§ 20. £663,264, to complete the sum for Customs.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, there was a great saving to be made in the amalgamation of the Customs and Inland Revenue, and a great increase in efficiency would also thereby be produced. He was quite certain that this matter must come forward shortly.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I entirely agree as to the importance of this matter, but I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is aware that there has already been a most elaborate examination of the subject. My predilections were entirely in the direction of those stated by the right hon. Gentleman, but a Committee which was appointed to inquire into this subject reported not long ago that the amalgamation would not be advantageous, and would hardly be possible. Thus, so far as the most recent investigation has gone, it has been adverse to the plan of amalgamation.
§ MR. MACDONALD (Tower Hamlets, Bow)
said, he had been asked by the hon. Member for North West Ham, who was absent through illness, to call attention to the grievances of the outdoor officers of the Customs. Duties that had originally been performed by a superior class of officers had been imposed upon them, but no increase had been made in their salary. Mr. Murray, the Chairman of the Customs Board, stated before the Ridley Commission that the duties performed by these outdoor officers were in all particulars analogous to those performed by the assistants of Excise. But, although the duties were analogous, the minimum salary paid to an outdoor officer of the Customs was £35, increasing by annual increments of £2 10s. to £75 10s. after seven years' service, with a maximum of £100; whereas the assistants of Excise started with £78, increasing by annual increments of £5 after seven years' service to £115, with a maximum of 1448 £250. Both classes of officers had to pass in the ordinary elementary subjects; but in the case of the outdoor officers arithmetic and geography were compulsory subjects, while they were optional with the other class of officers. The grievance in respect of salary had not been inquired into, because these officers, naturally relying upon a Memorial they had sent in on the question of the inadequacy of their salaries, had, on the inquiry, given evidence in respect of minor grievances only. In consequence of that mistake on their part, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had in his Minute entirely failed to take notice of the grievance in respect of the smallness of the salary, although he did something to remedy the minor grievances. He hoped, under the circumstances, the Treasury would consider that the case of these officers was one that ought to be taken into their favourable consideration.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
With great respect to my hon. Friend, I would submit to him that the House cannot undertake to settle questions of the internal organisation of the Departments of this country. How in the world is the House of Commons to undertake to say whether the salaries correspond to the duties performed by these particular officers, or as to how they compare with the salaries of other officers? There could only be an ex parte statement on the one side and the answer of a Minister on the other. You might as well undertake the discipline of the Army as undertake a matter of this kind. The responsible Heads of the Departments ought to be left to deal with the details of matters of this kind. This matter was undertaken by my Predecessor in Office. He made a careful examination into the condition of all these officers. I am not prepared to reverse the decision which has been come to after inquiry by a competent body; and, although the Treasury will always consider any representations made either by hon. Members or by the parties concerned in respect of such matters, I would deprecate any further discussion at the present time and under present circumstances.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he could not quite agree with the dictum of 1449 the right hon. Gentleman, because there were some classes of salary which were capable of being dealt with by this House; but having been upon a Commission that dealt with this question, he knew that nothing gave them so much trouble as matters connected with the Customs and Inland Revenue. He, therefore, agreed that it would be very difficult to deal with these particular salaries. With regard to the outdoor officers, some of them were remnants of the bad system of patronage under which Civil servants were appointed on the nomination of Members of this House, and he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he could not do away with this somewhat obsolete system of patronage? If that were done the boatmen would come before the House without the prejudice that at present attached to their appointment, and their case would be much better than it was now.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the time and general circumstances were inconvenient for the discussion of this question; but a gross disparity between these particular salaries had been shown. While he thought this Committee was not competent to enter into a comparison, because it was not competent to inquire how far the duties were analogous, he thought a case of grievance had been disclosed. The men had forwarded a Memorial to the Department previously, which dealt with the question of salaries; and thinking that matter had been sufficiently mentioned, they only put forward minor grievances before the Commission. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see that any representations on the subject would be duly considered.
§ MR. BURNS (Battersea)
. whilst agreeing with what the hon. Member had said in relation to wages and supporting the hon. Member for Bow, who had so ably put this question before the House, generally concurred with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the line the right hon. Gentleman took in his remarks as to the undesirability of the House settling questions of the internal organisation of a Department. But when 1450 they had exceptional abuses such as those disclosed, he thought it was the duty of the House to interpose, and not always to take the advice of the Head of a Department. Some of the Customs boatmen were on duty for extremely long stretches of time—sometimes 10, 12, 14, 18, 24, and, in some cases 36 hours. That was altogether unnecessary, and a simple re-organisation would prevent such a thing. He would recommend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see the Head of the Department and get him to put a stop to this anarchical and ignorant method.
§ MR. MACDONALD
pointed out that the comparison was really instituted at the Commission, and was made by the Chairman of the Customs Board.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 21. £1,382,914, to complete the sum for Inland Revenue, agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £5,140,575, 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 1894, for the Salaries and Expenses of Post Office Services, the Expenses of Post Office Savings Banks, and Government Annuities and Insurances, and the Collection of Post Office Revenue.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
asked the Postmaster General for some information as to how the matter stood with reference to Queenstown as a port of call for the American mails. The question was one of enormous importance to Ireland as well also to Liverpool, Manchester, and other large cities and towns in England. The present arrangement was one of a purely temporary character; and if Queenstown was to remain as a port of call for the American mails, it would be necessary that considerable improvement should be made in the present system, so that Queenstown might not be left behind. The existing contract for the carriage of mails expired with a year's notice towards the end of 1894; and if a proper service was to be instituted between Queenstown and London, it would be necessary that the 1451 Post Office authorities should take such steps as were necessary to secure that time should be given to whatever companies were anxious to enter into that contract. It was impossible for Queens-town to hold its own if the present system continued, but, on the other hand, it was quite easy for Queenstown to be placed in such a position of superiority that her position as a port of call could be maintained with perfect safety. A saving of time could be effected between Queenstown and Dublin, between Queens-town and Holyhead, and also between Holyhead and the large centres in the North of England. This could easily be done if the Post Office would signify their intention of paying for an improved service for the carriage of mails. The matter was one of pressing urgency. All the Irish Members were united in their determination to retain for Queenstown and Ireland generally the great benefits of having that place a port of call for American mails, and he hoped to hear some favourable reply from the Postmaster General on the subject.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Hereford)
wished to call attention to a matter of considerable interest to his constituents, whose wishes had been altogether disregarded by the Postmaster General or his Department. A sub-postmastership had been instituted in Hereford at Harold Street Post Office. It was located in a most convenient spot, and the postal business was conducted in a shop where there was ample accommodation for the purpose. About May of this year the proprietor of this shop—who was a provision merchant—died, and the widow disposed of the business to a man named Reynolds, who entered into possession in May, and from that date until August conducted pro tem. the duties of postmaster of that sub-district with satisfaction. He made application to be appointed sub-postmaster. It was true that another application probably was made to the late Member, Mr. Grenfell, by a person named Kaye, but the priority of the application did not affect the point in question. When it was known that there was a suggestion that Harold Street Post Office should be removed to a less eligible spot a Memo- 1452 rial, signed by 300 residents of the district, was sent to the Postmaster General, praying him to retain this particular office on the ground that it was the most convenient place, and one where the business had been admirably conducted for many years. No answer was sent to that Memorial for a period of three months. Then Mr. Grenfell resigned; on the 15th August he (Mr. Cooke) was elected in his place, and on the 16th August the Department for the first time replied to the Memorial, stating, in effect, that they could pay no attention whatever to the wishes of the residents of the district concerned, and they appointed Mr. Kaye to the sub-postmastership, and the business of the office was removed to a less convenient district, and to an establishment where the accommodation was insufficient. He thought this was a disregard of the wishes of the people of a district, which required some explanation.
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
said, he wished to place two points before the Postmaster General. One had reference to the mode of selection to vacant postmasterships, and the other was with regard to the increase of their pay. He understood that when a vacancy occurred in a locality for a postmaster the method was to advertise it in the weekly official Circular. Then, after some time, when candidates had sent in applications, an announcement was made in the same Circular that so-and-so had been appointed to the position. He was not sure that that was the most encouraging way for the Service. It encouraged suspicion sometimes of private and indirect influence being used in making appointments. He was asked whether it would not be better to substitute the system that worked very well in other Departments of the Public Service, of promotion by recognised seniority and position and merit, in preference to the present accidental and, to a certain extent, haphazard way of filling up vacancies. With respect to the encouragement given to postmasters, he was told that increase of pay was made to depend on the commercial prosperity of the place in which he officiated. That had often a very unfair and discouraging influence upon the 1453 position and prospects of particular postmasters. He wished to know whether that rule applied in other Departments of the Service? He wished to know whether, on these two points, the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee information as to what changes and reforms he had in his mind?
§ SIR A. ROLLIT
, in reference to the subject of the Queenstown mail route, said, the question was one of public convenience as well as of expense. The London Chamber of Commerce had taken a poll in order to ascertain the feeling of its members on the subject, and the result was that there was a very great and preponderating feeling in favour of that route being continued and made efficient.
§ MR. MACDONALD
said, he had formally put down a Motion for the reduction of this Vote in order to bring before the Committee various circumstances connected with the Post Office Department. The proposal he desired to urge on the Postmaster General was that he, on behalf of the Government, should consent to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the administration of the Post Office with special bearing upon the grievances which he was informed affected the main body of the Post Office servants. He believed it was originally intended that the Ridley Commission should inquire into the administration of the Post Office, where, more than in any other Department, disorganisation prevailed. The main grievances of the men were classification, split duties, and the existence of a supernumerary staff. The men desired an independent inquiry into these grievances by a Parliamentary Committee, and they had expressed their perfect willingness to abide by the result of that inquiry. He pointed out that in 1891 the present Postmaster General voted in favour of an inquiry such as that for which he (Mr. Macdonald) now asked, and he wished to know whether anything had occurred to cause the right hon. Gentleman to change his view since that time?
§ SIR A. ROLLIT
said, this was a question in which his constituents were interested, and he would like to impress the 1454 importance of the matter on the Government. Nothing could be more disadvantageous to the Service than that these men should labour under grievances, and should be denied full inquiry. He hoped the Postmaster General would agree that such an inquiry should be held. There could be no question with regard to the grievances of the postmen and auxiliary postmen, and the only request by these men was for impartial inquiry. Might he also venture to ask the Postmaster General, who had already recognised to so large an extent the rights which the Post Office officials had claimed, if he would consider whether an amnesty could not now be granted in favour of those who had been dispossessed of their posts? These men were suffering for principle; one of his own constituents was among the number, and he thought he and his fellows laboured under great injustice, and that their case was entitled to favourable consideration.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, he should feel bound to support the hon. Member opposite if he went to a Division, unless the Postmaster General was prepared to promise that an inquiry would be granted. All they asked for was inquiry, and that could be granted with the best results, he believed, to the Public Service. He trusted the late Postmaster General (Sir J. Fergusson) would support this appeal simply for an impartial inquiry.
§ DR. COMMINS (Cork, N.E.)
said, he would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of renewing the contract with the Liverpool Steamship Companies for the carriage of the American mails viâ Queenstown. He would remind him that two Liverpool vessels had recently made the journey in five days and 13 and a-half hours, which was an astonishing improvement, and one that showed how efficient the service was likely to be made. The present contract would expire on September 30, 1894, and the Liverpool Companies were anxious to be assured that they would have the renewal of it. To adopt another route now would be, he was satisfied, a great inconvenience to many parts of England—the North, for example—and he would 1455 appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give an answer to his inquiry which would be satisfactory to those who wished to see a really good Transatlantic service.
§ MR. BUTCHER
said, he would like to refer to the Regulation which prohibited postmen in some districts from smoking when in uniform. In certain localities postmen wore uniforms for 15 hours a day, although they were on duty for only eight hours. That they should be prohibited from smoking during the remaining seven hours was a vexatious restriction. What was the result, however? Why that the men were driven—or tempted, at any rate, to resort—to the public-house. He hoped something would be done in this matter.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, he would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of acquiring sites for new Post Office buildings. A plan ought to be devised under which the Department would be empowered to acquire sites when favourable opportunities presented themselves. Otherwise, in his opinion, the Post Office would never make good bargains. If they acted upon his suggestion they might have good cheap sites. He trusted this matter of administration would not be lost sight of by the Postmaster General.
§ MR. BURNIE (Swansea, Town)
said, he had been in communication with the Postmaster General, whom he found to be exceedingly kind and courteous, with reference to increased postal facilities for Swansea, and he hoped they would be granted. He desired also to express a hope that like facilities would be given to South Wales as to other parts of the United Kingdom, especially with regard to American correspondence.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
said, he only wished in a word to support what had been urged by the hon. Member for West Kerry and others in favour of the Queenstown route. He hoped the Postmaster General would give serious attention to the views of the London Chamber of Commerce as stated by its Chairman, the hon. Member for South Islington (Sir A. Rollit).
§ MR. R. WALLACE
said, the Metropolitan Post Office of Scotland happened to be in the constituency he had the honour to represent, and he had received many pressing applications on the subject of an inquiry into the grievances of Post Office servants. He believed there was a strong desire in Scotland for this inquiry, and that the granting of it would be the best way of allaying any existing discontent.
§ MR. MACDONALD
begged to move the reduction of the Vote for the Postmaster General's salary by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Postmaster General."—(Mr. Macdonald.)
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E)
The discussion has been a little discursive, but I think it my duty to deal with one matter which has been referred to by several hon. Gentlemen. As I have had recent experience of the grievances that have been the subject of complaint, I think I may venture to say a few words regarding them. It would, undoubtedly, be very wrong if a Government or the Head of a Department were to neglect inquiry into substantial grievances until they culminate in grave dissatisfaction or disaffection. But the complaints of large classes in the Post Office have been a matter of careful inquiry in successive years, and has been met by very large concessions on the part of the Department. If hon. Members will look at the Return showing the income and expenditure of the Post Office, they will see that the income has not increased in proportion to the expenditure. There has been an annual progressive increase in the percentage of salaries as compared with total Revenue. Many of the concessions were made in the time of my Predecessor; and when I succeeded to the Post Office I found that the mere fact of raising the salaries of the suburban postmen had caused a new grievance among Metropolitan postmen, and the Treasury consented, on my application, to raise the wages of these men very substantially. My experience is that no case whatever has been made 1457 out for inquiry outside the Department, and Members ought to be slow in committing themselves to any such contention merely because certain allegations have been made. Hon. Gentlemen will agree with me that the Service is very popular, and, I think, if we find the employment in any branch of Her Majesty's Service is popular, that shows that the remuneration is not insufficient. There is no branch of the Public Service more eagerly sought after than the Post Office, because there is regular work, proper discipline, and the certainty of a pension at the end, when a man is no longer able to work. I must, therefore, say no case has been made out for inquiry, and hope the Government will resist the inquiry that has been asked for. With respect to the conveyance of mails from Queenstown as against the growing popularity and facilities of Southampton, I have to say that Queenstown has proved a most speedy and convenient route for mails, and I cannot conceive that it is likely to be ousted from its position. But the claims now made involve a very large expenditure. In my time a very considerable contribution was made to the Great Southern and Western Railway to accelerate the mails by the Queenstown route, but it would be necessary to prove a general public advantage when any great increase of expenditure is asked for. The demands made for shortening the conveyance of the mails by two or three hours would certainly involve an expenditure so great as to interfere with other corresponding claims. And now a few words upon a subject which I have raised more than once in this House; that is, with regard to the employment of soldiers in the Post Office. I have seen with regret that the Postmaster General has altered the Regulations, framed when I was at the Post Office, with regard to the employment of soldiers in that Department after they have left the Army. The right hon. Gentleman has drawn up what is called an "enlistment scheme," and has arranged that telegraph messengers shall have a preferential claim to appointments as postmen, instead of soldiers as I had arranged, always, of course, having regard to existing engagements, explicit or implied. When I made the arrange- 1458 ment as to the employment of soldiers I was led to believe that it was a popular movement. It was mentioned more than once in the House, and received with approval, and it was believed that it would tend to the benefit of the two Services—both of the Army and the Post Office. No doubt it would be impossible to carry out a scheme of that kind without giving dissatisfaction in some quarters; but if we are to make the employment of soldiers at the Post Office the rule rather than the exception we must persevere even in the face of considerable opposition. The system that I endeavoured to introduce prevails in foreign countries—in France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Not only are soldiers largely employed in preference to civilians, but an expectation is held out to soldiers of employment after their discharge from the Army; and non-commissioned officers, after 12 years' service, are entitled to employment in the Civil Service. A young Army, though it will have weaknesses, may be kept practically efficient if it has experienced non-commissioned officers. At present it is not easy to get men to remain in the Service long enough as non - commissioned officers, for if they are not discharged until after they reach 30 years of age, it is difficult for them to obtain employment. But if they had a prospect of obtaining Civil employment under the Government on leaving the Army after long service, they would be content to stop, and the result would be beneficial both to the Army and the Post Office. The right hon. Gentleman the present Postmaster General has not abandoned the system I inaugurated, but he has modified it in a very important particular. According to an answer he gave me the other day about 1,000 appointments a year are lost to the Army by the arrangement he has made, which makes a great hole in the number of appointments the soldiers were led to expect. As a result of the system I adopted, I have been told by officers that they find a great improvement in the conduct of the young soldiers, who know that if they behave themselves there will be a good prospect of obtaining work when they leave the Army. I wish I could think that the Government are in earnest in this matter, for unless the 1459 Government and the House are in earnest they will lose a great opportunity of improving the respectability and the conduct of the men who join the Army, and also of improving the character of those who serve in the lower ranks of the Civil Service.
§ EARL COMPTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)
said, he had several times in past years stood up and spoken for the telegraph clerks, and as the Amendment before the Committee related practically to them it would be dishonest and mean on his part if, having taken a strong course in opposition, he did not take the same course now his friends were in power. He desired in the first place to thank the Postmaster General for the courteous communications he (Earl Compton) had received from him, and for the course the right hon. Gentleman had taken on various matters which had tended to give great satisfaction to the Post Office. They were all thankful to the right hon. Gentleman for having reinstated some of the postmen whose case had been brought before the House in previous Sessions. With regard to the telegraphists, he had to say that he did not think anything would settle the matter except an impartial inquiry. If such an inquiry were held, and a decision adverse to the telegraphists were arrived at, he believed they would honestly bow to that verdict. He had listened attentively to the speech of the ex-Postmaster General, and he had found it very like the speeches the right hon. Gentleman had made in previous years. He had assumed that the present Postmaster General would endorse his view; but in that the right hon. Gentleman was a little premature. What was occurring just now in the Telegraph Department of the Post Office? The Postmaster General would agree with him (Earl Compton) that a large amount of overtime was being worked. The right hon. Gentleman would say that this overtime work was voluntary and that the telegraphists would be very much displeased if it were taken away from them. But it was not a question of their working overtime for an hour or two. When they agreed to do such work they were kept on until they were dismissed, and he 1460 conceived it to be the absolute duty of the Department to see that men should not be allowed to work too long hours, to the probable detriment of their health. Previously, whenever he had brought forward the case of the telegraphists, he had been told by the late Mr. Raikes and the ex-Postmaster General that his statements were correct. The case he had laid before the present Postmaster General he had gathered not from one individual, but from various sources—as was his custom before calling attention to a grievance. He was told to-day that his statement was exaggerated. Well, if the information he had received from a large number of individuals employed in the Telegraph Department was at variance with the information supplied to the Postmaster General, all the more reason was there for an inquiry. He hoped that even now the right hon. Gentleman would see the necessity for an inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman had once voted for the Motion he (Earl Compton) had brought forward, and nothing had occurred since then to change the situation. Other Members of the present Government had also voted with him. and he hoped to-day they would redeem the pledge they had given to him. There had been an increase of salary granted to Post Office officials, and he wished to know how much was added to the salaries of the higher officials when a rise in the salaries of the juniors was asked for?
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. A. MORLEY, Nottingham, E.), who was very indistinctly heard, was understood to say that he recognised the friendly tone of the Debate so far as he himself was concerned. Therefore, he did not look upon the Motion for reduction of the Vote as a personal matter. The Motion was, however, unfortunate, because the issue it raised was mixed up with other questions. He was asked how he could account for his Vote in 1891 when he had supported the Motion of the noble Earl the Member for Barnsley. He accounted for it on two grounds: He had supported the proposal, which was an unprecedented one, because there was an unprecedented condition of discontent prevailing through- 1461 out the Postal and Telegraph Service—or, he confessed, he was under that impression at the time. The condition of things in various branches of the Service was serious. There had been an emeute in the Savings Bank Department, and, whether with reason or without reason, the whole of the Services were discontented with their position. The condition of things at present, however, did not bear out the idea that there was anything like general discontent prevailing. He accounted for his action on another ground. Since 1891 large concessions had been made, with enormous additional expense to the country, and that made the state of things very different to what it was when he supported the noble Lord's Motion. Having had a year to look into the grievances, he had come to the conclusion that they could be examined into—and he would take care that they should be examined into—by himself and others associated with him in the administration of the Department. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, a Committee of the House was not a proper tribunal to try questions of this kind. He knew, from his own experience, the intricate and complicated nature of the grievances at the Post Office. Those grievances, as he had said, had been remedied. Revisions had been effected greatly to the advantage of the postal and telegraph staff; and he did not think they could expect men who had not spent a long time in the Public Service to thoroughly examine into the classifications and organisations of a great Department like the Post Office. He would point to the great number of applicants for vacancies in proof of his assertion that the Post Office was a popular Service, and the same could be said of the Telegraph Department. For instance, for Male telegraph clerks in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, there had been 624 candidates to fill 28 vacancies; in the Second Division there had been 582 candidates to fill 59 vacancies, and in the Third Division an equally large number of candidates to fill 75 vacancies. These figures showed that the Public Service, so far as the Post Office Telegraph Service was concerned, was a popular Service. It was not likely that they would find such a large number of persons applying for 1462 these vacancies if there was ground for distrust. He was not going to argue that that fact was conclusive evidence, but he did say that it showed that the would be telegraphists, who were seeking to get into the Service, did not think the terms and conditions hard or unsatisfactory. But there was another piece of evidence which bore strongly on this matter—the question of resignations from the Service. He had had a Return prepared which showed that the resignations from the Central Telegraph Office since 1890—more than three years—had been 23 out of 2,000 clerks, and 15 of those had left to go into foreign telegraph service, where wages were higher and the conditions as to promotion better, and three had sought to come back again. In the Metropolitan District only two resignations had taken place, whilst in 11 of the largest Provincial Post Offices there had been only 49 resignations since July, 1890, out of a staff exceeding 2,000 men. He thought it would be admitted that if there had been widespread discontent there would have been a much larger number of resignations. In regard to the salaries, the figures had increased year by year since 1889–90. In 1890–91 the increase was £364,248, in 1891–92 it was, in round figures, £423,000, in 1892–93 £435,000, and this year it was still more—namely, £485,000. There had, in fact, been an absolute increase of £1,678,513 in the amounts paid in wages and salaries, of which about £1,200,000 was paid in the Postal, and the remainder in the Telegraph, Department. It might be said that a great deal of the increase was due to increase in the force, and that was true. He had had a Table drawn out which showed the percentage of salaries and wages as compared with the total expenditure in the Telegraph Service, and also as compared with the total revenue, which showed that there had been enormous additions to wages and salaries. In 1883–84—10 years ago—the percentage of wages and salaries to total expenditure was 49–50, and in 1892–93 it was 63–78; so that there had been an increase of over 14 per cent. in the 10 years. The percentage of wages on the total revenue in the Telegraph Service, in 1883–84, was £50,05, and in 1892–93 it was 67.95, showing an in- 1463 crease of nearly 18 per cent. There had been revisions during that time in nearly every branch of the Postal Service. The increase in the amount paid in salaries and weekly wages was estimated at £500,000 sterling. He thought, therefore, he had substantiated the statement made in an earlier part of his remarks that there had been an enormous expenditure consequent on the revision which had taken place.
§ MR. A. MORLEY
said, he was not going to say that there was not justification for the increase in the amount paid, but he contended that fair and liberal additions had been made to the wages. He had practically admitted that there might be grievances at the present time, but he said they were not grievances which could be fairly submitted to such an inquiry as was suggested. He had had an inquiry made as to what would be the cost of doing away with split duties. He had only the figures with regard to London; but he was informed that, on a rough estimate, the addition to the force that would be necessary in the London District would be 1,300 men, and the cost would be £120,000 a year. As to overtime in connection with the Central Telegraph Office, he was strongly of opinion that it ought to be kept down as much as possible. It had been stated that the increase this year was due to the great increase of work consequent on the exciting nature of the Debates in the House of Commons. It would be impossible to have a permanent staff in a Department like the Telegraph Department capable of meeting sudden emergencies of this kind. If they had such a staff it would mean an enormous waste of labour when the emergency came to an end and the work of the Department fell into its former routine. He was of opinion that not only overtime but the auxiliary staff should be kept down as much as possible. A great deal had, however, been done during the past year in reducing overtime in the main Departments of the Postal Service, and in turning auxiliary and unestablished postal servants into permanent members of the Civil Service. 1464 He regretted that be was unable to accede to the suggestion of his hon. Friend, who, he hoped, would not press his objection to a Division. He was prepared to consider any grievance that might be brought forward, or anything that bore on the face of it a primâ facie appearance of a grievance; but he did not think that a Committee of the kind suggested would be really beneficial or would lead to a satisfactory conclusion. He proposed now very shortly to deal with the various questions raised by the different speakers. The late Postmaster General (Sir J. Fergusson) referred to the subject of enlistment. He (Mr. A. Morley) had already informed the right hon. Gentleman of the grounds on which he came to the conclusion that a change was necessary. One of the first facts that was brought to his knowledge after he was appointed to his present post was that there was very serious objection felt by parents of many boys to the rule which prevailed that at the end of so many years' service as telegraph messengers they should be excluded from the Postal Service unless they passed through a period in the Army. He had called for Reports from various Postmasters in the large centres of population, and he should like to just mention one or two of them which he thought were very fair samples of the great body of them. The Postmaster of Liverpool wrote, when the proposal was first placed before the Department, his communication being dated 2nd December, 1891, that he could not reasonably expect a father to send his son to act as messenger during the best years of his life when at the end of four or five years the boy must be cut adrift. The Postmasters of Manchester and other towns wrote in a similar strain, all of them deprecating the system of enlistment. Under these circumstances, he felt that there was no course before him but to rescind that portion of the Regulations which dealt with enlistment. At the same time, he allowed that portion of the Regulations which gave precedence to Army Reserve men over outsiders to remain in full force, and certainly at present he saw no ground for rescinding it. Questions had been asked by several Members with reference to the Queenstown Mail Service. He thought hon. Members from Ireland 1465 were a little unreasonable on this subject. He thought the Government had done something to justify the confidence of the Irish Members and to show their desire to give every reasonable facility for the Queenstown Mail Service. One of the first things that was done by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer on coming into Office was to grant a considerable subsidy to the Great Southern and Western Railway Company of Ireland to facilitate the mails, and since that time a special mail service had been instituted. Although that service was only tentative, he thought hon. Members knew that when the Post Office started a service of the kind as a tentative proposal it was not likely to be abandoned unless it proved to be a hopeless failure. He thought, therefore, it might be taken that the special service would be crystallised into the ordinary service. It was not correct to say that the Holyhead contract would terminate in September, 1894. It could only be terminated on the 13th September, 1895, by notice given on the 13th September, 1894. He would undertake that before the time came at which notice would have to be given, if at all, the matter should be very carefully considered and that opportunity should be given to hon. Members who took an interest in the subject to express their views. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke), who had called attention to the appointment of a sub-postmaster in his constituency, was evidently ignorant of the rule governing such appointments. Whether wisely or unwisely they were regarded as matters of patronage, and were not in his hands at all. The Secretary to the Treasury had a right to make the appointment, and the nominations were sent to him (Mr. A. Morley), but it was only in the event of the person named being unsuitable or the premises being unsuitable that he had the right or power to interfere. In the particular case referred to the Report which reached him from the surveyor of the district was that the person was suitable and that the situation of the office was, on the whole, as satisfactory as that of the old office. Under these circumstances, he had no power to interfere. His hon. Friend for East Edinburgh (Mr. R. Wallace) had referred to the question of head postmasters, and had 1466 asked whether seniority and recognised merit could not be taken into account in making appointments to these positions. He could assure his hon. Friend that recognised merit and seniority had been the whole and sole ground for every appointment he had made, and he should be extremely averse to disturbing that system of selection. He had done all in his power to prevent political or other influences being brought to bear on these appointments, because he thought it was of immense importance to have men in these positions who had good powers of organisation. As to the question of the amount of the estimates for sites, the sum adopted was that which was thought to be reasonable this year, and he could not agree that the Post Office ought to purchase sites before they were needed.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, his point had been that the Post Office ought to know some years beforehand that they would want a new Post Office.
§ MR. A. MORLEY
said, that he quite agreed that the Post Office ought to have its eyes open as to future needs. The only other question he had to mention was that of postal communication in South Wales. He should be very glad if he could see his way to accede to the request which had been made to him on this subject, but he must protest against the notion of the Post Office being expected to put on special trains to carry mails under ordinary circumstances at an earlier or a later hour than the Railway Companies could under ordinary circumstances carry them. There must be an enormous mass of mail matter to justify the putting on of a special train, and at the present time South Wales did not produce a sufficient amount of correspondence to justify special trains. He would inquire into the question which had been raised respecting postmen smoking in uniform. He did not believe that any rule against smoking in uniform existed—certainly there was no Service Rule of this kind. There might be rules made by particular postmasters, but if 1467 so he would take care that such a prohibition was not continued.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I rise to point out, in the interests of the Committee, that this discussion might now close. I would suggest to my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Macdonald) that the most positive way of securing an increase of salaries is not by moving to diminish the salary of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster General. From my own knowledge, if there is any man who works overtime at the Post Office it is my right hon. Friend. I hope my hon. Friend will not be disposed to press the reduction to a Division, but that if he wishes to do so he will take the Division at once.
§ MR. MACDONALD
said, he understood that the Government admitted that there was some grievance. He understood the right hon. Gentleman had consented to inquire into the matter, and on that understanding he begged to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I should have been very glad if we could have brought the Debate to a conclusion this evening, but it is not now likely that it can be done within a reasonable time according to the information which I have received. I hope that everything that remains will be dealt with and concluded on Monday, and I think I shall be consulting the convenience of the House if I now move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(The Chancellor of the Exchequer.)1468
§ MR. SEXTON
I have some observations to make on the Queenstown Mail Service, but it will be as convenient to us to take that subject on Monday.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.