland. If the open system is good for London and Dublin, why should it not be extended to Belfast, where at present there is a feeling that the avenue to the Post Office Service is closed to all except a favoured few by the nomination of the postmaster? It is intolerable that a power of this kind should be placed in the hands of an irresponsible man; and unless I receive an assurance that Belfast will be placed on the same footing as Dublin, I shall move a reduction of the Vote. With respect to the case of Cleary, I cannot abandon my demand for the correspondence. The Postmaster General, with what he has said to the House, speaks only from his brief; he has been misinformed. He tells us what his officials tell him, and it is those officials who have been impeached. I submit also that the Government should make some allowance in this case in the Miscellaneous and Compassionate Vote which will come before us; and as the right hon. Gentleman has the Treasury officials now on either side of him, I trust he will use his influence in the matter. A man may be a nervous man, but apart from harsh treatment, his nervousness is no reason for his committing suicide; and the very fact that they knew him to be a nervous man is a reason why these kind-hearted officials, of whom the right hon. Gentleman has spoken, should have been more considerate. I say this, that the 1100 Irish Members here will not willingly consent to see the widow and orphans of that man, who spent his life in the service of the State, condemned to beggary and pauperism by the action of officials. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any compensation or grant is to be given, and to mark my sense of the importance of the matter I move to reduce the Vote by £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £119,000, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ (6.33.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
I must apologise for having omitted to answer the hon. Gentleman with regard to the question of compensation or of a benevolent grant. The fact is, that I did answer that the other day when a question was put to me on the subject. While feeling for the distress of this poor woman, as I think anybody must feel, there is really no case for asking the Treasury to make a compassionate allowance. This poor man was in a state of mind which no doubt justified the Coroner's jury in their verdict of "Suicide during temporary insanity"; but it is impossible under such circumstances to give a public grant to the widow. But I may repeat this: there were three of the children who were of sufficient age, and to whom employment was given in the Dublin Post Office at an aggregate wage of 37s. a week. The others are too young for such employment; but I am sure that when they come to such an age they will be similarly employed. That, I think, shows that there has not been indifference in this matter on the part of the Secretary at Dublin. The hon. Member has expressed disapproval of the system of nomination of persons to the charge of post offices in Belfast. Well, Sir, Belfast can hardly be treated differently from other towns in the Kingdom. Belfast might hardly be pleased if it were.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
Metropolitan offices are, as I have formerly stated, treated differently; but Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow are places of equal importance with Belfast, and the system is the same in these towns. But I am not surprised that the 1101 system which has hitherto obtained has been criticised. I have considered whether a better system could be introduced; but it is evident that it cannot be introduced for Belfast alone, and a change so large, affecting the postal service all over the Kingdom, must not be lightly undertaken. As hon. Members are aware, I have had large affairs in the Post Office to consider since I assumed charge of it, and the Committee will hardly feel surprised, therefore, that I have not altered the system up to this time. But that it is not an altogether satisfactory system I am quite prepared to admit.
§ (6.39.) MR. J. O'CONNOR
I am glad to hear, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman intends to investigate this system with a view to bringing about an improvement on a state of things which has been the source of innumerable questions in this House, and of much feeling in the country. On this point, therefore, we may perhaps be content, at present, to wait and see what the nature of the change is that may be proposed. But my immediate purpose in rising is to refer to the case of Mr. Cleary, which has been brought forward by my hon. Friend, if he will allow me to call him so, the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton). It is, I would say, a case of the most glaring hardship. A Coroner's jury has pronounced on the matter; and I would ask—Is no respect to be paid to the public opinion manifested by their verdict? I respectfully say that the provision which the right hon. Gentleman has told us has been made for the children—the employment in the Post Office of the children of a man who sacrificed himself to his duty—is not sufficient recognition of the case. It is no answer to the question of my hon. Friend. Laying aside altogether the verdict of the Coroner's jury, the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself makes the case stronger even than it was put by the hon. Member for West Belfast. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that this man was advised by the medical officer of the Department to take a holiday longer than was usual under the circumstances. He also said that the man did not try 1102 to take a longer holiday than he could do without pay.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
I said without loss of pay. The Post Office is extremely indulgent in the case of sick leave, and gives a considerable proportion of pay—two-thirds, I think.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
Well, at any rate this unfortunate man was advised to take a holiday longer than he was entitled to, and he came back to duty against the advice of the medical officer of the Department, fearing that that Department would deprive him of pay necessary to support the widow in whose behalf my hon. Friend makes that demand. I hold that, by reason of the opinion of their own medical officer, the Department are committed in this matter. The words, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman has used are the strongest support of the case made out by my hon. Friend. To enforce his demand or his request, if it may be so called, I have risen; and I hope he will persist in his Motion to reduce this Vote, and that he will receive the support of every man who has considered the question in the Division.
§ (6.42.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
This reduction, Sir, has been moved on account of the refusal of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General to produce the correspondence, and on the ground also that the Government should give some allowance to the family of the man who committed suicide. Now, it appears to me that, after the finding of the Coroner's jury, unless you are going to do away with the law of Coroners' juries altogether, I cannot understand how any Minister should get up in this House and say that he will not believe in the opinion of such a jury. I trust, therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast will go to a Division as a protest. Then with regard to the Belfast postmaster, I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman should refuse the correspondence. Surely there is no treason in it, or anything of that sort. If not, why should he not give us the correspondence? If the right hon. Gentleman does not promise that he will do so, I shall have much pleasure in supporting my hon. Friend.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: For the Amendment—Ayes 111; Noes 208.—(Div. List, No. 35.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (5.53.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
Before this Vote is taken I should like to ask the Postmaster General for some explanation as to how far it is due to increase of the staff and how far to increase of wages?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
The sum of £111,000 is required for salaries, wages, and allowances under various sub-heads, owing to the numerous divisions of the establishments which have been sanctioned by the Treasury since the original estimate was framed. The most important item is the addition to the postmen's wages, which amounted for the last financial year to about £65,000, and will amount to something over £90,000 in the coming financial year. There is a sum of £5,000 for conveyance of mails by road in England and Wales—new and extended mail-cart service; a sum of £2,000 for conveyance of mails by railway, owing to new agreements with railway companies, and a sum of £2,000 for the introduction of the new letter cards. In fact, by far the larger portion of the addition to the Postal Estimates is due to the increase of pay and allowances.
§ (6.56.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I wish to ask a question with regard to these letter cards. In the first place, they are sold to the public at ten for 1s. In every other country they sell at the price of the stamp. A question has been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) as to the cost to the Government of these letter cards. I should like to know; because, in talking to those in the trade, I am told that these cards can be produced at ½d. per ten, so that the 1½d. is profit. I should like to know whether there was any tender taken by the Postmaster General or by the Inland Revenue Department when the contract was given to Messrs. De la Rue.
§ (6.58.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
The Inland Revenue Department made this arrangement, of course, tentatively. It is a new manufacture; the original 1104 machinery for making it is somewhat expensive, and the amount of public support which these letter cards would receive was problematical. It has so greatly exceeded expectations that, as, probably, the hon. Member knows, the whole of the first manufacture supplied was sold out in ten days. I heard from a partner of the manufacturing firm last week that they would, after a short time, be able to extend their machinery and produce a much larger amount. At present they only produce about 40,000 a week. The contract was made on a calculation of the cost not only of the manufacture, but of distribution, and so forth. The price is liable to revision at every fresh order, and the success which has attended it will probably lead to a corsesponding reduction in the gross cost. At present I am informed by the Inland Revenue Department that the sum charged is not more than is required to cover expenses.
§ (7.1.) MR. LABOUCHERE
We have now an instance of how the business of the Government is conducted. This contract is given to Messrs. De La Rue, by which they receive 2d. for every ten cards which they deliver.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
The public pay 1s. for ten, but it does not follow that the manufacturers get 2d. for ten. A certain sum has to be paid for the distribution.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I think the right hon. Gentleman has made his case rather worse. I want to know distinctly what Messrs. De La Rue get for these cards. As a matter of fact, I know that these cards can be produced for very much less than 2d. for ten. I know a gentleman in the trade who has assured me that he would be prepared to put up the machinery, turn them out, and deliver them for 1d. for ten, and that all that it would cost him would be ¼d. for ten. Messrs. De La Rue have got a great deal too much out of the Government on this contract. Any person in the trade would consider that he was doing an excellent business if he sold these cards over the counter for ½d. for ten, and had to pay rent and taxes. Either the Government are humbugged by the distributors—those who dis- 1105 tribute them—or the Government have been dragged into a reckless contract with Messrs. De La Rue. The right hon. Gentleman says that when the demand becomes greater, he will be able to make a slight reduction. If you do not put these things into public competition you will always pay infinitely too much. The Committee that investigated the matter found that by the old contract Messrs. De La Rue made thousands per annum in excess of what they ought to have made, but as the contract was made we had to submit to it; and yet the right hon. Gentleman rushes in and gives them this new contract. Just let the right hon. Gentleman consider what profit the Messrs. De La Rue make if they get 1d. for ten and sell 40,000 to the Government per week—a very large sum.
(7.7.) MR. J. E. ELLIS
I must say, as I listened to the Postmaster General, I was inclined to ask myself whether he was fully informed of the whole history of these matters. I really wonder if he knows that a Committee sat on the Revenue Estimates in 1888, and that this question of the contract with Messrs. De La Rue for the cards was examined at very great length before that Committee. It occupies seven paragraphs of their Report, and the Committee, after a very careful investigation, came to the conclusion that all such Government contracts, whenever possible, should be thrown open to public competition, and that they should be made for short periods. The evidence upon which the Committee, of which I had the honour to be a Member, came to that conclusion—was overwhelming, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give it careful attention.
§ (7.10.) MR. MORTON
There is a very large profit made in the Post Office, and the public have a right to say out of these profits these things ought to be paid for, and, therefore, what I want to ask the Government to consent to is to give the public twelve of these letter cards for 1s. instead of ten. The profits of the Post Office ought to be expended not on war or anything of that sort, but on improvements of the postal system.
§ (7.12.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
With regard to reducing the price to twelve for 1s., of course nothing is so easy as to be generous with public money.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
The Committee will remember that any profit made upon the issue of cards is for the benefit of the public, not for the benefit of individuals. If a contract was unduly favourable to manufacturers, that would be throwing public money away. I do not believe that that is the case here. I am quite aware of the Committee referred to by the hon. Member, and that that Committee recommended that all such contracts ought to be open to public competition; but, at the same time, Parliament was made aware of the alteration made in the existing contract with Messrs. De La Rue, by the extension of which for two years a considerable reduction was obtained upon existing contract prices on envelopes, stamps, postcards, and so forth. Here is a new kind of postcard introduced as an experiment; and the Committee will understand how important it is, in the first place, to employ the existing contractor, who has the plant and machinery and all the necessary appliances. I assure the hon. Member for Northampton that I will look into the prices of these cards with the view, if possible, of effecting a reduction. I am quite sure we cannot sell twelve for 1s. without financial loss. I can assure the hon. Member opposite that we have no desire to depart from the recommendation of the Committee. On the contrary, we are endeavouring to carry it out.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
I am no able to state the terms of the contract off-hand. I did not know that this question would be raised, and I have not got the information here; but I will be happy to inform the hon. Gentleman if he puts a question down on the Paper on the subject.
§ (7.17.) DR. CLARK
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman cannot give the terms of the contract. The hon. hon. Gentleman, I think, made a bad contract. Instead of throwing the 1107 contract open to public competition, as he ought to have done, he goes back to Mr. De La Rue and gives him the contract at his own price; and now he tells us, as it has been a success, he is going to reduce the price.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
I did not say they were going to reduce the price. I said that in making the contract it was provided that it would be subject to a revision.
§ MR. JACKSON
Perhaps I may be allowed a word in explanation, although I had nothing to do with this particular transaction to which the hon. Member now refers. Of course, I had a great deal to do with the arrangements of this contract. The hon. Member says it is a perfectly easy thing to give these contracts out to public competition. It is no doubt very easy to invite public competition, but I venture to say it would be a mistake to have running at the same time two or three contracts with two or three different firms making stamped paper and paper bearing stamps for Revenue purposes. The subject was fully gone into by the Inland Revenue, by the Post Office, and by the Treasury. After looking at the Report of the Committee, it was considered advisable, as far as possible, that all your stamped paper should be dealt with by one firm. It must be borne in mind by the Committee that all the printing has to be done under the supervision and care of the Inland Revenue officers; every sheet has to be accounted for, all soiled stamps are destroyed under the authority of the Inland Revenue, and it would be a source of great blame if there were to be any interference with the printing of the paper. It is under the absolute supervision and control of the Inland Revenue. It is locked up by them—all that is stamped—every night, and put away in a safe by the Inland Revenue officer. All the card printing is done entirely under the control and watchful care of the Inland Revenue officer. If anybody could get hold of it, of course they could sell it. It must be under the supervision and care of the Inland Revenue officers. Therefore, it is a matter of great convenience to have all your stamped paper done by one firm, and under their own super- 1108 vision. When the whole contract terminates, then, perhaps, it could go to public competition, but to public competition under certain conditions. In the first place, you would have to give ample notice to the firm you desired to contract with in order that they might get ready the necessary machinery and plant to be used in the manufacture.
(7.25.) COLONEL NOLAN
I see there is a very large sum to be paid to the postmasters in England, and only £4,000 to the postmasters in Ireland. There is a sum of £80,000 altogether to be paid to England, and only £4,000 to Ireland; but I should have thought that Ireland should get more of this increased pay than England in proportion to its size, inasmuch as the Post Office officials in Ireland are paid less than they are in England. I should like to have some explanation from the Postmaster General on this very great discrepancy,
§ (7.27.) SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
The increased pay for postmen has been the same all over the Kingdom, but the increased pay to the postmasters is in accordance with the business done at the offices; and if the average rate of pay in Ireland is lower than in England it is because the business done is so much less. Having to look this matter up the other day, I found that the expenditure in Ireland is greater in proportion than in either England or Scotland. England gets less than she should, Scotland gets about what she should, and Ireland gets more than she should.
(7.28.) COLONEL NOLAN
It simply comes to this: that it depends upon the number of letters posted, and in that case Ireland gets very little benefit.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I wish to know whether the profits made by the Post Office are applied to developing and improving the Postal Service generally, and, if not—and that I gather to be the case—I should like to know to what purposes the moneys are applied.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Very well, Sir, then I will raise it on the Vote on Account. Now, as to the contract with Messrs. De la Rue, the Postmaster General has admitted that it is not a favourable one for the country, because after it was made prices fell. If that is so, it may be desirable for the Government in future contracts to lay down a sliding scale, so that in the event of a fall of, say, 40 or 50 per cent., the country may get the benefit of it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
This contract, as we have pointed out, is grossly unfair and disadvantageous to the public. All these contracts should be put up to public competition. If the Government, having the power to put it up to public competition, do not do this, then let it be thoroughly understood by all the electors and non-electors of this country that it is owing to the reckless conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, and owing to his determination not to alter that contract, that every time they buy ten postal letter cards they are paying a penny beyond what is requisite to give a fair profit.
§ MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I desire to know, Sir, whether I should be in Order in asking some information regarding Ocean Penny Postage. In the next place I should like to ask the Postmaster what is meant by this new and extended mail cart service?
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
A great number of small auxiliary services have been established all over England; it is utterly impossible that I can keep them all in my mind.
MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
I think the postal letter cards should be a little thicker, and I believe they would be more universally used if 1d. were charged for them.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 4. £47,000, Supplementary Post Office Telegraphs.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I should like to ask for some explanation of the enormously increased number of messages sent gratuitously by the Post Office on behalf of the Railway Companies.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I rise to move the rejection of this Vote by £1,000, with the view of making all railway offices telegraph offices.
§ MR. LENG (Dundee)
I rise, Sir, in order to call attention to the somewhat remarkable feature in the Vote now before the Committee, that whereas there is exhibited an increase of only £8,000 in respect of the salaries of telegraphists, the salaries of the Postal Department has been increased by £240,000. These figures confirm a prevailing impression in the telegraph branch of the Service that the Postal Department being the older part of the establishment is more highly favoured than the employes in the Telegraph Department because able to exert more influence upon the chief officials. The telegraph clerks do not in any respect grudge what has been done for their colleagues in the Postal Department, but they think they have not received the same degree of attention. I do not ascribe blame to the right hon. Gentleman the present Postmaster General, because I believe that the arrangements with respect to increase of salaries were largely settled by his predecessor. But, Sir, I may state what illustrates the grievance complained of by reference to the case of Dundee. In Dundee the Post Office staff of the postal side consists of 4I. There are ten superior appointments, being one in four, whereas in the telegraph branch of the office the staff consists of 60, and of these there are only six superior appointments making one in ten. According to the Estimates of 1891, the maximum value of these six superior appointments was £1,110, whilst the five superior appointments in the Telegraph Department existing up till last year were worth £860. Since then the Postal Department have received four additional appointments of a superior kind, whilst only one has been added to the telegraphs, with a higher maximum, as wages in these appointments were raised under the late revision. But that is not the only ground of complaint. I understand that there are only eleven first class to 43 second class clerks, and that men with 13 and 14 years' service, and ranging 1111 from 30 to 40 years of age, have no prospect whatever of being promoted, while some in the sorting room have reached the clerks' class with salaries ranging between £130 and £160, with only ten years' service; some, in fact, were messengers, while their confrères in the Telegraph Department, who are still in the second class, were appointed telegraphists. The fact that there is an increase of £240,000 in the salaries of Post Office servants all over the country, and only an increase of £8,000 in the Telegraph Department, shows that the adjustment has not proceeded upon equitable lines; and I hope the Postmaster General will give the matter his attention.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
It would be easy to promise to look into this matter, but I never promise to do that unless there is solid reason. The position of the telegraphists has recently been revised with a great deal of care, and I have no reason to believe that it was not settled on fair grounds. The number of superior appointments in one Department of the Service is no criterion of the sufficiency or otherwise of the number of superior appointments in another. In both, the number must depend upon the requirements of the Service. The existence of an apparent disparity is quite consistent with the fullest regard to the public interest. It must be remembered that length of service brings with it an annual increment, that officers are advanced year by year; and although I am very sorry if any young men are disappointed, the conditions of the Public Service can be arranged only in accordance with its requirements, and not to suit them.
§ MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
With respect to provincial offices, is it the case that the Post Office will not carry on a telegraph wire unless the inhabitants guarantee the cost?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
If it is calculated that a telegraph office will not pay, the offices are not instituted unless the inhabitants guarantee the expense. So soon as the office pays the guarantee is cancelled.
§ MR. MORTON
I will call attention to this and also to the question of Ocean Penny Postage on the Vote on Account.
§ MR. SEXTON
With respect to the two new cables, one with Germany and one with Ireland, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the work was done by contract?
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
The two vessels retained by the Department are doing the work. They are kept on low establishments, and they are only put in commission where they are wanted. The German cable is paid partly by the German Government and partly by our own. I hope to take a trip to the Irish Sea during the holidays to see how the work is getting on.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £47,000, Supplementary, Post Office Telegraphs.
§ Resolutions to be reported.