HC Deb 16 July 1897 vol 51 cc317-84

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £6,726,335 (including Supplementary sums of £109,875 and £50,000), 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 out the 31st day of March 1898, 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 HENRY FOWLER (Wolver-hampton)

said he desired to raise for the consideration of the Committee the important question of the unsatisfactory nature of the relations between the Postmaster General and the House of Commons. He was sure no one would impute to him any desire to cast any reflection either upon the Secretary to the Treasury, who discharged the duty of representing the Postmaster General in the House as he discharged all his other duties, with great ability—["hear, hear!"]—or upon the Postmaster General, who as a public officer, deserved, and possessed the confidence of the public. But he wished to lay lay down the broad principle that in the case of the Post Office there was not that Parliamentary control which existed over all the other Departments of the State. He ventured to submit that there should be in the House of Commons a responsible Minister of a Department like the Post Office, which involved so large an outlay of public money and so widespread a public taxation—a taxation which pressed so universally, he did not say heavily or unfairly, on all classes of the community. When he was Secretary to the Treasury he had to do what was done now by the present Secretary to the Treasury, he had to represent the Post Office in the House, and he therefore knew from personal experience the unsatisfactory manner in which those duties had to be discharged. The Secretary to the Treasury had not only very difficult duties, but very conflicting duties to discharge. The right hon. Gentleman had to answer in the Douse questions of administration of which lie had no personal knowledge, in respect to which he was not responsible, and which he was unable to alter if he disapproved of them; while, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman occupied, in financial affairs, the position of a checking authority over the Department, for his business as the Financial Secretary was to prevent the Post Office spending too much money. What was wanted was that the House of Commons should have, not only control over the expenditure of the Post Office, but that the Department itself should he in touch with the House. It was impossible for anyone outside the House of Commons, no matter how distinguished or experienced, to understand the House of Commons' temper, the House of Commons' disposition, or the House of Commons' desires. The House of Commons represented in this matter the commercial interests of the country; and the commercial population were constantly requiring additional postal conveniences. He did not shut his eyes to the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, during the last few months, proposed very considerable additions to the postal facilities and conveniences of the public; but there were constant questions arising in reference to Post Office administration, which could not possibly be properly dealt with in the House of Commons, except by a Minister who, while he had knowledge and control of these questions, was also responsible to the House of Commons. The late Mr. W. H. Smith, a good many years ago, before he reached to the responsible position of Leader of the House, was, at one time, as would be seen by a letter to Sir Stafford Northcote, which would lie found in his "Life and Letters," in favour of the abolition of the office of Postmaster General and of putting the Department entirely under the Treasury. Nowadays, he was sure that the House of Commons would never tolerate a great spending and administrative Department like the Post Office being put under the Treasury, whose first and proper duty was to cut down expenditure, and not to consider public convenience. He wished to speak of the Treasury with the greatest respect, but, after all, cutting down expenditure was not the whole duty of an administrative Department. He was sure that a great deal of money which had been well spent in all Departments would never have been spent at all, if the decision had been left entirely to the Treasury. The House of Commons, which looked to efficiency as well as to economy, must be the final authority on the wisdom of expenditure. The argument was certainly strongest in regard to the Post Office, which could not legitimately be looked to as a source of public revenue. Sir Robert Peel held that the profit earned by the Department should be applied in promoting the public convenience; but of course it was too late to raise that doctrine now. When, however, the Post Office was producing a large and increasing revenue, now approaching four millions, the public had a right to bring pressure to bear in order that their convenience might be fully considered. It did not always follow in matters of this kind that even the two front Benches were right. He could remember the two front Benches being defeated on the sixpenny telegram question. If that question had been left to the Treasury alone we should not have sixpenny telegrams to-day. This showed the necessity of keeping the Post Office free from Treasury administration though under Treasury control. Without casting the slightest reflection on the present head of the Post Office he thought that the present mode of telegraphic messages between the Department and the House of Commons, and questions being answered by a Gentleman who had no responsibility for Post Office business, was very unsatisfactory, and removed control from the House of Commons. He should not move an Amendment, but he would ask the First Lord of the Treasury to give an assurance that this matter would he considered.


said that no one would complain of the tone of the right hon. Gentleman, who undoubtedly spoke with special authority, because he had himself been Secretary to the Treasury, and had carried on in the House the functions which the right hon. Member for Preston performed with such distinguished success. Though he sympathised with much that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, and admitted that the point raised was well worthy of consideration, he thought there were certain aspects of the question which the right hon. Gentleman had omitted from his view. The right hon. Gentleman was careful not to put in a claim that every Minister responsible for great expenditure should necessarily and for that reason have a seat in the House of Commons. Every successive Government—those to which the right hon. Gentleman had belonged as much as any other had found it absolutely necessary to have some of the Ministers responsible for vast expenditure in the House of Lords. Therefore the question was, not whether the Postmaster General should be in the House of Commons, but whether he should have some representative to deal with Post Office questions in the House of Commons other than the Secretary to the Treasury. Of course there would be some advantages in the creation of a new tinder Secretary to deal with Post Office questions, but there would also be disadvantages. In the first place, to create a new office was a rather serious responsibility. The House kept the number of paid Government officials to the narrowest limits conformable with the due discharge of public business; and every Government and every Opposition would look with well-founded caution on any suggestion creating a new Ministry, a new official, or a new Parliamentary representative either of existing Departments or of a new Department. If that were a difficulty—and it undoubtedly was—what was the special necessity in the case under discussion? He was prepared to maintain the view—provisionally, at any rate—that the Treasury were specially qualified to deal with questions connected with the Post Office. After all, the Post Office could not start any great policy except by the direct sanction of the Treasury. In a sense that was also true of every Department; and no doubt there had been occasions when the Minister responsible for some Department hail had to defend a policy which had been rather imposed by the Treasury than suggested by his own initiative. But if the Post Office were represented in the House of Commons by an official—not the Postmaster General, but a subordinate—would not that representative be put in a position incomparably more embarrassing and awkward than that of any Minister? Every question of Post Office policy was really a question of Treasury policy. Of course there were a vast number of important details of administration in which the Treasury never interfered. But questions such as those to which the right hon. Gentleman had made special reference—questions in which the Post Office came into contact, and, it might be, into collision, with great commercial interests—were for the most part Treasury questions rather than Post Office questions. The Postmaster General had no interest but to satisfy every demand which the public made upon him; but he could not act in these matters except as, in some sense, a subordinate of the Treasury. He was a great independent Minister from some points of view, but from others he could not be independent of the controlling authority of the Treasury. And, if the Treasury were to be really responsible for the control of the Post Office in these great matters it was just as well that the Treasury should have to defend their own action by the mouths of their own officials. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman was carried into effect and an Under Secretary of the Post Office were created to represent the Department in the House of Commons, while the Postmaster General was in the House of Lords; supposing some great demand were made upon the Post Office for greatly increased facilities in respect of some district, or some commercial interest, which desired to have cheaper and easier communications, the Post Office would probably, as far as they alone were concerned, be very ready to grant every facility. But the Treasury, which was the controlling authority, had to consider wider interests than any single Department. Would it be advisable or for the convenience of the House that the person who had to get up and refuse the demand of which the Treasury disapproved should not be a Treasury official, but some subordinate of the Postmaster General, who, if he had only to consider his own Department and not his position as a member of the Government, might be glad enough to sanction the demand? While there was something to be said for the right hon. Gentleman's contention, there were very strong arguments on the other side; and the fact that the Post Office was more closely and inevitably connected with the Treasury than any other Department made it not inappropriate, and in many cases exceedingly fitting, that the Treasury officials should be responsible to the House of Commons for the policy pursued by the Post Office. Though he did not wish to enter a non possumus answer to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought there were distinct advantages in the existing arrangement—advantages which should be well weighed before they were abandoned in favour of the more symmetrical, but not more practical, scheme which the right hon. Gentleman had urged.


, in rising to move "That item (a) (Salaries) he reduced by £1,000, in respect of the salary of the Postmaster General," said the Amendment was intended to reflect upon the Report of the Committee rather than upon either the Government or the Department, for he thought more might be done to remedy the abuses which were known to exist in the course of the Report itself. To speak of the Post Office as a revenue-earning machine was, in his opinion, not a full or adequate description. He shared to the full the opinion that its first object was to give facilities to the public rather than merely to earn profit, and also to do justice to its employés. Nothing could be more unfortunate for the State than that its employés should have grievances, and those grievances remain unredressed. There were grievances which had not been redressed by the Report, and the House had a great deal more to do in that direction. It was no answer to say that the Treasury had appropriated a large sum of £139,000 for that very purpose, for after all, what did the appropriation amount to? It only amounted to a rectification of the inadequacies of the past. It was not in London only, but throughout the United Kingdom that something like chronic discontent existed. The complaints were loud and wide-spread. He did not at all agree as to the propriety of the course intimated by way of notice to the Postmaster General, that if the grievances were not redressed overtime work at night would be suspended. That was an extreme remedy in cases where the public convenience and service were concerned; but, after all, every man's labour was his own right, and if there were no disposition to remedy present grievances, even that extreme way of trying to bring about a remedy might possibly have to be resorted to. The Treasury was, of course, a barrier to a good deal. He did not say the heads of Departments who were represented on the Committee would not try to do justice, but sometimes time head of a Department did not value as much as he might do pecuniarily the services of those who contributed to the joint effort which he and they made for the public advantage, and if we had a splendid Civil Service in this country, he thought it had one great defect, and that was a too glaring disproportion between the salaries of the highest officials and those of the lower, and this disproportion might well be redressed. He could not go into all the cases, he could only take one or two instances. There was first the case of the telegraph clerks. Their claim to the Committee was that they should have 28s. a week, and after five years' service an annual increment of 2s. 6d. per week, to a maximum of £200 a year after 27 years' service. When he mentioned that there were now large numbers of men who after 27 years' service were only earning a maximum of £145, after a life's work, and with no real prospect before them, he submitted that the claim was not in itself an unreasonable one. That their position was a hard one was not challenged by the Postal representative on the Committee. One witness said that during 23 years the maximum had only been raised for these clerks 12 per cent., while the maximum of the second division clerks had been raised no less than 75 per cent. Yet these facts had been ignored by the Committee. To take next the question of classification, against which a long protest had been made. The Committee were warned that if they abolished classification without making some change in the scale, the position of the telegraph clerks would be worse by £30 a year. No compensation for that had been given or recommended by the Committee, and what was worse, classification had been retained between the first and senior classes, and so a barrier was interposed, and what was before possible was no longer possible in the shape of advancement. One of the men summed up the position thus:— The possible maximum salary of the telegraphist has been reduced from £190 to £160 per annum. What Mr. Fawcett conceded in1881 has been withdrawn by Lord Tweedmouth's Committee in 1897, in spite of the fact that the greater portion of the staff entered the service on the distinct understanding that £190 was a salary to which all operators were entitled to rise. The interposition of a new examination was really a violation of the contract with these operators, and was a grave and gross injustice to them. Another point of complaint was that the holi- days of so many of the men were given during the winter months, when it was impossible to enjoy them; but while three more days were given in some cases, in other cases the holiday was reduced by seven days. The staff complained, moreover, of the hardships of the pension system, which the Committee declared itself incompetent to deal with. The sorters complained that there had been an insufficient salary for those entering that branch of the service, and an ungenerous pension system with reference to those leaving it. They claimed 24s. per week, and they pointed out that in the Post Office character was all important, and there were risks involved, and that they had great temptations. The Committee said that with reference to the pension question they had no jurisdiction. The Report of the Committee made a reduction of overtime rates and Sunday duty. The rate hitherto had been 6d. per hour; the rate recommended by the Committee was rate and a quarter. Overtime work was generally performed by the younger officers, and they would receive 4½d. per hour under the terms of the Committee's Report, instead of 6d. This selection of the lowest-paid men for overtime work at a reduced rate was throwing the work into the hands of the inexperienced, while at the same time it was sweating labour by enabling less to be paid in consequence of the lower salary of the men employed. By the Report of the Committee the Sunday rates were to be reduced to a rate and a half. Here, again, there had been a material alteration of the contract under which servants entered the Department. This Sunday rate was strongly objected to, because it affected their wages on Christmas Day as well as Sunday. Another claim made was that the sorters should have a senior class, such as existed in the Central Telegraph Office. There were some sorters who were called upon to do work of supervision, and these men should be in a class which was better remunerated, especially as the work had been done for a long time without extra pay. Then there was the question of civil rights, the right of combinations and similar subjects. For a long time past there hail been great uncertainty in the Post Office with reference to the extent to which their civil rights could be exercised at election times. The Committee said that they were incompetent to deal with this matter, but indicated that the Treasury should from time to time define be regulations what were the rights of Civil Servants at elections. But Civil servants should have just the same rights as other people. The junior sorters complained that having entered the service a higher state of efficiency was demanded of them, while their position was made stationary at 19s. a week. The postmen had asked for a minimum of 20s. a week with annual increments of 2s. to £2 for London and the large towns, and corresponding pay in the case of the provincial cities and towns. They had also asked that Christmas-boxes should be abolished, 2s. a week being added to the wages as a compromise. Evidence had been given that 5s. was the real value of the Christmas-boxes, but the Committee said that there should be no solicitation for Christmas-boxes and no compensation for their loss. Complaints were also made that promotion was stagnant and that the supernumerary postmen in London were distinguished from the auxiliary men without any reason at all. He hoped that a statement of grievances, which were, provoking the strongest possible feeling, with disadvantage to the efficiency of the Post Office, would be listened to. He was extremely glad to recognise that the Postmaster General had been willing to receive two deputations—one on June 15, which had not yet been replied to, and one yesterday. But he would urge upon the Department and the Government that the real remedy for this strong and wide discontent was the appointment of an independent Committee, because the decision of such a tribunal, composed not of officials but of practical business men, who would perhaps have more sympathy with men in the lower grades of the service, would be loyally accepted, and thus the public would be advantaged and contentment restored to a service which was of great value to the country. [''Hear, hear!"] He concluded by moving the reduction of the Vote.


desired to confine his remarks to that portion of the question which touched London; but wished first to say this on the general question—that in his opinion it was of the first importance that employés in any branch of the public service should be kept in a state of contentment, and that they should feel that under no circumstances would they be treated with injustice, and that when they laid their claims before a Committee those claims should be fairly considered if not generously met. [" Hear; hear!"] In every public service those who were lowest down in the scale should feel that equally with the highest they had some hope of promotion. Now, the Controller General of London, who was, perhaps, the best informed on these matters, had distinctly stated that, as far as London was concerned, the prospects of promotion were worse than they had ever been. The complaint of the employés in London was that insufficient consideration had been given to the evidence which they brought before the Committee. Take one simple matter—the case of the parcel postmen. They had been absolutely ignored. In such a small matter as the supply of uniform overall leggings, they were told more than a year ago by Mr. Hall that a large issue was about to be made; yet nothing had been done. Then, no consideration whatever was shown to the case of the letter carriers, i.e., postmen who were, properly speaking, letter carriers, but who at times dealt with parcels. Passing now to the main question of wages, the demand was 24s., with an increment of 2s. up to 40s., irrespective of the zone system. They complained bitterly of this zone system, which brought about the most glaring anomalies. In the constituency which he represented, he could, for example, point to two men who were doing precisely the same duties, yet one of them was in a far superior position to the other, simply because he happened to be working in a different zone. This system of zones, he contended, could not be applied successfully to a great town like London, because it had been shown by the employés that it was impossible for a man to obtain suitable house accommodation in close vicinity to the office to which he was attached. Then again, the duties of postmen were shewn to be equally responsible and equally arduous with those of the second-class sorters; yet those men found themselves in a far less advantageous situation than the second-class sorters. With reference to scales, since in one scale there were only eleven men, the number of scales was practically reduced from three, that was to say, 26s., 30s., and 34s., in other words, the maximum for town postmen was not increased except in some eases, and men who formerly were able to attain to the maximum of 32s. had to remain in the 30s. class. Therefore, they had one class of postmen paying, as it were, for the advantage gained by another class. There was a disparity of some 8s. between those who had the highest rates in central London and those who were getting the highest rates in outer London, whereas the difference in the cost of living certainly did not justify such a difference in pay. He now came to the case of the supernumerary class. The men in this class felt that they were treated with undue severity. The reason was not far to seek, they were a. vanishing class. Now the last thing that a Government should do was to treat a whole class of servants who had been valuable servants for a considerable time with a want of consideration. Because it must be remembered that these men, not being established men, had no pension and no bonus; yet they were kept at 26s. a week with 1s. rise, though doing precisely the same duties as men in whose case it was possible to attain to a much higher rate of pay. He was aware that most of these men were on duty in central London, but a certain number were on duty in outer London. The men who were employed in outer London could obtain the maximum for a town postman, but the men who were working in central London were unable to do so, and were, therefore, disadvantaged to the amount of 8s. a week. He now came to those in whom he took the deepest interest, namely, the auxiliary postmen, who numbered 14,000. These men performed identical duties with the other postmen in all respects, save one, they worked only for a limited number of hours. These men had no advantages, no sick pay, no holidays, no boot-money, no pensions, and no stripes. They were placed at a distinct disadvantage compared with the auxiliary postmen in the country districts, where they joined the service on the distinct understanding that as vacancies occurred they would be eligible for them. The London auxiliary postmen were absolutely without hope. What they complained of most bitterly was that, having placed their case before the Tweedmouth Committee, they had distinct reason to believe that something would be done for the old auxiliaries. He would call the attention of the Committee to this fact, that there were auxiliary men in London who had served the postal authorities some twenty, some thirty years; and he asked whether it was fair that a man who had been in the public service between twenty and thirty years, even if he only worked five or six hours a day, should be turned adrift without any consideration, after he had given the best years of his life to the service? These men had reason to think that those who were too old to go on the establishment would be included in the new class termed "assistant postmen." But what was the conduct of the Department in reference to them? These men had every reason to believe that they had made their case good before the Tweedmouth Committee. Over 75 per cent. of these men were doing more than five hours per day; but an Inter-departmental Committee immediately, revised their duties and brought them dawn to an average of four and a half hours per day, and thus defrauded—there is no other word for it—75 per cent. of the men of advantages which in their belief the Tweedmouth Committee intended they should he entitled to, leaving only 25 per cent. the enjoyment of these advantages. They felt this the more, because when. Mr. Raikes was Postmaster General he laid down the rule that no postman should be employed at a lower wage than 6d. per hour, whereas by the creation of the new Department these men had their rate of wages brought down to about 5d. per hour. He came now to the secondclass auxiliaries, who worked three hours per day. These men were begrudged a uniform, whose expense would be infinitesimal, whereas its value to the men would be very great. The non-granting of a uniform to men who were practically postmen was a menace to the position of postmen generally; and, moreover, it debarred the public from a certain amount of protection. ["Hear, hear!"] He wished to say a word as to the stripe system. The stripe system was denied to the auxiliaries, although it was extended to the supernumeraries; in fact, the auxiliaries were debarred from all advantages of every kind. The Controller for London, who ought to be the first authority upon this matter, acknowledged that it was desirable that they should not have all the advantages they claimed, but a number of them, and specially this advantage of the stripe, because he was of opinion—and rightly so —that it was essential that rectitude and honesty should be encouraged in one class of public officials as in another. ["Hear, hear!"] He was not asking the Department to do anything out of reason. He was aware that they had done something; but his contention was that they had done it in the wrong direction—that they had treated the lowest class in the service, these auxiliary postmen with very scant consideration.

SIR W. CAMERON GULL (Devon, Barnstaple)

, as the representative of an agricultural constituency, thanked the Postmaster General and the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the promised increased postal facilities in rural districts, and urged the desirability of putting the contemplated reforms into operation at the earliest possible moment. With regard to the system of Christmas boxes he beneved that both Parliament and the postmen would agree that the present system was by no means a desiráble one. The postmen were quite ready to see it abolished provided they were given compensation in the form of increased wages for gifts which had always been recognised by the Department as emoluments of the office. In country districts the value of the Christmas boxes amounted to between 3s. and 5s. a week for each man. According to the Report of the Tweedmouth Committee it would be well if postmen could be prohibited from receiving these gifts. The Department might have taken one of two courses— it might have prohibited Christmas boxes altogether or it might have left things where they were. Neither of these courses had been followed. The Report of the Committee, however, seemed to suggest that a certain increase of pay had been given in respect of Christmas gifts foregone, for on page 19 of the Report he found this,— The payment which we have proposed is, we believe, in itself, under the conditions contemplated in the Report, an adequate remuneration for a postman's labour. But in provincial towns the maximum, with one exception, had not been increased at all under the new scale, and in some cases the maximum had been diminished. He trusted that the decision of the Post Office on this subject was not one which the Committee would consider acceptable. He wished next to draw attention to the different wages paid respectively to rural and provincial postmen and sorters. He thought it would be agreed that in respect of responsibility the duties of these two classes of employés were nearly equal. The difference in their pay was, however, very great. Mr. Arnold Morley, speaking on the subject of the wages paid in the Postal service, had said,— Before the date of the revision by Mr. Fawcett in 1881, the maximum salary of London sorters (first class) was 45s. a week; it has been raised to 56s. The maximum salary of the second class was 25s., and it has been raised to 40s. The postmen have had a corresponding increase. He found that the wages of postmen in the first class had only risen from 30s. to 34s., and of the suburban postmen from 28s. to 32s. The increase granted to the sorters was, it would be seen, much greater. In a Devonshire town a youth on the indoor staff received 14s. at the age of 16; on the outdoor staff an employé got 16s. at the age of 18. After five years' service the indoor staff got 24s., after 10 years 34s., and after 15 years 44s. But the outdoor staff after five years only got 23s., after 10 years 24s., and after 15 years 25s. When a man had worked for 30 years he only received 28s. He hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would take these facts into consideration and do something to improve the pecuniary position of the postmen in provincial towns. But if the present position of these men was unsatisfactory, the position of rural postmen was in many cases still worse. There was no recognised scale of pay applicable all over the country. He would give a case in which the payment was certainly not commensurate with the duties. The man in question had to walk 14½ miles every week-day and 4½ miles on Sunday. He received 12s. a week with clothes and boots found, which, would mean about 1s. 6d. a week in addition. Another man delivered letters every other day, walking eight miles, and he only got 3s. 3d. per week without clothes or boots. Surely that was not an adequate wage. The Committee in their Report said that the pay of this class of postmen— must largely be left to the Department to fix according to the work performed and the rate of wages current in the district, the large element of trust which enters into the conditions of the employment of postmen, and differentiates it from ordinary unskilled labour, being also borne in mind. After taking due account of the various indirect advantages enjoyed by established postmen, we think that the maximum pay for rural postmen should not fall below 16s. a week in Great Britain, and 15s. a week in Ireland. Another demand which he thought could be reasonably made on behalf of rural postmen was that some small allowance should be made to them for medical attendance. In their Report on the posiof sub-postmasters the Committee said— We do think that the Post Office should fully consider the various items on which a sub-postmaster's salary is based, to insure the sufficiency of their emoluments at every point, especially for the labour and knowledge involved in making up dispatches for different offices, including travelling Post offices, for preparing lists in connection with the Parcel Post, and for the provision of postmen's rooms, and we think that some addition to the salary should be granted for Sunday work. He trusted that this recommendation would be carefully considered. Though the Committee thought it reasonable that sub-postmasters should have holidays, the Department had not as yet been able to give them any holidays except Bank holidays. They had no medical attendance, and the expenses of fitting up their offices, were in most cases borne by these people themselves. These points ought to have attention. He also thought that sub-postmasters ought to be supplied with small iron safes in which to keep securities, postal orders, stamps, etc. There were cases in which these valuable papers were kept in keyless work-boxes, and in many offices postal orders for 10s. and 20s. were hardly ever found in consequence of the want of facilities for taking proper care of papers of that value. The interests of the public naturally suffered. In conclusion, he re minded the right hon. Gentleman that the Post Office made a. profit of £3,000,000, and urged that it was only reasonable that so successful a Department should treat its servants and the public reasonably and fairly.

*SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

said that when the Budget was under consideration, he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he had set aside money for the purpose of meeting the cost of the additional postal facilities which were to be given to rural districts. He understood the right hon Gentleman to reply in the affirmative, but as yet very little, it appeared, had been done. He did not agree with the hon. Member for South Islington, who proposed that a Committee or Royal Commission should be appointed to review all that had just been done by the Tweedmouth Committee. The truth was that all the facts of the case were known already, and the appointment of another Committee could only be desired by hon. Members in order to gain time and to fulfil election pledges He was convinced that the Secretary to the Treasury was animated by the humane desire that the Government should be a fair employer of labour. A fresh committee was not really asked for in order to ascertain the facts; it was desired to have a committee which should be less of a Treasury Committee, in order that they might arrive at a fair solution. Such a solution a might be reached by the Secretary to the Treasury meeting Members of the House. He contended that the facts in regard to the rural auxiliaries employed by the Post Office were a disgrace to the country. This was the more important because they knew that the postal service, whose ramifications were in every parish in the country, had even more to to do with the setting of the scale of wages, in the country than had the railways. These rural auxiliaries were not supposed to be the servants of the Post Office at all; the theory was that they were the servants of the local postmaster, although they were not allowed to be "sweated" in the worst sense of the word, as they once had been. He believed their rate of wages varied from 2s. to 7s. a week, and the average was something under 5s. a week. The theory was that they were people who had other work, and they were employed between the hours of half-past five and half-past ten in the morning; but in the greater number of cases these people had nothing else to do, and only accepted this employment until they could get a decent job. These young men were exposed to the same temptations to which any town postman was exposed, and he was sure his right hon. Friend was desirous that their position should be improved as soon as possible. He believed that a rule had been made that these men were not to work more than five hours in future, and that when they did they should become assistant postmen. But their work was calculated on what they ought to be able to do rather than on what they always did do. He took it that their ordinary week was calculated to be a week which on the average would give them five hours' work a, day, but if they were to take the bad times of the year, such as winter time and Christmas, into consideration, he believed it would be considerably over that amount. He did not think there was much in the contention that the Post Office should not be represented by the Secretary to the Treasury. At all events on this question they had the right man there who really had the power to carry out these reforms which were desired, for the Postmaster General himself would have less power of dealing with these particular cases than his right hon. Friend.


said he was afraid if the Christmas-box system were abolished there would be great discontent among a large number of postmen. He believed these Christmas-boxes were given cheerfully and spontaneously by the great majority of people, and it would be in the power of the Post Office to prevent postmen from putting the screw on really poor people. In connection with the position of telegraph clerks it was felt as a grievance that a senior telegraphist and expert could never hope to get more than £135 per annum. He had a letter that morning from his own constituency referring to this grievance. It was pointed out that some of the senior telegraphists were performing a high class of work, and yet that special appointments were made over their heads of men who received £140 or £150 a year. If that were correct it showed that without imposing any further burden it would be just and fair that the senior men should at all events have the first claim to an appointment with a higher scale of pay, the duties in regard to which they were able to fulfil. He entirely endorsed what had been said as to the conscientious manner in which the present Postmaster General endeavoured to discharge his duty, and he believed the employés of the Post Office would receive all the consideration which the exigencies of the service would permit.


called attention to the great delay which had taken place in connection with a country telegraph office in which he was interested, and hoped that steps would be taken to avoid any further, delay than was necessary. The facts were so well ascertained that he did not think the new commission of inquiry asked for by the postal employés would further strengthen their case. He thought that if the Secretary to the Treasury met a few Members of the House and discussed the points with them a satisfactory solution would be arrived at. Of course it would be perfectly impossible to satisfy all the demands of the postal employés, but it was generally admitted that the recommendations of the Tweedmouth Committee were not satisfactory, though he should say the country owed a debt of gratitude to Lord Tweedmouth for the time and labour he had given to the inquiry. He would content himself with putting the case of the employés in his own constituency. In Devonport there were two classes of postmen, rural and provincial, and their pay was in the one case 17s. a week, and in the other 26s. a week. The majority of the post, men received the lower pay, which it would be admitted was altogether inadequate in a town in which rents were so high as in Devonport. Again the difference in pay between the telegraph clerks' and the sorting clerks at Devonport and in Plymouth was very curious. Plymouth and Devonport as Members were aware formed practically one town, but in Devonport the maximum pay of third class telegraph clerks and sorting clerks was only 44s. a week, whereas in Plymouth the maximum pay was 52s. per week. He did not hesitate to say that the rents were higher in Devonport than in Plymouth, for while Plymouth was a freehold town, Devonport was owned by a landlord who let his land only at the highest prices. Further than that Devonport was a great naval and military centre and the duties of the postal employés were therefore far more responsible in Devonport than in Plymouth. The correspondence in connection with the Navy and Military which passed through Devonport was enormous, and while he had no desire to depreciate the responsibility of the Plymouth postal employés it must be evident that their work was not so important as the work the Devonport postal employés, were called upon to perform. He hoped therefore that the Devonport postal employés would be placed on the same standing in regard to pay as the Plymouth postal employés

*MR. F. W. FISON (York, W.R., Doncaster)

congratulated the postal employés on the full and able way in, which their case had been stated to the House. It had been said in the course of the Debate that the representatives of the agricultural constituencies owed a deep debt of gratitude to the Postmaster General and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the benefits they had received from them. In addition to that he should like to thank the Postmaster General for the courteous and business-like way in which he responded to all requests addressed to him regarding the many questions arising in the constituencies. As to the question of Christmas boxes he admitted that the whole system was undoubtedly bad, but the Tweedmouth Committee had neither continued it nor abolished it, but had proposed a system which in his opinion was quite unworkable. He ventured to differ from the opinion which had been expressed that it would be very difficult to do away with the Christmas box system. He was informed that in the town of Doncaster there were say a dozen districts, some rich and some poor, and the men took it in turn to go through those districts at Christmas and they pooled the total. He would point out the extreme injustice of throwing upon the postmen work of this character, for the work of collecting the Christmas boxes was practically imposed on them by the Department. It was all very well in the rich districts, but it was monstrous that in the poorer districts a labourer whose weekly wages might be lower than those of the postman should be expected to give a Christmas box. It was a. great misfortune that the postmen—servants of the State—should be actually compelled—for they were compelled because of their insufficient wages—to make this collection of Christians boxes. If the Post Office authorities were to make a small increase in the wages of the men—say 2s. a. week in lieu of Christmas boxes, he thought it would be accepted. With regard to the stripes for good conduct each stripe represented five years. It brought, an extra shilling a week, and there were six stripes all. Therefore before a man obtained the maximum remuneration for good conduct he must have served the Post Office for 30 years. He thought that was altogether too long a period, and that it would be well if some modification were introduced. It would be more satisfactory if there were four stripes, and if a stripe was given after every three years' service.


said he had listened with great pleasure to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, on the question of the representation of the Post Office in the House of Commons. But he disagreed with both right hon. Gentlemen for this reason—that both had missed the important point that the Post Office was a non-political Department, and that therefore it should be carried on by a Board like the Customs and Inland Revenue, having in the House a Secretary responsible for that Board. Coming to the question of the shabby miserable payments given to the postal employés he should say that in all the departments of labour that had conic under his purview he knew no department so badly treated as the Post Office. When the men were called upon to do Sunday work they only got time and a half. That was contrary to all working class opinion in this country. Whenever he worked his men on a Sunday—which was very rarely—he gave them double time. The Post Office had an absolute balance of three-and-a-quarter millions last year, and yet the only advance given to letter-carriers after the Tweedmouth Committee was 6d. a week, while the telegraph clerks got nothing. The Eastern Telegraph Company paid their homeservice clerks £204 a year, where the Post Office paid £140. It would only require an administrative Act to raise the wages of these men and make them contented. They ought not to be paid such a miserable pittance.

MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)

mentioned the case of a business house which lately sent a telegram to a gentleman whose address was 3, Whitehall Place. They received next day a form saying that the telegram had not been delivered as the gentleman had changed his address to Broad Sanctuary Chambers, Westminster. No business firm would deal with their clients in that way. ["Hear, hear!"] The Post Office knew the new address, but deliberately refused to deliver the telegram, and this wanton piece of red-tapeism caused the greatest possible inconvenience. On the 1st of January, 1895, by the Chilian Currency Conversion Law, the value of the dollar in Chile was fixed at 1s. 6d. sterling. The postage from Chile to England was 10c. per half ounce, or a penny and eight-tenths. Where the postage of letters had not been prepaid it was the rule to charge double; therefore, the charge for an unpaid letter from Chile ought to be, at the most, 4d., or 5d. if the outward postage (2½d.) were taken. But the Post Office charged 10d., because they chose to calculate 10c. as a tenth part of the United States dollar, not of a Chilian dollar. They insisted that every coin which was called a dollar should be reckoned as worth 4s. 2d. On one letter recently received by a business firm, of which the postage had not been prepaid, the Post Office charged £1 10s. 10d., when the proper charge was only 5s. 7d. How could that be justified?

*MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)

called attention to certain grievances of the rural postmen. There were two kinds of rural postmen, those who started from a head office, and those who started from a sub-office. The former generally lived in the town, the latter in the country. Those of them who started from the head offices, lived in the towns, but received 2s. a week less than the urban postmen. They had harder work, having greater distances to cover and longer hours than the urban men, and there was no reason why they should not receive the same wages. Others of the rural postmen, who started from sub-offices, did not live in the towns; but often, at the end of their long beats, they had to pay for shelter while waiting for the return journey. This shelter ought to be provided either in fact or in its money equivalent. These men should also receive the same scale of wages as the men in the towns; and they also complained that they did not receive the same clothing as the postmen in the towns. In the matter of medical treatment the lot of the country postmen had been to a certain extent assimilated to that of the town postman—that was to say, he was allowed to go to the large towns and get advice there; but what was the country postman to do who lived, perhaps, 12 miles away. In such cases he submitted that some money might be given to the countryman to help him to visit the doctor. Or, better still, the doctor should be sent to the postman, instead of the postman to the doctor. There need be no great difficulty in this, for in every part of the country there were medical officers of health under the local authorities, and of these the Post Office might avail themselves. Another disadvantage for the postman was that he had to pay for medical examination twice over — first, when he was appointed on probation and again twelve months afterwards, when he got his appointment. Again, it had been the custom to give extra pay to postmen in towns on bank holidays, and it was supposed the country postman would get the same advantage in that respect. There was a difference between town and country postmen here. Town men had for years been paid at the rate of 2½d. extra, and it was supposed that rural men were intended to get the same advantage. This was the way in which the Department interpreted the Report of the Commission, for they actually paid men at this rate for work done last Good Friday, but a few weeks ago called on them to refund a portion of this—making it only at the rate of 1½d., instead of 2½d. He contended that the same scale should obtain for rural as for town men in this respect. Then as to dress there was a difference in favour of the townsmen. The rural postman got no waistcoat while the town men did. Why? A rural postman required a waistcoat just as much, as, perhaps more than, a town man. There were complaints, too, as to the issue of clothing; he knew of a man who had to wait years before he got a greatcoat. He hoped the Postmaster General would take this question of difference as regards clothing into consideration, and see that the rural postman obtained equal treatment with the town man in this respect. As regarded money orders, there had been great improvements, but they had been made at the higher end of the scale instead of at the lower. The effect of the change from 2d. to 3d. for orders not exceeding £1 was to make it harder for the poor man who only sends off his £1, while they relieved the rich man who sends off his £10. They ought to put on the extra 1d. for the £10 and restore the old rate for £1. The same remark applied to the changes in the Parcel Post; the improvements were much more marked for the larger parcels than for the smaller Ones. It would be a great advantage to allow lower rates for the smaller parcels. From his own district there was an immense amount of Devonshire cream sent up to London—he had some sent up himself in small parcels, and the question of ½d. in the postal rate often made all the difference whether the farmers could sell it or not.


said every business man who considered the position of the Post Office must share the opinion expressed by the late Mr. W. H. Smith, when he said that the whole Department was wrong and that it should be controlled by a Board like the customs and inland revenue. He called attention especially to the position of the sub-postmasters, whose treatment he denounced as amounting to a scandal. There were, he said, 19,500 sub-postmasters in the country. Why were they treated differently from anybody else? He had made calculations and found that they were paid the immense salary of 2d. per hour. They had no pension, no medical attendance, no holiday, they worked from morning till night; if they went away they had to find a substitute; before they could sleep away from home they had to get the permission of the head postmaster. He called attention to one particular case in his own constituency which he had personally investigated. In this case £5,292 passed through the postmaster's hands in twelve months; he had 1,909 cases of savings bank deposits to enter up; 367 money orders, 4,348 postal orders, postage stamps, and inland revenue licences to deal with; he had to attend to the dispatches, and all the rest of it, and the salary he was allowed was £29 16s. Out of this he had to pay office rent, to supply wax, string, gas, pens, ink, and paper; so that the net salary he received was £6 1s. He called that a scandal, and it ought to be thoroughly investigated, and he believed it would be in the hands of the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Oldham objected to be paid at a less rate than such towns as Wolverhampton, Huddersfield, and Halifax. His constituents considered that they had a cause of grievance, and that they had a right to be remunerated at the same rate as other officials elsewhere. When he entered the House he was able to get a telegram from Oldham in two hours. But so great had been the improvement since then that to-day he hid received a telegram which only took 45 initiates to come from Oldham. In this connection he could not refrain from calling attention to the illustration of quick dispatch which wits shown recently in one of the Committee Rooms in the chess match between the House of Commons and the United States Congress. Messages were dispatched over 4,000 miles of wire at the rate of 12 seconds for the whole distance; and since the Secretary to the Treasury had been witness of that feat he had not been happy since. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman knew that it must. be dangerous to send a telegram so quick, or that there was fear of it falling off the wire; but the right hon. Gentleman might rest assured that the constituents of Oldham would not give hint any peace until their telegrams received as much attention as those which passed. in the Parliamentary Chess match.

*MR. CHARLES SHAW (Stafford)

said that while he agreed with a. great' deal that the last speaker had said, he must acknowledge that, in his desire to obtain justice for his constituents, he had invariably been received with kindly courtesy by the Postmaster General, the Secretary to the Treasury, and the other officials of the Department. He agreed with the hon. Member, however, in reference to the Postmaster Generalship. While we in this country prided ourselves that we were distinct from the United States in not removing Civil Servants from their posts at the close of every General Election, he could not refrain from saying that the appointment of the Postmaster General tended somewhat in that direction. He thought it would be far better from a political and practical point of view if the office of the Postmaster General were abolished, because it introduced into the Department of the Post Office a certain amount of political bias which he was sure they all felt. He was of opinion that the Tweedmouth Commission had their eyes fixed too much on one paragraph of the terms of Reference put before them by the late Postmaster General. It was to this effect, that the Department was "most likely to be continued to be conducted satisfactorily if it should also be conducted with a view to profit." He maintained, however, that profit ought not to be the first consideration. If the increased increment which the Tweedmouth Commission had advised should be given to certain employés of the Post Office they had in a certain measure robbed Peter to pay Paul. On the subject of Christmas boxes, for example, he had gone into the question thoroughly, and he found that postmen were apt to be shifted at a moment's notice from their beat, and that on Christmas Day a new face might often be brought to the notice of the householders. He pointed out that in his constituency it was the custom for two men to go round on Christmas Day and to call on the householders. One man took a book to receive the subscriptions, and the other man delivered the letters. The amounts received as Christmas boxes were entered in the book, and they were dealt with as a whole told distributed among, all the employés. If he read the Report of the Tweedmouth Commission rightly it meant that this book would be abolished. But it was not to the public benefit that they should abolish the system which did not in any way bear hardly on the householder, and which he thought was greatly to the advantage of the Post Office employés as a whole. In his constituency the abolition of the Christmas box system meant the loss of £5 per man per annum. He endorsed many of the remarks which had been made by a previous speaker with reference to the rural postmen, and he could see no reason why these men should be paid 4s. less than the town postmen. He was convinced that these men were' put to more trouble and inconvenience, that they had more out of pocket expenses, than the town postmen, because the rural postman had to put up in country places between the time of delivery and of clearing. Stafford was a great railway centre, and it was a kind of Clearing House in postal matters. Most mails stopped there, and although the amount of dispatch was comparatively small at Stafford the work of the sorting clerk consisted in receiving the mails from all parts of the kingdom. If trains were late at night it was only by individual effort and untiring diligence on the part of the sorters at Stafford that the loss of time could possibly be made up. At Birmingham and Wolverhampton the night duty was only one week in every three or four weeks; but at Stafford many men were on continual night duty year in and year out. This fact ought to be taken into consideration in order to see whether these men ought not to have the maximum, scale of pay. The Tweedmouth Report recommended that the night duty hours should be from 10 to 6. Previous to April the night duty counted from 10 to 5; but the employés at the great sorting centres were of opinion that the hours should count as from 8 to 7. Men came on duty at 8 p.m., and he contended that from 8 to 10 should count as night duty and be paid for as such—namely, 137 minutes, not merely 120 minutes. At Stafford, where night work was the rule and not the exception, it was strongly urged that pensions should begin earlier and should be made more readily obtainable, because the strain on the men year in and year out while on night duty was so great that they were more liable to break down; and hence there was a greater claim on the Government to provide pensions for them. There was another point of importance, and that was the question of punishment. It was a fair contention on the part of the postmen throughout the country that where a postmaster reported on a case, and the report was sent to the Central Office for review, it should be at the disposal of the man concerned. That was not so at present. If the recommendations of the Tweedmouth Committee were carried into effect, it meant that a man for a small series of offences—perhaps for only one or two—might forfeit for a term of years 1s. per week of his salary, which might mean all the difference between comfort and discomfort for himself and his family. Therefore it was all the more necessary that the man should have an opportunity of seeing the report which touched him so seriously, so that he might be able to found his defence upon it. With regard to the abolition of classification, the sorting clerks seemed to be satisfied with it; but they deeply regretted that there was no recommendation to increase the maximum pay, or to give any compensation —and it was a very sore point—to the men who were approaching the head of the present second class. That brought him to a point on which he would like to ask a definite question on behalf of the postmen of this country, and receive a definite answer to it from the Secretary to the Treasury, viz., what did the term "efficient barrier" mean? There seemed to be an impression throughout the service that it was something new, and that a sinister meaning lay hidden behind it. He would tell the House candidly what was the opinion of many of the employés. If he read the Report aright, it meant that a, sorter, before he could get the "efficiency" pay, must pass this "efficiency barrier," which meant efficiency in both the telegraph and the postal Departments. It meant that many of the employés believed that the Post Office were preparing themselves, so that there never should be a successful strike; they were doing this in order that if the sorters struck the telegraphists might be put on sorting, while on the other hand, if the telegraphists struck the sorters might be put on to do their telegraphic work. He wished to know, therefore, whether this was a new qualification that was created by the Tweedmouth Committee, and, if not, what the qualification really was? With regard to the Stafford Office, it meant that out of 100 employés only 16 per cent. would be able to avail themselves of the "efficiency barrier" so as to obtain an increase of pay; while the 84 per cent. would not only not be able to obtain it, but they would have no earthly chance of obtaining it, because the telegraph facilities at the Stafford Office were such that their room was better than their company, and they would not, under any circumstances, be admitted to the telegraph department, so that if any of the employés wished to get increased pay by becoming expert telegraphists they would have to devote their leisure and sleep time to obtaining increased knowledge and experience in some outside office. He wanted to say one word with regard to the maximum at Stafford. The maximum at Stafford to-day was only 50s.; whereas in some post offices where the work was no heavier, it was 56s. He wished to bring the Stafford case very strongly under the notice of the Secretary to the Treasury, because he did honestly consider, and that not merely because he happened to represent the borough, that at Stafford they had as hard work to do as at any post office in the Kingdom. At many places, such as at Crewe and Shrewsbury, where the men dispatched a mail, they received a mail allowance; but at Stafford, simply because no mail started thence, they got no special allowance, yet the work seemed to be as hard, if not harder, than at many other towns; and lie thought that a good claim existed for an increase of salaries, or rather for an increase of the maximum. A word with regard to the abolition of allowances. It appeared to him that the Tweedmouth Commission, in making their Report, had looked too much to the recommendation of the late Postmaster General, viz. that this great Department should remain a great revenue-yielding Department, and that had been the premier consideration with them rather than the interests of the employés. The allowances which had been swept away by the Report of the Tweedmouth Committee—or which would be swept away if the Report were carried into effect—would amount to this. Take the case of one man. He had worked it out, and he would show what would be saved by the Department in the event of a vacancy occurring on one of the duties at present carrying an allowance; and here it should be borne in mind that out of a total of 31 duties for postmen at Stafford, 16 carried allowances:—

20 years at 3s. per week 156
5 years at 2s. per week 26
5 years at 1s. per week 13
Total saved in 30 years' service= £195
Against that, as a set off, he calculated that the officer would receive £41 12s. extra, by the new scale, 17s. by 1s. 6d. increment to 24s. maximum. Therefore, deducting the one from the other, it would mean a total net gain in such case to the Department of £153 8s. Such figures taken throughout the Service meant an enormous total aggregate gain to the Department. Let him add one word with regard to the stripes. The Post Office officials seemed to wish to have the system of stripes swept away altogether. On the contrary, the Tweedmouth Committee recommended that the three stripes should be increased to six. That had its advantages; but there was one grave disadvantage. If he read the Report aright, it meant that these stripes were to be earned at the rate of one in five years; in other words, it took 30 years to earn the six stripes. If in the early portion of a man's career he should be late for duty half-a-dozen times, and be reported to London, most likely he would not have the stripe given him, and would have to wait another year. The point was this, and he wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury for a clear statement. If a man lost a stripe through sonic slight dereliction of duty in the early part of his service, could he ever gain that stripe again, or did it mean that for the whole 30 years, or possibly for life, he would be mulcted 1s. per week for that slight offence? He certainly thought the man should have a chance of recevering his position, because he was quite sure, after looking into the wages given by the Department, that a postman could but ill spare that shilling a week for so long a period. He did not wish to take up the time of the House any longer with regard to one or two other matters, which he believed had been already referred to, although he was not in the House at the moment; but he did most earnestly commend to the Secretary to the Treasury, and through him the Postmaster General, the case of the Stafford men from the sorting-centre point of view, and also because of the fact that there were many of them—thirty or more—who in the last four or five years had never had any day work, but had been engaged on night service the whole of that long term.


wished to bring before the House the case of the District Messenger Company, who, he contended, were paying an excessive royalty. He might say that his interest in the matter was simply that of a London Member anxious to retain the advantages of the service for the metropolis. Perhaps the House would allow him to explain the history of this District Messenger Company. The Post Office saw that it was necessary to come to some terms with the company, which was entering into some sort of competition with them. They then placed upon them a royalty of a crushing character—namely, 2s. 6d. upon every call-box, and 1d. upon every message. It was found that the business could not be continued with this royalty, and it was reduced eventually to 6d. for every call-box, which the company did not object to, and upon every message. The company found that the 3/4d., taken with the 6d., represented a total of £1,500, which they said was the royalty which they had to pay to the Post Office. They urged that this prevented them carrying on their business with profit, and, unless some relief was given, London was in danger of losing the services of the company. He thought the Committee would agree that if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to remit at least some part of this royalty he would be doing a great service to the metropolis. It might be said that the Post Office were going to inaugurate a similar service, but he would point out that although there were to be messengers there were to be no call-boxes provided by the Department; and, therefore, if they lost the services of this company they would lose the advantages which they had enjoyed during the last seven years. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to accede to what he felt were the wishes of a vast number of people in the metropolis. This was no Party matter, for he found himself supported by the Press of both parties almost with unanimity.

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

said he agreed with the general view which the hon. Member had laid before the Committee with regard to the District Messengers' service. He thought everyone would agree that it would be a very serious disadvantage to the metropolis if that service came to an end. It had not received very great consideration at the hands of the Post Office or the Treasury hitherto, and if they could see their way to do something to prevent its untimely decease it would certainly be a great advantage to a very large number of people in London. The discussion had covered two points—first, the question of principle involved in the representation in that House of the Postmaster General, and, secondly, the details of the Tweedmouth Commission. On the first question he desired to dissent from the view that the Post Office as a Department should not have a political head. He thought it was a great advantage to a great Department like that that they should have a political head. He brought outside political and Parliamentary views to bear upon the permanent officials, and he had no doubt that it was this system which had contributed to the success of their administration. In regard to the question of the representation of the Postmaster General in that House, he was sure the Secretary to the Treasury would understand that there was no reflection upon him when they said it was right and proper, when they had both detailed and important questions to discuss, that they should have some one representing the Post Office who could really give the Committee and the House sufficient answers to the points raised. The right hon. Gentleman, able as he was, was unable, because he was, not familiar with the Department, to give them satisfactory answers in regard to many matters. They had no real administrative control over this great Department at the present moment. As to the questions which had arisen out of the Report of the Tweedmouth Departmental Committee, he thought every one would agree that, whatever they might think as to its different conclusions, they owed a debt of gratitude to Lord Tweedmouth and his colleagues for the great amount of time and trouble they had devoted to the elucidation of many most difficult matters. The view he took upon the general position was this—that the Departmental Committee having reported, and with the views that had been expressed that afternoon, it was not a case for any further inquiry. He thought the responsibility rested not upon the House of Commons at the present moment, but on the Government and on the Postmaster General to consider these claims and the views which had been laid before the Committee. He should be very sorry, in regard to the points raised and the special grievances, if anything in the nature of a further inquiry should be pressed, because he believed it would not tend to the greater advantage of the men themselves, or be likely to lead to the attainment of what they legitimately desired. He should be quite prepared to leave it in the hands of the Government with the full information they had before them. He hoped they would keep in mind what the House and the country desired should be kept in mind with regard to all the Government Departments, and especially with regard to the Post Office, which was far the largest employer of labour in the kingdom; that was, that the Government as such, and the Post Office as such, should set a good example to every employer of labour, and deal fairly and justly—and he would even go so far as to say generously—with those in their service.


said he desired to draw attention to the administration of the Savings Banks Department. Ireland was very much interested in that department, because she used the savings banks for the purposes of investment out of all proportion to the wealth of the country. He supposed the reason was that the country did not offer as many other opportunities for safe investments as other parts of the United Kingdom. Not only were the deposits in Ireland more than those made in Scotland, but the rate of increase of depositors in Ireland in the last ten years had been 91 per cent. as against 72 per cent. in England and 88 per cent. in Scotland. And this was in spite of the fact that the population had been rapidly declining in that period. All the work connected with this Department was done in London, considerable inconvenience being thereby caused to Irish depositors. Whenever a depositor in Ireland wished to withdraw an amount, however small, from his account, the application for withdrawal had to come to London and then to be sent back to Ireland. The Post Office authorities might say in reply, that as depositors were allowed to withdraw their deposits at any post office in the United Kingdom, it was necessary to have one central Department to manage the accounts. About one-third of the transactions in the savings banks were cross entries, or transactions by depositors at post offices where they did not originally open accounts. But he had a very strong impression that a very small proportion of these transactions were transactions by such depositors doing business in England, or English depositors doing business in Ireland. If he were correct in that surmise the change that he advocated would cause but little complication, and could be easily dealt with by a system of cross accounts between Dublin and London. The present system must be costly as well as dilatory. Then office rent in London was very much higher than in Ireland. He was not, however, speaking in the interests of the Post Office; he looked at the matter from the Irish point of view. Unless there were some practical objection in the way he would like Irishmen to get their fair share of this employment. He therefore asked the Secretary to the Treasury to institute a Departmental inquiry with a view to ascertaining whether it would be possible to make a change in the present system.


said that throughout the discussion some facts had been more or less left out of sight. Hon. Members ought to recollect, in the first place, that the Tweedmouth Committee gave universal satisfaction when it was appointed. It was then agreed that it was the right kind of Committee, and that the right kind of men were appointed to serve upon it. There was no preponderance of Treasury opinion upon the Committee. In fact, the only Treasury official sitting upon it was Sir Francis Mowatt. There was on it a high representative of the Post Office, and the officials of a Department were not as a rule anxious to cut down the salaries of their subordinates. Their tendency would rather be to recommend an increase in salaries. There was also on the Committee a representative of the Labour Department of the Board of Trade, who was particularly well qualified to give an opinion as to the proportion which the wages of Post Office and telegraph employés bore to the wages of persons doing corresponding work outside the Post Office. Therefore the Committee was a very efficient body, and through its recommendations the salaries of the officials had already been increased by £140,000 a year, and the increase would amount to something like a quarter of a million in the next few years. The Treasury had accepted every recommendation of the Committee, whose suggestions had been adopted wholesale. There was no ground for complaint, therefore, in that direction. Another fact which Members ought not to overlook was the political pressure which was far too frequently exercised by Civil Servants upon those who represented them. ["Hear, hear!"] That was a great and growing danger. It was chiefly in London that this pressure was brought to bear. He did not believe for a moment that the hon. Member for South Islington had been actuated by mere political considerations; and whenever this subject was considered by the Treasury the Department would not be influenced by any such considerations, but would deal with the matter impartially and fairly. ["Hear, hear!"] He would give an instance of the way in which these Civil Servants spoke of the expediency of political pressure. At one of the great meetings which had been held, a speaker said that there were 8,000 postmen in London, and that he hoped every one of them would have his name put on the register so that at election times they could exercise their influence upon candidates and advocate the cause of higher wages. He was of opinion that political pressure ought not to be brought to bear in that way. ["Hear, hear!"] Ordinary workmen could not exercise the same power, but Civil Servants could, and, whether their agitation succeeded or not, their position was secure, so that it was a case of "Heads, I win; tails, I don't lose." An ordinary workman who demanded an increase of wages knew that he jeopardised the wages that he already earned; therefore there was a broad distinction between the case of Civil Servants and the case of ordinary workmen. Before the Royal Commission, which had inquired into the Civil Service establishments, evidence was given with regard to the way in which pressure was brought to bear in certain constituencies upon Members, and he thought that the almost unanimous feeling of the Commission was that, if this state of things continued, it would be necessary to disfranchise the Civil Service. ["Hear, hear!"] Reverting to the recommendations of the Tweedmouth Committee, he admitted that it was quite possible that in some respects those recommendations might be capable of improvement, and said that if a fair case could be made out for some alteration in the present rates of pay the Treasury would be quite ready to consider it with a desire to do what was just. The hon. Member for South Islington had drawn attention to the case of the telegraphists. In their case the Tweedmouth Committee recommended that the better course would be to give them an increase of pay when they reached the age of 24, which, speaking roughly, was the marriageable age. The same principle had been adopted by the Ridley Commission on the ground that the wiser course was to give lower wages during the initial stages of a man's service so that higher wages might be given him later on when he probably had a family growing up around him. That system had to be weighed in the balance as against the system proposed by his hon. Friend. The hon. Member had maintained that the ordinary telegraphist had a right to rise beyond £160 and up to a maximum of £190. That he could not admit. The men between £160 and £190, who were called the senior class, undoubtedly did superior work. They had certain supervising and technical duties, they performed a good deal of foreign telegraph work, and generally their work was a great deal higher than anything that should be done by a first-class telegraphist. But there were in that class certain men who, owing to the fact that they had been promoted by seniority without passing any examination, were not quite up to the normal average of the senior class. He could not admit that as regarded this point any injustice had been done to the men. There were some general questions with which it was right he should deal. There was, for instance, the question of pension. He understood that the sorters and postmen wanted to be pensioned on a totally different system from that which prevailed generally in the Civil Service. Practically they asked that if they died certain payments should be made to their relations, and that whenever they left the service they should be able to draw a certain amount of pension. That certainly was not the system which applied to the rest of the Civil Service, and it would be impossible to draw a distinction between one branch of the service and another. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend the Member for Clapham had spoken of the district messengers, and he only did the Treasury justice in saying that even within the last year they had considerably reduced the royalties paid by the District Messenger Company. The royalty on the call boxes was at first 2s.6d.; it had now been reduced to 6d. In addition, they had reduced the royalty on letters from 1d. to ¾d. It was asked that they should make a still further reduction. He believed the District Messengers directors asked that the royalty should now be reduced from ¾d. to ¼d. The directors said, "If you do not reduce the royalty you will kill the District Messenger service." The, difference of royalty under this proposal was only £600, and he could hardly believe the company was in such a condition that the payment of such a sum would kill it. The District Messenger Company did a great deal of work which was in no sense Post Office work. They sold theatre tickets, and performed other services which were no doubt great social conveniences, but which were certainly not work the Post Office could undertake. Therefore, the Treasury had a right to ask the company whether their loss was not on their work as a whole, and not on purely Post Office work. If the company could prove that it was on Post Office work in respect of which they paid royalty that the loss was caused, then it would be fair the Treasury should consider the advisability of a reduction of the royalty. The evidence was fairly strong that the company were not losing very heavily on Post Office work. The Post Office had a messenger service of its own; it charged lower rates than the company, it covered the whole of London, whereas the company only served the thickly-populated and richer parts of the metropolis, and yet it made a fairly considerable profit on the service. It was only fair to say, however, that if it had to pay a royalty of ¾d., which was being paid by the company, they would do little more than pay their way. He admitted that the District Messenger Company performed services which were not rendered by the Post Office. In the first place, the company's offices were open all night, whereas only one or two of the Post Office's offices were so open. Again, the company had a system of call boxes, which the Post Office had not. These were great conveniences, and the public might have some right to complain if, without good reason, the Post Office did anything to kill the company's service. On the subject of postmen's Christmas gratuities he was able to give the Committee some information which would be acceptable to it. The recommendation undoubtedly was that the postmen should not be allowed to solicit. He was bound to say the word was rather ambiguous, and he did not think that the recommendation was one that the public generally endorsed. ["Hear, hear!"] The Post master General had come to what he thought was a wise decision—that the postmen should still be allowed to ask for a Christmas-box. ["Hear, hear!"] At the same time they must recollect that these men did not always do their duty in rich districts. There were poor districts where a demand for a Christmas-box might not be so easily satisfied and where it might be a heavy burden on poor men. ["Hear, hear!"] The distinction they wished to draw was that, while postmen were allowed to ask civilly for a Christmas-box as an act of grace, the authorities must protect the poor man from anything like importunity. ["Hear, hear!"] As to Savings Bank work in Ireland, he had promised to look into that.

CAPTAIN PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)

said if Aberdeen was undergoing the disagreeable process of changing the site of its post office, the sum fixed, which they understood could not be stretched, was totally inadequate. They ought to have for a city like Aberdeen a post office which would meet its wants for 50 years or longer. An official had been sent down, however, with instructions that a certain limit should not be exceeded, whatever the representations of the local authorities might be. He hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would give this matter his most serious consideration. He thought that, although this was a matter concerning his individual constituency, it was entitled to more consideration.

MR. JOLLIFFE (Somerset, Wells)

called attention to the post office at Weston-super-Mare. Now for many years this town had outgrown the accommodation, and in 1892 a site was selected at a cost of £5,000. From that day to this no work had been done. The matter was still under consideration. It struck him that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton were extremely applicable in this case of Weston-super-Mare. An intolerable strain was put on the local officers at Weston-super-Mare, and such was the inconvenience to the public that last year the authorities were obliged to hire additional premises, and they were also obliged to tinker up the old condemned post office, while all this time the site remained unused. He thought that this was a waste of public money. Five years had passed, and they were no nearer a conclusion now than they were then. Many of his constituents had been put to the greatest inconvenience.


cordially approved of what the Secretary to the Treasury had said as to the political pressure brought to bear by Civil Servants. He thought the warning given was much required in the public interest.

MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

said he did not agree with the remarks which they had just heard. [" Hear, hear !"] He thought they should clear their minds of cant. Thirty years ago the House had deliberately given votes to the servants of the Post Office, and now that they were enfranchised they had no right to complain if these men used their political powers for the advancement of their own personal interest. As to Lord Tweedmouth's Committee, his recollection was that protests were made against the composition of the Committee. He himself had stated that the Committee was not likely to give satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman said there was a large representation of officials on the Tweedmouth Committee, and they would not have a tendency to cut down the salaries of their own department. That depended entirely on whose salaries had to be cut down. ["Hear, hear!"] Hedidnot think highly paid officials took the most generous view of what was the proper remuneration of humbler employés. After what the Secretary to the Treasury had said, those who came to the House to fight the case of the Post Office servants were to a large extent disarmed, because the right hon. Gentleman had said: "Come to the Treasury, lay your case before us and we will fairly consider it." After that statement it was really difficult to pursue the matter, but there was one class whose case seemed to be a very pressing one, namely the telegraphists. They had been treated worse than any other class, and in regard to them he did not find much encouragement in what the right hon. Gentleman had said. He hoped that whether hon. Gentlemen accepted the invitation to the Treasury or not, both the right hon. Gentleman himself and time Postmaster General would apply their minds very promptly to the case of the telegraphists, because he was sure there would be trouble in connection with them unless something were done for them.

MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E)

agreed with what had been said as to pressure being put on their representatives by public servants. He did not speak from personal experience because during the five years he had had a seat in the House, he did not recollect that any pressure had been put on him, perhaps because he discountenanced it. The speech of his right hon. Friend was conceived in a spirit which one would have expected from him; but if it were wrong for what he called illegitimate pressure to he exercised by Civil Servants on their representatives, it became all the more important that no ground for entertaining a sense of injustice should be allowed to exist. The House would be grateful for the promise of his right hon. Friend that properly represented grievances should be carefully and sympathetically examined into by the Treasury, and he was quite certain that the Post Office Servants would be allowed to present their legitimate grievances in a legitimate way to a sympathetic and impartial tribunal. The previous tribunal had too much of the official element, and it was known beforehand that those who constituted it would approach the inquiry with a certain amount of prejudice. He was quite sure, however, that no misgiving would be felt by any Member of the House, now that his right hon. Friend had said he would examine into any properly represented grievances that came before him.

MR. W. S. ROBSON (South Shields)

said he wished to call attention to what he thought was a very substantial grievance, and one winch had a very easy and economical remedy. South Shields was a great port with a population of 90,000, and was much dependent for prosperity on shipping and general mercantile intelligence. It happened that South Shields was not in a direct news circuit with Landon, and the people thought that it had reached the stage when it should be. At present South Shields got its news through Newcastle, which was a circuit town. That would matter little if the transmission of news from circuit towns were prompt, but the telegraphic system had become little better than a farce in this important town. It was no uncommon thing for an item of important news to be sent from London to Newcastle and printed in the evening papers there, which would be sold in South Shields before the item was transmitted. That was very irritating to the gentlemen of the Press in his constituency, and he deemed it a very proper and legitimate grievance to bring before the House. He had with him 75 telegrams which had been collected for him in one day, and each of them had taken on the average I hour and 20 minutes in transmission from London. That meant a very serious disadvantage not merely to the general public, but also to merchants and commercial men. He thought the Post Office might very well spare a little money for this purpose, not as a matter of grace or charity, but of plain justice.


said they had to acknowledge a very sympathetic speech from the Secretary to the Treasury. Perhaps if some hon. Members went to the Treasury in regard to this matter, accompanied by one person who might represent practically the views which were entertained by those concerned, the matter might be further gone into. He begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.


said there was no objection on the part of the Treasury to hearing communications from Members of Parliament on the subject, but with regard to officials of the Post Office coming to the Treasury he should not like to give any pledge without first consulting with the Postmaster General.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


asked that the mail service to and from Ballyshannon and Bundoran should be improved. The first postal delivery at Ballyshannon was at 9 o'clock in the morning, which was not early enough, for Ballysliannon was a town of great commercial interests. The evening post at Buthloran left at five minutes to four, and did not reach London till seven o'clock in the evening of the next day. One of the reasons for these inadequate arrangements was the miserable mail car service which was made use of. There was a railway line, but it was not used for the purpose, owing to some financial arrangements between the Post Office and the Great Northern Railway. He spoke as the mouthpiece of his constituents in regard to this matter. He believed that if there were increased postal facilities the postal authorities would be recompensed for them by the increased business. He had been terribly affected by the lecture which they had all received, he hoped with humility, from a young Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench on that side. He should not have noticed his speech if it had not been for his position on that Bench. Did he represent the great Liberal Party in this matter? He believed not, and he trusted that the hon. Member would himself receive a lecture from his superiors.

MR. T. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

said that a public servant had as much right as any other citizen to have a voice in the management of the affairs of the country. It was the duty of the House of Commons to redress the grievances of public servants, and they ought not to leave those grievances to the arbitration of any one except the Members of the House of Commons. In June 1895 the late Postmaster General sent terms of Reference to a Committee on Postal Establishments, and the Chairman of that Committee said that he had decided to comply with the applications which bad been addressed to him on the subject. Those applications were from public servants who had certain well-defined grievances, and were willing to leave those grievances to the arbitration of a Committee of the House of Commons—not a Committee with a Chairman from the House of Lords. Public servants, whether in the Post Office, the Army, or Navy, had a right to have their grievances redressed by that House. If the friction between the Post Office and its permanent officials became extreme he hoped both parties would agree to accept the decision of an independent body of business men.

On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,


said that as this question of political influence exerted by postal and telegraph servants had been raised, be wished to say that he had never had the slightest indication of any political threat or ray indication that political consequences would follow if he neglected to put forward the grievances of telegraph or post office employés in his constituency. He represented a commercial constituency in which a very large staff óf telegraph clerks and other post office servants were employed, and had received many communications from them. They were a very large and skilled class of public servants, and they had conducted their negotiations with the greatest discretion and forbearance and without the slightest colour of political pressure. He thought the telegraphists had distinct cause for complaint, and that the right hon. Gentleman had not so fully realised the justice of thse complaints as he might have done. ["Hear, hear!"] Everyone knew that the services of telegraphists were of the greatest possible consequence to the work of the nation, and that if commerce were paralysed even for a few moments by the interruption of telegraphic communication, losses would occur which it would take years to recover. Knowing the power which they possessed, and the complete way in which they might organise themselves, time House, instead of criticising them, ought to pay a tribute to them for the great forbearance they had shown in face of the neglect to remedy their grievances. Parliament in its wisdom had given them the Franchise, and it was now too late and futile to expend regrets over the exercise of that constitutional right. If these men did not exercise their right they would be the only exceptions in the whole community. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would only look round the House of Commons he would see numbers of men in the public services, receiving emoluments from the Army and Navy—["hear, hear!"]—not only exercising their Franchise, but actually taking part in the Debates and the Divisions which were affecting their pockets, their incomes, and their interests in many direction. [Opposition cheers.] If the Army and Navy so acted, surely it was straining the complaint of the Government against the telegraphists when they complained of these poor, underpaid, and neglected public servants who ground away at their instruments from early morning until late at night, and often right through the night, exercising the franchise. They were perfectly justified in taking every opportunity the law gave them of seeking redress for their grievances. All hon. Members had great respect for the Secretary to the Treasury. Before he took office he had been a fearless champion for the exposure of job-beries. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman had now had two years of office, and he (Mr. Broadhurst) would give him this fatherly advice—[laughter]—well, brotherly advice—there was no more sure road to ruin than to become an official. [Laughter.] The great talents which were destined to benefit the nation ought not to be surrendered for Party objects only. ["Hear, hear!"] It was a sure indication of a decline in character when a Minister began to lecture. The right hon. Gentleman had warned these good public servants that they must not do these naughty things, or possibly grave consequences would follow. He was sure he would not do it again. [Laughter and cheer.] The right hon. Gentleman had dime some good, statesmanlike acts, regardless of precedent, and he hoped he would continue to do so during his official life. Many of these telegraphists, after serving the State for five years, only got 24s. per week. There ought to be promotion in some direction, or consolation in increased wages. In some places women were employed as letter carriers or deliverers at wages less than they would receive in out-door relief from a union. He wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury to allow these poor women, who were scantily clad in winter, some strong boots and gaiters and a serviceable cloak. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped the result of the discussion would he to bring satisfaction and peace where there was now dissatisfaction and unrest, and if so this House would have spout three or four serviceable hours in the interests of the community.

MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)

brought under notice a complaint made by the town of Flint, that the up mail train from Ireland did not stop there to discharge the mails and to take up passengers. He believed the Post Office was quite agreeable to do this, but that the difficulty came from the London and North Western Railway. All that was required was to re-arrange the time table a little, and perhaps to put on a stronger engine. He commended this matter to his right hon. Friend. With regard to the general question, there was no doubt whatever as to the widespread dissatisfaction amongst Post Office officials. Probably there was not a Member of the House who had not had representations made to him in this sense. We paid very well the higher grades in the public service, but the lower grades, whether in the Post Office, the Army, or the Navy, were poorly and inadequately paid. Compared with other countries this was the great defect in our public service.

SIR CHARLES CAMERON (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

desired to call attention to two small grievances which might be remedied without much expense, and greatly to the advantage of the public. The first was with reference to the redirection of letters, a privilege which was denied to that very large and respectable section of the community who lived habitually in lodging-houses. He asked that the same privileges and facilities for the re-direction of letters should be extended to this class as were at present enjoyed by the general public. His second point related to the facilities for the posting of letters in mail trains. There were many express trains to which there were no letter boxes attached. For instance, there was a train which left Glasgow about 10.45. The Post Office could not be expected to send letters by that train, but if a person chose to send to the train he saw no earthly reason for his letters not being taken by it. Such facilities were to be found in many Continental trains, and notably in Germany, where outside every railway station there was a letter box, which was emptied before the departure of the trains. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would look favourably upon these suggestions.

MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork Co., N.)

yielded to none in admiration of the Secretary to the Treasury, but after all, he considered that his reply was rather unsatisfactory, and that it had not met the questions raised on behalf of the postmen and telegraphists in the public service. As regards political pressure, he could quite conceive that in constituencies where the margin was narrow, and that the Member held his seat by but a precarious foothold, he might, without conseientiously doing anything unfair, find himself pressed to cater for every vote; still he believed every public spirited man would decline to hold his seat by any such tenure, and, speaking for himself and the great bulk of the Irish Members, he was satisfied that they were entirely removed from any political pressure of the kind. In his opinion, the officials of the Post Office were justified in their complaints as to the constitution of the Committee. No doubt the officials appointed upon it were all men of the highest character and the greatest possible fairness, but it was not unreasonable to suppose that, knowing as they did that the Department was Conducted with a view to profit, they would not be inclined to increase the expanse where it was a question for raising salaries in the lower grades. He did not at all demur to the theory that the Post Office should be a profit-making department, but when a case was made out for a moderate increase of salary and an improvement in the status of the lower paid officials they were bound to consider such questions, and could not get rid of them by saying that the Post Office should be a profit-making department. With regard to the general subject, he did think a strong case had been made out for a more generous treatment of the telegraphists. It was not an unreasonable thing to say that men who had been at work for five years in a department, and were then only in receipt of 28s. a week, were deserving of some consideration. The Committee would recognise that telegraphists were men who unquestionably must be possessed of highly trained and technical skill, having to go through a severe and prolonged training. He hoped that this class of public servants would receive more generous treatment from the Treasury. He himself believed that the Post Office so far as was consistent should be conducted as a profit-making department, but he thought it would be seen that this, after all, was not the primary object of the Post Office. The primary object was that the Post Office should conduce to the public convenience, should carry out the business and correspondence of the country, and this should continue to be the primary object of that great Department. It was not because it had assumed such enormous importance as it had done in modern times that that element should be altogether forgotten and the clement of profit making alone considered. Passing from the general subject to local questions connected with Ireland, lie complained that postmasters in charge of offices in small or moderate sized towns did not get their fair share of promotion to higher paid centres. Whenever the postmastership of a larger town was vacant an Englishman or Scotchman was generally brought over and promoted over the head of every man in the locality, though they rarely heard of an Irish postmaster being sent to fill a vacancy in England or Scotland. Promotion should go by merit, and deserving local postmasters ought not to be passed over. Another matter to which attention should be directed was that which had been specifically referred to by the Member for Donegal. In Ireland there were instances in which the mails were carried long road distances even where the road ran parallel with a well equipped line of railway. In cases where the trains ran at inconvenient hours it might be desirable that the old mail car or coach should continue to be used, but when the railways would enable the public to receive a better postal service they ought to be availed of. He wished to say that he did not sympathise with any body of public servants who would wish to put a pistol, as it were, to the head of the Post Office or Treasury Department by more or less vague or veiled threats. But he was bound to say he thought it was not in the interest of the public service, and the efficiency of a great Department, that they should have men who were professedly underpaid and rather overworked. The efficiency of the public service would lie better secured by having a properly paid, fairly worked, and therefore a contented and satisfied staff of servants.

MR. TUDOR HOWELL (Denbigh Boroughs)

thought it was only one's duty to refer to a remark by the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hanbury) that the Members of Lord Tweedmouth's Committee were much impressed by the fact that political influence was brought to bear in the way of pressure by the Post Office employés.


I did not say that. I referred to the Ridley Commission.


said he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Members of the Committee were impressed by it. He represented four boroughs, which included amongst the electorate both rural and town postmen, who from time to time had communicated to him their grievances in connection with postal matters, but he never heard the smallest suggestion of pressure on the part of any one of them. They had only done what seemed to him to be perfectly legitimate by asking that some attention should be paid to their complaints, and that they should be presented to the Post Office officials by those who were able properly to present them. There was only one other point to which he wished to refer and that waste the Sunday delivery of letters. He felt very anxious that the day should come when it should cease throughout the length and breadth of the country, and though he knew the opinion of the House was not ripe upon the question he hoped the Post Office would take the matter into consideration. When a great city like London, with its great commercial interests, could do without Sunday delivery, he thought it was conclusive evidence that small boroughs and towns of ten thousand inhabitants could do so.

MR. J. COLVILLE (Lanark, N.E.)

called attention to the case of t he postmen in the sub-offices in Lanarkshire. Their maximum rate of wages had been 26s. per week, but by a rearrangement the wages had been reduced to 24s. Tin men failed to see any advantage as a result of the Tweedmouth Commission to them. The case of the sub-postmasters, as compared with that of the head postmasters, was also worthy of attention. In many cases the amount of Post Office business in the sub-offices was as great as in the larger offices, but there was deducted from the small salaries of tin sub-postmasters the cost of rent, fuel, lighting and stationery. It was not a sufficient reason to say that the Post Office should not consider these cases because of the large number of trades-people who desired to have a post office connected with their business premises, and that in consequence they should beat down this class of public servants, and exact the uttermost farthing from them because there was competition for the offices. There ought to be some minimum that would permit a fair wage being paid, not the miserable twopence per hour—which would encourage these public servants to discharge their ditties. He acknowledged the great courtesy he had received from the officials of the Department in connection with any communications he had to make to them.


acknowledged the sympathetic way in which the representations of grievances had been received by the Secretary to the Treasury, but suggested that the grievances of the telegraph service should be further discussed by the Committee. (Mr. WEIR: "No; Scotland!")

"MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

, as representing a constituency which covered a vast area of the Highlands, dissociated himself from the remarks of the Scottish Liberal Whip (Mr. Munro Ferguson). He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would repeat the statements in Scotland he had made that evening as to disfranchising the postmen. The hon. Member had forgotten the lessons of his boyhood, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn!" [Laughter.] Postmen had to work long hours in the cold of winter and in the heat of summer for the smallest pittance. He hoped that care would be taken by the postmen in Scotland to remind the hon. Member of his remarks about disfranchisement. As to the suggestion that the Post Office should be represented in the House by a gentleman connected with the Treasury, he said that it was a sad spectacle at times to see the Secretary to the Treasury floundering about to find a satisfactory reply to a question. This was not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman who was furnished with information supplied by the permament officials of the Post Office. The Post Office should be directly represented in the house of Commons. As to the discussion upon the position of Post Office employés, he would not enter into it further than to say his sympathy was with the men. The need of postal and telegraph facilities in the Highlands of Scotland had been the occasion of many questions he had felt it his duty to address to the Secretary to the Treasury, and he took this opportunity of impressing the importance of the subject upon the attention of the Department, urging the adoption of more liberal treatment towards that part of the country, on the lines of the policy initiated by Sir Rowland Hill. The officials of the Post Office still clung to the idea that the service must be conducted on strictly commercial principles. Of course it was all very well that the Post Office should be a money-making department, but when the Departments bowed a profit of £3,600,000 it was not creditable to the Government, and was not fair to the community that there should be parts of the country where postal facilities were wholly inadequate and telegraph offices far too few. Such was the condition of the Highlands. In 1840 the Government sacrificed a million of revenue to establish the penny postage, and results had amply justified this policy, for there was at the present time a clear profit of £3,600,000. But there were many townships in his constituency and in the Highlands from which persons had to travel from five to ten miles to get the advantage of the postal system. Houses of call there were where letters could be left or called for, dwellings of crofters or cottars, known as "Black Houses," black inside with peat reek in which letters often became so smeared and smudged that the addresses could scarcely be read. Something should be done to amend this state of things. He had asked that boxes should be provided near the townships, but the Post Office had not felt able to afford these, and he was told it was a matter for the people themselves to deal with. This was all very well for people who kept large mansions, and it was not an uncommon thing for these people to do this, but it could not be expected from the poorer population. A township numbering from a hundred to two hundred persons should have facilities provided; it was not fair that the Post Office should tell these poor people that they should provide their own boxes, each of the heads of some 50 families providing a key. The Post Office was established for the benefit of the community and not wholly for the purpose of making profit. He was grateful fur the reforms promised in the mail service, but he would like to know if any decision had been arrived at to meet the special grievances of which his constituents complained, and he referred particularly to the Strome Ferry and Stornoway mails. Stornoway served a population of 30,000 in the island of Lewis. An acceleration of the mail to Strome Ferry would also be of great service to Skye, North and South Uist, Benbecula and Harris. It was not asking too much from the Post Office and the Treasury that a small sum should be provided for a proper postal service. Stornoway in the summer time was one of the most important fishing stations in the North of Scotland. Another point of grievance arose out of the demand of the Department for a guarantee before establishing a postal telegraph office. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the people were very poor, and that poor fishermen and crofters were not in a position to provide these guarantees and he did think that the Post Office ought not to ask for them in such districts. It was after all only a very small sum that was required, as the Postmaster General admitted. In answer to a Question which he put on the 3rd of May last, the Secretary to the Treasury said:— The Postmaster General is aware that in some parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland the people have experienced great difficulty in providing guarantees for telegraph extensions, and he hopes that this difficulty will be removed by the alteration in the system of guarantees which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in connection with the Budget. Seeing that the sum involved was so small from the Post Office point of view, why not stop asking for guarantees in. poor parts of the country? An official return showed that during the year 1895 guarantees were asked for in 20 cases when telegraph extensions were applied for in the Highland comities, but only two had been granted, the poverty of the people making it impossible for them to provide the guarantees. There was a congested District Bill for Scotland before the House. It would no doubt become law; but what would be the use of opening up various parts of the Highlands unless facilities were given for putting the people in direct communication with the markets where they could dispose of their produce? They would be simply expending a lot of money without giving the full benefit of it to the community? The hon. Member quoted statistics showing that in the majority of cases in which telegraphic extensions had been made in the Highlands during the past three years, the offices had soon proved to be paying offices; only in a few cases had the guarantor been called upon and then only for small sums. Continuing, he said it was a paltry thing to ask for guarantees from these places; and if the Congested Districts Board got to work, it would be of the utmost importance that these people—the fishing population especially—should he given facilities for communicating with the markets by telegraph. The right hon. Gentleman told him, on the 29th of April last, that the extension of telegraph' facilities carried with it the extension of other facilities, i.e., money orders. So it ought. But whereas in England there were only 4 per cent, of the telegraph offices that were not also money order offices, in Scotland 12 per cent. of the telegraph offices were not money orders, and in the Highland counties 25 per cent. Yet the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House and said that the extension telegraphic facilities carried other facilities such as money orders. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman did his best. but this was the result of his not being in immediate touch with the Post Office, and being entirely dependent for his information on the permanent officials. The hon. Gentleman went on to complain of delay in answering questions he had put on the Paper. He put it Question three weeks ago, and had repeated it three times, and now he was told that the information would not be ready until the 22nd of this month. That, certainly was anything but satisfactory; and then the House was told, "Oh, the Highlands are so far off it takes time to get the information! "A word on another matter. He had submitted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Post Office a scheme prepared by Mr. W. H. Lupton, a retired officer of the Secretary's Department of the General Post Office, by which "Savings Bank Postal Orders" for amounts of 10s., 15s., £1, or £2 might be issued to depositors at a charge of 1½d. each order. Although this would be a source of revenue, he assumed that they did not care to be troubled with any new scheme. It was absurd to say that this would affect the bankers' interests. It was only asked in respect of small sums, and as the orders arc not transferable bankers' interests could not be affected. This was a matter of importance to the fishermen, crofters and the rural population in every part of the Kingdom, who are deposit ors in the Post Office Savings Bank, and who may require part of their money on an emergency at a minimum of cost. He hoped the Financial Secretary would give it his consideration. With a view of getting definite information on the subject, he begged to move to reduce the Postmaster General's salary by £100.

MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

protested most strongly against the suggestion that a large and important body of public servants like the post office employés should be deprived of the right of access to Members of Parliament simply because they happened to be Civil Servants. He had a great many in his constituency whom he regarded it as a pleasure to know, and every time they had approached him they had dealt with the matter of their grievances in the most temperate manner. He rose for the purpose of testifying to the courteous treatment he had received not only from the Duke of Norfolk but from the right hon. Gentleman himself, on every occasion when he had approached them in regard to cases of individual hardship or grievance. The Tweedmouth Report had given satisfaction in some departments of the service, and, supplemented as it had been that night by the frank, courteous, and sympathetic statement of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought the employs, as a body, would recognise the desire of those who were responsible for the Department in that House and outside of it to attend to their grievances when presented in a temperate and legitimate manner.


desired to associate himself and those with whole he acted with the reasonable and just, demands made by the Post Office employés, as set out in the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Islington. He was one of those who held that the Post Office should not be worked for profit, but should be worked so as to secure the highest state of efficiency for the public convenience. He was sorry to hear a hint from the Secretary to the Treasury that he thought the Post Office employés should be deprived of the franchise, because they used it as he thought in the most legitimate way for their own protection. He thought they ought to be free to use their votes and influence upon their candidates or Members as all other workers did in order to try and improve their position. He made hold to say that no Government would dare to put before the country any such proposition as to deprive the men of the franchise. He desired to ask the right hon. Gentlemen for information as to the question of overtime. The telegraphists were under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that they were free, according to the rules of the service, to refuse to work overtime if they thought they were not receiving proper remuneration for that overtime. They founded their statement upon the answer given by the late Mr. Raikes on this subject, in the course of which he said that "except as regards Sunday duties, the performance of overtime is quite voluntary." With regard to the findings of the Tweedmouth Committee, the Secretary to the Treasury had admitted the justice of the men's claims, but he had promised redress on some points and had agreed to hear what they had to say on some other points. He thought it would have been better to meet the demand for another inqniry into the whole case. The Post Office employés complained that the Report of the Tweedmouth Committee was in many particulars at variance with the evidence given, and they therefore asked, very reasonably, that another inquiry should be held. In the meantime they were trying through their organisation to obtain some redress for their grievances, as they had a perfect right to do. They had decided as a body to decline to work overtime unless they were properly remunerated for it. He had been informed that two prominent members of the Telegraphists' Association, the chairman and secretary, were to appear to-morrow before an official at the Central Telegraph Office, when they were to be asked to apologise for having issued a ballot paper with regard to the question of overtime work, and unless they apologised these men were to be suspended. If the Government allowed such a course to be taken the result, he was told, would be that the whole staff of telegraphists would walk out of the office. He had received a telegram from Liverpool stating that employés there were to be treated in the same way. He trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury would not permit this summary procedure, In conclusion he asked why letters from England were delivered so late at a junction in the Meath line, only 17 miles from Dublin? Trains conveying the mails passed this junction, and carried letters to places further on the line, but for some reason or other there was no delivery at the junction. He had called attention to this matter before, but had never got a satisfactory reply.


, who rose to reply to the points that had been raised since the dinner hour, said he would make inquiries as to the want of direct telegraphic communication between London and South Shields. With regard to the late arrival of the mails at Bundoran, he regretted that the Post Office had not yet been able to arrange with the Rail-Company that the trains should start from Dundalk earlier so as to establish better communication between that place and the rest of Ireland. The hon. Member for Leicester had pleaded the cause of a body of public servants—the women postmen. The hon. Member asked that certain articles of clothing should be supplied to them. They would see what could be done. The hon. Member for Flint had asked that for the convenience of passengers certain mail trains should stop at Flint. That was really a question for the railway company. The Post Office did not object to the stopping of a train at Flint station, so long as delay to the mail service was not occasioned. Complaint had been made of the low salary paid to those at the bottom of the service. Undoubtedly the later policy had been to start young fellows at a lower salary in order to give them a higher salary later on, and he thought that on the whole that had been a satisfactory policy. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty had questioned him time after time with regard to the postal facilities for the Islands and Highlands of Scotland, and he spoke at considerable length on the same subject this evening. He had frequently informed the hon. Gentleman that the particular information he required could not be furnished before the 22nd of this month on account of the remoteness of the districts concerned and the detailed nature of the information asked for. The hon. Member complained that the Department had not adopted a liberal policy towards the Islands and Highlands. If there was one district which had no reason to complain of the policy which the Treasury and Post Office had adopted with regard to it, it was that of the Islands and Highlands of Scotland. For some years special grants had been made for telegraphic extension, and now the district was to get the advantage of the postal deliveries promised in the Budget Speech. The hon. Member had spoken of the steamer communication. In spite of the fact that there was no guarantee that the steamers could be ultimately employed for the purpose of developing trade, they were going to appoint a strong Departmental Committee, consisting of representatives of the Scotch Office, the Treasury, and the Post Office, to see how far it would be possible to extend to the islands the postal facilities which were being extended to other portions of the United Kingdom. It was not possible that the post offices could act as bankers. They had already got quite sufficient to do. Then all hon. Member, he thought it was the Member for Glasgow, raised a point as to the re-direction of letters, and said that the facilities should be extended, as to the ordinary changes of address, to those persons living at hotels and lodging houses and changing their addresses. He thought that in the case of hotels insuperable difficulty would arise. He should look into the case of the boarding houses. He thought that as to the Tweedmouth Commission considerable concessions had been made. The only other question raised was the question of the hon. Member for Tipperary, and he referred to the threat of the telegraphists at Kilkenny—the refusal to do overtime unless certain concessions were made to them.


said they were simply giving their opinion.


said the inquiry was whether they were obliged to work overtime and the distinction was based upon a speech alleged to have been made by Mr. Raikes, who said that overtime work was voluntary. In a few days Mr. Raikes corrected that speech. The real rule with regard to working overtime was laid down in the Post Office circular issued that very day. In regard to overtime it was the duty of the officers to give such services. If they failed to discharge those services that would be the same as if they failed in the exercise of their ordinary duties. He hoped the officers referred to would not be so ill advised as to carry out their threats. As long as those threats existed it was not part of ins duty to inquire into the grievances.

MR. EUGENE CREAN (Queen's Co., Ossory)

did not see what right the hon. Gentleman had to interfere with these officials exercising their undoubted rights. He was convinced that their demands were such that they should receive a hearing. They had not received that hearing from the Tweedmouth Commission.

*MR. C. T. GILES (Cambridge, Wisbech)

said there was one point to which he wished to call attention in connection with the promise of an extended delivery of letters throughout the United Kingdom. His constituency was very materially affected by that promise. An extended delivery must, of course, involve the employment of a considerable number of new men, and a rearrangement of beats. The weight postmen in his district had to carry increased day by day, as did also the distance they had to traverse, and he would suggest that, in rearranging beats and in the employment of new men, the Postmaster General should take into consideration the great probability that in consequence of the new postal regulations the maximum. weight would have to be carried and the maximum distance to be traversed It might also give the Postmaster General an opportunity to revise some of the recommendations of the Tweedmouth Commission, winch, in the opinion, he believed, of both sides of the House, did not err on the side of liberality towards a hard-worked body of men. He also wished to point out that, in the sub-offices in the country, there was at times a considerable sum of money, but there was no place in which to keep it. The sub-postmaster had to find security for £200, and was responsible for the money in his possession; and, having no place in winch to keep it, the tendency was to get rid of the money at once, which sometimes gave rise to a difficulty in paying postal orders. He suggested that cheap safes should be provided, or the means of finding them, in these rural post offices. if so, it would be a great boon to the postmasters, and a great security to the public.


thought the Post Office and every great Office of the State ought to be represented in that House. He remembered that some years ago a Bill was introduced into that House, and ardently supported by sonic hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who dreaded their being removed to another place, with the object of giving an option to an hon. Member who was called to the peerage of remaining in the House of Commons. He should not be in favour of absolutely precluding every man who happened to be a Peer from serving ins country as a Minister, but he thought the time had come when no man who was still drawing a salary from the people for serving them, should be allowed to go to another place where he would be entirely removed from the criticism of the people. ["Hear, hear!"] While he held that view strongly, he thought it right to say that although they had not got the Postmaster General in that House they had a very good substitute. ["Hear, hear!"] They had no cause to complain of the right hon. Gentleman's administration, or of the reception which he gave to their communications, or in respect of his attention to the details of business, and he had always wondered how he could possibly discharge in that House in his own person the two most laborious of the Ministerial positions. With regard to the claims of the Civil Servants which were under consideration, the Irish Members who represented rural constituencies could approach the subject with an impartial mind, because the Civil Service Vote in such constituencies was a negligeable quantity. If the Civil Servants of the Crown by their organisation pressed their demands beyond what was right, there would be a reaction against those demands among the working classes who constituted an overwhelming majority of the voters of the country. But it could not be denied that these Civil Servants had several strong grievances. It was plain for instance that they did not receive the remuneration that persons in private employment would receive for similar services. The Secretary to the Treasury had however taken up a very fair attitude towards those men and had promised to consider their claims; and he would strongly advise the men, at all events until they had given the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity of fulfilling his promise, to abandon all threats of refusing to discharge their duties. There were also one or two matters specially connected with Ireland to which he desired to draw attention. There was first the complaint of the Irish postmasters that when any well paid postmastership fell vacant in Ireland it was given to surveyors' clerks or to other officials of the Post Office, many of them being Englishmen; and that while officals were promoted from England to Ireland, the reverse process of promoting from Ireland to England did not exist. Promotion among postmasters in Ireland was consequently at a standstill, and there was great and growing dissatisfaction among that body. The other matter was the case of a young man named Wyse from the city of Waterford, who in 1895 passed an examination as sorter and was appointed to the London office. He was then declared to be medically fit, and after twelve months work, from 11 at night until 6 in the morning—Sunday and Christmas Day included—he had to undergo a second medical examination, when he was rejected and dismissed altogether from the service. The relations of the boy at Waterford appealed to the local doctor who had examined the boy in the first instance. This gentleman again examined the boy and certified that though he had suffered from some slight disease he was entirely recovered and was fit for work. After some correspondence the Department wrote to the boy's father suggesting that he would be taken on as a postman, which would show that the boy was really medically sound. He was sure the Secretary to the Treasury would see that justice was done in the case.

MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

joined in the appeal which had been made on behalf of the secretaries of the Post Office Servants' Association. It would be better not to make scapegoats of these two men. The right hon. Gentleman had promised to inquire into the grievances of the different classes, and having shown that conciliatory spirit, he should not adopt specially severe measures against the two secretaries. The right hon. Gentleman had always shown great common sense and courtesy, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to offer such advice to the Postmaster General as any reasonable man would approve of under the circumstances.


thought it would be very harsh measures if these two men who acted as the secretaries of the associations were to be punished for simply joining with their fellows. He wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the want of postal facilities in Ids constituency, especially in connection with the fishing stations, of which there were several of importance. The Earl of Bandon had written to the General Post Office in Dublin, complaining that letters which his agent had sent off containing demands for rent had not been delivered. £2,750,000 was according to the Financial Relations Committee unjustly extracted from Ireland, and it would only be a small concession that the fishing centres he had spoken of should have better postal facilities and arrangements.

DR. TANNER, (Cork, Mid)

urged the need of better postal communication between Macroom and Cork, and better postal facilities at East Muskerry and Coachford. Mr. Raikes a good many years ago promised to take the matter up, but nothing had been done. With the improved transit he could not see why the Post Office should not take advantage of it for the betterment of the service. In connection with the development of tourist traffic in Ireland, there were great numbers of tourists who travelled during the summer months along the route from Macroom and Glen-gariff, and they complained that there was no such thing as a telegraph office there. The local inhabitants hail again and again urged that a telegraph office might be opened, and he was satisfied that the erection of a telegraph office at Inchageela, would be of great advantage to the locality its well as to the tourists visiting the district. As regarded the case of the rural postmen, he said that they were even worse paid than in England. He could not help being struck by the fact that while the recommendation was that rural postmen in England should receive 16s. a week, those in Ireland were only to get 15s. This appeared to be hardly fair, and he hoped that when this matter was considered, attention would be paid to the scale of wages of Irish postmen, whose duties were quite as arduous as those of the English postmen. Again, the system of paying boot money by instalments hail long been complained of as an injustice.

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)

, said that as a matter of principle he sympathised with the observations as to the absence of the Postmaster General from the House of Commons, but as a matter of fact, he did not think that the Department suffered. The Post Office was ably represented in the House of Commons by the Secretary to the Treasury, who gave careful attention to all representations. As to the so-called postal reforms, he said that, so far as the City of Dublin was concerned, they had been an absolute and unmitigated failure. No one had derived any advantage from them. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether a later depar- ture of the mail trains from Euston on the one side and from Westland Row on the other would not equally well suit the mail service, while promoting the interest of the tourist traffic. It was a discouragement to Irish tourist traffic to find that the mail trains, by winch most tourists would prefer to travel, were started from Dublin and from London at unseasonable and unreasonable hours. With reference to postal matters in general, it was announced to them some time ago, on the part of the Post Office, that a more liberal system of treatment would be adopted in regard to small places throughout Great Britain and Ireland, and greater postal facilities given. As far as he could see, very little had as yet been done in that direction, but he hoped that these promises would be carried out. In Western Donegal and many other places in Ireland great inconvenience had hitherto resulted from the long distance that people had to travel to the existing sub-post offices, in order to post their letters.


observed that the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken could rest assured that every promise which had been made on behalf of the Department would be scrupulously fulfilled by the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] The Vote had been discussed in an extremely businesslike way all the evening, and he would appeal to the Committee to allow it to be taken now together with the other two Post Office votes, the ground of which was practically covered by the first. If that could be done he would at once move the adjournment of the House, and complete their labours for the night. ["Hear, hear!"]


complained that in the Highlands many districts were deprived of postal facilities because of the condition imposed by the Post Office or the Treasury, and which required a substantial guarantee before any Postal Telegraph or Money Order Office could be opened. The right hon. Gentleman had said that for the return of a letter authorising a withdrawal of money from the Post Office Savings Bank two days were required, but only that morning he had received a letter from the island of Lewis which had taken five days to reach London. Yet the Secretary to the Treasury, speaking without knowledge of the geography or postal service of the Highlands, said in two days a depositor could get a letter enabling him to withdraw money from the Post Office Savings Bank. Nothing of the kind, a week was more likely to be the time in correspondence before the money could be obtained. He sympathised with the claim of Post Office employés and would allow them every reasonable right to combine and do the best they could for themselves. He had received circulars from Post Office employés in London and elsewhere, and as to their containing anything in the nature of a threat of political pressure, such did not affect him in the least, and he could not conceive that any Member would be alarmed by them. It was the duty of every Member to pay attention to every statement of grievance and to endeavour to obtain redress no matter from which side of politics the complaint arose.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

wanted to get some answer in reference to the two men who had been summoned to appear before the Post Office authorities. Their case was a hard one, and the Post Office authorities should reconsider it. The Debate had been prolonged, in the hope that some concession might be made to the overworked and underpaid postmen throughout the country, but there had been nothing but permission to put their grievances before the right hon. Gentleman and the Postmaster General. If an answer was not forthcoming he hoped a Division would be taken.


thought he was entitled to apply again to the right hon. Gentleman to supply what was perhaps an accidental omission from the answer given. What, he asked, would be done in regard to the two men who had been warned that they would that day be suspended if they would not apologise for something it had not been proved they had been guilty of? They were members of a large organisation extending over the United Kingdom and Ireland. Human nature was just the same among Post Office employés as outside, and if these men were unfairly treated and turned from their employment, there would be an answer from all the telegraphists in the Kingdom associating with and supporting them. He would also remind the right hon. Gentleman that he gave up the case when he said that this day instructions had been given to the men to make clear their position in regard to the overtime question. The document had only that day been issued, and as it was agreed that under Mr. Raikes' administration a declaration was made one day, and the next day it was made in different terms, there was reasonable ground for difference of opinion. If the men acted on the first version was it reasonable to punish two men who had been suspected, not proved guilty, of issuing circulars or ballot papers asking men to declare in their own privacy whether they were willing to strike against overtime? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give satisfactory assurances in the case of these two men. He (the hon. Member) was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman could be to avert a strike, which would not only inconvenience the public but exasperate the feeling between the employés and the Department. No doubt the gentleman who had suspended these men was a very excellent official, and was doing under his superiors what he had a right to do, but he hoped he would not be allowed to proceed further in the case until the Postmaster General had time to consider the whole question. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped also that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give assurances on the question of the English mail.


The hon. Member will see that it is quite irregular and impossible for me to give any assurance to the House at the present moment as to what steps the Postmaster General may think it necessary to take with regard to these two men. It is a question of administration and discipline which he alone of course can decide. I will take care, however, to bring the statements of the hon. Member to his notice. As I understand one point raised by the hon. Member, he says that the men have been somewhat misled by a speech of the late Postmaster General. There is no doubt that the late Postmaster General did make use of an expression which implied that working overtime was voluntary on the part of the men. But it is also a fact that Mr. Raikes afterwards found that he had made a mistake in saying that overtime was voluntary, and he corrected it by saying that as a matter of fact it was volunteered, but the Post Office authorities had a perfect right to demand that the men should work overtime. But I will bring before the Postmaster General the fact that the men to some extent have acted under a misapprehension of the meaning of what Mr. Raikes said. No doubt that is an important element in the case, and I am sure that the Postmaster General will give it every consideration. ["Hear, hear!"]


asked the right hon. Gentleman was it a fact that he was going to deal with the officers of an organisation of the Telegraph employés as the officers of no other labour organisation would be dealt with by any firm or body of employers in the country? He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that a Bill had been introduced in that House to constitute an Arbitration Court, so as to insure that disputes between employers and employed should be fairly settled. He believed that there was no body of organised workmen in the country who would tolerate the dismissal of any of their officers for acting as these men were desired by their fellow employés to act. It was their duty as the officers of an organisation to get the opinions of the workmen whom they were serving, and to victimise these two men for doing purely and simply their duty in an organisation which, had been recognised by the Department was an outrage on the present state of organised labour in this country. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought they would find that they had to encounter the political power not alone of the organised labour of their own Department, but the organised labour of the whole of the United Kingdom. ["Hear, hear!"]


asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would answer the few points he had put before him earlier in the evening?


said he was afraid that would require an amount of local knowledge on his part winch he confessed he did not possess. The hon. Member dealt with a large number of small places around Cork, but if he would communicate with him and tell him again what those places were and what were the precise grievances of winch he complained, he would he glad to inquire into them.

MR. PATRICK M'HUGH (Leitrim, N.)

said that the right hon. Gentleman, as representing the Postmaster General, confessed he was ignorant of local affairs in Ireland. It was not right that there should be in that House a Minister who did not understand local affairs in Ireland inconnection with the Post Office. It was absolutely ridiculous that they should have, in another place, a Postmaster General, who was not responsible to that House, and who was not bound to come down there to answer questions that should be addressed to him by representatives from Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was most courteous and painstaking, but he was ignorant—[Ministerial laughter]—on his own confession, of the position of affairs in Ireland. Therefore they should not be called upon to pay a salary to the Postmaster General when he did not earn it. If he wanted a salary, let him come down there and earn it. [Ministerial laughter.] He did not know why Members opposite laughed. Was it at the idea of the Duke of Norfolk earning a salary that he did not earn? [Loud laughter.] In his opinion this was certainly not a laughable matter. [Ministerial cries of "Divide"!] He wished to draw attention to the question of the erection of a new post office at Sligo. [Cries of "Oh!"] Perhaps hon. Members opposite did not know where Sligo was.


I must ask the hon. Member to address himself to the subject before the Committee.


I shall proceed, if I can do so without interruption. I am in no hurry, Gentlemen.


I must again ask the hon. Member to discuss the subject which is now before the Committee. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that for five years the General Post Office had been sending inspectors and surveyors to Sligo for the purpose of selecting a site for a new post office. Serious expenses had been incurred in this way, and nothing had as yet been done. Last year he asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether the building would at last be begun, and the right hon. Gentleman said, "No, because the work is not included in the Estimates." Why was it not included? He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman, but he was ignorant. [Laughter.]


The hon. Member is now indulging in irrelevant repetitions, and I must request him to resume his seat. ["Hear, hear!"]


Certainly not, Sir. [Cries of" Order!"]


I have requested the hon. Member to resume his seat, and I hope he will pay attention to what I have directed him to do. Do I understand that the hon. Member declines to resume his seat?


Undoubtedly I do. [Cries of "Order!"]


Then I ask the hon. Member to withdraw during the remainder of the Sitting. [Cheers.]


I shall not.


I must ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to carry out my order.


went up to the hon. Member, touched him on the shoulder, and asked him to withdraw.


I refuse to budge.


beckoned to two doorkeepers, who took hold of the hon. Member, and removed him.


I beg to move "That the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again." [Nationalist cheers.] Of course, I should be out of order in commenting upon what has happened, but I think that my hon. Friend was confining himself strictly to the Vote under discussion. [Loud cries of "Order !"]


The hon. Member must not make any reflection upon my ruling.


said that he would not do so. He would simply move to report progress, as it was perfectly evident that the Committee was not in a proper temper—[Cries of "Order!"] to continue the discussion by the way in which they had treated his hon. Friend. [Cries of "Order ! "] The discussion had better be adjourned, as it could no longer be conducted in the way in which it was being conducted before this interruption. Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 17; Noes, 116.—(Division List, No. 304.)

Question put, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, in respect of the salary of the Postmaster General."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 31; Noes, 106.—(Division List, No. 305.)

Original question again proposed. Debate arising,


rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 108; Noes, 29.—(Division List, No. 306.)

Original Question put accordingly.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 114; Noes, 19.—(Division List, No. 307.)

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.

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