MR. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock) moved—
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that Post Office nominations, which are now made by the Treasury on the recommendation of Members of Parliament and others, should in future be made to the Postmaster General by local representative bodies.
In moving this Resolution he had no Party object in view, indeed, he was anxious to get rid of the Party patronage which at present existed. Post Office nomination was almost the last remnant of political patronage, and though political patronage was bad he considered that Party patronage was worse. Under the present system, if there be a Post Office under the value of £120 a year in England, and £100 in Scotland, vacant, it was for the Postmaster General to ask the Treasury for a nomination; and he believed it was the almost universal custom for the Treasury to send to a Member of Parliament in the Division in which the vacant Post Office was situated, and ask him to nominate, provided only that he be upon the same side as the Government. If there were no Member of Parliament in the Division on the same side as the Government, then they generally sent to a candidate or to some other supporter of the Government of the day. It was almost impossible, therefore, for the nomination to be otherwise than a piece of Party patronage, for while, no doubt, the nominator would be most careful to nominated a capable man he would take care that that man was a supporter of the cause he himself espoused. He (Mr. Luttrell) had not had much experience in making nominations, but what experience he had had taught him it was impossible to get rid of Party influences and considerations; where there were two men it was absolutely impossible not to name the Liberal in preference to the Conservative. The custom did not in any way rest upon law, arid if one
looked at history he found the custom was not one of great antiquity. Previous to 1784 the Post Office was in a disorganised state. Letters were then carried by boys on horseback called postboys. The boys rode from public house to public house, and in those days the Post Offices were really public-houses, and the patrons were the brewers or the landlords; in fact, there was then no patronage in the possession of the State. In 1784, a great improvement was made in our Post Office system. In that year John Palmer, of Bath, started the running of mail coaches, and they were able to carry much more than the postboys. The public-houses gave way to Post Offices, and the Postmasters General—for there were then two—had the patronage pure and simple. In 1821, a certain Lord Chichester, who was one of the Postmasters General, allowed his power of appointing to Post Offices to lapse to the Treasury, and having got hold of the patronage, the Treasury held it with a firm hand. In 1854, a Committee reported against allowing the Treasury to have the power of appointment, and in favour of that power being vested in the Postmaster General. The outcome of that Committee was, that a change was made and certain Post Offices were handed back to the Postmaster General; the appointment to Post Offices over the value of £175 a year was then given to the Postmaster General, while the Treasury retained the appointment to Post Offices under £175 a year. In 1859, another change was made, inasmuch as the value of the Post Offices to which the Treasury could appoint was reduced to £120, and at that figure it now stood. In 1878, there were still further powers of veto upon nominations given to the Postmaster General. At the time when Lord John Manners was Postmaster General a Treasury minute was framed as follows:
These nominations will be submitted to the approval of the Postmaster General, who has a right of cancelling any nomination if the character of the nominee is not satisfactory, or if his residence is inconveniently situated, and if such appointment will not lead to the interest of the public service.
Only last year, when the Local Government Act was under discussion, he asked the Postmaster General Patronage Secretary to the Treasury whether,
in view of the extension of Local Government, they would agree to hand over the powers they possessed in this matter to local representative bodies. The answers he received were very encouraging to those who desired to see political patronage taken away from Members of Parliament. Both hon. Gentlemen very rightly said they must be guided by the opinion of the House. It was on account of those answers that he now proposed his Resolution. His proposal was, that in all cases of vacancy in sub-offices and post offices the Postmaster General should ask for a nomination from a Local Representative Body. He did not actually prescribe what local representative body the right hon. Gentleman should refer to, but he took it that in the case of a parish the Postmaster General would refer to the Parish Council, in the case of a larger district to the District Council, and in the case of a town to the Town Council. Some persons suggested that the power of appointment should be handed over to the Post Office, but the difficulties in the way were, in his opinion, almost insurmountable. One difficulty was pointed out in a Treasury Minute founded upon the Report of the Committee of 1854. It was there shown that it would be inapplicable in all cases where post offices were held in connection with private businesses. There were also administrative difficulties. One Surveyor was responsible for the whole of the Western Counties, That gentleman had his headquarters at Bath, but his district stretched from Bath down to the Scilly Isles, a distance of 180 miles. It would be absolutely impossible for such a man to make a good appointment, and by that he meant an appointment which the people would make if they had the opportunity of making one. It would be impossible for that man to find out what the feelings of the people in the locality were. Therefore, it was far better that nominations should be had from some local representative body who would know the wants and the wishes of the people. He had not brought forward this Motion animated by Party motives. He was glad to know that there were some questions in regard to which Members of Parliament were not too closely bound by Party ties, nor too rigidly divided by Party distinctions. This was one of those questions. It was a question
which should link them all closely together, for its object was to serve the interests of the public service of the country. He begged to move his Motion.
§ MR. RANKIN (Herefordshire, Leominster)
said, he seconded the Motion because he thought it was anomalous that the servants of one of the great Departments of the State should be appointed by another Department of the State. He thought, also, that the Post Office was a Department that should be as much as possible in touch with all its servants, many of whom lived remote from the Central Authority; and he believed that closer union would be obtained if the Motion were adopted. Those nominations by Members of Parliament were open to the charge of being Party nominations, and, undoubtedly, they were generally regarded in that light. That was not the best kind of method for appointing the servants of a great State Department; and he would be glad to see it done away with. But it would not be altogether a good thing to take away from the districts all interest in the persons appointed to those offices. The Post Office was becoming more and more important to the social welfare of the people. There were not only such matters as letters, telegrams, telephones, savings-bank business, and money orders attended to by that Institution—he hoped before long that a system of Old Age Pensions would also be established, and that the Post Office would be the agency through which it would be worked—but it also was the means of transmitting to the people much useful information, as, for example, information to intending emigrants about the Colonies and other countries abroad. It was, therefore, desirable that the local authorities should have some say in those appointments, and he knew no better bodies for the purpose than the Parish Councils and the District Councils. As every parish had a post office, he would place the appointments of sub-postmasters in the Parish Council, and those of letter-carriers—who, as a rule, had each two or more parishes in this sphere of work—in the District Councils. He thought it would be a very good thing, if it were possible to do so, to increase the pay of sub-postmasters, for at present the remuneration was so 1122 small that it was exceedingly difficult to get good men for the posts. He also threw out a suggestion that a Parish Council or a District Council should be allowed to become guarantors where a telegraph office was sought to be set up. There was a parish in his electoral district for the County Council, so remote and with so few persons of any wealth in it, that it was found impossible to find the required personal guarantee, and of course the telegraph office was not established, though it was most desirable that the parish should have one, being so far remote from any railway station. There would be no difficulty in that case in raising the guarantee if the Parish Council were allowed to give it, and he therefore suggested to the Postmaster General that some Amendment to bring about that result should be made in the Parish Councils Act.
§ CAPTAIN J. SINCLAIR (Dumbartonshire)
agreed with the hon. Members who had urged the acceptance of the Motion on the House, that the present system of nomination to those minor positions in the Postal Service had many objections, but he was not convinced that the remedy they proposed was the best. It was open to doubt whether any advantage would be gained by putting the appointments in the hands of local representative bodies. In the first place, he was inclined to doubt whether local representative bodies would like to have this duty thrown upon them. It was like, bringing a steam-hammer into play to crack a nut. In the second place, if local representative bodies had the making of the appointments he doubted whether the change would do away with the influence of Party spirit which at present controlled the appointments. It seemed to him that the true solution of the difficulty was, to place the appointments in the hands of the Postmaster General; and he therefore moved as an Amendment to the Motion to leave out after the word "may" to the end of the sentence, in order to insert "by the Postmaster General in the same way as other appointments in his Department."
§ *SIR C. CAMERON (Glasgow, College),
in seconding the Amendment, said that, as far back as 1878 he brought this subject before the House, and moved a Resolution that the appointments should be transferred to the Postmaster General. 1123 At that time a striking illustration of the unpleasant working of this system of patronage had been made public. A correspondence, in which a Member of the House figured, was published in relation to one of those Post Office appointments. It appeared from the explanation of the hon. Gentleman concerned that a tradesman approached him with a view to getting a nomination for the appointment, and said to him: "If you will do this I will promise to vote for you at your election." For some reason or another the hon. Gentleman did not nominate that person, but nominated some other person, who was one of his supporters. As the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth said at the time—The hon. Gentleman had a satisfactory explanation. He nominated an honest Tory who had voted for him, instead of a humbug who promised to vote for him if appointed.He would hand over all these posts to the Postmaster General; the nominations were nothing but a nuisance to Members of Parliament. It was bad enough for them when their party was in power; but when it was out of power, and they could do nothing for the applicants, it was still more unpleasant. There was no reason for this exceptional treatment of certain Postmasterships, and for the infliction on Members of Parliament of a system of persecution by the retention of an obsolete piece of patronage. The power of appointment by the Postmaster General was found to work admirably in respect to all other posts. He begged to second the Amendment.
§ MR. M. BIDDULPH (Herefordshire, Ross)
said that the original Motion would be so disastrous to the public service, if carried, that he was bound to protest against it. The present system of appointments was very bad, but to hand the power over to a number of public bodies would make bad infinitely worse. The Postmaster General, who was responsible for the postal service, was the proper person to make the appointments. He should support the Amendment.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (MR. A. MORLEY,) Nottingham, E.
said that there seemed, from the Debate, to be a general disapproval of the existing system; and therefore he would only deal with that system so far as to correct 1124 a few inaccuracies made by the hon. Member for Herefordshire. The hon. Member spoke of the appointments to a great Department of the State being made by another Department. As a matter of fact the appointment rested with the Postmaster General, and must rest with him whatever system was adopted. It was only the nomination or recommendation which could come from the Treasury or the Local Authority or a Member of Parliament. The hon. Member also mentioned the question of letter carriers. That question did not come into the discussion at all; because some time ago that matter was removed from the Treasury altogether, and the appointments were now made by the Postmaster General, and quite apart from all political considerations. In respect to letter carriers, priority was given to Army and Navy men over all other subjects, except those who had departmental claims arising from previous service. The veto of the Postmaster General on the nominations from the Treasury was frequently exercised. There were certain exceptions to the people qualified to act as sub-postmasters; and, whatever system was ultimately adopted, these exceptions must, in the main, continue to exist. Minors, keepers of inns and publichouses, rate-collectors, vaccination officers, school-attendance officers, licensed grocers in Scotland, and agents for parcels delivery, banking businesses, or anything which would bring the private business into competition with the Post Office were excepted. So far as he was concerned, his action in this matter had been consistent. As a private Member in the Parliament of 1880, whenever he received an application for nomination he sent it to the Local Authority of the Borough, and asked the Officials to recommend the fittest person for the appointment which had to be made. When he was at the Treasury in 1886 he did his best to bring about, with the approval of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, an arrangement which would have been something on the lines of the proposal now before the House; and now, as head of the Post Office, he was willing to fall in with a new arrangement which would meet the approval of the House of Commons. It was essentially a question which affected the members of the House of Commons themselves, and the Govern- 1125 ment would concur in carrying out the general feeling of the House. The considerations which had always influenced him in exercising the veto, had been for the interest of the Post Office. It was necessary that the situation selected should be the most suitable for the district, and that the man appointed should have the confidence of the people whom he had to serve, and among whom he worked. He himself believed that these conditions would be better observed by the Local Authority than under the present system or by the Post Office. The suggestion that the appointments should be transferred to the Postmaster General was complimentary to the Department; and if there was a general feeling in the House in favour of that suggestion, the Postmaster General would have to undertake the burden. But he could assure the House that the position of the Postmaster General at the present time was by no means easy. He was at the head of an enormous Department, which was rapidly growing. The number of sub-postmaster-ships in England and Wales (exclusive of London) was 13,407, and in Scotland it was 1,864, making a total of over 15,200; and he looked with apprehension on the transfer of all these appointments to an already overburdened Minister.
§ MR. A. MORLEY
said that the number of these posts in Ireland was 2,603; but under the present system the appointments in Ireland were made by the Postmaster General. Therefore the adoption of the Amendment would assimilate the system in Great Britain to that which obtained in Ireland; but it would seriously increase the duties and responsibilities of the Department, and he doubted very much whether it would be wise to add such a burden. The proposal, whether adopted in its original or in its amended form, should be confined in its operation to Great Britain. The Government wished to leave the question to be decided by the House without any Party pressure being exercised. He had expressed his own personal wish for the original Motion; but the Government would accept the decision of the House of Commons in either case.
§ *MR. W. L. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
thought that, after what had fallen from 1126 the right hon. Gentleman, the House might properly give him some guidance. Speaking from his experience at the Treasury, he was strongly of opinion that there was only one course which ought to be adopted, and that was that those who paid should appoint. The Postmaster General ought to have the responsibility; and even if he were already greatly shirking burdened, it was no reason for this responsibility. The transfer would hardly increase the work of the Postmaster General so greatly as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested, because he already had the duty of approving of every one of these appointments and must satisfy himself as to the fitness of the persons recommended. This could not occupy more time when the recommendations came from his own Officers in the districts, who could not possibly have any other object than to serve the public to the best advantage. He was sure that every Member of the House would agree that our Postmasters, whether in large or small offices, ought to be absolutely free from all Party bias on one side or the other. He had heard in some cases that there had, for instance, been suspicions at election times that the circulars of one political Party were delivered more promptly than the circulars of another Party. He was quite sure that this ought not to occur in any public Department of the State. The numbers which the Postmaster General had given showing that this question applied to more than 15,000 offices, was in itself a sufficient answer to the suggestion that it should be left to any authority except that of the responsible Department with which they were connected. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the letter-carriers. They were not included, however, in this Motion. An alteration had been made with reference to the letter-carriers by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in Office, who had done much to benefit the men connected with the Army Reserve Forces. He was sure that the system had given great satisfaction, and that it was working very satisfactorily. He hoped that the House would place the responsibility where it ought to rest—namely, with the Department responsible for carrying it out.
§ *SIR A. K. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, it was eminently desirable, both in the 1127 interest of the State and of Members of Parliament, that this remnant of political patronage should be got rid of. He hoped that when the reform was made a similar form of patronage in connection with Customs boatmen would be abolished according to the present precedent. The only question now was whether the transfer should be made to the Postmaster General or whether the appointments should be conferred on the Local Authorities. He had great respect for the experience of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, but he was opposed to the view he had taken of this matter. Though the Postmaster General would be the paymaster, and as such might be expected to appoint, the right hon. Gentleman would still make the appointments, though the Local Authorities might enjoy the nominations. He thought, on the whole, that the Local Authority was to be preferred. He felt no distrust whatever as to the exercise of their powers. This was a distinctly local question, a question of which the immediate interests of the locality ought be consulted, and with reference to which the locality itself must know what is likely to be the best appointment. The local postmastership was a combination of official duty with a business or a trade; and it was almost impossible for the Postmaster General to be as well informed as the Local Authority of the varying requirements and needs of its own district. The more the Post Office added to its duties the more must this become a question of local and personal knowledge as to the applicants for such a position. The reason of the present patronage of Members of Parliament was to secure such local knowledge, and the effect of the transfer to the Postmaster General would not decrease their solicitation, but only change the quarter from the Treasury to the Post Office. He pointed out a precedent which applied in the case of much more important duties—namely, the reference which the Lord Chancellor always made to Town Councils in respect of Borough Justices. But there were two considerations more important than all. There was a growing difficulty in connection with the large public Departments of the State and the employment of labour. The right hon. Gentleman would feel that one of the 1128 great objections to the inclusion by the State of this duty must be that it would largely add to State employment. There was already a good deal of discontent even in the best Civil Service in the world, which was sometimes disadvantageous to the public service. This was another reason for intrusting these duties to those on the spot, and thus dividing responsibility instead of concentrating it on one Department. The question was one of centralisation or decentralisation; and on all grounds he was for the latter. The object of arrangements in connection with local postmasterships should be to satisfy the requirements and to suit the convenience of the localities, and it was in a locality that the best knowledge would be found to exist of how the duties should be performed.
MR. J. CHAMBEBLAJN (Birmingham, W.)
said he had also full confidence in local administration, but he differed entirely from the view of the last speaker. The hon. Gentleman was under some misapprehension when he sought a parallel in the appointment of magistrates. As far as he knew, no Lord Chancellor had ever consented to ask Town Councils or Local Authorities for nominations to the bench of magistrates.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said that was a different state of things. What some Lord Chancellors had done was to settle and send a list of persons whom they thought fit to be appointed, and before making the appointment, they had allowed the Town Council to make any objection as to fitness which might be known to the Local Authority and not previously known to the Lord Chancellor. It was only to that extent the Local Authority had been consulted. His point, however, was this. Here was a political nomination which hon. Members were all, for sufficient reasons, very anxious to get rid of. The House ought not to put that political nomination on the Local Authority. He agreed with hon. Members opposite that, hitherto, the nominations made by Local Authorities had been made almost without a suspicion of political corruption, but that was surely because, in all these cases, 1129 the Local Authorities had the responsibility for the work of the officer they had appointed. It was suggested, however, that the House should give to the Local Authorities the nomination for postmasterships, which would be practically the appointment of officers for whose subsequent work they would have no responsibility whatever. The House ought to guard, to the best of its power, the character of Local Authorities, and it ought not to put in their way what undoubtedly might, in some cases, be a temptation. He, therefore, supported the Amendment.
§ *MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devon port)
said, he had enjoyed some experience of these appointments during the past few years. It was with some surprise that, early in his political career, he received a communication from the Treasury, asking for a nomination to a local postmastership. He had no idea then that such a practice was prevalent; and, seeing that he possessed no local knowledge suitable to guide him in making a selection, he sent the Treasury request to the local people, and asked the chairman of the Liberal Association to select the most suitable person quite apart from any political bias. The wife of the Secretary of the Association was nominated, against which he protested, as he did not wish to be associated with anything which might be considered political jobbery; but he was assured that the nominee was thoroughly suited to the duties of the office, and he felt bound to say that the appointment had proved satisfactory in every respect. When he mentioned to the Post Office officials his objections, he was told in affect "to cheer up, and be easy in his mind," and that it was hardly worth while to raise objections to a good old custom. The next case was in reference to a new Post Office which was to be opened in a particular street. The inhabitants asked the Postmaster General to sanction the proposal, and he believed that an inquiry was held. It was ultimately agreed that a Post Office should be opened, and he had the privilege of the nomination. Here again he sought local aid. He was surprised, however, to find out a few weeks afterwards that a person had been appointed who did not live in the street for which the office had been demanded. The 1130 third case was that of an outlying district, where a vacancy had occurred, with a large salary attached to the appointment. He had become wiser by this time, and had arrived at the conclusion that those appointments were political in their nature; therefore "he took the bull by the horns" and handed the affair over to the Liberal Association. There were 40 applicants for the vacancy, including the chairman, secretary, treasurer, and two members of the executive of the local Association. But his colleague inadvertently made a direct nomination to the Treasury which they accepted, and he had to bear the protests and complaints of the 40 disappointed ones. This patronage was objectionable in every way. It made more enemies than friends, and he hoped it would be swept away. He had set before the House these examples of the evil effects of the system, because these actual cases were worth a ton of theory.
§ MR. C. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)
said, that in Ireland they had to some extent been relieved of the responsibilities of making appointments of this character. He thought they required to have it made illegal for any Member of Parliament to make any nomination or recommendation whatever; nothing short of that he thought would meet the case. Under the present state of things Members of Parliament were besieged with applications for appointments.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
said, that he happened to be presiding over the patronage and destinies of the Treasury when the hon. Member for Glasgow brought forward a motion on the subject in 1878. The question then debated was a very difficult and intricate one, and he did not think its difficulties had diminished since that date. There was no doubt that there was some truth in what had been urged by the Postmaster General—that were this patronage entirely thrown upon his hands it would grealy add to his responsibilities. This Debate would emphasise the necessity for an immediate change in the present scheme of patronage. There was not a single hon. Member in the House who had a good word to say for it. When this question was mooted before, Lord John Manners made a very good offer to 1131 the House; he stated that if it were clearly shown that this transfer to himself and his Department would be to the public benefit, he would cheerfully agree to be sacrificed and undertake the additional work. He hoped that sufficient pressure could be brought to bear upon the Postmaster General in induce him to adopt that course and take over this work. He pressed him the more to do so on account of the mistaken alternative which had been proposed of handing this patronage over to local bodies. In the case of the new Parish Councils, for example, could there be anything more miserable than that, in some obscure village, because there happened to be a post office vacancy the whole of the elections should turn sometimes, perhaps, upon who should be appointed to it? There was another reason why the appointments should not be handed over to these bodies, and that was the difficulty that would arise if a vacancy occurred when they were not meeting; were special meetings to be summoned for the appointment of postmasters? The best thing that the Postmaster General and the Department—with whom, after all, the ultimate appointments restedmcould do was to take the whole matter into their hands.
§ MR. A. MORLEY
said, the question was essentially one for the House of Commons to determine, but whatever decision the House of Commons came to, he should loyally abide by it. The question before the House in 1878, when Lord John Manners was Postmaster General, was identical with that which they were now discussing, but, although the noble Lord was willing to accept the decision of the House, he opposed it on the grounds that he considered the existing system was the best in the interests of the Public Service.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, they must all feel very glad that the Postmaster General took such a high-minded view of his duty in the matter, but he was sorry that he had not made the alteration of his own motion two years ago, when he came into office. It was most discreditable that this remnant of official jobbery should still exist. He cited a case in which an appointment had been made, not by the Postmaster General, not by the Secretary to the Treasury, not by a Member of Parliament, but by a Radical candidate. That was 1132 constantly happening. He ventured to say that if any Member sitting on the same side of the House as himself, were to write to the Secretary for the Treasury for a postmastership, he would be told that the applications from Liberal Members were so numerous that this particular application from a Tory Member could not be entertained. These appointments were really part of the work of the Postmaster General, and if it was too much for one Postmaster General let there be two, and let them divide the salary.
§ MR. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY, (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, there was a suspicion in his mind that, while the Postmaster General was going tentatively to accept the transfer, he had the intention by administrative practice of surrendering it practically to the local bodies by consulting them in every case. He respectfully asked him to set the minds of hon. Members at rest upon that point. He did not bind himself to consent to any such practice as that. He had very grave doubts whether by any system they could entirely eliminate politics from these appointments. He hoped that it would be made perfectly clear that those who voted for the Amendment did not make themselves responsible for its being nullified afterwards by administrative practice.
§ SIR D. H. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
said he did not think the motion went far enough. The appointments should be placed wholly and entirely in the hands of the Postmaster General, and Members of Parliament should be prohibited altogether from taking any part whatever in the nominations or even from supporting them. If they were placed in the hands of the local authorities the local Member of Parliament would be in no better position in regard to the matter than at present, for in that case he would be solicited by floods of letters, and personally, if possible, to support the nomination of the County or Parish Council. The present system was rather a trouble and a nuisance to Members of Parliament than otherwise; it was the means of making for them more enemies than friends, and he, for one, should be glad if the power of nomination were taken out of their hands altogether.
§ *MR. H. L. W. LAWSON (Gloucester, Cirencester)
agreed that the duty of recommendation by hon. Members was an 1133 unpleasant and invidious one, and made them more enemies than friends. He would urge on the Postmaster General in opposite course to that suggested by the hon. Member for Sheffield. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would decide in future to consult the local authorities in cases of appointment, and that Members of Parliament would no longer be troubled in the matter. But, unless the recommendation or information given by the local authorities were relied upon by the Postmaster General, the result of the new system, so far as Members of Parliament were concerned, would be no better than the old. The form would be changed, the substance would be the same. As in the case of the appointment of magistrates the local authorities were consulted, so in the case of those appointments regard should be paid according to the Treasury Minute of 1854 to the convenience and interests of the local population. The best way to secure that result was through the local authorities. But, whatever was done, he hoped hon. Member and candidates for Parliament would be rid of this last remnant of political patronage—the obligation of making recommendations to those offices on political grounds.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, it was amusing to note how virtuous hon. Members had suddenly become in relation to this matter, and for the curious reason, too, that they had discovered that the exercise of the patronage brought them more enemies than friends. Political bribery, of course, was a thing of the past, yet they all knew perfectly well that the whole system of the present Government was a system of political bribery in the biggest sense. He protested against the display of Pecksniffian virtue of certain hon. Members, who had themselves implied that there would be no objection to the patronage on their part if it brought more political friends than enemies.
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
thought the Amendment was altogether of a retrograde character; it would have a contralising effect and deprive the people of a voice in matters which largely affected their interests. He should, therefore, support the Motion.
§ MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
said, it was 1134 probable he was the only Member in the House who was of opinion that no adequate cause had been shown to interfere with the present system, and he was, therefore, unable to support either the Motion or the Amendment. In fact, he saw very little difference between them, for even if the Amendment were carried and the duty placed entirely in the hands of the Postmaster General, he would have to seek for information from some one as to the persons to be appointed, and to whom else could he go for it than the local authorities? The present system had not worked badly, and he did not think the patronage so much objected to by certain Members had been abused.
MR. J. W. CROMBTE (Kincardineshire)
said, the efficiency of the Post Office should be the real point in view, and, therefore, the responsibility of the appointments should rest with the Department.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion, as Amended, put.
§ MR. ARNOLD MORLEY
said, the proper word would be "appointments," and suggested that the Motion should be amended.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
said, the Motion could not now be amended. The only course was to withdraw the Resolution, as amended, and move it in the altered form.
§ Motion, as amended, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. A. MORLEY moved—
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that Post Office appointments to which nominations sire now made by the Treasury on the recommendation of Members of Parliament should, in future, be made by the Postmaster General in the same way us other appointments in the Department.
§ Motion agreed to.