HC Deb 23 April 1896 vol 39 cc1524-6

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General—(1) whether his attention has been called to the case of a number of youths who entered the School of Telegraphy in connection with the Belfast Post Office at various dates from June 1892 to June 1893, upon the understanding that when qualified they would receive constant employment and also appointments as vacancies occurred, and having since been employed on an average only about three days a week, have lately been informed that there is no prospect of receiving appointments for years to come; (2) whether some time after their admission they were asked to sign a paper to the effect that they had no claim on the Department and they refused to sign it; and (3) whether, considering the small number now affected, he will reconsider their case with the view to provide for their appointment?


The Postmaster General is fully acquainted with the circumstances of the case. It is not true that the youths in question were admitted to the School of Telegraphy at Belfast upon the understanding that when qualified they would receive constant employment and appointments on the occurrence of vacancies. On the contrary, the Duke of Norfolk is assured that they were admitted to the school on the usual condition that their admission gave them no claim on the Department for appointment to the establishment or for fixed employment in any capacity. They have been employed whenever possible as temporary telegraphists, and they have been paid for their services at the usual rates. As the work in the Telegraph Department has not always been available the youths have from time to time been offered temporary employment in the Postal Branch, but they have refused either to accept this, to qualify themselves for permanent employment by learning postal work, or to afford assistance when this has been required at times of pressure, although of course such assistance would have been paid for at the usual rates. The statement made in the second paragraph of the Hon. Member's Question is correct.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer the second paragraph of the Question?


The statement made in the second paragraph is correct, but, as I have said, had the youths shown themselves willing to take advantage of such opportunities as could be offered them, the present difficulty might not have continued; but in the circumstances, the Postmaster General does not feel justified in making exceptional arrangements to retain in the service candidates who are not ready to accept such work as the Department have to offer to them. This reply is the same as that given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast some weeks ago, when he was in communication with the Post Office on this subject.