§ £773,712, to complete the sum for Customs—agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed:—
That a sum, not exceeding £1,701,036, 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 1897, for the salaries and expenses of the Inland Revenue Department."—
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Boroughs)
said that an understanding had been come to with the First Lord of the Treasury that the Post Office Vote should be taken first.
MR. H ANBURY
said that undoubtedly it was arranged that the Post Office Revenue Departments Estimates were to be taken first; and he had thought that that order would be observed. But it was not in the discretion of the Treasury to say in what order the Votes should be put from the Chair.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said that many Members who wished to raise questions on the Customs Vote were absent because of the undertaking which had been given that the Post Office Vote should be taken first. It was at least an unfortunate accident that the Customs Vote should have been taken first.
§ MR. HANBURY
said that he was; not aware of any arrangement having been made beyond that which was carried out by the Order Paper, on which were put down "Post Office and Revenue Departments Estimates."
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
asked whether it was competent to put the Post Office Vote first?
When a Vote has been proposed, it can only be withdrawn on the Motion of a Minister of the Crown.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS moved:— "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again." He said they had been taken by surprise. There was a clear, distinct, and specific understanding that the Post Office Vote should be taken first.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
hoped that the hint given by the Chairman would be taken by the Government
§ MR. HANBURY
said that he was anxious to carry out any pledge which, was given. He did not know the Customs Vote would be put first. He would postpone the Inland Revenue Vote until the Post Office Vote had been disposed of.
§ MR. DALZIEL
asked whether, in view of the departure from the understanding, the (Government would give an 586 opportunity for discussing the Customs Vote on Report?
§ Motion to report progress, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HANBURY moved to withdraw the Inland Revenue Vote.
§ Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made and Question proposed: —
That a sum, not exceeding £6,442,120, be grunted 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 1897, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Post Office Services, the Expenses of Post Office Savings Banks, and Government Annuities and Insurances, and the Collection of the Post Office Revenue.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
desired to call attention to some of the grievances of employés in the Post Office and Telegraph Departments. While the Departmental Committee was still sitting, it would not be right or in order to go into the whole subject, but there were some points as to which the Committee had ruled that they were not within the terms of reference, and, therefore, could not be entertained by them. He admitted that under the late Government considerable improvement took place with regard to the political privileges of employés of the Post Office, but the civil rights which had been conferred upon them were still subject to grave limitations. For instance, it was officially laid down that their political rights were to be exercised with due regard to discipline and discretion. He submitted that such a rule was vague, and therefore might place the recipient of the franchise in a disadvantageous position. He should like to know whose discretion was referred to. Was it to reside in the particular member of the Civil Service or in the head of the Department? He could conceive nothing more dangerous to the individual and nothing more embarrassing to a Minister than to have to determine a question of that sort. He did not know that in any other Department of the State there was any such official rule, and he asked why the Post 587 Office was made an invidious exception. It was true that members of the Civil Service of their own free will generally refrained, and properly refrained, from taking an active part in public political life, but in this case a distinct disability was imposed, not by Statute, but by the will of the head of the Department, and he doubted very much the constitutional character of the rule. As an illustration of the disadvantage and danger to which he referred, he mentioned that at the late General Election an order was issued by the Postmaster General forbidding members of the Post Office from seeking to obtain promises from Parliamentary candidates relating to their duties or pay. It so happened that two of his constituents connected with the Post Office, with some of their fellows, waited upon several candidates, himself among the rest, asking whether, if returned, they would vote for the appointment of a. Committee to inquire into the grievances of the Post Office service. He did not think that could be said truly to be an attempt to "obtain promises as to their duties or pay," and the significant fact existed that that very Committee of Inquiry had been granted and was sitting, and had already reported in favour of redress in several cases, and therefore, presumably, the request was in itself reasonable. The Postmaster General, however, held, that that was a case of want of due regard to discipline, and the result was that two of his constituents had been dismissed the service with loss of position, and what might have been their livelihood, and of their pensions, which was largely deferred pay. He moved to reduce the "Vote, in order to ask that the matter might be reconsidered, and that the men should now be restored, for the just corollary of redress was restoration. Surely the time had come for amnesty, and he hoped the Postmaster General would reconsider the subject, and give the men an opportunity of regaining the advantages of which they had been deprived for some years. There was another point to which he wished to call attention, and that was the rule of the Department that no deputation of the recognised organisations of the Post Office with their official heads should be received. Now, employés, individually or collectively, might ap- 588 proach the Postmaster General with a view to putting before him causes of complaint, but Postmasters General had hitherto refused to receive anything in the shape of combined bodies and their leaders in the service. He asked that the Postmaster General should receive those who represented the several societies which were recognised in the Post Office. This, also, was a Departmental rule varying from that which obtained in any other Department of the State. Recently, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary received deputations from Trade Unions and Congresses, and inasmuch as there were three organised and recognised societies, or perhaps more, in the Post Office, he really could not see why an exception was made in that Department of the State, and why the Postmaster General should peremptorily refuse to receive the members of the societies as such, or their leaders. His own experience, which was not slight, was that in trade disputes it was unorganised or disorganised trades, without responsible leaders, which were the most difficult to deal with, and that, as a rule, upon the whole organised societies were influences towards industrial peace, when peace could be had on just and equitable terms, and securities for the fulfilment of such terms of settlement. He moved to reduce the Vote by £1,000.
§ *MR. C. J. MONK (Gloucester)
thought the appeal which his hon. Friend had made to the Secretary to the Treasury was one that deserved his serious attention, and that of the Postmaster General. He was the individual who was responsible for the passing of the Revenue Officers' Disabilities Removal Act in 1868, a Measure which he carried through the House against the Government of the day and also against the opposition of Mr. Gladstone. Under that Act, officers in the Inland Revenue and Customs and Post Office were relieved from the electoral disabilities which were imposed upon them by the Administration of Lord Rockingham in 1782. They were enabled to vote, but rules and regulations were laid down by the Heads of those Departments, prohibiting the employés from taking part in public or political meetings. He could see no reason whatever why servants in the Post Office should not take part in 589 meetings, and impress upon their representatives the desirableness of obtaining relief from any grievances. Twenty-five years ago he, received an assurance from Mr. Lowe, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, that no disability attached to the servants of the Crown in the Revenue Departments, although, at election times, orders had been issued by the chiefs desiring that no active part should be taken in elections. To a certain extent, he thought that public servants ought not to take an active part in canvassing, but that they should be prevented from attending a meeting, and impressing upon candidates any grievances from which they suffered would be a monstrous abuse of power on the part of the Department. He therefore supported the appeal of his hon. Friend.
§ *MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
drew attention to the case of an employé named Sampson, formerly assistant postmaster at Sligo, in order-to see whether the Post Office Authorities could not do something in the way of rendering justice to the man. While Mr. Sampson was at Sligo, a visit was paid to the town by several preachers of the Protestant Mission. He sympathised with the spirit in which these men discharged their work, but he was convinced that the mischief they did far outweighed any good, as far as he could judge, they had been able to accomplish. Mr. Sampson was in no way connected with the mission, nor had he invited them to come. The preachers were announced to arrive at Sligo, and a request was made to hire lodgings for them. But the Sligo mob, being aware of the fact, threatened the lodging-house proprietors with violence in the event of the preachers being received in the lodgings. When the visitors arrived in the town the threat was so far put in force that it was made impossible for them to be entertained in the house engaged for them. They were assailed with great violence. Mr. Sampson and his wife, however, let lodgings to one or two of the preachers, with the result that not only were riots created in the town, but M r. Sampson and his wife were subjected to a large amount of persecution. The hon. Member for Sligo, who was also Mayor of the town, wrote to the Postmaster General and informed him that 590 Mr. Sampson was responsible for bringing the preachers to the town. Whereupon Mr. Sampson was promptly removed by the Postmaster General, practically for harbouring Protestants in Sligo. He reminded the Committee that in this country a similar case had been dealt with at Eastbourne, in connection with which it was stated that Parliament would not pass any special law which should take away the elementary right of religious liberty. It was proved to demonstration that in the case of the Sligo preachers no attempt was made to proselytise. His attention had been called to the case of Mr. Sampson, and he entered into correspondence with the Postmaster General. He did not complain in any way of the courtesy of the noble Duke, though he did complain of the conclusion to which he arrived, because he could not see that Mr. Sampson had committed any offence known to the law of the land. The case had been aggravated by a statement which had been made to the effect that Sampson had, on a previous occasion, made himself amenable to the rules of the Post Office. It was stated that he had received into his house a child who had adopted the Protestant Communion, and in a letter from the Postmaster General, it was stated that a censure had been conveyed to Mr. Sampson, who gave an undertaking not to offend again. He denied that this was the case. He maintained that this communication had neither been received nor acknowledged by Mr. Sampson, and he gave no such undertaking as had been alleged. This question having been brought before the late Postmaster General in the House, the right hon. Gentleman declined to take any action, and said that it was an entirely private affair. What would be the consequence of allowing dismissals to take place on these grounds? The offence was not merely that of harbouring Protestants, the true offence lay in the fact that the harbouring of Protestants had been made the excuse for rioting in Sligo; and therefore this conduct, which was legal and permissible, might go on for ever until some disturbance, created by outside persons, took place. But what was the danger? In the south of Ireland all that was needed was that a man should be singled out whom it was wished 591 to get rid of, and his conduct would be objected to on any pretext a certain section of the population chose. Hon. Members might be told that this man was unpopular, that he had not sufficient savoir faire to get on with the population, who not only persecuted Mrs. Sampson in the streets, but battered the doors of the house, and generally made the man's life a burden to him. He took exception to the reference made to this case by the Chief Secretary, who had been asked about the proceedings in connection with the riot. The right hon. Gentleman was asked whether it was permissible in a court of justice to put a question to a witness with regard to his religious belief. The Chief Secretary answered that it was of no consequence. But in opposition to the belief of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought that the putting of such a question did matter. The proceedings, which had gone before the Postmaster General, were a scandal. The hon. Member for Sligo, who was Mayor of the town, thought it his duty to import considerations into the case which ought to have been left out.
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop's Auckland)
I rise to order. I wish to know whether the statements now being made by the hon. Member are germane to the point under consideration?
I think that so far as the hon. Member deals with the action or non-action of the Postmaster General, his references are germane, but the replies given by the Chief Secretary are scarcely relevant to the Vote.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, that the Gentleman who enforced this action against Mr. Sampson was the hon. Member for Sligo, who, as Mayor, presided on the bench; and he called attention to the animus shown by that hon. Gentleman against Sampson, who was asked, among other things, whether he believed in transubstantiation, and the dogmas of the Catholic Church.
I do not think that under cover of criticising the action of the Postmaster General the hon. Member can indirectly make an attack on an hon. Member. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is absent!"] There may be other opportunities for doing that, but it cannot be properly done on this Vote.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, that this matter was initiated by this hon. Gentleman in his capacity of Mayor of Sligo.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that at all events the action taken had resulted in the dismissal of Sampson. He recognised that the Postmaster General ought not to allow an employé to remain in a post, if his remaining there could not be permitted consistently with the interests of the public service. This man had possibly been removed in the interests of the public service, but he failed to see what fault he had committed. The Postmaster General ought, in his opinion, to have given Mr. Sampson some small promotion or some small additional salary. If that had been done it would have been made manifest that the course which had been pursued was dictated by administrative reasons exclusively, and that Sampson was blameless. It was to be hoped that Sampson's case would not become a precedent. Over and over again in the locality had the statement been jubilantly made that this man was driven out of Sligo, and the men who claimed to have driven him out gloried in the fact. He trusted that steps would be taken to render it impossible that any stigma should attach to this man.
§ MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
wished to associate himself with his colleague the hon. Member for South Islington in this matter. He recognised that in every Department of State rigid regulations as to discipline must be made. He did not, however, think that it could be considered a breach of discipline when employés of the Post Office in a legitimate and not rebellious spirit exercised whatever influence they possessed to obtain a Committee to inquire into their grievances. The Committee for which they had asked had been recognised to be necessary, and its inquiries had resulted in the redress of a great many of the grievances put forward, and in concessions which must be acknowledged to have been reasonable. In those circumstances, it could scarcely be urged that these employés had been guilty of an offence for which loss of salary and forfeiture of pension would be a proper and just punishment.
§ MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN (Limerick, W.), referring to the case of Mr. Sampson, said that public servants should keep themselves aloof, as far as possible, from religious and political disputes. It had been proved that Sampson took an active part in promoting evangelical missions in Sligo, and that he thereby irritated people who did not share his views. To the expostulations of the local authorities he paid no heed. The treatment which he had received he fully deserved. The Postmaster General said that in transferring Sampson he selected for him a post where he would Jose nothing in salary or position, and that it was understood that he should be repaid any expenses incident to his removal. That, he maintained, was very merciful treatment, having regard to the bitter feeling of annoyance excited in the minds of Catholics in Sligo at the action taken by Mr. Sampson and his associates in connection with the meetings which had been referred to.
§ *MR. J. BRIGG (York, W. R., Keighley)
speaking to the second part of the complaint of the hon. Member for South Islington, referred to the manner in which the combinations of Post Office servants were treated, and the methods by which they were obliged to come before the Post Office in order to obtain redress for grievances. He did not know, he said, why these men should be subjected to such strict conditions. They were certainly not a military body, nor men in whose hands were placed the lives and liberties of the people. He took it that they were employed in what was simply a commercial establishment. They got their wages and they did their work. He did not see very much difference between their position in the Post Office and the position of men in large commercial establishments throughout the country. The Postmaster General would soon have on his hands, if he had not already, a large body of men who were simply artisans, who were employed in telegraphy and operations of that kind, and with whom he would be obliged to make conditions similar to those made with ordinary workmen. At present grievances were communicated to the Postmaster General more or less indirectly by Members of this House. He did not see why the Postmaster 594 General should not come more in contact with his men, as was done in other establishments. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. T. M. HEALY
said he thought it a monstrous thing that the Postmaster General should be in the House of Lords, and that he should be represented in the House of Commons by the Secretary to the Treasury, who belonged to a Department that should act as a check upon the Post Office. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury) was a most efficient economist, who had criticised with great acumen nearly every class of expenditure. For the office which he held the Government could hardly have made a better selection, but the Secretary to the Treasury was not the most suitable official to represent a great spending Department like the Post Office. With reference to the case to which the hon. Member for West Belfast had called attention, he would like to give the Committee an idea of the position taken up by the hon. Member, and the spirit in which he dealt with the matter, by reading to the House an extract from a letter addressed by the hon. Member to the Postmaster General. The hon. Gentleman said:What has happened in Sligo to-day will happen in Ennis or Galway to-morrow. What can he casier? The next time the unpopularity may come from quite a different cause. Let me say, for instance, that a, Postmaster declines to allow persons in his district to read private telegrams or to examine letters passing through his hands, practices not unknown in parts of Ireland, and by his refusal incurs unpopularity.The Duke of Norfolk very properly challenged the hon. Gentleman to state any instances where anything of the kind had occurred, and the hon. Gentleman was good enough not to reply to the challenge. That was the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman addressed himself to the Irish questions. In this matter, more or less of a a Departmental question, he endeavoured to recommend his arguments to the country and to the Department by making an absolutely unfounded suggestion upon the honour, and also upon the conscience, of a large number of people who were sworn on oath not to reveal the contents of telegrams or letters passing through their hands. That was the scheme of the hon. Gentleman. Now, what was his position? 595 They were afflicted in Ireland with a body of persons, a number of whom were in pension in Dublin Castle, who went about roaring a sacred name in the streets, which ought to be pronounced with reverence. They said they were preaching the Gospel. If he recited the Rosary in the Lobby of the House and thereby created a disturbance, he would be told that the Lobby of the House of Commons in a Protestant country was not the place for the exercise of Catholic forms. Mr. Sampson and his friends had considered it desirable to put the town of Sligo to the expense of some hundreds of pounds by getting up processions for the purpose of roaring down Popery in the streets. The position of a Postmaster was essentially one of considerable delicacy, and it was a matter of absolute necessity that if he made himself obnoxious to nine-tenths of the people of a town, he should be allowed to air his Protestantism in a Protestant locality. Accordingly, Mr. Sampson had been sent to the good old town of Enniskillen. Mr. Sampson was reprimanded on several occasions, and having disregarded the reprimands, he was finally removed. The spirit in which they were treated in Ireland could well be gathered from a resolution passed by the Dunfermline Protestant Defence Association, in which it was stated that the meeting strongly resented and condemned the recent intolerant action of the Postmaster General in removing Mr. Sampson from his position in Sligo to gratify "the fiendish intolerance of the Papists of Sligo." He was amazed at the good sense the Government had shown in this matter, and at the courage displayed by the Duke of Norfolk. Mr. Sampson, as the result of his removal, had not lost a fraction. He had only been removed to a most healthy and picturesque locality, out of a Romanist atmosphere and into a Protestant one. He would have thought that Mr. Sampson, having left the land of his adoption and gone into his own country, would have been delighted to escape from the Egyptian bondage of Sligo in order to enjoy the promised land of Ulster. On, the whole, he thought the Post Office had acted with great wisdom in the attitude they had taken up. He congratulated the Government, therefore, and would only say that if they 596 would go a little further and try to induce these Christians to leave Catholics alone in their benightedness, they would do much to relieve them.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, he desired to call attention to the treatment of postmen during election time. It seemed rather a curious thing that postmen should have to suffer so heavily at a time when other people were supposed to benefit. The postman got very heavy extra work, and got no extra remuneration for it. He had been told, in answer to a question he had put, that if the extra hours a postman worked were due to a train being late, or to some cause of that kind, he got extra pay, but if extra work was put upon him by the condition of the country at election time, he got no extra pay. He thought that was a grievance the Post Office ought to consider, with a view to considering whether something could not be done in the direction of giving postmen remuneration for being kept at work for these extraordinarily long hours. The authorities always knew beforehand that this extra pressure was coming on, and there would be no difficulty whatever in providing for it.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he was not surprised that his hon. Friend the Member for Islington (Sir A. Rollit) had brought forward the question of civil servants taking part in political meetings. He quite understood that hon. Members were desirous for many reasons to bring under the notice of the House any matter that the civil servants might regard as a grievance, because our Civil Service was one of which the country had every reason to be proud, and, indeed, he doubted whether any other country was as well served by its civil servants as we were. At the same time, that service had attained its present value owing to the rules and regulations which had hitherto been in operation, and it would not, in his opinion, be desirable that those rules and regulations should be dealt with in such a way as might interfere with the efficiency of the service. With regard to the particular case that had been brought under the notice of the Committee by the hon. Member for South Islington, he understood that the grievance which had to some extent led to the action of the civil servant in question 597 had been redressed, and that now no great complaint existed with regard to any regulations restricting the members of the Civil Service and of the Post Office in the exercise of their political rights. The hon. Gentleman had asked that the case of this person should lie reconsidered, and, if possible, that he should be reinstated. He, however, did not think it sufficient that the hon. Gentleman should say, as he did say, that the individual in question ought to be rein stated, because the grievance that he had protested against had been subsequently redressed. There could be no doubt that the Postmaster General of the day was perfectly entitled as the head of a Department for which he was responsible to the country, to make the order he had done for the purpose of preventing the civil servants of that Department from trying to induce candidates to pledge themselves to take a certain line of action in reference, to particular questions relating to the pay and employment of the members of that Department. In his opinion this was a matter with regard to which the House ought to be very careful in its action. He had sat for some years as a member of the Royal Commission upon Civil Service Establishments, and the members of that Commission had been greatly struck by the enormous pressure that civil servants in particular constituencies were able to bring to bear upon candidates, and in his view the House ought not to adopt any line of action that would encourage that pressure being brought into operation. So great, indeed, had been the abuse that it had even been suggested that civil servants ought to be disfranchised altogether. He for one hoped that it would never be necessary to pass such a Measure as that, and he did not think that anyone would propose to carry out such an extreme suggestion. At the same time, the House ought to be very careful not to encourage such undue pressure as he had indicated being brought to bear upon candidates by civil servants. After all, civil servants were not quite in the same position as that occupied by persons who were in private employment. The established servants of the Crown had peculiar privileges in the way of pensions and promotion that were not enjoyed by those who were in private employment. Another great 598 danger that had to be provided against was that in certain London constituencies, and in some of the large towns it was quite possible that the civil servants might, by combining together, succeed in turning the balance at an election in the event of one of the candidates refusing to pledge himself with regard to raising the scale of wage, or an increase in the amount of pensions, or similar advantages which the civil servants might desire to obtain. That was not a Kind of pressure that in his private opinion the House ought to tolerate. But, passing from that point, it must be recollected that civil servants had, without the exercise of any undue pressure, an opportunity of having their grievances brought: before that House by hon. Members voluntarily, but that was a very different thing from threatening an hon. Member that he should lose his seat at the next election if he did not do so. As regarded the particular case referred to by the hon. Member for South Islington, he understood that the Postmaster General of the day gave instructions, which were the usual instructions which had been given by his predecessors in office, that Post. Office officials were not to bring pressure to bear upon candidates to make promises with regard to Post Office pensions, pay, or terms of employment. Those instructions the person in question deliberately chose to disregard.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said, the contention was that what was done was not a breach of the instructions.
said, that the suggestion was that no definite promise was asked for in reference to an increase of pay, but there was little difference between what was forbidden and what was done, and therefore the distinction that the hon. Gentleman drew was a very fine one. Hut on the other hand, whilst be said that, he must say that he was greatly impressed with the great value of the civil servants, and thought that every reasonable concession should be made to them, and that anything that tended to enable them to exercise their political rights was a step in the right, direction. His own opinion of the matter was, that the Post Office had acted very wisely indeed in allowing them to exercise their political rights as long as they did not attempt to bring undue pressure to bear 599 upon their representatives, and did not take part in political life upon political platforms. Passing from the case referred to by the hon. Member for South Islington, he now came to that mentioned by the hon. Member for Belfast. It was somewhat remarkable that the two cases should have occurred upon the same evening. In the case referred to by the hon. Member for Belfast, the individual in question had taken a prominent part not in a political, but a religious agitation. He confessed that he could not quite understand the position of the hon. Member for Belfast in the matter, because that hon. Gentleman said that he could find no fault with the order of the Postmaster General, because it was undoubtedly necessary to remove the individual from Sligo. But the hon. Gentleman suggested that the man should have been promoted. The hon. Gentleman said that when these missionaries went to Sligo they were unable to obtain accommodation, and therefore they were received by Sampson in his house. He, however, not only offered them temporary accommodation, but, knowing full well the extent of the agitation they were causing, and that they were running counter to the feelings of a great portion of the population of the town, he, occupying the position of a public official, not only harboured them for the time, but was actually willing to take them into his house for a whole year. That, certainly, was not the proper course for a civil servant to have taken. Mr. Sampson would not lose pecuniarily by the transfer, because, besides the cost of removing his furniture, etc., other allowances had been made him. With regard to the Postmaster General being in the House of Lords, down to 1866 he was prohibited by Statute from sitting in the House of Commons. But in 1866, the late Mr. Childers, then Secretary to the Treasury, stated, on a Bill being brought in to alter this, that though the Bill was intended to give the Crown a larger choice in the selection of Postmaster General, it was not intended that, as a rule, the Postmaster General should sit in the House of Commons. As a matter of fact, the Duke of Montrose was at that time sitting in the House of Lords as Postmaster General, and later, Lord Wolverton filled the same position when Mr. Gladstone was Prime Minister. If 600 there was an official in the House of Commons to represent the Postmaster General, he would need a representative in the Lords. His own feeling was that the Government had quite enough official Members in the House, and that the Secretary to the Treasury was the most suitable official to represent the Postmaster General. No doubt the hon. Member for Longford was justified in saying it was somewhat inconsistent that when they dealt with a large spending Department like the Post Office, it should be represented in the House of Commons by one of the officials of a Department whose main object was to avoid expenditure. But it would be the same whether the Secretary to the Treasury represented the Postmaster General or not. The Treasury exercised control over Post Office expenditure, and it was therefore an advantage to the Post Office to be directly represented by a Treasury official in that House. He was the last to say that it was the function of the Treasury merely to repress expenditure. He believed the Treasury had occasionally been guilty of false economy. In the Post Office there was a certain class of expenditure which was actually remunerative. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Lichfield—one of whose constituents he himself was— that the postmen received no extra pay for the large amount of work thown upon them at election times, he would look into the matter. But from his own experience of the enormous amount of extra work which his hon. Friend threw on the postmen of the Lichfield Division during the recent bye-election, he could well understand that if there were any postmen entitled to extra pay, it would be those postmen. [Laughter.]
§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, that with regard to the disabilities of civil servants he did not think the reply of the hon. Gentleman would be regarded as satisfactory. The gist of the complaint was that Post Office servants were placed under disabilities to which no other branch of the Civil Service was subject. What was said by the advocates of the men was that the order issued by the Postmaster General applied differential treatment to the servants of the Post Office, and, even assuming the order was valid and not objectionable, the two men whose 601 cases had been brought forward did not violate that order. He hoped, in spite of what the Secretary to the Treasury had said, he would reconsider the case in the light of the facts mentioned. He wished now to refer to the contracts for clothing. Twelve or 18 months ago new contracts were entered into, and a large contract which had previously been kept in London was given to a country firm which "undercut" all its competitors. The result had been very unsatisfactory. Many of the clothes delivered were rejected. They were; not returned or substitutes supplied, with the result that a large number of Post Office employés had not yet received their winter clothing. He hoped that the penalties under the contract would be enforced, that adequate steps would be taken for its fulfilment, or that the contract would be taken from its present holder. The next matter to which he desired to call attention was the medical staff of the Post Office, which was a very expensive, and which ought to be a very effective institution. Again and again it had been necessary in that House to call in question the conduct of members of the medical staff. It was now nearly 10 years since he directed attention to a very gross case of misconduct, and as a consequence, the conduct of the medical staff was more satisfactory for a long time. But recently complaints had been growing of inhumanity and harshness on the part, especially, of subordinate members of the medical staff towards the humbler officials in the Post Office. He had not had an opportunity of personally investigating the complaints he had received, therefore he did not propose to refer to individual eases, with one exception. But there was one case he should like to mention because he believed the facts, so far as they were relevant, were not disputed. It was the case, of a sorter who, being suddenly taken ill, went to see the doctor. According to the man's statement, the doctor treated him very rudely and harshly. He did not go into the merits of what occurred at the interview, which he only mentioned in order to refer to the report made by the medical gentleman, who charged the sorter with insubordinate conduct. What he particularly complained of was that the medical gentleman in his report, said he could only account for the sorter's 602 excitable conduct on the supposition that he was suffering from the effects of drink. He then proceeded to say that after the sorter had left he asked the attendant if he had noticed anything extraordinary in the man's conduct, to which the attendant replied that he had not. He could not think the Committee would be of opinion that the conduct of the medical officer in this case was at all worthy of his great position and the profession to which he belonged. In the first place it was very undignified, behind the back of this man, to go and put leading questions as to whether the sorter was drunk or not, and much worse, after he had put these leading questions and drawn a blank, that he should, in reporting to the sorter's superiors, suggest that he was suffering from the effects of drink. There was not a scintilla of evidence to support such a charge, what evidence there was being in favour of the man. In the Estimates for last year, a small sum of £215 was charged for the wages of deaf mutes. This year there was no such charge. As he understood it, an experiment was made in the Post Office; of employing deaf mutes, but from the fact that no charge appeared under that head in the present Estimates, he assumed that such employment had been discontinued. He should like to know if that were the case, and also the result of the experiments made at the Post Office in the direction he had indicated. There was just one other topic to which he should like to refer. Under the head of "Appropriations in Aid," he found that the conveyance of the Savings Bank correspondence was put in the last year's Estimates as of the value of £68,000, whereas in this year's Estimate, it was put as only of the value of £64,500. That was very curious. Of course one could understand if the Estimate of this year were larger than the Estimate of last year, but he could not understand how it could happen that the Estimate for this year should be smaller than that of last year, in view of the fact that the Savings Bank Department was constantly growing, and the correspondence yearly increasing. It might, however, be that the opinion he had long held was right—namely, that the estimate of the value of services rendered by one Department of the Post Office to another was purely arbitrary, and based upon no 603 data which could be subjected to any test, but which varied and was modified according to the views or arguments which might be for the time in vogue at headquarters.
§ COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
desired to refer to the rates of wages paid to some of the London postmen. The Post Office did not consider London to the full extent that it was really the county of London. The district of Woolwich, which he had the honour to represent, was situated in London. Some years ago, in consequence of the South-Eastern postal district being deemed too large, Woolwich was put outside the South-Eastern district, into one the headquarters of which were now at Tunbridge Wells, so that if any suggestion or any alteration affecting Woolwich were made, an official was sent from Tunbridge to Woolwich to decide the matter. Why Woolwich was ever removed from its place as a London district he did not quite know, for surely it could have been designated by some other name if the South-Eastern district was too large. As a matter of fact, it was transferred to a district of Kent, with the result that the postmen started with smaller wages, and arrived at a less maximum than obtained in London. In answer to some shipping question a few days ago, the First Lord of the Admiralty admitted that the rates of London wages were 15 per cent. higher than in the country, and he believed that the War Department admitted that wages should be 2s. a week more at Woolwich than at Chatham, because rates and rents were higher in London than they were in country places. But by Woolwich having been transferred to another district for Post Office reasons, the postal officials there, although they lived in London, where the rents and taxes were higher than in the country, were yet only paid the country rate of wages. What was still more strange was that part of Woolwich which was on the north side of the Thames was in the Eastern district of London, where the men had the London rate of pay, but in the south part of Woolwich, the postmen only received the country rate. Again, Charlton, the next parish, was partly in the South-Eastern district, and the men employed in this portion of it received the London rate of wages, but 604 those who were employed in the other division of Charlton, which was attached to the Woolwich district, only received the country rate of pay. He contended that such distinctions were not only absurd but unjust, as the men who were thus treated as if they belonged to the country commenced on a less wage, reached a smaller maximum, and had much less chance of promotion than obtained in other Metropolitan districts. He urged that steps should be taken by the Post Office to put an end to such an anomalous and unfair state of things.
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
called attention to the practice of requiring guarantees for extending postal facilities in the country. So far as his observation went there was a good deal of difference between the policy of the Government adopted in towns and in country districts. While the Post Office were quite willing to meet the needs of large towns, their policy in the country districts seemed to be somewhat different. In the Eastern Division of Aberdeenshire, which he represented, there were no large towns at all, and the population of the villages was mainly composed of small farmers and fishermen. They were met with very great courtesy and consideration from the Post Office in any representation they had had to make, but the question upon which he could never get any satisfaction was the one which involved this system of the guarantee. It appeared to him to be used either by the Post Office or by the Treasury in a way it was not very easy to understand, either from a political or a commercial point of view. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman on what grounds did this power of the Post Office to exact a guarantee for the establishment of a new post office, money order office, or telegraph office, rest? It was not in the statutes, so far as he could find, and he could discover no Treasury Minute laying it down. Nor could he find any Post Office regulation which imposed it or which governed its application. Its application, so far as his experience went, was not always regular or very intelligent from the view of the development of the Postal Service. He should also like to ask whether there was any return made of the amount which the Post Office received from guarantors? 605 One reason why the State should undertake the work of the Post Office was that the poorer parts of the country should be helped by the richer parts, and he was interested and agreeably surprised in reading the new work of the hon. Member for Dublin University (Mr. Lecky), who did not think much of State interference, to find that he approved of the Government conducting the Post Office, on the ground that it would be able to supply the wants of the poorer districts at the expense of the rich districts of the country. He would give two simple cases to illustrate the question which he desired to raise. One was the case of the small fishing village of St. Comb, lying three or four miles from Fraserburgh, and having a population of about 200. There was a post office in the village, but no money order office; and when these people wanted to send their money away they were obliged to walk two or three miles to the centre of the parish, where, by the way, there was hardly any population.! An appeal was made to the Postmaster General; and a guarantee of £5 a year was demanded. It was impossible in such a locality to get the villagers to combine to give such a guarantee for an indefinite number of years; but it was quite clear that if the Post Office was actuated by energetic enterprise and commercial principles it would very soon risk the expenditure of this small sum, certain that in the long run it would recoup itself. The other case was that of an agricultural district, situated within ten miles of the city of Aberdeen—the district of Blair. There was a railway on each side of this parish, and yet, actually, there was only a postal delivery three times a week. The case seemed to him almost incredible. It was more than once brought before the Postmaster General, but there, again, they were met with the demand for a guarantee of £10 or £12. The Post Office, in declining to undertake the work of giving this district a daily delivery, was, it seemed to him, absolutely failing in its primary duty, and it had no right to demand from the inhabitants of this locality that they should contribute towards the expenses of obtaining the ordinary postal facilities of the country. He hoped the Post Office would take, not only a generous, 606 but a businesslike view of the extension of its work in the country districts, and he would fortify his demand by the statement made two or three months ago by the Minister for Agriculture who, in one of his speeches, told them that one of the ways in. which he hoped to benefit that industry was that better facilities should be given for the development of the postal and telegraph services in the rural districts—and that it should be given particularly in the remission of this very severe exaction of guarantees for increased facilities or for the establishment of new post offices. Although he did not believe that would do away with the depression in the agricultural or fishing industries, he put his demand on that ground also. The people who lived in remote and sparsely-populated districts deserved to have a little extra consideration from the central authorities.
§ *MR. F. B. MILDMAY (Devon, Totnes)
said he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether or not there was anything in the regulations prohibiting rural postmen riding when they were on their rounds, if they had the facilities for so doing. A case had been brought under his notice of a rural postman who had ridden on his round on his pony, and who received a notice from the local head office, saying that he was only a walking postman and had no business to ride. He should like to know whether the head office had any right to do that. Devonshire, as hon. Members knew, was a very mountainous country, and the rural postmen were very often very much overloaded, and he thought that everyone who had the means of riding should have the opportunity of doing so. He would also like to ask the right hon. Gentle-man whether the Department could not consider the desirability of issuing thinner clothing in summer to these lower grade postmen, who, in the heat of summer, had, in these districts, to wear this very heavy clothing.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he desired to say a word or two as to the dismissal of certain postmen for the action they took in connection with the Election of 1892. The right hon. Gentleman, if he understood him rightly, said it would not be satisfactory to Members of Parliament to be cross-questioned on the subject of pay and 607 duties by postmen. But that was not the point of his hon. Friends, the Members for South and East Islington, and certainly that was not the offence which these men committed. All they did was to ask for an Inquiry, and surely there could be no objection to that. He desired to associate himself with all that the Members for South and East Islington had said upon this matter. He was one who received this circular, and not seeing any harm in it, he answered it, and he had always thought it was an extremely hard thing that these unfortunate men should be subjected to this severe punishment. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had thrown out some hint that he himself was in favour of lenient treatment, but he believed the complaint of these men had been justified in every respect, and surely the time had come when there might be some recognition of what they had had to endure and when justice might be done to these individuals. There was a point in the Estimate in which they in. London took a very great deal of interest. He referred to the question of auxiliaries—the men who were not on the regular staff. He thought there was a great deal of unfair treatment to these auxiliaries in the postal service. He believed the theory was that in some cases a man only got an hour's work in the afternoon, and that this did not interfere with his regular work. But in London the auxiliaries had generally to do a great deal more. They had to work, perhaps, three or four times during the day, and he believed that the experience of this large body of men was that it was perfectly impossible to discharge the duties of an auxiliary postman and to carry on any other employment. He thought the time had come when they ought to be properly recognised by the Post Office, and these auxiliaries done away with as far as it was possible to do so. Were they to judge by the Estimates of this year that steps were being taken in this direction? They had not got the items for auxiliaries separately—they were grouped with miscellaneous payments. He should like to know how much the auxiliaries were, and how much the miscellaneous payments were, and how much the auxiliaries received on an average. He noticed that there was in this year's Estimates a reduc- 608 tion of £22,000 upon those of last year. If this was to be regarded as an indication that the auxiliaries were to be abolished, he could only say that the information would be very acceptable. Then, in regard to the Estimate for clothing, he noticed that this year the sum asked for was £104,000, as against £112,000 last year. With business and staff increasing all round, he thought this reduction required some explanation, and he should like to know the reason for the reduction. Further, he noticed that, while there was a considerable increase of wages in the chief offices in England, Scotland, and Ireland, there was a considerable difference in the increase to sub-postmasters and clerks in Ireland and that which had been granted in England and Scotland. For instance, while in Scotland the increase under this head was £11,500, in Ireland the amount was only £2,500. He wanted an explanation of this fact.
§ MR. W. T. HOWELL (Denbigh Boroughs)
said, he wished to direct attention to the case of the rural postmen, especially in remote districts. It was matter of common knowledge that, as a rule, these men discharged their duties efficiently and honestly. It was very rare that any man among them was found to be neglectful or dishonest. As to the arduousness of the duties they had to discharge there could be no doubt. They had to start in the morning for long distances, and very often did not get home again until late in the day. Their duties, moreover, were not confined to the delivery of letters; on the return journey they had to collect letters and parcels, to register letters, and sell stamps. The case of those men was certainly a very strong and urgent one for the consideration of the Department, especially when it was borne in mind that they were the worst paid and worst clothed branch in the service of the Post Office. ["Hear, hear!"] He earnestly hoped that attention would be given to the appeal of those men, and that at the same time some steps might be taken with a view to shorten the hours of labour now imposed upon them.
§ MR. WALTER HAZELL (Leicester)
said he had given notice to reduce the Vote for the Life Assurance and Annuities Department of the Post Office in 609 order to draw attention to the lamentable failure of that Department to meet the public need; but he found that he should not be in order in making that Motion, though it was competent for him to draw attention to the matter on the Estimates generally. For the failure of this Department he fully acquitted the permanent officials of all blame; the cause of blame had to be sought in other directions. It was remarkable that, while the Savings Bank had proved a brilliant success and had increased by leaps and bounds, this Insurance Department had turned out to be a complete failure, the fault of which was chiefly to be laid on Parliament. The system was established in 1864 and developed by the Act of 1882, and permitted the Post Office to grant annuities of £1 to £100 and life policies to the same amount. The department certainly had great and exceptional advantages to do business. No share capital was required; the security was perfect; it had an organisation in all corners of the Kingdom; its officers were in daily touch with the public, premiums might be deducted from savings bank account, and paid at the most convenient time; and there was no difficulty through removal. Moreover, much more might be done by the Post Office in relation to this department which could not be done, or offered, by general friendly societies or assurance companies. The Treasury had the power to frame tables providing no loss, to reduce the tables and to compensate old policy holders. In fact new tables were framed on February 1st last reducing the charges about 5 per cent., and those new tables were much cheaper than some of the great collecting companies. Yet the result of the department, notwithstanding all those advantages and extensive advertising, was a melancholy failure. During 1894 only 174 new policies for deferred annuities, and 1,128 life policies were granted. If the department applied to post office servants only, its operations would be a failure, but as it applied to the whole public it was therefore all the more so. The total number of policies of all accounts now held by the department, after 30 years working, was only 11,605. Compared with the results of private enterprise that was ridiculous. He might mention one private company 610 which alone had industrial policies amounting to more than 11½ millions, and this same company in September last issued a new scheme of combined insurance and old age endowment, and had already issued policies amounting to no less than three quarters of a million. Other companies had achieved similar results on the same lines. In addition to this there were seven millions of members of registered Friendly Societies, and those facts showed that there would be a general desire on the part of the people to insure if the matter was placed before them in a plain way. Then how was it that the Post Office failed so conspicuously in this work? There were many reasons for it. In the first place the private companies had a free hand, and invested their funds where they could get the highest interest. Then the bills or advertisements the Post Office issued at the various offices were practically useless, they were very heavy reading; the facts and figures were not put clearly or tersely, and the result was that people did not read them, nor understand them even if they did read. If a person went to the postmaster or clerks for information on the matter, he generally found that they were too busy to attend to him, or were entirely ignorant of the system of assurance. It was said that the Government could not do this work, and therefore it ought to be left to private enterprise. Unfortunately there was the example of New Zealand. From the report of the Government Insurance Department of New Zealand for 1894, he found that there the system had prevailed for 26 years, that the Department had freedom in investing their funds, that they had agents to push the business in various parts of the Colony, and that they offered better rates than ordinary companies, though he did not think that was necessary. In addition, the insurances were not limited to small amounts. The capital accumulated per head of the population in New Zealand in 1894, was £3 4s. 0d., and that after 26 years' working, while the capital accumulated in England after 30 years' working, was 2s. 6d. per head of population. In New Zealand in 1894 there was one new policy taken out to every 221 of the population, but in Great Britain there was only one new policy taken out to every 39,000 of 611 population, and it was noticeable that the section of the work which increased most was the old-age endowment and insurance combined. Were there no possible means by which they could keep the Department here from dying? He thought there were. It might be well to send a special Commissioner to New Zealand to learn how matters were conducted there. It might be possible and desirable to give the National Debt Commissioners a freer hand in investing funds and not confine them entirely to Consols, and certainly the heads of Departments ought to have a freer hand. But the great thing was that there must be personal touch, for they could not bring the system home to old people by mere printed forms. Was it possible they could find men to make the system known without taking on new civil servants? There were 12,500 auxiliary postmen employed part of the day in various part of the country. He did not say all those men had the gifts and graces to make successful canvassers, but a great many had, and they would be glad to undertake the duty. There were thousands of men who were not in the direct pay of the Postmaster General, but in the pay of the postmasters, and who gave a small portion of their time to the Post Office service. They were capable and intelligent men who would be willing to undertake this task. There were also the public elementary teachers. It might be said those teachers had enough to do now, but he was informed that many had already made special terms with insurance companies to act as insurance agents. The Education Department encouraged School Savings Banks, and he was informed that in Liverpool alone in 1890 there were 68 school banks and 25,000 accounts. The teachers were educated, competent to negotiate, fit to go into any class of society, and under proper regulations they might undertake the task of making the people understand the system of making it popular. Some time ago a small experiment was tried with telegraph boys, and found to work well, simply because the boys got in personal touch with the people. The public conscience was awakened to the need of State pensions for old age, there was the machinery ready, and he suggested that the matter should be 612 thoroughly examined. If the Department had been a wretched failure and if it could not be mended it should be ended.
§ MR. HENRY KIMBER (Wandsworth)
asked, how the sites which were acquired for new post offices and not utilised for three or four years, and perhaps not at all, were accounted for. He understood that as long ago as 1892 a site was obtained for a new post office at Weston-super-Mare. A new building was urgently required, indeed, it was generally admitted that the present office was a disgrace to the town and the Department. Often in holiday time the people were found five or six deep waiting to be served. An explanation why such a thing should happen was due to the Committee.
§ MR. D. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
desired to call attention to the desirability of extended postal facilities for South Carnarvon. He believed the Town Councils in that district had petitioned the Post Office, but for some reasons which had not been communicated to them the subject matter of the memorial had not received favourable consideration. He understood the complaint was that as matters were arranged letters arrived in one part of the district at such an hour that did not admit of men reading them and replying to them by the return post. The chief complaint came from Pwllheli, an extensive agricultural area and the seat of an important mining district, and he thought he could convince the right hon. Gentleman that it would be quite feasible to comply with the people's demand without any very extravagant expenditure. He found that the morning mail arrived at Bangor at 4.14 and at Pwllheli at 6.50. He believed that it would be quite possible to arrange matters that the mail could arrive at Pwllheli at 5.45. The evening mail left Pwllheli at 6.40, reached Bangor at 8.38, and did not leave there until 9.3. It was suggested to him by the Town Council that the train might leave Pwllheli at 7.15 and arrive at Bangor at 8.50, thus allowing for a stoppage there of 13 minutes. There were two hours wasted in the morning at Bangor and Carnarvon, and he was satisfied that if the right hon. Gentleman would bring pressure to bear on the London and 613 North Western Railway Company he could secure that letters should arrive at Pwllhelli at 5.45 instead of 6.50, and that the dispatches of the mail in the evening should be delayed. There would thus be a sensible gain of time, in which farmers, mining managers, and others could reply to their correspondence. He complained that numerous mistakes were made as to Welsh letters owing to the officials not understanding Welsh addresses. He believed letters which could not be delivered were sent to Shrewsbury, which is the chief district for the distribution of letters in North Wales. He thought that there should be Welsh clerks acquainted with the names of places. He instanced a case where a Welsh addressed letter had not arrived for two months. It had been to, among other places, South Africa, he believed —[Laughter]— before it reached its destination. His next grievance was as to the Dead Letter Office. When the letters were in Welsh the officials had not the remotest notion where they ought to be sent to. There should be Welsh-speaking clerks in the office as well as French and German. He trusted this matter would be attended to.
§ SIR CAMERON GULL (Devon, Barnstaple)
wished, in addressing the House for the first time, to call attention to the Post Office service in some country districts, and he thought the Committee would agree that there was a great difference between the towns and the country districts. Since he had been a Member of that House he had had to bring several cases under the attention of the noble Duke, the Postmaster General, and he had no complaint to make as to the courtesy he had received, but the complaint he made was that in all these cases you received that stereotyped answer, "We should very much like to do it, but the expense stands in the way." He agreed with the Member for Aberdeen that the Post Office ought to help the poorer districts at the expense of the richer. There were cases where letters were delivered to farms on only three days in the week, and he could point to a parish not so far from Barnstaple where in several farms there was no delivery at all. He thought the Post Office might do a great deal to help agriculturists by placing them in communication with the market, especially 614 with market towns. There was one other point, and that was the further provision of wall boxes near villages and in outlying districts. Often people had to send or walk more than a mile in order to post their letters, and in a good many places in Devonshire it was an up-hill walk. These boxes could not be a large expense, and he asked that the right hon. Gentleman, when an application was made for a wall box, would be willing to concede it unless it was a very small collection. The answer that the expense stood in the way did not seem to be a good one in this case, for where greater facilities were given there was an increase of letters, so that there was no loss to the Post Office. He would ask the Post Office to view these applications in a rather more liberal and generous spirit than in the past.
§ *MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbigh, E.)
supported the request of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs, and objected to the Post Office penalising Welshmen for using their own language. It was a serious inconvenience that for want of knowledge a Welsh letter should be sent to South Africa, and not delivered for many weeks. It was, in fact, penalising men for using in their correspondence the terms which they used in their daily intercourse of life.
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
hoped that the Government would give the men dismissed on account of the strike an opportunity of retrieving their position. He desired to appeal to the Postmaster General. They were all much indebted to the Post Office, and particularly to the men who worked a good many hours, did a vast amount of work, and were very poorly paid.
§ MR. A. D. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
reminded the Secretary of the Treasury of the statement made in answer to a question that where the telephone service in private hands was inadequate the Post Office would give what was called a "limited competition." He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman was personally in favour of monopolies, and this monopoly was created by his predecessors at the Post Office. No satisfactory reason had been given why a licence should not be granted to a municipality, and there was absolutely no reason why the monopoly 615 of the National Telephone Company should be maintained. A telephone exchange better than any existing exchange in this country could be erected any day. The Post Office had competed with the National Telephone Company since 1881, and in the Appendix to the Report of the Telephone Committee of last year it was shown that when the Telephone Company established an exchange in a town where the Post Office already had an exchange the Company's exchange went up and the Post Office exchange went down. He thought there was a solitary case, viz., Newcastle, where that did not happen, and the success of the Post Office there was a very qualified one indeed. While the Post Office had 617 telephone users in that city the National Telephone Company, which established its exchange after the Post Office, had 1,117 users. There were some places where the exchange had died out. Then, in Leicester the Post Office established an exchange in 1884 with 138 users, now they had only 38; the National Telephone Company established theirs after the Post Office had done so, and they had now 524 users. The results en bloc showed clearly how inadequate was the Post Office competition with the Telephone Company, and yet all that the right hon. Gentleman promised the House a few weeks ago in reply to a question was a limited competition of the Post Office. The Post Office began their 35 exchanges with 771 users, and their number now was 1,118. The National Telephone Company began in the same places with only 445 users and now they had 7,636. The Post Office had had unlimited money for this purpose, and it had been poured out like water in innumerable ways with no result whatever. That had been going on since 1881. He thought they required something more satisfactory than the promise of limited competition. The National Telephone Company in many places supplied a very unsatisfactory service, and the charge in London, Glasgow, and other cities was twice or three times what might be charged for a first-class service. Why, he asked, should not licences be granted to municipalities when the service was unsatisfactory? It was nothing less than a public scandal that 616 the Post Office should continue to nurse the monopoly of the National Telephone Company, as had been done by the predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman and permanent officials of the Post Office. When they asked for a licence, various objections were made. In Glasgow, it was said that there would be a difficulty with two exchanges. Why, then, did the Post Office carry on an exchange in Newcastle, where the National Telephone Company had an exchange? Two exchanges had answered very well in Manchester; and there had been many other towns in which two exchanges had been worked satisfactorily, and had been switched on to each other. He complained that Members had not had sufficient notice that this Vote would be taken that day. He observed that his hon. Friend from Canterbury had only recently been able to be present, and perhaps it was in order to leave such Members out of the discussion altogether that the Vote had been taken at that time. As to municipal management, what had anybody to say against the management of the city of Glasgow? It had been approved all the world over, and they could take the telephone business over and manage it better than the National Telephone Company could. It would not be creating a new monopoly, because they might give a thousand other licences in that city, and the municipality would be prepared to make any reasonable arrangements with the Post Office as to the terms of the licence. Glasgow would not require to come to Parliament for the money if the licence were granted, as it had ample funds for the purpose. All the objections that might be raised could be shown to be baseless or foolish; all the objections urged against the municipality by the Telephone Exchange Company would disappear if the licence were granted. Let the municipality have the licence; there was no certainty that they would use it. Possibly they might say:—"We will now see if we are in a position to make terms, and what terms we can secure." At the present moment, however, they had no power to do this, and there was no parallel, no precedent, for a municipality being placed in such a position since the Municipal Reform Act of 1837 was passed. The right hon. Gentleman 617 could satisfy himself that the service in Glasgow was not satisfactory, and that too much was paid for it. Witnesses before the Committee last year declared that the application was made by Glasgow in consequence of the annoyance caused by the unsatisfactory nature of the service and its cost. He might quote at length the evidence of witnesses, showing the wide-spread dissatisfaction existing in Glasgow with the service of the Telephone Company, and similar evidence came from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and other places. The quality of service was absolutely indefensible, and, indeed, the Chairman of the Telephone Company did not attempt to defend it; he admitted the service was very bad; he could not deny it. He, however, blamed the Post Office, and said the Department would not allow them to do this or that. He was unreasonable in his blame, but that was the excuse put forward, and it was to be observed that the Post Office did not seem to resent it, and did not put for ward counter evidence; nothing of the sort, the connection between the two was too intimate for that. Then he came to speak of what might be done. The municipality of Glasgow had a great many advantages for supplying a cheap service. They had full control over their streets, and not every city had that; some municipalities had parted with some of their rights in this respect, but Glasgow never had done so, and never would do so to any company. Then they had a great many public buildings which would be used for the overhead service, for he understood the contemplated service would be partly-overhead and partly underground. They had fire stations, police stations, and a large number of buildings which would be utilised for the purpose, and they would obtain wayleaves cheaper than any company, so that the cost to subscribers would be to cover maintenance and service plus the 10 per cent. they would pay to the Post Office, there would not be the reason for high rates that the supplying company made a large profit, for the municipality would be its own supplying company. With respect to capital, Glasgow had borrowed at 2 per cent., but take it at 2½ per cent. should it be necessary to borrow, and probably 618 it would not be necessary, for the municipality had the funds now. Then as to cost of installation. The only double wire exchange put up in the country at a recent date, except that at Newcastle, which has been double for a long time, was that at Manchester, the cost to the user being £16. But the wires of the Mutual Company were put up at a time when materials were far more costly than they are now: they were set up under great difficulties, and to supply a much larger number than the Exchange, and consequently there was a lot of what might be called "dead" plant put up, and undoubtedly the cost to each user should be much less than £16. To construct an exchange at Glasgow at the present price of materials, and using the best of everything, the cost would be something between £12 and £14. Evidence from a Post Office employé estimated the cost at £40 odd, but that statement he traversed as flatly as language could. He had mentioned the cost in Manchester, and that could be verified by documents, and the work was done all over the Continent at far less and more particularly when the wires were single; in Manchester they were double. Taking the cost, the interest upon that and the working expenses, he estimated that the charge to telephone subscribers need not exceed £5 per annum. He challenged contradiction from any competent engineer. A first-class service for £5 would replace the present unsatisfactory service at £10. There would have been more witnesses from Glasgow before the Committee had the Committee been really run in the interests of the community. It was hoped and believed by the Chairman of the Telephone Company that he would somehow produce evidence that would warrant him in asking the Government to buy up the whole service with all its obsolete plant, and everything connected with the service in the shape of security had been raised in price beyond reason. Certain witnesses were shut out, others being listened to, and the Chairman of the Committee voted against his being heard, though a caricature account was accepted from a representative of the Telephone Company. But for this, the evidence on telephone matters throughout the 619 kingdom would have been far more complete than it was. A first-class service could be supplied for £5 in lieu of the £10 service condemned by all witnesses, and he requested the right hon. Gentleman to explain why this licence was not granted, and if the right hon. Gentleman was going to do it, let the precise conditions which must be complied with be known. Another matter which affected Glasgow, as it affected the whole of Scotland, was the rate paid over the trunk lines from town to town. A very large number of these rates, indeed, the great majority, were charged at 1s. or less. On the first page of the tariff he had received from Glasgow, he found that in many cases the charge was only 3d., in some, 6d., others, 9d., and some 1s. But all these were surcharged 3d. extra; therefore, a message for which the Post Office received 3d. cost 6d., an extraordinary charge of 100 per cent. on a large number of inter-town messages. It would have been better not to have taken over the trunk wires, but to have made contracts, whereby those who required large services might have service at a reasonable rate, in a manner similar to that by which the Press have a telegraphic rate much less than that paid by the public. This taking over the trunk lines had damaged Scottish interests. He noticed that in the list published by the Post Office that the first list issued in September had cases twice as high as in those received later. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would, at an early day, give a Return of the earnings of each of the trunk lines in order that the country might see what it got for its money. He was certain that if Glasgow got the licence it would prove so successful that the Post Office authorities would be compelled to grant similar licences to other towns. It had been said that if Glasgow got the licence, the Post Office would have to buy two exchanges when the licence expired. He was convinced that at the end of the period—17 years— there would be no question of buying two exchanges, for the Municipal Exchange would have wiped out its opponent in 12 months. The view he took of the Post Office was that it existed for the public service. But in 620 the two instances in which it could be compared with undertakings of a similar nature, namely, telephones and insurance, it was hopelessly beaten by private enterprise. Arguing from that, it seemed to him that the Post Office was unlikely to do work in any Department better than such work could be done by private enterprise. Glasgow was, therefore, anxious to obtain this licence, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them an explicit and plain reply to their question. They wanted the licence, and if it were refused, they wanted to know the reason why. They were ready to accept the licence under any reasonable conditions the Post Office authorities might think necessary. They did not desire conditions that would prejudice the public interest in any sense whatever, or place difficulties in the way of the Post Office acquiring, later on, the telephone exchange which the municipality might build—if they did build one, which was not at all certain—always provided that they had freedom to supply the best service in their power. It had been said that they were to be offered limited competition with the Post Office. Such a condition they could not accept. He also desired to know what the Post Office authorities intended doing with regard to the new international code which was to come into operation, so far as Europe was concerned, at the end of 1897. It had been shown by the Chambers of Commerce of London and Liverpool that the proposed code was altogether insufficient for this country. He thought the Committee would be surprised to hear the names of some of the countries constituting the proposed telegraphic union to which this country was to fetter itself. It was true all the principal countries of Europe were in the Union, but the United States which, after this country, was the largest user of our sea telegraphs, was not in it, nor was Canada in it.
Order, order! I do not think the matter the hon. Member is now discussing comes under this Vote.
§ MR. PROVAND
I asked you the question, and I understood from your reply that I might bring up any question of policy on this Vote.
This matter is purely a matter connected with the telegraph service, and it is a well understood rule of the Committee that only matters for which a sum of money is asked for in a Vote can be discussed. I gathered from the observations of the hon. Member that this proposal would not come into operation until next year, and if no sum of money is asked for in this Vote, in respect of the matter of which he complains—and I have not been able to find it—he would not be in order in discussing it.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
On a point of order, I would like to know, while I express no sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, whether——
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
The point is, that as the Postmaster General's salary is under discussion, and as he has control of the telegraphs, whether questions affecting the telegraph system can be discussed on this Vote.
§ MR. PROVAND
said, he thought that money in respect to the matter to which he was calling attention would be provided in the present Estimates, though he had not been able to find the particular item. But all he wanted to say was that places like the Portuguese colonies, Siam, Tunis, and Now Caledonia were included in the Union. A tenth-rate mercantile firm in the city of London spent more on over-sea telegrams in one year than half a dozen such places spent in their existence, and he thought it was a monstrous thing that this country should subject its freedom in regard to the Code to such countries at the next meeting of the Telegraphic Union, which was to be held at Buda-Pesth in June. He thought this country should continue to use the telegraph Code which it had prepared at a sacrifice of time and money.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
desired to call attention to the question of the employment of discharged sailors and soldiers in the Post Office. In 1891 Mr. Raikes, the Postmaster General, issued regulations under which telegraph messengers who had served five years with the colours had the absolute right to claim employment in the Post Office after they had left the Service, and their service in the colours was to be reckoned 622 in the matter of qualification for pensions. These regulations were also carried out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Manchester (Sir J. Fergusson), who succeeded Mr. Raikes; but Mr. Arnold Morley, who was Postmaster General from 1892 to 1895, had absolutely reversed these regulations. The Secretary of the Treasury, before he took office, was very much in favour of the employment of soldiers and sailors in the Post Office, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give some encouragement in this matter.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS
said he wished to call attention to the case of the rural postmen. In the district in which he lived the postman was unable to start for the post town till late in the afternoon, and in consequence he nearly lost his life in the mountains on one occasion. The inhabitants petitioned the Post Office to allow the man to leave an hour earlier, and for two years had penalised themselves on that account. The Pwllheli grievance was a very real one. The mail service between Chester and Flintshire was in need of improvement, and it would have been improved years ago had not Mr. Raikes' scheme fallen through. As to the Welsh names of places, a remedy had been indicated for the existing grievance. Nearly half a million of the Welsh people knew no other language than Welsh, and the Welsh names were the only names they used.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
called attention to the want of postal and telegraphic facilities in sparsely populated districts. He said that there was great need for an extension of the telegraphic system in the country villages. He had a near relative in Cornwall, and for them to communicate with each other by telegraph cost 8s. for mileage. The Post Office had a tremendous monopoly with regard to letters and telegrams, and therefore all members of the community had a right to have their legitimate needs supplied at an equal cost. The national purse ought to meet these requirements, instead of the charge being thrown on particular individuals. The Post Office was making a profit of several millions every year, and if they were not, they ought to do for the public what they alone had 623 the right to do. He hoped the bad principle of asking for guarantees before establishing a telegraphic office would be abandoned.
§ *MR. C. E. SHAW (Stafford)
supported the hon. Member's complaint. He also urged the claims of the postmen in the town of Stafford. For many years these men had petitioned for a revision of the rates of their pay. They had been put off repeatedly with assurances that the matter was having attention. The last petition but one was not answered at all, and to the last the answer was returned that nothing could be done until the Post Office Committee had made their Report. These men were paid 24s. a week, while the men in neighbouring towns were paid from 26s. to 30s. a week. What powers had this Post Office Committee? Was it the fact that they had no authority to make recommendations in regard to any individual case? He hoped that they would lay down a very definite rule as to the rates of pay for postmen. He did not think it wise to give postmen such poor rates of pay, considering that directly and indirectly large sums of money and important interests were confided to their charge.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he was anxious that the statement which the Secretary to the Treasury, upon incorrect information, had made, should not go forth to the injury and discredit of Mr. Sampson. It was not the case that that gentleman was visited with any censure from the Department on the ground of disobedience. It was not fair to say that he was removed for disobedience, which would be a grave offence. Nor was it correct to say that he was censured on a previous occasion, and he would challenge the right hon. Gentleman to produce the undertaking which the noble Duke, the Postmaster General, declared was given by Mr. Sampson.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL
earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to look into the grievances of the rural postmen, and to make no mere passing declaration that their case would be considered. Some of these rural postmen had to walk 25 or 30 miles a day. [Mr. HANBURY dissented.] That was so. He had walked with them himself, not the whole distance but very 624 near it, and he submitted that those men should not be placed in a worse position as far as wages and possibilities of advancement were concerned than the town postmen. Then no answer had been given by the right hon. Gentleman to the claims put forward by Glasgow, one of the best-governed cities almost in the whole world, to establish under their own control a municipal telephonic exchange. Again, it was time the House of Commons expressed its opinion as to the absence of any direct representative of the Post Office in this House. That was one of the greatest spending Departments in the State, and it was impossible that the Secretary to the Treasury, one of the hardest-worked officials in the Government, could be expected to give full and adequate replies, based upon full knowledge of the Post Office business, to questions raised in the House. Some time ago questions affecting the Post Office were answered by the Under Secretary for the Home Department, who had more time than the Secretary to the Treasury, but one day during last Session he was surprised, and not a little disappointed, being a great admirer of the right hon. Gentleman, to find that the Secretary to the Treasury was passed over him. In fact, this was a grievance which ought to be explained. [Laughter.]
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he thought it only fair that the clothing contracts for the Post Office should not be confined to London firms, but should be given out through the whole country. Of course the money was raised from the general body of the taxpayers, and therefore all portions of the country ought to be treated alike. He was glad to find the equity of that principle recognised by a London Member. As to the way in which the contract was being carried out, he thought that the strictures which had been made were to a large extent justified. Undoubtedly the issue of winter clothing was late, the issue not being complete till well on in January, and he was afraid there would be still further delay with regard to the issue of summer clothing. He was not quite sure whether there was any penalty attaching to the contract for non-fulfilment of its conditions, though he thought himself that with regard to all those Government contracts there ought 625 to be some better security than there had been in the past that they would be carried out in good time, and he did not see why a penalty should not be enforced in Government as in all other contracts. As to the question why the provision of a sum of £200 for deaf mutes was not considered in the present Vote, he was sorry to understand from the Post Office authorities that the experiment had not been as successful as had been hoped, and that serious difficulties had arisen in the way of employing these deaf mutes, principally on account of their deafness; indeed, he was told some rather serious accidents had happened from this cause. Then as to the question of the conveyance of certain correspondence with the savings banks, the estimate was less by some thousands of pounds. That was fully accounted for by the fact of the withdrawal of advice notes. He came now to the question raised with regard to postal and telegraph facilities in country districts, especially in connection with the question of guarantees. He had been asked by what authority the Post Office refused to extend those facilities in country districts without guarantees. It was at the discretion of the Department to consider what was the true interest of the public service. If the Department found that the cost would more than outbalance the public convenience, it could, no doubt, refuse facilities in particular districts. No doubt there were some portions of the country, like the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, where special provision had been made for the fishing industry, but with regard to the extension of the telegraph service in the more thinly populated districts of the United Kingdom as a whole, the difficulty was that, if the system of guarantees was abolished, the facilities would have to be extended to such an enormous extent that they might go a long way to swallow up a considerable portion of a large surplus. The system of guarantees did not press so unfairly as some hon. Members supposed. It was a fair way to distinguish whether a district was sufficiently populated or whether it used the telegraph and post office to such an extent as to make it remunerative. It was only where the extension of the telegraph service would 626 be more costly than the returns from the service that a guarantee was required.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Is there any Treasury Minute on the subject, or is it solely in the discretion of the Post Office to make regulations for guarantees?
§ MR. HANBURY
thought that the Treasury had a voice in the matter, but he did not think that there was a Treasury Minute. He hoped that the Post Office would be able to meet the grievance as to the large amount of charges for the delivery of telegrams. Owing to the great use of bicycles, he hoped that the charge for porterage would be greatly reduced in country districts. Reference had been made to the use of ponies by rural postmen. So far from discouraging the use of ponies or horses by rural postmen, it was clear that in many cases their use would be of great public convenience in the dispatch of letters. Although permission had to be asked, he was told that distinct regulations were laid down that the use of ponies was not to be arbitrarily refused. He could not say anything direct as to the two men who were dismissed for a breach of discipline. All he could do was to promise to lay the subject before the Postmaster General in order to get his distinct opinion upon it. He believed that there was a diminution in the number of auxiliary postmen, but it should be remembered that the Post Office service varied at particular seasons of the year, and the public must to a large extent depend upon auxiliaries. There must be a large number of men in London who were only too glad to fill up their time with the kind of work done by auxiliaries, and the Post Office took care that they were men who had other employment. The auxiliaries in London received 6d. an hour from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.; 8d. from 10 p.m. to 12; and 9d. from midnight to 5 a.m. Though it might be of advantage to limit the number of these men, it would inflict great hardship on many persons who were doing a great work if any sudden or great change were made. The reduction in the price of clothing was to a great extent due to the contract having been given out at a cheaper rate in the provinces. The Resolution of the House of Commons 627 had, however, been thoroughly carried out, and the current rate of wages had been stipulated for in the contract. A comparison had been made as to the work done by the Post Office and that done by other agencies with regard to annuities and insurance. If the work was not carried on upon such a large scale by the Post Office as they might wish, it should be remembered that there were difficulties which arose in connection with a public department which did not arise elsewhere. Last year was one of the most successful in this department of Post Office work. During the year ended December 31, 1893, the amount of annuities was £37,000; insurance, £44,000; deferred annuities, £3,000; and there was a considerable increase on those figures in 1894 and 1895. The amount of deferred annuities was remarkably small, but that remark did not apply to the Post Office only. That was the case with regard to all societies transacting similar business throughout the country; and there seemed to be everywhere so strong a feeling against the system of deferred annuities that it was referred to by the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor. It was stated by the Commissioners that the witnesses generally agreed in thinking that the system of deferred annuities at present was unpopular, not only with the working classes, but with every section of the community. They drew attention to the limited success of the annuity departments of friendly societies and of the Post Office in spite of the efforts of the latter department to induce people to provide for their old age, and they said that whilst there were many opportunities for the purchase of deferred annuities they were almost totally neglected. Last year at the Post Office the annual premiums were largely reduced, and the endowment principle, which was about the most popular form of assurance, was greatly extended. The hon. Member for Leicester suggested that a Commissioner should be sent to New Zealand; but surely there were places nearer than New Zealand where the system of Government insurance was as successful as the hon. Member alleged it was there. If there were no such places the small success of the system of Post Office insurance in this country ceased to be 628 exceptional. He doubted whether it would be wise to extend considerably the limits of investment and to enlarge their list of securities, for the element of risk ought to be eliminated as far as possible. Nor did he think that the Post Office would do well to advertise more extensively, and auxiliary postmen were certainly not, in his opinion, the class of men from whom agents ought to be selected for pushing the business. With regard to the question of the purchase of sites, he agreed that it was wasteful expenditure to buy sites and not to make use of them; but with reference to the case at Weston-super-Mare, to which attention had been called, he understood that the Treasury had objected to the cost of erecting the proposed post office, holding that the estimate for the building was higher than it ought to be. In answer to the hon. Member for Carnarvon, he would undertake that the railway company concerned would be communicated with in order that an arrangement might be made, if that should be possible, by which the mails should arrive at Pwllheli earlier in the morning than now and leave later in the evening. With regard to the complaint as to the delay in the delivery of letters addressed to towns described in Welsh, he would inquire whether it was possible to carry out the suggestion that had been made that at central points, such as Oswestry, a register should be kept of the Welsh names of towns. He could not, however, undertake to say that certain means could be found to prevent delay in the case of letters addressed to towns with names running to 28 syllables. [Laughter.] As a matter of fact the complaints of delay received at the Post Office had been very few. Cases that were brought to the notice of the postal authorities would be examined at once. The Member for Glasgow had raised a formidable question regarding the telephones and the code. He gave the hon. Member a very full reply to a question on the Code last Session, and he had nothing to add to what he then said. With regard to telephones, the answer he gave two or three weeks ago was that in all cases where it was proved to the satisfaction— he supposed of the Postmaster General—that any particular district was not being properly and adequately served by the National Telephone Company, the Post 629 Office would exercise its undoubted right of working a rival system. What undoubtedly would happen would be that if the National Telephone Company failed to give adequate service in any district—and he took it that an inadequate service would be a too costly service—then the Postmaster General would exercise his right to work side by side with the National Telephone Company. But the hon. Member raised the further question whether the local authorities—the municipal Corporation of Glasgow, for instance—should have the power to erect telephones within their own area on their own account. He thought it would be a very bad arrangement to have so many possible systems working side by side. The hon. Member must recollect that what they all aimed at was that ultimately the whole service, both for the local areas and the great trunk lines, should fall into the hands of the Government. Nearly the whole of the hon. Member's speech was intended to convey to the House of Commons an idea of the very cheap and efficient way in which the telephones would be worked if the municipal corporations were allowed to do it. It was quite possible that that might be the case, but as the telephones would in the course of a very few years fall into the hands of the Government, it would not be advisable, unless under exceptional circumstances, to agree to a system under which the municipal corporations would work them. He would go further and say that, with the exception of Glasgow, he did not think that there was any strong opinion whatever in the direction of municipal corporations taking over the telephone systems in their areas. He passed to the point raised by the hon. Member for Essex. That was a question in which his hon. Friend and he walked side by side. He felt very strongly that the system of employing old soldiers and sailors, not only in the Post Office but in other Departments, was one that ought to be adopted as largely as possible. At the same time the claims of those; already in the Departments ought to be borne in mind. Under the arrangement brought about by his right hon. Friend the Member for North-East Manchester when he was Postmaster General five or six years ago, by which the work of 630 letter carriers and other descriptions of work were given over to old soldiers and sailors, the result followed that the Post Office was not able to get as good a supply of telegraph messengers as before, because the door to promotion was closed to them. He thought his hon. Friend would agree with him that those already servants of the Department should have the first claim. As to the question raised by the hon. Member for Stafford with regard to the smaller pay of Post Office officials in Stafford as compared with larger towns like Walsall and Wolverhampton, he thought, in the first place, that that was a question which ought to be left for Lord Tweedmouth's Committee to consider, and, therefore, that it would be wrong for him to go into it now. The hon. Gentleman did not seem to be aware of the principle on which the scale of wages was based. The principle was that the wages should bear some proportion to the cost of living in the different towns, and he imagined that the cost of living in Stafford would be cheaper than in Walsall or Wolverhampton. If the hon. Member could show that the cost of living in Stafford was no less, and that the postmen there were receiving less wages than postmen in the other towns to which he had referred, that was a grievance which the hon. Member might lay before Lord Tweedmouth's Committee. That also, to some extent, answered the question raised by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy with regard to the inadequate representation of the Post Office in the House of Commons. The hon. Member, in the first place, had partly exaggerated the amount of work which fell on the Secretary to the Treasury in connection with his own Department; and, in the second place, in his opinion, there were some practical advantages to be gained by throwing the work of the Post Office in the House of Commons on to the Treasury. It was very important that the Treasury should be brought as closely as possible into connection with the great spending Departments. It was from his connection with the Post Office that he was able to obtain a vast amount of information which it would be quite impossible for him to get in any other way. Therefore, he could only repeat what he had said earlier in the evening, that however inadequately he might carry out 631 the work, there were certainly some good and sound reasons for maintaining the present state of things. He had explained that this was not the first case of the Postmaster General being in the House of Lords. It was the third case since 1866. He did not think that, assuming that the Secretary to the Treasury could bear the work, any real public convenience would accrue from an alteration; while, on the contrary, he believed that considerable advantage ought to accrue to the public from the connection of the Treasury with a great spending Department.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said, that after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman he would withdraw his Amendment. As was the case in Glasgow, he assumed that where a town had been asked by the Telephone Company to be allowed to exercise the powers of the Postmaster General under the Act of 1892, on the condition that the very best service would be afforded, this claim would be taken into consideration by the Postmaster General if there should be a refusal or neglect to allow such facilities, before coming to a decision in favour of the municipality.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN after the usual interval.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, he joined with those who expressed dissatisfaction at the present representation of the Post Office in the House of Commons. With all respect to the Secretary of the Treasury, there was nothing more unconstitutional or objectionable than that the Post Office should be represented by an official of the Treasury. He questioned whether the right hon. Gentleman had ever been inside the General Post Office, and it was extraordinary that this great Department employing 130,000 men, having 22,000 branch offices, and a revenue of £13,000,000 a year, should have no direct representation in the House of Commons. The Leader of the House recently spoke of the disadvantages of not having the presence there of the Postmaster General. In the House of Lords the Postmaster General was seldom asked a question or expected to speak in his official capacity. When the Secretary to the Treasury 632 defended the present state of affairs it was felt that he was merely holding a brief for the authorities at St. Martin's-le-Grand and must have known that the present state of affairs was intolerable. The right hon. Gentleman probably knew that this was the last time he or his successor would represent the Postmaster General in that House, as because of the enormous importance of the Post Office and the extent of its revenue, it would become absolutely necessary that the head of such a Department should come into touch with the House of Commons. In approaching the greatest of all postal questions—that of a scheme of Imperial penny postage—he did not desire to trouble the House with all the arguments he had adduced in favour of the great Measure on previous occasions. Two years ago the House of Commons agreed that a system of penny postage should be established throughout the Empire on two conditions, which were, first, that the finances of the country should permit of it, and second, that the assent of the Colonies should be given to such a Measure. Only the other day a most important, intelligent and representative body, the Associated Chambers of Commerce, passed the following Resolution:—That in the opinion of this Association, no serious attempt has ever been made by the British Postmaster General or the postal authorities to carry out the wishes of the Imperial Parliament, or of the Chambers of Commerce, repeatedly expressed for the establishment of Imperial penny postage; that the so-called opposition of the Australian people has no foundation in fact: that the letters published from the Prime Minister of Victoria, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the Prime Minister of Tasmania, expressly assent to the establishment of an Imperial penny post for England to the Colonies; that in these circumstances Her Majesty's Government be again strongly urged to take the necessary steps forthwith to carry out this reform.He ventured to say, in the words of one of the leading newspapers, that no more severe condemnation was ever passed on the Post Office than this Resolution, which told the Government that notwithstanding the Vote of the House of Commons, no attempt had ever been made by the Post Office to facilitate the carrying of this great Measure. No more popular Measure could be passed by the House of Commons than that 633 which would establish Imperial penny postage, and no serious objections could be urged against it. The great postal authorities of this country no longer contended that it was a question of cost. He had, indeed, shown by their own figures that the cost of establishing Imperial penny postage would not exceed the cost of a torpedo boat or of a picture for the National Gallery. He had, on previous occasions, proved that the cost of an ocean penny postage to all parts of the Empire would not exceed £20,000 a year. He had shown how to-day they had Imperial halfpenny postage. Whether from there to Fleet Street, or from there to New Zealand, all printed matter weighing under two ounces could go for a halfpenny, whereas the smallest envelope could not go to New Zealand or other Colonies under twopence halfpenny. Considering that between 200,000 and 300,000 left these shores every year, many never to return, he again repeated that it would be the highest policy to encourage these poor emigrants to correspond with the old folks at home. He had repeatedly instanced examples of affection now existing between the old folks and their sons and daughters in Australia, Africa, and everywhere. He pointed out that to-day the Australian people sent to this country more than, £1,000 a day, namely £412,000 a year, through the Post Office, in the shape of small money orders. He had given numerous illustrations of the value of the remittances, and the kind of messages received by fathers and mothers from their children abroad, urging these as a plea for an ocean penny postage system. Notwithstanding the Vote of the House of Commons and the strong expressions of opinion in favour of such a scheme, not one single step had been taken by the Post Office towards carrying out the wishes of the House of Commons. The Committee, he thought, would agree with him when he said that the postal officials were no longer their masters, but their servants; and yet the House of Commons had been snubbed in this matter. When the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative Government, now the First Lord of the Admiralty, had to deal with the Resolution in favour of reducing the rates of postage from sixpence to fivepence and twopence- 634 halfpenny, he said, "We shall at once place ourselves in communication with the colonies, and get their assent to carry out their wishes forthwith." Again, when a similar Resolution was moved, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late Government said, "If we get the assent of the colonies we shall do it." Yet, despite these explicit statements, the Post Office had made no move whatever; they had simply ignored the wishes of the House of Commons, and had failed to place themselves in communication with the colonies. One of the Prime Ministers for Queensland had refused to assent to the Motion for an Imperial penny postage for the reasonthat we decline to do it upon the recommendation of the Member for Canterbury. The true channel of conveying such a request is from the Government of England, and we have not hoard from the Postmaster General of England on the subject.He quoted the exact words used by this gentleman to show that it was not true to say the Australian colonies objected to the Resolution. He thought, in view of these circumstances, the time had conic when a Resolution should be adopted for placing the management of postal affairs on an entirely different basis. In France, whenever any great reform in postal matters was broached, the Postmaster General regarded himself as the servant of the Government and of the country, and conferred with a Consultative Committee on the advisability of carrying out the suggested reform. In this country, however, when any improvement was hinted at, a close, compact body of officials sat, and then formulated some specious answer which was to be given to the demand by the Postmaster General or his representative in the House of Commons. With regard to Imperial penny postage, the position was this; The public opinion and the Press of England demanded it, the Government and individual Members of the Government were strongly in favour of it; but in face of all this a few officials at St. Martin's-le-Grand were able to snap their fingers at the whole House of Commons and the Government. He desired once more emphatically to say if they wished the whole of the fifty colonies of the Empire to come to them together and say, "We ask for Imperial 635 penny postage," and declined to grant it until all the colonies assented, then they would never get such assent. If England led the way in this matter, as she should do, the colonies would speedily follow her example. He wished to ask the representative of the Postmaster General whether if the majority of the colonies assented, or he got their written assent, to Imperial penny postage, he would consent to establish it, and he trusted his right hon. Friend would be in a position to answer that question before the Vote was taken. It seemed incredible that the most popular act that the present Government could do, that of establishing Imperial penny postage, should be so long delayed, when they had the sympathy and goodwill in this matter of Members on both sides of the House. The subject of porterage on telegrams, and the guarantees for telegraph offices had been already very fully dealt with. It seemed almost incredible that the amount received by the State in respect of these guarantees should be only £16,000 a year, and that the Postmaster General should decline to accept the principle he had laid down that every person in this country, whether near to or far from a centre of population, should be placed on an equality as regarded postal and telegraphic communication. They could not defend their present action of punishing those people who lived far away from the towns at the very moment that they were proposing to spend—and, he was afraid, to waste—a large sum of money in bolstering up agriculture in various districts. They were complaining of people being driven from the country into the crowded populations, and at the same time they were making life almost intolerable in the country. When his right hon. Friend said they did not abolish these miserable guarantees of £16,000 a year for telegrams because, if they did, a hundred other places would call for telegraph offices, his reply was that they had a right to call for them if they could prove that there was a necessity for them. A great general at the head of the Post Office would map out England so that every person would be served by the telegraph and post free of porterage and guarantees. He suggested that his right hon. Friend should look to the numerous telegraph 636 offices in London, and see whether he could not spare a few of them for the country, and sweep away this miserable and irritating charge of £16,000. The people who entered into these guarantees found themselves mulcted in a considerable sum every year for this reason, that the Post Office declined to take into account the telegrams received, and only gave credit to the community for the telegrams sent away. A more stupid, obstinate, and irritating action could not be imagined.
The hon. Member is now going into the question at some length of Post Office telegraphs. He will observe that there is a special Vote relating to that, which is coming on later. His remarks will, therefore, be more in order at a later stage.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, he understood that the salary of the Postmaster General, who was responsible for this state of things, was under discussion.
The hon. Member is in error. That portion of his salary which relates to the telegraph work is not in this Vote. It is in the Telegraphs Vote.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, he ventured respectfully to ask whether there was an item in the Telegraphs Vote of the Postmaster General's salary.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, that in that case he would bring the matter up on that Vote. He would now turn to the subject of an agricultural parcel post. They desired such a post to be established at specially low rates for dairy produce, poultry, vegetables, fruit, etc. He was in the habit of sending to the Postmaster General and other friends every year large quantities of flowers from the south of France at a cost of certainly 2½d. per box. Friends of his, residing in different parts of England and Ireland, could not send similar boxes of flowers at a rate of less than 9d. He thought it reflected the greatest possible discredit on the postal authorities of this country that a reform of that kind could not be carried out. His right hon. Friend had said, in reply to questions, that the reason why they could not establish such a post was because they could not distinguish 637 between agricultural produce and other goods passing through the Post Office. Surely his right hon. Friend was perfectly aware that in all railway companies there were differential rates, and then it could be. provided that every agriculturist should fill up a certain form declaring that his produce was agricultural produce. His right hon. Friend could not be aware that the Minister for Agriculture in the former Conservative Government repeatedly pressed on the Postal Department the establishment of an agricultural parcel post, and that he was met by the most strenuous opposition. It was asserted that our agreement with the railway companies was an obstacle. Incredible as it might appear, an agreement had been made with the railway companies, and had been signed by the Post Office Department, by which authority had been given to the companies to keep 55 per cent. of the rates from railway parcels, and the Department, who did all the work of receiving and packing, and took all the responsibility of the parcels, was to get only 45 per cent. That arrangement, indeed, received the personal condemnation of his right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury four years ago. ["Hear, hear!"] He should like to know how the right hon. Gentleman would now defend it, for it was a bargain discreditable from every point of view. ["Hear, hear!"] He wished next to refer to the matter of postcards, of which hon. Members had heard much lately. He had over and over again pointed out that full satisfaction would never be given until postcards at the face value were granted. Why the Department should hesitate to grant this slight concession he could not understand. They allowed people, after long and earnest representation, to use their own postcards, and then suddenly refused to make any further reform, however slight, in the matter. Their course of action was extraordinary. The law carried out by the Post Office in the infliction of fines for unstamped, or insufficiently stamped documents was another matter that demanded attention. The rates of such fines in the cases of unstamped postcards, letters, and papers were not only exorbitant, but inconsistent. While the fine on an unstamped postcard was 2d., that on an 638 unstamped newspaper was only 1d. This anomaly was so patent and absurd that more than one Postmaster General had expressed surprise at it, and had led him to believe that they were anxious to see it remedied. But subsequently, after they had interviews with the officials at St. Martin's-le-Grand, they had come forward and expressed regret that they could do nothing in the matter. They had been influenced by the permanent officials, and it really seemed as if there was something in the very atmosphere of St. Martin's-le-Grand which was absolutely opposed to all reform whatever. He had letters sent from the colonies and America in his possession showing that the most extravagant charges had been levied on the receiver for deficiency in postage, in some cases the amount being as high as 5s. and even more. He thought that no fine on a letter should exceed 6d., let it come from where it might. ["Hear, hear!"] As the next meeting of the Postal Union would be held before next year's Estimates were brought forward, he should like to ask what policy the Government intended to pursue with regard to cheapening the postal rates with foreign countries. There was a general feeling that the time had arrived when a reduction in the rates of postage with all foreign countries might be made. Such a step would certainly be, very popular. The best possible means of establishing friendship with a foreign country was to bring the people into easy and cheap communication with each other, and therefore it was an unwise policy to keep up the present high rate of postage—2½d.— for letters sent abroad. ["Hear, hear!"] A very small, yet most irritating matter to the public in regard to the Post Office, was that while an unstamped newspaper was charged with only double the deficiency, a fine of 8d. was levied upon an unstamped letter marked "registered." Surely this anomaly might be remedied, and another simple reform he would ask for was that a small counterfoil, which might embrace necessary information, might be attached to the ordinary postal orders which the person sending the order might retain. It had been stated by the Post Office that this slight reform could not be carried out because of the cost it would involve in the alteration of machinery, but he had made inquiries 639 into the matter, and had found that the cost incurred would be very little indeed. He found that the Postmaster General was paying 10s. 3d. per 1,000 for these postal orders. He would undertake to getthem printed for 5s. per 1,000. Here then was an answer to that argument. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to bring the matter before the Post Office Authorities again, because it seemed absolutely mean and contemptible that such small and yet most useful reforms to the public could not be carried out by such an immense Department, which, as he had already said, was making a profit of millions a year out of the country. There were many other small reforms which ought to be carried out without delay, including the granting of a receipt for every parcel taken in at a Post Office, and greater legibility in the stamping on letters and papers. There were other points he might raise, but he thought he had said sufficient to show that the Post Office was not conducted as a great business Department should be. For instance, although the agitation in favour of reform had continued for three years, there was not yet a parcel post between this country and the United States. The absence of such a post was a constant subject of complaint. Any common sense business man could get over the difficulties raised by the Post Office in a very few weeks.
§ MR. H. C. RICHARDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, the only question he wished to raise was the position of the second class sorters. He made no attack upon the present heads of the Post Office because the condition of affairs was a legacy left them by their predecessors and also because, when the question was brought before the Duke of Norfolk, the noble Duke threw all the blame of the lack of attention upon the Treasury. The position of the second class sorters was one of great difficulty and one, of course, requiring great care. The London men had to live within three miles of the General Post Office, and consequently had to pay higher rent than men who could live in the suburbs, and by many Administrations they had been promised a redress of their grievances. Two years ago it was said that the Treasury were considering the question of the position and pay of the men. He hoped 640 that now the right hon. Gentleman would tell the Committee what had been done or what was being done.
§ MR. WALTER HAZELL
said, that supposing it was admitted that the proportion of the parcel post now charged by the railway companies was too high, was it not possible to open negotiations with a view to bring the present contract to an end before its time. They were always told that the contract had to run for several years longer, but surely it was quite possible to make some concessions on both sides whereby the contract might be ended now, and a new contract entered into. The present parcel post rates were enormous. They amounted to £16 a ton, whereas goods could be sent by a luggage train for a few shillings a ton. Even if the present contract could not be determined, would it not be possible to send parcels by goods train at a much lower rate? He demurred to the proposal that there should be an agricultural parcel post, as he believed that would lead to confusion, and prevent a reduction of rates generally. He had often wondered why there could not be here a system like that which obtained in Paris. Within a given radius of Paris, a parcel of 11 lbs. was carried for 5d., but the carrying of such a parcel here would cost 1s. 6d. The answer was that the scheme of Sir Rowland Hill contemplated uniform rates, but were we bound to have uniform rates all over the country?
§ MR. EDWIN LAWRENCE (Cornwall, Truro)
asked why, when there were two railways running in and out of Helston, parcels were still sent eight and ten miles by cart?
§ MR. LOUGH
hoped to see steps taken to develop the agricultural parcel post system. Recently the Great Eastern Railway Company had sent to every house in London a list of farms in the eastern counties from which agricultural produce of all kinds could be sent by the Great Eastern, and delivered to houses in the Metropolis. He believed that any parcel of goods up to 25 lbs. in weight would be taken from the farm, carried on the railway, and delivered at a house in London for 8d. Any parcel up to 60 lbs. would be delivered for 1s. If one railway could do that, every other railway could do it, and if every railway could do it, the Postmaster General 641 ought to be willing to throw the powerful influence of his Department into the scale, and secure at least as great advantages for the public. In the case of Ireland, it would be a great help if something were done to break down the monopoly between Ireland and this country, which was practically held by one railway company. A capital commencement could be made by allowing goods to be sent from Ireland at something like the Great Eastern rates. There was a little reform of great interest to rural districts which he had been promised by one Member of the Government on condition that the Post Office would agree to it. Last August the President of the Board of Agriculture promised him that, provided he could induce the Postmaster General to consent to the sale of ordnance maps of the districts in the various Post Offices in the country, he would arrange that such maps should he provided. That would be an excellent reform. In France an ordnance map of the district could be bought at the Post Office, and that was found of great use to cyclists and travellers of every kind. He understood the reform could be carried out instantly, and he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would take the matter into his favourable consideration. He was disposed to take a favourable view of everything the Secretary to the Treasury did, yet he thought hon. Members ought to express a clear and decided opinion as to the necessity of the Post Office being directly represented in the House of Commons. The present Postmaster General performed his duties well. In fact, the answers given to questions and the general courtesy displayed towards hon. Members by the representative of the Post Office compared favourably with anything he remembered, but that was not enough. The House of Commons ought not to be neglected in this matter, and he was satisfied that the object of the arrangement of 1866 was that a Member of this House should be Postmaster General. He agreed with his hon. Friend in this matter, and if he went into the Lobby, he should go there with him.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
rose to order. He protested against a discussion, under the ruling which had been given as to telephones.
said, he had already decided that the question of the telephones could be discussed on this Vote.
§ MR. PROVAND, resuming, said he had already called attention to the words used by the Secretary of the Treasury in answer to a question in February when he said that whenever there was a complaint of an inadequate telephone supply there the Post Office would offer a limited competition. He should have expected the right hon. Gentleman to have defined what "a limited competition" was. If it was the competition which they had at the present time, then they had to thank the Government for nothing. The value of such a competition in Glasgow would be worthless. It was a sham and a delusion, and the money spent had been actually wasted by the Post Office. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to give a return showing the extent of this limited competition, and the number of persons supplied. He should move for that Return. The telephone service, as carried on by the Post Office was a mistake from beginning to end, from the first day it was established. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the National Telephone Company had no monopoly and they could never have a monopoly as long as the Post Office could carry on competition, but the Post Office had not exercised that right to any extent. He left the monopoly to the company. He had the right to give licences to any municipality. Indisputably so. The right had never been questioned. Why had he not given licences to cheapen the service which he would have done if the power had not been placed in the company's hands. Let him explain what a monopoly was, and compare the business done by the company with that done by the Post Office. The company had more than 600 exchanges; the Post Office had 26 exchanges. The company had 73,000, he believed it was now 75,000 customers, and the Post Office had not got 1,200 altogether. And that was what was called "competition." Because they started a few sham exchanges, then it 643 was deemed that the company had no monopoly, but that it was a monopoly could be proved from the company's own accounts. The company had bought licences under which no business ever was done, or ever would be done. He would mention the Isle of Thanet, because they gave £20,000 for it simply to prevent some one else stepping in. The right hon. Gentleman said they must expect this for "a few years," but it would be 15 years before the licences expired, and these sham exchanges were got rid of. The city of Glasgow was not going to submit to the service they had and the price they had to pay for it, when they were perfectly competent and willing to supply a first class telephone system better than any existing in the country at one half the money. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman would simply re-open the question. The service had been shown to be unsatisfactory by witnesses before the Committee. The Post Office had 13 exchanges on which they must lose money every year, and their offer of limited competition was a piece of imposture.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
hoped the right hon. Gentleman in his reply would show more consideration to the suggestions of the hon. Member for Canterbury than Postmasters General had done in the past. He was sorry to think that the points raised by the hon. Member had been considerably discounted by some of the permanent officials in the Post Office, and the advantages or disadvantages of Imperial penny postage had come to be looked upon as a matter for an annual tussle between the hon. Member for Canterbury and some of the permanent officials, instead of as a matter of universal interest to the British people. Some officials in the Post Office were very much in favour of Imperial penny postage, and would not hesitate to concede it if some other hon. Members besides the hon. Member for Canterbury demanded it. The common sense of the House of Commons ought to intervene to prevent the question degenerating into a wasteful and undignified struggle between the permanent officials and an hon. Member of the House. He thought the country generally was grateful to the hon. Member for his persistence in these particular matters, and he 644 believed the Colonies were looking forward to the concession of this boon in the near future. He shared with Members on both sides of the House the view that they had witnessed that night, the disadvantage of having the Postmaster General in another place. He had a considerable regard for the Duke of Norfolk, who had been trained in an excellent school, namely, the London County Council, but he thought it was an undignified proceeding for the Secretary to the Treasury, who was perhaps the hardest worked Minister in the House, to hold furtive communication with the Permanent Officials under the Gallery, and to make on the spur of the moment, courteous but uninformed and more or less evasive replies to the questions relating to the Post Office, which he could not, on account of his other duties, understand. In listening to his replies he had been in doubt as to whether it was the Dr. Jekyll of the Treasury or the Mr. Hyde of the Post Office struggling for supremacy. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would make representations to his colleagues, so that the Post Office might be brought within the direct criticism of the House of Commons. In regard to the auxiliary postmen the right hon. Gentleman had not stood to his guns, and had enunciated a principle different to that which he advocated in opposition. The public demanded that every man, should stick to his last, and the post should be so organised that the 12,000 auxiliary postmen in England should be converted into staff men regularly employed under proper staff conditions. He sincerely trusted that the outcome of the Departmental Committee would be the stamping out at once, and for ever, of this system of auxiliary Post Office labour, which was not followed out, except at Christmas time, in the Post Office service of any other country. What France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and America could do— dispensing with auxiliary Post Office labour—England ought to be well able to do. Then he came to another point pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman, and upon which he hoped he would not yield an inch, that point pressed by the hon. and gallant Member for one of the Essex Divisions. The hon. and gallant 645 Gentleman, with his characteristic persistence, asked that the Post Office should be a larger, greater sphere for the employment of old soldiers and sailors than it had hitherto been. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must have been popular in his regiment, and if his men had had the least idea of how their officer would stick to them when he retired from active service, he would have been more popular still, for he never lost an opportunity of putting in a word for old soldiers and sailors. But t his thing could be overdone. 7t had not yet reached a condition of things in this country when it was a crime to be a civilian, and he sincerely hoped it never would. If there was any department of the public service for which the weaklings of labour generally ought to have the first preferential claim, it was the Post Office. That Department did not lend itself—and he hoped it never would to that militaryism which had been introduced into other departments of municipal and public service, and which did not make for efficiency in any service. There were thousands of men, otherwise well qualified, who had not the inches in height or chest measurement to qualify them for the Line, the Cavalry, or the Guards, and equally for the same reasons could not enter the police, or other public force, but they possessed many other qualifications that entitled them to consideration from a large department such as the Post Office. As a matter of fact, speaking from a physical point of view, it was not an advantage to have a big or heavy man as a postman or letter carrier. If any Member doubted that, let him try, as he (Mr. Burns) had done, to deliver some of his addresses to his constituents on a warm day in June, or July, and he would come to the conclusion that a man of from eight to eleven stone was quite big enough to do some 700 or 800 houses on a sweltering hot day during Election time in July. As a matter of fact, there was another side of the question to consider. Telegraph boys 646 were drawn from the town populations and had not the physique of raw country lads, and should not be placed at a disadvantage in getting into a Government Department. Generally speaking, a postman was not a big man. Compare a given number of them with the same number from the A Division of Police, or the Guards, and there would appear a striking difference in height and physical appearance. They had not been able to come up to the standard of the Army or the police, mostly through town conditions of life and no fault of their own, and this disqualification handicapped them in the competitive labour market, but they should not be further disqualified by the reservation of places in the Postal Service for men who had closed their career in the Army. It would be unfair to the boys and juniors, who had served as assistants, to have their chances of promotion diminished by the appointment over their heads of old soldiers and sailors who had not had their share in the early drudgery of the Department. He sincerely trusted that, while no disqualification should be imposed on soldiers and sailors, they would not be allowed this advantage in Government employment, but that, other things being equal, the weaker members of the great labour army should have preferential claims as against the men who were in the possession of brawn not always accompanied by brains. This was giving the other side of the question, for the old soldier side had been overdone, and it was time that the civil element should be protected. A soldier's life, especially under the short service system, did not tend to develop the qualities required for a service such as that of the Post Office. A military training did not give a man the temper of an angel or the gentle characteristics of a saint. The First Commissioner of Police would not say that old soldiers made the best members of the police force, and managers of 647 great railway companies would not say that they were most amenable to discipline and made the best railway servants, and the Post Office Authorities would not say that, generally speaking, old soldiers exclusively were of such a class that they should have superior advantages for Post Office service over men whose physique did not enable them to enter the army. He was inclined to believe that the discipline and the extreme pressure put upon the soldier under the short service system did very frequently incapacitate the man for many civil employments, that the drilling tended to de-individualise the man and convert him into an automaton; his head was, so to speak, drilled off his shoulders, with the result that neither in the Post Office nor under any other Department did old soldiers display those wonderful characteristics hon. and gallant Members attributed to them. An old soldier was an object of sympathy, of respect, and of pity, especially when his army life left him unfitted for any civil employment, but that was no reason why he should be allowed a preferential claim for employment over a civilian who could not compete with him in his military life and was already heavily handicapped. There was no reason why old soldiers should have a special claim on those positions of trust and responsibility they always demanded, and by which they understood little work to do. Another, and the last subject he had to mention, was the employment of Lascars on ships carrying Her Majesty's mails.
§ *MR. BURNS
said, he would raise it on the next Vote, but he thought that as probably the Debate was coming to a termination within a few minutes it might save time to refer to the matter now. He trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury would convey to the Postmaster General and the permanent officials of the Department the general 648 desire of the House that there should be an Imperial Penny Postage, and his belief was that it would be self-supporting. He desired that the right hon. Gentleman would urge the desirability of abolishing auxiliary employment, and lastly, in respect to the Post Office he hoped a disadvantage would not be imposed on civilian employment. They should place the civilian and the old soldier and sailor on the same footing. If the old soldier or the old sailor was a better man than the civilian, let him have the work. But they had no right to affirm in the House that the civilian element which paid the rates and taxes should be under a disadvantage in seeking employment in competition with the old members of the Army and Navy which had been pandered to too much in the House.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
thanked the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Treasury, for his promise to bring pressure to bear on the London and North Western Railway Company to extend the facilities for postal service in North Wales. Seeing that that Railway Company received £180,000 from the Post Office, it ought to be easy to find the means to apply that pressure. The right hon. Gentleman had also promised that there would be a register of Welsh place-names at central points, such as Shrewsbury and Cardiff. He thought a simpler plan would be to include the names in the monthly Postal Guide; and he thought the difficulty in regard to Welsh letters sent to the Dead Letter Office would be got rid of by providing that at least one of the 86 clerks in that Department was conversant with the Welsh language.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that since he had spoken there had been a few fresh references to the alleged inconvenience of the office of the Postmaster General being held by a Member of the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Islington apparently objected to any office of the Crown being held by a Member of the other 649 House; but that was not a view with which, at any rate, they on the Government side of the House could sympathise. His hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury complained that he was not able to ask supplementary questions. He did not think his hon. Friend tried very often to put supplementary questions, and various reasons had been given in explanation, but at any rate he thought he could promise that if such questions were put by his hon. Friend, and, if they were in order, he would be able to answer them. His hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury had raised two very important matters the establishment of an Imperial penny postage and an agricultural parcels post. In one portion of his speech his hon. Friend seemed to rest his case for an Imperial penny postage almost entirely upon the support which he alleged the system would receive from the colonies, while in another portion of his speech he appeared to he a little less sure of that ground, because he asked the question, would the Government establish an Imperial penny postage if he could prove that the majority of the colonies were in favour of it? But a majority of the colonies would not be sufficient. Surely it would be unsatisfactory to have such a postage with only a portion of the colonies?
§ MR. HANBURY
said that any rate for a time there would be a position of considerable inconvenience, one postage with one section of the colonies and different postage with another section of the colonies. His hon. Friend based his claim to a large extent upon the fact that there ought to be frequent communication between the people of this country and their kith and kin who had gone abroad. But a large portion of our people had settled in the United States, for instance, and if his hon. Friend's line of argument were adopted 650 there would be almost as good a reason for establishing a penny postage with the United States as with the colonies, indeed, a penny postage with the United States would necessarily follow a penny postage with Canada, for over three-fourths of the letters for Canada went through the United States. It would surely be a strange system of postage under which 2½d. would have to be paid for a letter to the United States and only 1d. for a letter to Canada, which passed through the United States. Again, Germany would undoubtedly follow our example and have a penny postage with the United States, and we would have to establish a penny postage with Germany. If there were a penny postage with Germany, penny postage with a great number of Continental countries would follow. [Cheers.] That might be desired; but he was only showing that it would not be possible to stop at Imperial penny postage. Universal penny postage would follow; and, as to that, his hon. Friend had assumed an anxiety for it on the part of the colonies. He should have expected his hon. Friend, who was so closely connected with the Australian colonies, to be able to speak for those colonies above all. And, no doubt, if the colonies themselves were very anxious to have this closer postal communication with the mother country, it would be a great argument in its favour. But it was not the sort of thing which ought to be forced down the throats of the colonies; and that would have to be done at the present moment. When the Australian colonies came into the Postal Union in 1891, their principal stipulation was that there should be no revision of rates until the next Postal Congress in 1897.
§ MR. HANBURY
My hon. Friend is misinformed. Such a stipulation was undoubtedly made. But in 1894, at the Postal Conference at Hobart, they 651 proclaimed that even the reduction to 2½d. had cost the colonies £40,000 a year, and that penny postage with England would be most undesirable. They objected not only to penny postage between this country and Australia, but also to the proposal of a penny postage from this country to Australia, but not from Australia to this country. They objected to both schemes because they would have the effect of reducing their own inland and intercolonial postage to 1d. from the 2d. at which it stood at present, and would involve the colonies in a further loss of £250,000 a year. Even last year the colonies raised similar objections. There was a Conference at Hobart, which declared that the hon. Member for Canterbury's suggestion was inopportune, and which rejected not only Imperial penny postage, but even the reduction of the present 2½d. rate to 2d.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
The convention at Hobart was a convention of Postmasters General, who passed resolutions drawn up by officials holding positions similar to those at St. Martin's-le-Grand. The Prime Ministers of several of the colonies had repudiated— and their communications were in the hands of the British Post Office—the action of the Postmasters General, and stated that they would accept England's offer.
§ MR. HANBURY
said that, if the Prime Ministers were in favour of the Scheme, it was curious that the Postmasters General were allowed to overrule them. But what would the Scheme cost this country? Already there was a heavy loss on all foreign and colonial mails, and the larger proportion of the loss was on the colonial mails. The contracts for foreign and colonial packet service cost £580,000 a year; the sea services performed by the colonies cost £80,000; and the payment for land transit abroad amounted to £140,000; total, £800,000. The return we obtained for that was as follows:—Postage on 652 letters from this country to the colonies, £170,000; postage from this country to countries abroad, £455,000; total, £625,000. That was a loss on the foreign and colonial service of £175,000. If the charge were to be 1d. instead of 2½d. that loss would be further increased by something like £102,000, and would then be over a quarter of a million. But his hon. Friend maintained that, to a large extent, this loss was purely artificial, because the contracts made with the different lines of steamers were more in the shape of subsidies to those lines than in the interests of the postal service. But, leaving contracts out of the question, all the powers which the Post Office possessed were these. In regard to foreign vessels carrying mails, they had an arrangement by which they might limit the charge for carriage to l½d. per pound in certain cases, and to 1d. per pound in other cases. With regard to British vessels, the Post Office were by law empowered to require letters to be carried at 1d. per pound in certain cases and at ½d. per pound in other cases. That was for sea passage alone, and leaving out the cost of carriage overland. The average cost of carrying letters in the United Kingdom was ½d. a letter, of which cost the conveyance by rail amounted to ¼d. per letter. Collection cost one-eighth, and that brought the cost to three-eighths of a penny. Then they had to calculate for a reply letter, which might involve ¼d. for conveyance by rail and one-eighth for delivery, making altogether ¾d. Therefore, if the Department were to use the power they had of requiring British steamers, without contracts, to take those letters, they should be paying at least l¾d. to those steamers for ocean carriage alone, leaving altogether out of calculation what they should have to pay for transit across the Continent. Therefore it was quite clear that the scheme could not be carried out unless they were to require British steamers to carry letters at rates a great deal lower than 653 they were under any obligation to carry for at the present moment. He submitted, then, that he had been able to show his hon. Friend three things in the first place, that the colonies were not in favour of it; in the second place, that it entailed a very heavy loss on this country; and, thirdly, that, even if the Department were to do away with mail contracts altogether and simply avail themselves of their legal right to send letters at a certain rate per pound by ordinary vessels not working under contract, they should still have to pay a very much larger sum than was contemplated under his hon. Friend's penny arrangement. With regard to the agricultural parcel post, some very fail-arguments had been brought forward in its favour, but there were one or two difficulties to which he should like to direct attention. In the first place, it would be an entire departure from the practice of the Post Office to give differential rates for different kinds of produce. For a Government Department to accord different treatment to different products, whether of agriculture or of manufacture, would at once lay it open to the charge of favouritism. But supposing they were to risk the dangers of differential rates, how were they to discriminate between what was agricultural produce and what was not? They would have to examine nearly every parcel, and the work which that would entail on the various post offices would be very considerable indeed. Then there was a further point. Was the benefit of this agricultural parcel post to be extended to foreign agricultural products as well as English, or not? If it was to be extended to foreign agricultural products he thought the chances were that it would not very much benefit the English farmer. Was the House prepared to take a new departure and agree that English butter, for instance, sent from London to York should be charged at a different rate from foreign butter so sent? That would be a direct protection for English 654 produce. And if they were going to protect the farmer, he thought the fisherman would have an equally good claim. But to his mind, the main objection to an agricultural parcel post was this, that, in the long run, he believed that, so far from benefitting the agricultural districts, it might be to their very great detriment. Because, after all, who were the people who had hitherto taken most advantage of the parcel post? Why, it was the wholesale traders. They had better means of packing, their goods were better known by advertisement, and the fear of the Post Office was that, so far from benefitting the agriculturist and the village shopkeeper, the result would be that the large traders would send a great deal more from London and the great towns into the villages even than they did at present. With regard to the question of the reduction of rates on parcels, he was bound to say that he thought 55 per cent. of the postal rate was high, especially for the smaller parcels, but when his hon. Friend reviled the officials of the Post. Office with being responsible for this, he showed an ignorance of the facts which was not usual with him. For what was the fact? It was not the permanent officials, but this House which was responsible, because this House passed an Act binding the Department to the present rates till 1903, and, therefore, until 1903 it was impossible to break the arrangement come to with the railway companies. His hon. Friend went on to deal with other points, and he said —Why not cheapen the communications with France? But, as a matter of fact, the foreign postage was not remunerative at present, and he did not know why, for the sake of the richer class who carry on communication with the Continent, they should reduce the rates on letter's to the Continent at a cost to the general taxpayer. He should have said that if anybody deserved to be benefitted it was the man who sent letters at the 1d. rate by inland postage, because, undoubtedly, on 655 that service, and on that service alone, there was a direct gain to the Exchequer. Then complaint was made that we had not yet got the parcel post with the United States. That was not the fault of the British Post Office; it was the fault of the authorities of the United States. He believed that in the United States the parcel post was conducted on a totally different system from that which prevailed in any foreign country. To a large extent it was dealt with under contract by certain private firms. Reference had again been made to guarantees for the extension of postal and telegraphic facilities in rural districts, and objection was taken to the system of gathering in paltry sums as guarantees as a set-off against loss in extension. But how did hon. Gentlemen know that those small sums represented the whole loss that would accrue to the Post Office? Once abolish the system of guarantees, and where was the system of facilities to the smaller and thinly-populated districts to end? Was any limit of population to be laid down? Besides, what an opening to favouritism on the part of the Post Office the system would lead to. One hon. Member after another would claim facilities for his county or district, and all kinds of charges of political influence would be made. It was surely a sounder principle that when postal and telegraphic facilities were to be extended the need for them should be tested by means of guarantee whether they were likely to be remunerative in particular districts. ["Hear, hear!"] The second-class sorters was one of the subjects which had been specially referred to the Tweed-mouth Committee. The delay was not due to the Treasury, but it was impossible so long as the subject was under the consideration of the Committee for him to express any opinion. As to the rate for parcels, and the suggestion why certain parcels should not be sent by luggage trains at a reduced rate, he was 656 not sure how far the agreement with the railway companies extended to passenger trains; but he promised to make inquiries on the point. The suggestion appeared to him to be in some respects a good one, but at present he thought the statutory agreement with the companies extended to the carriage of parcels, however sent. He believed that arrangements had already been made, or were on the point of being made, by which orders could be given for ordnance maps at the Post Offices and payment made there. That arrangement would not only be a convenience to the public, but of advantage to the Exchequer. There would be some difficulty in keeping a stock of maps in small country post offices. A Departmental Committee had been appointed for the purpose of seeing how all the subjects could be dealt with, and no doubt this point would be investigated, though he imagined that there were difficulties in the way of the suggestion.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
asked what the right hon. Gentleman's intentions were with reference to the publication of Welsh names in the monthly guide?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that he would consult the Postmaster General on the point, but he could give no pledge. He would, however, certainly do his best to have the suggestion as to the register carried out.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
joined in the protest that had been made against the arrangement by which the Postmaster General was not in that House, where he was represented by a right hon. Gentleman who, however able, could only speak at second hand and was without initiative authority. In the last Parliament the Secretary to the Admiralty and himself were attacked from time to time because the Admiralty was only represented in that House by two Ministers, the First Lord being in another place. The Admiralty was, however, represented by two of its executive officers, but even that did not 657 satisfy the, right hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury). What was the case now? The Post Office was not represented by a single Minister having responsible connection with the Department. He was astonished at the tameness with which the present Opposition — [Ministerial laughter]—submitted to an arrangement which was without parallel in recent times. The Vote for which the right hon. Member pretended to be responsible that night amounted in the aggregate to 11 millions, and the Navy Vote was ordinarily not more than 14 millions. The exceptional ability of the right hon. Member did not, justify this very exceptional situation. The right hon. Member had not attempted to reply seriously to the protest that had been made, and, in truth, the question was not one for him to answer. It was a question for the Leader of the House or for the Minister who was responsible for the arrangement. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
The question, Sir, that I am discussing is the fact that the Postmaster General is not it Member of this House.
I understood the hon. Member to say that the reason of that was that the Postmaster General had been appointed by the Lender of the House or some other Minister. If that is so, the matter cannot be discussed on this Vote. The official acts of the Postmaster General or his failure to perform some official act can alone be debated. In the discussion which the Committee has carried on no criticism has been passed upon the fact that the Postmaster General is in another place. The criticism which has been passed has been upon the fact that the Secretary to the Treasury is the Minister who is called upon to reply in this House to any attack that may be made upon the Department.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
observed that in previous Parliaments he had himself moved the reduction of a Minister's salary on the express ground that the Minister did not sit in that House. However, he would not pursue the matter further. The protest had been made, and he was glad of it. He would not go as far as to say that all the Ministers ought to have seats in the House of Commons, but he contended that the heads of Departments—certainly the head of so great a Department as the Post. Office—ought to be in that House. In any case, the Postmaster General ought not to be represented by a Minister who was not even his own subordinate.
*SIR ALBERT ROLLTT
said, that after the Debate and the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman, he begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. DALZIEL
asked whether, in the event of the Amendment being withdrawn, it would be possible for an hon. Member to move the reduction of the amount of the Vote by a higher sum?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I should like to move the reduction of the Vote by £2,500, the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, he would move on the main Vote the reduction of the sum by £2,000. He did not wish to prolong the Debate, as he thought that nearly everything that could be said on this subject had been said. It was necessary, however, to move the Amendment in order to take the opinion of the House on this question. He agreed entirely with every word that fell from the late Civil Lord. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had, on the whole, 659 given satisfactory replies, but the whole position he had taken up was an argument in favour of making the right hon. Gentleman Postmaster General, and not a defence of the present system. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the present arrangement was really an advantage, because by it he obtained a knowledge of the inner working of the Post Office which it was very desirable the Treasury should obtain. If it was useful for the Treasury to represent the Post Office, why should they not represent the Army, the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and the Home Office? If knowledge was advisable in the case of one Department it was also advisable in the case of all the others. The case against such an arrangement in other Departments was not so strong, because other Departments had a representative in both Houses; but in the case of the Post Office there absolutely was not a representative at all in the House of Commons. Therefore he contended that a case had been made out that under the present system it was practically impossible to get adequate attention given in the House to matters affecting the Post Office. He had no complaint to make against the present Postmaster General, who was one of the most industrious and courteous of Postmasters General; but that was not the question. The question was whether hon. Members who received complaints were to go to the Post Office and lay them there, or whether they should be enabled to do in the House in five minutes what would probably take hours or days to do in the other way. The Postmaster General ought to be in the House of Commons in daily communication with hon. Members, and to listen to and reply to the arguments put forward by them. He hoped that by the Division hon. Members would make their protest against the present arrangement, and dissociate themselves from any responsibility for it.
§ MAJOR RASCH
desired to reply to some remarks of his hon. Friend the 660 Member for Battersea on the question of the employment of reserve soldiers. His hon. Friend objected to the preferential employment of reserve soldiers on the ground that there was a large class of civilians who were physically less capable than soldiers, and weaker than them. His hon. Friend knew, as well as he did, that some 6,000 men were enlisted last year, called "specials," who were under 18 years of age, under 5 ft. 4in. in height, and under 32 in. round the chest. If physical weakness constituted a claim to Government employment, as his hon. Friend seemed to think, surely these men had a claim. He did not suggest that the reserve soldier was perfect, but he had given up years of his life to be shot at for his country, and he did think that constituted a by no means small claim. Old soldiers who went about the country houseless, workless, and in rags constituted the greatest deterrent to recruiting that could be imagined, and might ultimately force us back upon conscription.
That a sum, not exceeding £6,440,120, he granted for the said Services.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 39; Noes, 111.—(Division List No. 86,)
§ DR. TANNER (Mid Cork)
said, he wished once more to call attention to the grievances of rural postmen in Ireland. They were badly paid and clothed, and had to go long distances in in discharge of their duties. He had called the attention of several Postmasters General to the subject, and he hoped it would now receive attention with a view to remedying the evils complained of.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, if the hon. Member could produce any specific cases of hardship they would be looked into.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.661
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum not exceeding £536,607, 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 1897, for the Expense of the Post Office Packet Service.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS
desired to know whether in the subsidies granted to several steamers conveying the mails between England, the colonies, and other parts, it would not be possible for the Post Office to bring some pressure to bear on the steamship companies owning certain lines of vessels to give employment to a larger proportion of British and colonial seamen. He did not go quite so far as some men on this particular point. He recognised that much of the money paid for the Post Office service came from the Empire as a whole, and to which India, and Lascars and coolies contributed their proportionate share. If, therefore, there was any field for the employment of Lascars and coolies, other things being equal, they had the same claim with the English sailor and the Australian stoker. But he thought the Lascar was employed by steamship companies, not because he was an Imperial taxpayer, and the coolie, not because he was one of many millions of people who claimed the protection of the British Empire, but frequently because, first, neither of the two had the capacity to combine, secondly, because he had not the incentive to organise, and thirdly, because he was alleged to be able to work in climates where the British seaman could not. Against the Lascars, as Lascars, he should be the last man to raise a single word of protest. He had nothing to say against any people either because of race, religion, or colour. But in this case, colonial workmen, and the Trades Councils of Sydney, Melbourne, and other big cities of the Australian colonies stated that the Lascars and coolies were employed in carrying the mails simply because they were cheaper animals than the British sailor, and, as a consequence, British 662 labour was considerably jeopardised. For instance, a Lascar could be kept at from three pence to sixpence per day, as against from one to two shillings for either a colonial or British sailor. These men were employed only because of their cheapness, and the argument, in favour of their selection was not so strong as it used to be. It was formerly urged that the English sailor was not amenable to discipline, was not sober or regular in his conduct. Those were objections which certainly could not be brought against the English sailor of to-day. He repeated that the Lascars and coolies were employed solely because of the cheapness of their labour. Certain lines of steamers owned by particular shipowners who refused to employ Lascars and coolies had had to go under because of the unfair competition, resulting in the cheap rates for carrying mails, of other companies employing Lascars. A Lascar did not serve a ship nearly so well as a sailor belonging to an English speaking race, and for his own part, in any time of emergency, he would rather have 10 Englishmen and half-a-dozen Australians than 50 or 60 Lascars or coolies. The Members on the other side of the House came into office by advocating Bills for the marking of meat, the exclusion of foreign cattle and aliens, and the giving of some relief to depressed agriculture. They made a Government Measure of the question of the exclusion of aliens. There he did not agree with them. He did not believe that aliens should be excluded. He would place aliens and British workmen on the same level of competition, but he declared that it was not fair for the Post Office to be continually subsidising large steamship lines, and especially those survivals in the steamship lines that were only able to compete with other people because they employed Lascars and coolies at a low rate of wages, and under conditions that did not comply with the terms of the general Resolution of the House of Commons of 1891. They got him for 663 3d. a day and his rice and curry, and he was housed and fed and clothed under conditions that no English-speaking man would tolerate for a single moment. The hon. Member for Cardiff put this on his election placards, and spread it all over the town:—He was in favour, if elected, of British boilers being made by British hands, and should be stoked in British ships by British sailors.Where was the hon. Member for Cardiff that night? Let him stand up in his place and support him, not for the exclusion of Lascars and coolies, but for the enforcement of the fair-wages Resolution. He certainly thought the friends of the English soldier, and above all of the English sailor, ought to stand up for them that night. The complaint was that the English sailor was leaving the Mercantile Marine, and that every step should be taken to secure him employment after he had been driven out by the Lascar, the coolie, the Japanese, and the Chinaman. He thought those Gentlemen would be of more assistance if they were to remove the causes that drove the English sailor away from his ship and to keep him at his work under conditions that would insure him something like decent treatment. The Post Office was the greatest sinner in this respect. It gave its contracts to the very lines of steamers that employed the largest proportion of Lascars and coolies, against whom it was impossible for the ordinary member of the Mercantile Marine to compete. So far as soldiers' clothing was concerned, the Government had practically said that it should be made under decent conditions in the Government Clothing Factories at Pimlico and elsewhere. That did more to kill sweating in the East End of London than anything else. The result was that the widows and children of men who had been killed in the Army were now getting employment under better conditions, and if the Army could do this, he said the Post Office could also follow that example, even if it were to a limited ex- 664 tent, and declare that the moneys voted by the Imperial Parliament for the conveyance of mails should not be used, as they were used, as subsidies to buttress up companies which employed foreign, cheap, low, and sweated labour to an extent which they would not do if they had not the advantages of these Imperial subsidies. Take one example. The P. and O. employed the largest proportionate number of coolies. The Orient Company had been practically unable to compete with the P. and O., because they felt morally bound to give employment to British sailors and others who paid the rates from which the subsidy they received was drawn. The P. and O. had no such scruple of conscience, with the result that men were attracted from work in India, which they could do better than stoking and sailoring, and were put on board these vessels, in many cases inefficient sailors. By countenancing steamship companies that employed Lascars and coolies as he had described, the Government were putting a premium on the sweating of English labour, and practically, though perhaps unintentionally, driving a large number of English sailors from their legitimate sphere of employment. This had been the effect of the system adopted by the P. and O. Company, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would represent to the Postmaster General the necessity of communicating with the manager of that Company on the matter, and of telling him that Lascars should not be penalised because they could live on 3d. a day and their rice and curry, and that Englishmen should not be thrown out of employment because they could not exist on the same conditions. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought the subsidies were quite large enough for English sailors to be employed; if not, they might be increased. He would point out to hon. Members opposite who had preached the parable of British labour in the last election, that here was an opportunity for them to put their sentiments 665 into practice. Let them insist on it being laid down as a condition of the Fair Wages Resolution, not that Lascars should be excluded, but that a fail chance of employment under decent conditions should be given to British seamen in British postal work. If a hint of that kind was given to the manager of the P. and O. Company, he would soon adapt himself to the conditions, and employ a larger number of British sea men. And little would really be lost by doing so, all things considered, for it took thrice the, number of Lascars to work a ship and the boilers than would be necessary if Englishmen were engaged, and the work was not done so efficiently. He had been urged by trades councils, seamen's organisations, and members of the legislatures of many of our colonies, no less than by organisations at home, to bring this matter under the attention of the Government, and he had then fulfilled his promise to do so. He did not go all the way with some of the colonial organisations, but he at least concurred heartily with them in asking that British sailors should have fair play. In conclusion, he begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, there could be no question that the point raised by the hon. Member for Battersea was a very important one, and he should like to know what answer had been given by the Postmaster General to the representations from Australia that contracts should not be given to the P. and O., or any other company which employed Lascars and coolies to the exclusion of British sailors. He also desired to make a protest against the large sums granted in relation to the packet services, amounting to £435,000 being charged to the Post Office—up to 1868 the sums were charged to the Admiralty. Neither in Germany or in America were such subsidies charged to the, Post Office Department.
§ And it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.