HC Deb 18 February 1898 vol 53 cc1107-45
MR. SAMUEL WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)

Mr. Speaker, I rise with a certain amount of diffidence to move the Amendment which is set down in my name. The terms of my Amendment are as follows:— And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that your servants in the Post Office are not permitted to exercise the franchise, generally allowed to other Departments in the State; nor to serve on electoral committees; nor to take part in political agitation; and are otherwise deprived of the privileges of citizenship in defiance of the letter and spirit of the law; that the officials of the Post Office refuse to recognise the Postmen's Trade Union; their officials are illegally and unjustly dismissed for circularising Parliamentary Candidates; and we humbly beg Your Majesty to instruct the Postmaster General to remedy these grievances. Sir, in order to prevent wrong impression or misunderstanding of the terms of my Amendment, I should like to remark, in regard to the first sentence—where it says that the Post Office servants are not permitted to exercise the franchise—that I do not mean by that to imply that the postmen are not allowed to vote in Parliamentary elections; but what I do mean to imply is that they are prevented from exercising their full citizens' rights—they are not allowed to interview Parliamentary candidates—and in their private time from using their political opinions. Now, Sir, this Amendment raises very important issues. I am afraid that the subject of my Amendment will not be very popular in certain parts of the House, but I feel sure that hon. Members will do me the credit of believing that I have been actuated by no political or Party bias in moving the Amendment which is set down in my name. This question, Sir, is no new question in the House of Commons, nor in the country, because I suppose I should be perfectly right if I said that for the last 10 years there had been continuous and perpetual agitations amongst the postal employees with regard to the remedying of grievances which they have complained of from, time to time. Now, Sir, the two points that I wish to direct the attention of hon. Members to are: first, that the postal servants are not allowed the exercise of their political rights, and in the second place they are not allowed what is ordinarily understood as the right of combination, as exercised by the rest of the working classes in the country. This question has been brought before the House on several occasions. I suppose there have been many questions put to Ministers, and the question has been raised, not only in that way, but by means of petitions to the Postmaster General, and I believe, on one occasion, an Amendment to the Address was put down in 1894, when a Division of the House was taken, and it was defeated. Now, Sir, just to explain the treatment to which the postal servants are subjected I will read two extracts, which, I think, will perfectly satisfy hon. Members that the treatment measured out to those men to whom the statements refer, was harsh and rigid in the most extreme sense. The first statement refers to the punishment which was meted out by the right hon. Baronet the Member for North East Manchester, who was Postmaster General at the time of its infliction. He, no doubt, believed that he was exercising his duty in the important position which he occupied at the time. Whatever his opinion might be, it was felt as a great hardship in the postal service, and I may say that it has done more to continue the agitation among the postmen than anything else in connection with the service. It appears that on the 15th June, 1892, a mass meeting of postal servants was held in the Foresters' Hall, Clerkenwell. It was called by the Fawcett Association, and it was held with the sanction of the authorities, subject to the enforced presence of a shorthand writer. That does not savour of the freedom of England. It reminds one very much of France or Germany, and it is a thing altogether out of date to have at public meetings an official shorthand writer on the platform to take an official note. At that meeting a resolution was passed, and that resolution had reference, I ought to say, to the circular which had been sent out to the candidates for Parliamentary honours; because this was just preceding the General Election.


There was no official shorthand writer present. I understand that is so.


The circular was drawn up at that meeting and the secretary and the chairman of the meeting were asked to sign it on behalf of the meeting. To come to the nature of the circular, I think hon. Members ought to understand its terms, which will enable them much better to understand all the facts about the passing of the resolution. The circular contained this query— Will you, in the event of being elected a Member of Parliament, support a Motion for the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into the Post Office Service, such as was advocated by Earl Compton, and largely supported during the recent Session of the House of Commons? I do not see anything irregular in a Motion of that kind. I think it a very reasonable and fair and modest resolution. It was only asking an inquiry into the alleged grievances. I ought to say that this resolution was sent out to the candidates who stood for Parliamentary honours in the election of 1892, and I am informed that there were favourable replies sent to the officials of this organisation by no fewer than 200 candidates for the Parliament of 1892–95. Among the names who gave approval of the circular of the postmen were those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Arnold Morley), who became Postmaster General immediately after the election, Lord Russell, Mr. Herbert Gladstone, Mr. R. K. Causton, Mr. J. Stuart, Mr. S. D. Waddy, and the hon. Member for Morpeth. I think a resolution of that kind must have commended itself to the judgment of the gentlemen who gave their adhesion to the proposal. Now, what happened? Immediately after the election—I think about four weeks afterwards—the chairman and the secretary who had signed that resolution on behalf of the public meeting received notice of their dismissal, and I think that that may fairly be considered to be harsh treatment and a very rigid form of discipline. It is of that treatment that the Post Office servants at the present time complain. I will read what appears to me to be a harsher resolution than that. On December 11th, 1892, executive officers of the Association waited upon the Postmaster General for the purpose of bringing certain grievances before him regarding duties and pay. The result of that interview was that the Postmaster General called for documentary evidence to prove the statements of the deputation. On January 3rd the Postmaster General, without waiting for the evidence to be submitted to him, gave his decision on the points laid before him at the interview, thus closing the case. The men considered this, very unsatisfactory, and they called a meeting of the Association on the 8th January. At that meeting a resolution was carried and the chairman was instructed by express resolution of the meeting to forward that resolution on to the Postmaster General by telegram, which was done the next day. On January 14th, six days later, the Chairman was sent for by the Receiver and Accountant General, who read a Minute from the Postmaster General describing the act of sending the resolution as irregular and improper, and requesting his immediate explanation. He was not allowed to leave the room, but to sit down there and then to write it. The explanation was as follows:— Sir,—I am unaware that in forwarding the resolution as instructed by the meeting. I was doing anything contrary to the rules. It having now been distinctly pointed out to me that it is irregular and improper—in fact, that it is insubordination—to do so, I regret my action. I beg, however, to call attention to the entire absence of rules on this matter for the guidance of the staff. That was signed by the man. This explanation was forwarded to the Postmaster General, who considered the reply as unsatisfactory, and felt it his duty to take serious notice of the man's action. He requested that the man should be reduced to the bottom of the second class, which meant a great loss on his wages. I ask any hon. Member if he thinks that is fair treatment? Here is a man, who is called before the Postmaster General and asked to give an account of his conduct; then the man writes in such a reasonable spirit, and the result is that he is reduced in seniority and there is a reduction of 5s. a week in his wages. I ask whether that cannot be termed unfair treatment? But that is not the whole of the case. I ought to say that a Committee was asked for by the postal servants from 1892 to 1895; it was granted, and the Tweedmouth Commission was organised for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the postal servants. It is not my duty to say anything in favour of, or against, the proceedings of that Committee, but evidence was given by men before that Committee which bears upon the subject, and I think the Members of the House ought to be aware of what kind of evidence was given before that Committee. There was a gentleman who gave evidence on the 25th February, 1896, and this is a case, in my judgment, of the grossest intimidation. A statement was made—and I am reading from the evidence given before Lord Tweedmouth—by a gentleman named Mr. Henry Boaler, who was examined— The Chairman asked: I suppose you mean that the record mounts up against them? And the answer was, Yes. The first case to which I would ask your consideration is that of J. Chapman and W. Howell, of the Western District Office, who in the year 1891 were punished with the loss of class, which to a postman is monetary loss. The evidence goes on— The Chairman: You mean that they were degraded by being put back in their class? Answer: Yes, my Lord. In this instance the loss is estimated at about £40 at present, and they will continue to lose at the same average until they find their maximum. Their offence is one which we have the highest possible authority for saying is no offence, and which there is no rule against, viz., combining for remedy of alleged grievances. These men were appointed as auxiliaries in 1886, and appointed second-class postmen in 1888. In 1890 they joined the Postmen's Union, and were elected by members of the branch as local secretary and collector. During October, 1891, nearly two years later, and at the time of the abolition of the classes, 52 appointments to the first class were made, which should in the ordinary course of events have included these men by virtue of their service and fitness, each having over three years', and whose conduct had never been questioned. But this was not so. They were excluded, and the reason given by the Postmaster was that they were prominent members of the local branch. Therefore, gentlemen, these men were passed over by a number of their juniors, which not only meant an immediate loss—3s. per week—but the loss of seniority, which, also acts to their detriment in the choice of walks, holidays, etc. The Chairman: Has any particular case of these men been raised before? Answer: Yes, my Lord; I believe it has been reported to the Comptroller several times. They can get no remedy. Mr. Walpole: Did not these men attend a meeting outside of the Post Office for the redress of grievances, contrary to the existing regulations of the Department? Answer: I have a question here from one of the best authorities we can get—the late Mr. Raikes—who, when Postmaster General, said, 'There is no rule forbidding Post Office employees to combine for the purpose of remedying alleged grievances.' Question: But was not such a rule in force at the time these men combined? Answer: We are given to understand that there never was such a rule. I take that to be a gross form of intimidation, and an attack made on the leaders of the local Trade Union. They are reduced in wages, they are humiliated in every possible form for trying to bring their grievances before the proper authorities. If they did not carry out the exact rule, if they did not apply in the right method, then they were to be humiliated. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Gentleman said "Hear, hear." How can the men do anything else, seeing there is no rule for guidance? They do not know whom to apply to; whether to the Postmaster General or to any of the subordinate officials of the Department. I have read you a case showing how a man apologised for not having brought forward his grievance in a satisfactory way according to the supposed or alleged rules of the Post Office Department. This case, I think, proves that so far as the right of combination is concerned, these men are not able at the present time to exercise such rights as are exercised in other branches of industry throughout the rest of the country. Now, Sir, I have to raise another question—the question of the discharge of two men. I am not aware that there was any bad conduct on the part of those men; I am not aware that there was any allegation of neglect of duty, or any charge of any kind. Yet, for putting questions to candidates in 1892, they got a severe punishment at the hands of the right hon. Baronet. Questions were put in the House at the time those alleged offences were committed. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman at the time, and this was his answer: He said that these two men, Messrs. Clery and Cheeseman, who were dismissed, were not only offenders, but they were the ringleaders. I should like to ask him how he made out that they were the ringleaders. Three days afterwards he received a petition, signed by no less than 2,000 of the employees in the Postal Service, pointing out that it was not these two gentlemen, but the whole meeting, that ought to have been punished. He said— Though they were made chiefly responsible I do not see any case to ask the Law Officers of the Crown as to the legality of my action in the matter. I am not aware of my statement and warning having caused grave dissatisfaction and alarm, nor am I aware of a precedent either for the course I have taken, or for the conduct which is alleged, and I am not prepared to reinstate the dismissed men or withdraw the warning. He does not allege that he is acting according to the law of the country. He is acting as the head of a great department, and in that position he has a perfect right to see that proper discipline is maintained. I am sure that there is not a man employed in the Postal Service to-day who would want any other treatment but that which was fair and just between the head of a department and the men in their employ. But we are told by a high legal authority, by a gentleman who has made this question a study, that there is no law in force in this country which would justify an action of this kind, or which would in any sense limit the action of the Civil servants of the Crown. It looks to me strange and severe, and I hope we shall, in the course of the Debate, have a satisfactory answer to the question I am now raising. With regard to the legal aspect of the question, I need only quote the opinion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Islington. The hon. Baronet, speaking at a meeting held in the Memorial Hall on the 8th June, 1893, made this statement— So far as the law was concerned, that demand had been fully conceded. The first repealing Act granted that to all Civil servants except Revenue Officers. That exception was, however, swept away, and Civil servants were held to be entitled to all the privileges of citizenship, though the operation took some time, the struggle lasting from the reign of George III. to an advanced point in the reign of Queen Victoria. Parliament, however, ultimately said, 'Thou shale not have those rights'; and they were deprived of the rights which were essential to the welfare and safety of the State. Later, in the same speech, he contended— That no regulations of a Department had authority to infringe the provisions of an Act of Parliament, and he believed that regulations prohibiting meetings, for instance, were ultra vires, and a violation of the statute law of the realm. I have quoted the words of the hon. Baronet, and I believe, so far as my inquiries have gone, that that is a legal statement of the position of the law in regard to the political action of the Civil servants of the Crown. Of course, I could quote other cases affecting the main point in the Amendment. The first point to put is that the postal servants have not a proper and legitimate right of combination. I think I have demonstrated that by the references I have made. Further proof is furnished by the constant agitation that is going on amongst the postmen of the country, and if I can only get a satisfactory assurance that that rigid discipline and intimidation which I have quoted, will be relaxed, it will serve, so far as that point is concerned. The second point refers to their right to approach candidates in regard to their grievances. I fail to see why there should be a distinction between the ordinary workman, who, after he has finished his employment, is at perfect liberty to use his civil rights, and the man employed by the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman who will answer this Debate will say that in a great department of State proper discipline must be kept up. I think I shall be speaking the sentiments of the postal servants when I say that, so far as proper discipline is concerned, there will not be a dissentient voice in the whole service. This regards the exercise of their political rights, to which, they contend, they are entitled. I say that no harm will come, either to the servants of the Crown or to the head of the Department, if this be conceded—that postmen, like other working men who have a legitimate grievance, should be allowed to use the only weapon at their command, and to approach candidates, and ask them whether they will try to bring about a remedy for the grievances of which they complain. Another point I raise is this, that there is no Act of Parliament prohibiting the free exercise of the fullest privileges of citizenship. It is the duty of the House to abrogate the Departmental Order which prevents the exercise of such rights. Surely, if men are to be dealt with for exercising the ordinary rights of citizens, this House should provide a remedy. I will not trespass longer on the time of the House further than just to summarise the whole of the points on which postmen agree. The first point is that there ought to be a full right of public meeting, with the right to pass resolutions dealing with their wages and conditions of service, without the interference of the officials of the Post Office. The second point is the reinstatement of the discharged members of the Postal Union to their former positions, both with regard to the wages and service. There is no real and legitimate reason why this punishment should be meted out to them. In the third place, a postman should have the right to interview a candidate or a Member of Parliament on questions affecting their grievances. Lastly, we desire that postal servants having legitimate grievances may, if they so desire, be accompanied by officials of their trade union in their visits to the Postmaster General or other permanent officials. I put these points with the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman, and I put it to the House of Commons, to use their power to see that the valuable servants of the State should have justice and fair play meted out to them. That, I think, will meet all that is intended by the postal servants of the country.

*MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

, in seconding the Amendment, said: It may be said that the postal servants are permitted to exercise the franchise, but they are not permitted to exercise the full franchise. I think no one who has listened to the very moderate statement made by the hon. Member can deny that a stigma is laid upon these public servants. I would make upon this two brief remarks. It would be impossible to have selected amongst the servants of the public any class who less deserve that a stigma should be placed upon them than those who work in the Post Office. In these matters it is very hard and unfair that distinctions should be drawn. We who live in London especially must acknowledge that these men, who deliver our letters 12 times a day, and who carry away letters again with such regularity and punctuality, are deserving of the sympathy of the public and of this House. I think this stigma is also deeply resented by the public. There was a good deal of sympathy shown not only by the Secretary to the Treasury, who now represents the Post Office, but by the right hon. Gentleman who was at the head of the Post Office during the three years preceding the period during which the present Government has been in office. Although all this sympathy has been displayed, yet the evil has not been dealt with, and that is why we have the Amendment to the Address. The prohibition against which we protested has not been withdrawn, and postmen are not allowed to enjoy the full electoral rights of other citizens. The stigma that attaches to the postman also extends to the Members of Parliament. If a man is selected as a candidate to represent a constituency in Parliament, the candidate when he comes into Parliament is bound to look after the interests of his constituents. And when the candidate is fenced round by this atmosphere of protection, the stigma lies almost as much upon him as it does upon those who placed him in that petitions to the Postmaster General, and allowing a postman, or any other person, to question the candidate or to put his case to the man whom he is sending into Parliament? The candidate will know how to answer, and, generally speaking, a discreet answer will be given, and then the grievance will be discussed, which is far better than attempts being made to hush it up as has been done in this case. The point I want to emphasise is, that no progress at all will be made unless the case of 1892 is dealt with. I was one of the candidates standing in 1892. In June I got this circular and I replied to it, and I believe there were over 100 others who subsequently became Members of this House who replied to it also. I had not the experience then which I have now, but it seemed to me—as it still seems—to be an innocent document, and I feel that if it was sent to me to-night I should send the same reply that I did then, and I would not think there was the least harm in it. I think the 100 Members who replied to that circular would feel that they are bound to speak for their friends, the postmen, to whom they sent the letter that day. I would also point out that the objects of the circular have been secured. It suggested that a committee should be appointed, and that was done. It asked that a change should be effected in the conditions of the postmen, and a complete and revolutionary change has taken place. The objects of the circular have been accepted by the Government—two Governments, in fact—and yet the very Government which accepted the principles of the circular continued to persecute the men who brought the matter to light. I think it is a great pity that these two or three victims should be allowed to make so good a case as they do make out, whilst nothing is done to listen to their complaints. These two men are put into a much stronger position than they would be if justice was meted out to them. They have become the heads of a great political movement and their voices are heard throughout the country, and I think, so long as these men are singled out for punishment in the way they have been, we shall not hear the last of this case. The Departmental Committee which was held before Lord Tweedmouth did not bring the matter to an end, and the cause of that was that they were not allowed to deal with the case of these two men. I believe that the failure of that Committee to do what it had to do will cause yet another Committee to be appointed to take up the work. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will deny that the Tweedmouth Committee was a failure. His action last Session precludes the possibility of his doing so. He appointed some extraordinary body, which he never described in the House, to meet upstairs—a sort of open court.

*MR. HANBURY (Preston)

It was an inquiry before the Duke of Norfolk and myself. It was done in our presence.


Nothing more important could take place, yet they met hurriedly. There was no notice given——


Oh, no! that is not so.


I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that it was one of the most irregular proceedings that ever took place in this House. But my point is, that the Postmaster General and my right hon. Friend, if I may say so, meeting the postmen so shortly after, showed that the Committee had not done its work. Now, I press that point, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will extend a sympathetic ear to this question, and my suggestion is that some effort should be made to remove this grievance of which we have heard so much in this House. The only other point I would urge is, that the refusal to hear the leaders of the trade union leads to unsatisfactory, ineffective, and inconclusive results. It is almost impossible for a man to answer the arguments brought by the Department against him, but, fortunately for these men, and men in other branches of the service, they have unions with highly-skilled officials at the head, and they can state and illustrate a case, and bring it home in a manner which the men cannot. I will give a few illustrations of what I mean: I believe it was laid down by the Tweedmouth Committee that all postmen in the service over the age of 19 should get £52 a year salary, but the Committee forgot when they made this rule to provide for the case of the older men in the service, who were then over 20 years of age, and the result is that men who have only been a few months employed are getting more than others who have been years in the service, which is a serious anomaly. Now, that is one example. It is a small point which was overlooked because the men were not allowed to be represented by the leaders of their trade union.


But all the representatives of the postmen were admitted.


Yes, but not officials of the trade union.


Not the men who were not postmen.


Then an extension of seven days was given for holidays to men who had been more than five years in the service, but those who had not been five years in the service had five days taken off their holidays. I put these allegations with great reluctance, as it is impossible for one to have the information which is at the disposal of the Department, and there may be another side to the story. Such points could only be dealt with by the skilled representatives of the men, who knew the facts of the case, and who would have argued the case for them. For these reasons I think it may be necessary to go into the whole case again. I will not detain the House further. The ground has already been thoroughly covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, but I will say, in conclusion, that unless the case of 1892 is dealt with we shall not get rid of the loss of time in this House by these constant discussions which have taken place for the last six years. We shall not get rid of that inconvenience until this case is dealt with, because I believe that it is the corner-stone upon which the whole complaint rests.


Mr. Speaker, I beg to call your attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.

On the House being counted after the usual interval, Mr. Speaker called upon—

*SIR A. K. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

Mr. Speaker, in supporting the Amendment, I must acknowledge very fully the courtesy of the Postmaster General and my learned Friend the Secretary to the Treasury in their endeavour, as far as possible, to meet the complaints and Grievances which have been brought before them, and if I have to criticise the existing system I wish it to be distinctly understood that it is the system, and not either the Postmaster General or, in fact, any Postmaster General, upon whom reflection is cast. I think my learned Friend will do me the justice to admit that in the many negotiations I have had with the Postmaster General, especially towards the close of last year, I did not support the undue assertion, or the assertion to any extreme point of Trades Unionism. The Unions, however, took great interest in this matter, and may I state that my experience convinces me that in the Post Office, as elsewhere, those Unions are frequently a restraining force, and also, speaking from experience on the London Conciliation Board, the difficulty is not so much with those who have responsible leaders, but rather with organised and especially disorganised labour. Who can presume to bind them? I venture to say that when an agreement is made, it is, as a rule, fulfilled, and one of the conditions is that the trade shall be represented by those who know their wants and demands, and who have been frankly willing to accept the decision of an arbitrator or umpire. I know that in many quarters there is a prejudice against Trade Unionism, and especially against its leaders, who are too often called agitators, I think very frequently wrongly; but, I think, no one who knows the history of those Unions can say that it is not the fact that upon the whole they have benefited their order rather than otherwise, and that they have raised both the wages and conditions of labour, and though, like all organisations and individuals, they have at times made mistakes, still, as a rule, those Unions have contributed to the welfare of the workman, and placed him in a better and more powerful position by means of collective bargaining. I believe that the true solution of labour troubles is that both sides of the disputants shall have an opportunity to organise, and that both sides shall be ready to submit their disagreements to a tribunal for settlement. With regard to the Post Office Unions, I think, so far as my knowledge extends, that they have contributed, on the whole, to that peaceable settlement which prevented a strike, and the consequent injury and inconvenience to the public, in the Telegraph Service, and that, therefore, when their views are brought before this House they are, at any rate, entitled to a fair hearing. Now, Mr. Speaker, whatever may be our view as to the restraint on Party politics in the Civil Service, or with regard to the right of combination in the Civil Service, I do not think anyone will venture to say, after what they have heard to-night, that the existing conditions of things is at all satisfactory. In the first place, in the Post and Postal Telegraph Service there is great and widely extended discontent and dissatisfaction. My right hon. Friend says "No," and I will admit that he has done a great deal to redress it, but there is discontent and dissatisfaction still, and I believe it to be widely expressed, and that it has arisen, I believe, in a great measure from the ill-defined, vague, and frequently arbitrary, regulations which have been imposed upon the Service by successive Postmasters General, almost at their will and pleasure, and whatever else Ave may do to-night, I hope we shall bring home to the nation—I will not say harsh, because I know my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester is incapable of hard dealings—but what I think has been the hard fate of the two leaders of a great Union, which has produced much of the discontent, which I have spoken, and I will venture to suggest to him that, at any rate, whatever regulations are made for the government of a great service, that they should be clearly defined, that they should be made perfectly accessible, and that the rules should not be varied and variable as they have been, but that they should apply to the whole of the Civil Service, which should be placed in this respect upon one uniform footing from the highest to the lowest position in it. Now, I think, if that had been done, much more would have been achieved in remedying the grievances of the telegraphists. Their modest maximum of £190, practically only £160, after 27 years' service, their moderate claim of 28s. a week after five years' service, and their most reasonable claim to holidays, at any rate, sometimes in the summer, would have had an opportunity of being conceded; and yet those grievances exist still—a fact which in itself, I think, is, notwithstanding what has been done, some reflection upon the system which at present exists. I will discuss for a moment the question of the civil rights of these services. Who gave them? Parliament. Parliament could have given them, if it thought proper, conditionally; and its decision would, of course, have been binding, even now, if the existing state of affairs is wrong—if the franchise has been too hastily granted, or has been granted under such conditions as ought not to have been annexed—Parliament can intervene again, and the Civil Services can be heard in this House through their representatives. But this is the cardinal point of the situation: Parliament gave the franchise and the usual civil rights without any limitation whatever, without any of the limitations which were imposed in certain other cases. By the Conspiracy Act, for instance, it was said there were certain classes of workmen who, for public reasons, should not have the liberty to combine which was given to other classes—I mean the workmen in water and gas works, which directly serve the public—and Parliament could have enforced similar limitations in this case. And why did Parliament not do so? Because, practically, you cannot draw a line. You give the franchise, with all its civil rights, or you give it with conditions, which Parliament did not think possible; and yet we have a state of affairs in which, as I suggest, successive Postmasters General have assumed the functions of Parliament unconstitutionally and, I think, wrongfully, and have, by various circulars and regulations, demonstrated the impossibility of justly and fairly drawing that line, with the result, in certain cases, of dismissals and of destruction of livelihood, which ought only to be the result, if ever, of Parliamentary action. I would ask the House to see what the Postmasters General have attempted, and with what result. For instance, in 1885 I drew the attention of the House to the varying utterances of different Postmasters General on these subjects. The Postmaster General of that period said that, though no longer under any electoral disabilities. Postal servants must not join election committees, or speak or write on political subjects in public; and a circular to that effect was issued and signed "by command of the Postmaster General." Now, I think those words were in themselves a contradiction in terms. There is to be no restriction of political rights, it is stated, and yet, in the same sentence, the men are told that they are not to go to any political meeting or to speak or write on political subjects. I venture to say that the gift of the franchise, with, at the same time, limitation of discussion or debate, is a danger to the State. A vote is a trust and responsibility, to be exercised for the benefit of the nation, and how is its possessor to exercise it rightly if he has not the liberty of listening to what other people think, and say, and of taking part in debate or discussion upon public affairs? I also venture to say that that limitation, which Parliament did not pass, ought never to have been made by the political head of a Department. Such a course, indeed, seems to me to be very capable of abuse in many directions. I will point out next that Mr. Arnold Morley, when Postmaster General, made a great departure from the order I have just read. He said— Officers of the Post Office are no longer under electoral disabilities, but it is expected of them that they will exercise a certain reserve, and not put themselves forward on one side or the other. That was in 1892. I quite agree that, as a matter of voluntary action and in their own discretion, the "exercise of a certain reserve" is a proper course to pursue; but it is a very different thing to exact that reserve in derogation of the rights which have been conferred by Parliament upon the voter; and in that case, I repeat, I think the derogation of these rights a distinct danger to the State. What if other employers were to say they demanded of their workmen that they should not take part in political meetings on one side or the other? I think such an order would be characterised as tyrannical and socially most dangerous; and I would ask, what is the distinction between the Post Office as an employer of labour and other large employers of labour? But I want to refer to another point in this connection. In February, 1895, Mr. Arnold Morley again said—"Post Office servants are not precluded from taking part in politics," and the context shows he meant that they could do anything in that direction when off duty, because he said, "They must not, however, allow them to interfere with their duties." I venture to say that that was almost in the nature of a licence, and was directly calculated to lead men into error on this subject. The best way of determining the intentions of Parliament is to go to Acts of Parliament as they were passed, and I should like the House to consider what is the foundation of the disabilities that have been imposed on Postal servants, and what was the intention of Parliament when the disabilities were revoked. To get at this you have to go to the early part of the reign of George III., when members of the Civil Service were disabled from exercising the franchise, not on account of any labour question, but because the pay given them was thought likely to unduly influence them. That was the ground of the disablement, and when it was removed in 1868 the recital of the Act declared that it was not expedient, in the interests of the State, that it should be retained. Now, we find Party Postmasters General issuing their circulars ordering that postal officials shall not take part in politics; but as a matter of fact the original disabilities attached to the Postmasters General themselves, whose votes were only given back to them in 1868. Thus we have a state of affairs in which the political and paid head of a Department assumes the right of taking away a portion of the electoral privileges of members of the lower branches of the service, while he himself is taking an active part in politics, and was himself only placed on the same ground as his fellows by the enfranchising Act to which I have referred. Thus we have a politician at the head of the Department—in itself, I think, a very wrong thing, for the head, in my mind, should not be a political but a commercial head—restricting, without the authority of Parliament, the exercise of that franchise when he himself is fully enfranchised, and is taking an active part in politics, and even coming into this House. Therefore, it does seem to me reprehensible that successive Postmasters General should have taken the course they have. Now, I have to say a word about combination in the service. With regard to the distinction which my right hon. Friend will Seek to draw between labour in Departments of State and labour in other fields, I venture to say he will point out that there are privileges attaching to work in the Departments of State—privileges of pay and of pension—which do not attach to other employments. But that is not a true ground of distinction. There are many other employers of labour who give exactly the same things; and in the case of the Post Office the Telegraphists, at least, so far from regarding the distinction as a privilege, repudiate the suggestion. If they are in a better position than the employees of private firms it is only in a very slightly better position; and when I recall the facts that their maximum is, in the large majority of cases, only £160 after 27 or 28 years' service, that they cannot get what they would have, 28s. a week after five years, which their own official chiefs say they deserve, and that they are under an obligation, which does not attach to those in the service of other employers of labour, to do overtime compulsorily, it will be seen that theirs is not a particularly privileged employment; and they can, in fact, not be induced to regard it, under present terms and conditions, in that light. Therefore, I say that, if this is the distinction which an attempt will be made to draw, it is an unsound one, and does not differentiate these men from those employed in other departments of labour. With regard to the question of combination, I should like the House to see how varying again are the official statements as to what is the right of Post Office servants. I have here a statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, who, speaking as the head of the Government, said— These servants have perfect freedom to combine, and to have all the advantages and privileges of trades unions. He vindicates trades unionism and the leadership of trades unions, and says there is no restriction on the right of combination.


Hear, hear!


My right hon. Friend says "Hear, hear," but is it not a restriction of the rights of combination that they shall not be allowed to have the advantage of making their statements through their appointed and more expert leaders? Many of them, as has been said, are not in a position to make clear representations of their own cases. Again, I find it said by another official Lead that all the privileges of trades unionism are accorded to the trades union of the Post Office officials. That is inaccurate. I find that, though other trades unions have their recognised spokesmen, the postmen are denied that privilege. True, Mr. Arnold Morley had said he had received the trades unionist leaders in his office, and he had not inquired whether they were present or not, but to say they might come into the room, but not be allowed to speak, is absurd.


The Postmaster General laid down as to that that he would not allow an outsider—one who was not a postal servant—to accompany a deputation of postal servants.


But there have been cases in which officers of the unions have been in the post office, and yet have not been allowed to be the spokesmen of their deputation. That right has been denied. In one case—that of the officers of the Fawcett Association—it has been a great hardship to the officers of the union, who have been dismissed the Service for simply doing what they believed legally to be their duty to those whom they represented. They are constituents of mine, and I know them well, and I am bound to say, if they had been dealt with more leniently and more sympathetically, it would have been very much better both for themselves and for the State and the Service. Now, what were the circumstances of that case? The Postmaster General said in the House of Commons, and also by circular, that candidates were not to be asked by Post Office officials to give any pledge to assist them as to their duties or their pay. No attempt was made to extract any such pledge. All that was asked was that if Members were returned to this House, and they were satisfied that there were substantial grievances, they would assist in their redress, through a Committee of Inquiry. I fail to see on what possible principle that redress could be refused. Many Members, myself among the number, put the matter before the House. It showed an infinity of real grievances, some of which were, in fact, redressed; and it was afterwards said the rule under which the Trade Unionists for being loyal to their union as their union was to them was no longer operative; and yet these men have lost their means of livelihood, and the benefit of pensions accruing to them, and now it is said on this point that discipline must be maintained. But when we view the matter historically, we must see whether the Order itself which was promulgated was an Order which was right and just, and I venture to say that an Order embodying what it does, and condemning a desire for an inquiry affecting the grievances of a large number of officials in the service, is not an Order that can be maintained, and I further say that Parliament, if it could properly and practically be done, would have itself limited the franchise to the votes of the employees. If that has not been done, then that Order by the Postmaster General is ultra vires, and the dismissal of these men was not just, and had brought very serious consequences on the individuals, and I hope that the conclusion at which this House will arrive will be that the Orders, both as to combination and as to the exercise of political rights, are wrong; and that these additions go beyond the law when we find, as we do constantly, that, even if they are fair in their terms, they are harsh in their operation. I hope, at any rate, the result of this Debate will be to show that combination, with all its results, has not been dangerous to the service, but, on the contrary, has been of immense and varied use, as I have known it to be, in avoiding great public inconvenience. The right that these officials claim ought, I think, to be conceded, the dismissed servants ought to be reinstated, and no restriction ought to be placed, in the fullest and widest sense of the term, upon the privileges of British citizenship.


I trust the House will not think I am improperly trespassing upon its attention in speaking upon this Amendment. It may seem almost absurd that after five or six years one should have to defend an official Act, but I should very much regret it if I allowed it to be thought that I so used any authority I then possessed to press unduly upon or do any injustice to individuals. Of course the justification of the action of the postal authorities, I know, is in the most competent hands. But having regard to the attitude of this question, and it being recognised now as a rather notable case in 1892, and as the chief text of the hon. Member for Walthamstow to-night was apparently directed against myself, it may not be inopportune for me to say a few words. I take the two things before us, and see how far the decision taken was to call the attention of Parliament to the action of certain officials. The hon. Member for Walthamstow, whom I thought it proper to interrupt for a moment, said that in 1892 serious offence was given by the dismissal of certain officials, and that an official reporter was sent to the meeting, and I was able to point out to the hon. Member that it was not the case. When I called the attention of the House, on that paragraph, to the objectionable circular. I said that I had never used the right to send an official reporter, but relied on the newspaper reports, though I may say the Post Office servants were asked if they acknowledged the correctness of it. What took place was this: that an attempt was made on the eve of a general election to bring pressure to bear on Members of Parliament and candidates in order to procure from them a pledge that they would vote for a Committee of Inquiry. That, I need hardly say, was trying to exercise severe pressure, and I thought it my duty to bring this circular before the attention of the House, on that Debate on the Pose Office Estimates, and I pointed out it was quite contrary to the regulations of the Department. On that occasion, I may point out, I had the authority of Mr. Gladstone and the present Leader of the Opposition to say that they entirely agreed with the action I was taking. Well meetings continued to take place, and the two men who have been referred to, who were distinctly the ringleaders, said they were sorry the Postmaster General disapproved of their action, but they intended to go on with it. It naturally followed that as they continued to disobey the Orders of the Department they were dismissed. Now, the main point is this: was the action of the Postmaster General, whoever he was, contrary to the conditions and Rules of Parliament, "What right had the Postmaster General to take it?" I was a Member of this House when the Bill of the hon. Member for Gloucester was passed for removing the disabilities from civil servants to vote. It was thought by some, especially by the Leader of the House, Mr. Disraeli, to be a somewhat dangerous change, because it was thought that a person in the permanent Civil Service should not be allowed to take a side in politics, and that was the view shared by Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone said that the suggestion he would make would be that Parliament should give the vote, but that it was a matter for grave consideration. The departments should restrict other political action, and that it should be given subject to limitations. Those, I think, were pretty clearly the terms under which the franchise was given, So that the first clause of the Amending Bill of 1874 was struck out because it would have denied what were the intentions of Parliament in conferring on Civil Servants in 1868. Is it desirable in the interests of the public service that a very numerous service, such as the Post Office, should be permitted to combine, in order that they might be able to bring pressure to bear upon Members of Parliament, so as to raise the position of emoluments of their service? And I think, especially in such circumstances as that, that it is particularly desirable that Members of Parliament should be protected from that sort of thing, especially when we are told, as we have been told with regard to the present Motion, that it has been brought forward by the direction of the Central Committee of the Postal Union, or some such party. This is an attempt to bring pressure to bear upon Members of Parliament, in important particulars, and I trust that, whilst the complaints of the Post Office servants and others occupying positions under the Government will always receive careful and generous consideration, they ought not to seek redress by these illegal methods.


The hon. Member for Waltbamstow has raised the difficult problem of endeavouring to reconcile the political rights of the private citizen with the duties and discipline of the public servant, but I am not going to deal, as he has dealt, with the very much larger question of the whole Civil Service. The particular service to which he has drawn attention is that of the Post Office, There are many circum stances which make that the most difficult to deal with, because we have the fact, in the first place, that it is very much the largest of any public department—in fact, I believe that the Post master General, with a staff of 160,000 serving under him, is, perhaps, the largest employer of labour in the world. In addition to that, this service is nearly ubiquitous, and consists of men who, by their duties, are brought more closely into contact with the daily life of the great mass of the people than the servants Of any, other department. What is the position of the Post Office with regard to them? Anybody, I think, reading the first portion of the Amendment of the hon. Member, would have supposed, and I think he must have supposed himself, at the time when he put that Amendment on the paper, that Post Office servants had not the enjoyment of the franchise. That is clear from the Amendment. The hon. Member now knows very well that, in common with all the Civil Servants of the Crown, the Post Office servants have the most perfect right to vote for whom they like, and to exercise their franchise in any way they like. Then he goes on to state that the Post Office servants are not allowed to serve upon electoral committees, or to take part in political agitation, and that is perfectly true. I think, as there has been some complaint that these rules are not sufficiently well known, that perhaps I might inform the House exactly what they are. No postmaster, or other servant of the Department, shall serve on a committee having for its object to promote or prevent the return of a particular candidate to Parliament. He shall not support or oppose any particular candidate or party, either by public speaking or writing. It has been implied that the present Postmaster General has gone beyond all other Postmasters General in carrying out this rule. But what is the history of this question as regards the exercise of the political rights of Post Office and Civil Service generally? In 1874 a Bill was brought in by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester. Even after the franchise had been given to public servants in 1868, they were forbidden to take, by word, message, writing, or any other method, any part in the return of a Member to Parliament. That state of things continued up to 1874, when the hon. Member for Gloucester brought in a Bill to repeal the clause by which certain heavy penalties were incurred. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington has implied that the mere fact that the Act abolished these penalties enabled them to take part in partisan warfare to any extent they liked. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester has correctly described the circumstances under which that Bill passed. The Member for Gloucester had, in the first clause of that Bill, inserted words which, undoubtedly, would have had the effect of making it impossible for any Government department to lay down regulations with regard to officials taking an active part in political warfare. Both Mr. Gladstone and Sir Stafford North-cote brought their influence to bear on the hon. Member to induce him to omit that clause, on the distinct ground that it would be impossible for them to agree to a clause tying the hands of the departments, as regards interference in partisan warfare. The words of Mr. Gladstone are worth quoting, because they are very clear and very distinct. Mr. Gladstone said— It is a serious evil to take up these questions on general grounds of philanthropy, and force upon a Government, responsible for their duties, measures which the persons so responsible declared to be incompatible with their due discharge. He should make the suggestion that Parliament should give the vote, and at the same time leave it in the discretion of the Government to prevent officers taking part, beyond giving a simple vote. These rules, which I have stated, have not been introduced by us; they were introduced in 1885 by Lord John Manners, who was then Postmaster General. My hon. Friend rather implied that they had been dropped by Mr. Arnold Morley, and that he had introduced conditions which allowed public servants to interfere with political matters; but it is a remarkable fact that within a month of going out of office, Mr. Arnold Morley himself said, in replying to a question put to him as to the privileges of Post-Office servants, that these rules were still in existence, and that they were not only the rules of the Post Office, but they embodied the recognised custom of the whole Civil Service. Probably my hon. Friends sitting below the Gangway—the hon. Member for Walthamstow and the hon. Member for Islington—care as little as I do—and they could not well care less—for mere precedent and authority in such matters. These rules not merely exist, but I think they can be shown to be thoroughly reasonable rules, and I think my hon. Friends the Member for Islington and the Member for Walthamstow have both of them forgotten the great difference in the circumstances of the public servant and the ordinary employee. What private employer could have been held up to the execration of the House, as the Postmaster General has been, for following the recognised rules of his predecessors, and what private employee could have had his case brought forward as has been done to-night with Messrs. Clery and Cheeseman. We must recognise the fact that in this House of Commons, public servants have got a Court of Appeal such as exists with regard to no private employee whatever. It is a Court of Appeal which not only exists with regard to the grievances of classes, and even of individuals, but it is a Court of Appeal which applies even to the wages and duties of classes and individuals, and its functions in that respect are only limited by the common sense of Members, who should exercise caution in bringing forward cases of individuals, because, if political influence is brought to bear in favour of one individual, the chances are that injury is done to some other individual. But, after all, what is the chief distinction between public servants and private employees? One is that the public servant has a permanency of service such as is enjoyed by no private employee. He has an employer who never fails, and who never dies, and the result of that permanency under our political system is that, unlike any private employee, he has to serve two sets of masters with very different views in politics. Now, it is worth while recollecting that it was only in 1868 that the franchise was restored to public servants, or rather restored to the servants of the revenue departments, and it is worth while recollecting also that, when those public servants were disfranchised in 1782, it was done on their own petition, and at their own request. A Bill was brought in in 1782 to disfranchise the servants of the revenue departments—including, of course, the Post Office—by Lord Rockingham, who was then Prime Minister. At that time the Government, through the public service, controlled 70 seats in this House, and Lord North, who had been in power for some 12 years, had sent round notices to certain constituencies, where the public servants were in any way able to turn the scale, that, unless they supported his Party, if he continued in office it would go very hard with them. His opponents also sent round notices that there was a possibility of their coming into office, and if they did come into office, it would go very hard with those public servants who did not vote for them—then they were placed in an awkward position. The result was that they sent up a strong petition for disfranchisement, and a Bill was introduced to deliver the Government from temptation, and the public servants from evil. What is the change that has taken place since 1782? It is not any legal change in the status of those public servants. They remain dismissable at pleasure just as they did in 1782; but the great change that has come is this: both Parties in the State have decided to ignore Party in regard to their treatment of the public servants of the State. The result, of course, is that permanent civil service has become a practical possibility. The result, again, of their being permanent public servants is that they have to serve in turn two different sets of masters. I think it is only reasonable to expect that, as both Parties in the State have dropped Party politics with regard to their employees, the employees should in their turn recognise that fact and drop Party politics with regard to their employers. Moreover, in a graded servant like the public service, every servant in his turn becomes an employer. It is likely that a public servant, who is a strong partisan in his capacity as servant, may also be a strong partisan in his capacity as employer, and it is absolutely necessary that all employers should be above suspicion of Party favouritism. I do not believe there is strong dissatisfaction among our public servants. I believe that a very large proportion of our public servants in all our departments make no complaint of the existing rules. The hon. Member has singled out a certain portion of our public servants—he has singled out the Post Office. I venture to say he has been singularly unfortunate in his choice, because if there are any public servants to whom these rules ought to apply it is the postmen and the telegraphists, who are brought more into contact with their masters—the public—than any other class. Take the case of the postmen: the hon. Member used to represent a mining constituency, and he, I know, is associated with that industry. I will take the case of a Tory postman in a mining village. What would the hon. Member say if that postman, in going his rounds, canvassed for the Tory candidate? He would say that it was a gross abuse of his privileges. Take the case of a postmaster or a telegraphist in a town where an election is proceeding: is it not well in the interests of both Parties that there should be no suspicion of tampering with or disclosing the telegrams for political purposes, that the knowledge that passes through their hands should not be abused? If you allowed them to become strong, active partisans, there is grave risk that they might abuse those privileges. With regard to the service, as a whole, I do not think the hon. Member has made out his case. He has certainly not made it out with regard to the postal service. There are one or two other points which the hon. Member raised with regard to trades unions, and the right of combination. He says the officials of the Post Office refused to recognise the postmen's trade union. I do not know whether he charges the Postmaster General with any departure from the practice of his predecessors. If so, it is a remarkable fact that under no Postmaster General have the trade unions in connection with the Post Office, increased so much as during the last two years. In 1892, when Mr. Arnold Morley came into office, the Telegraph Clerks' Association numbered 5,200; on the 31st December, 1896, they numbered 7,088. In 1892, the Postmen's Federation numbered 5,627; in 1896 they numbered 21,909. In 1896 there was the greatest growth of any year. The Telegraph Clerks' Association increased from 6,254 to 7,088, and the Postmen's Federation by more than 16,000. It is charged that the Postmaster-General takes a different view than that which was taken by Mr. Arnold Morley, and that he denies the right of combination. As this is an important point with the hon. Member, I think it is only fair to quote from a letter which describes the position taken up by Mr. Arnold Morley, and I say that this is exactly the position of the Postmaster General at the present day; and I say that no employer could give greater liberty of combination to his employees than is given by both these Postmasters General. Officers of this Department are at liberty to combine in any way they think proper. They may, except during official hours, meet when and where they like. They are always at liberty to invite Members of Parliament, or any other persons, to their meetings, and to confer with them on their position and prospects; and they are enabled to invest their funds in the Post Office Savings Bank, on the same conditions as other organisations and trade unions. All the privileges which trade uninons enjoy—and, in my opinion, rightly enjoy—are thus accorded to the unions of postal officials. But another question is raised, and that is that the Postmaster General will not allow outsiders to represent them at deputations. I am bound to say that, viewed as a matter of common sense, there is a great deal to be said for not letting outsiders argue these cases. In the first place, they have not got the same interests as those who are actually in the trade, and, in the second place, they have not got exactly the same knowledge. This was conveyed to my own observation very remarkably in the case of the inquiry before the Duke of Norfolk and myself in August last. The postmen and telegraphists were represented by two spokesmen, of whom the hon. Member for Islington was one. They profess to have got up the whole case of this complicated service. If there is any man who approaches closely to omniscience, it is the hon. Member for Islington, but I am bound to say, with all respect to him, that he was not quite able to make out his case. The postmen and the telegraphists, however, who were in the Service who know the circumstances and where the shoe pinched, came before us and told us their grievances, and we were at once able to understand them. In this case there are special reasons why these outsiders should not be heard, because these outsiders are Messrs. Clery and Cheeseman, who are dismissed servants. I venture to say that in the case of no private employer would anyone try to force upon him as leaders of a deputation the very men he had dismissed? It has been asked that these men should be restored to the public service. My right hon. Friend has indicated, to some extent at any rate, what happened in regard to these two men, but I do not think that he did justice even to his very strong case, because he had not with him, as I have, the dates on which these various occurrences took place. On the 14th June, 1892, my right hon. Friend, the then Postmaster General, on the report on Supply, gave a warning, and expressed himself very strongly in the interests both of discipline and also the purity of elections, against the members of the service, and especially the Post Office service, bringing their claims as to duty and pay before the attention of candidates. And he was able to say that the then Leaders of the Opposition, including Mr. Gladstone and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth, concurred in his warning. On the very next day, on the 15th, Mr. Clery, at a meeting of the Fawcett Association, moved that immediate action be taken to secure from the candidates a pledge to support a motion for the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry. On the 17th June my right hon. Friend stated in an official circular that he desired to warn Post Office servants that it would be improper for them, whether in combination or not, to endeavour to extract promises from any candidate with reference to their duties and pay. The very next day a Bill, signed by W. E. Clery, was issued, stating that "the notice in the current Post Office circular does not affect the policy of the Association. "What was the policy of this Association? The hon. Member for Walthamstow has said a great deal about it being so very unjust to deprive these men of the right to go before candidates and lay before them the question of their duty and pay. They have a full right to go before Members of Parliament, and Members of Parliament have a full right to raise their grievances in this House. But such men as Messrs. Clery and Cheeseman are not content with that. What they want to do is to attack the House, as it were, "on its weak side." Speaking at Newcastle-on-Tyne, early in August, 1892, Mr. Clery himself said— They must approach the House on its weak side; they must influence Members through their susceptibilities as opportunity presents itself when candidates appeal to their respective constituencies. A man is never more amenable to reason than when making a request. What private employee is able to say, "I am the permanent servant of my employer; I have a share in deciding who that, employer shall be; I will attack him on his weak side when he comes up for re-election, and then I will use my power. I will bring organised pressure to bear throughout the constituencies, and I will make this bargain: that if he will not vote for an increase in my pay, or diminish my duties, then I will not give him my vote." We have done away with personal and individual bribery, but there is a still worse form of bribery, and that is when a man asks a candidate to buy his vote out of the public purse. These men were guilty of a clear breach of the rules of discipline; and if this Motion means anything it is that insubordination is not to be punished. In regard to the circular, which has been issued to Members of Parliament for the purpose of supporting the Motion of the hon Member for Walthamstow, I am glad to see there is no such allusion. It was brought forward in support of his Motion by the very men whose cause he was defending, and what is the case of these men? What they attempted to do is this: That circular, if it means anything means this: that insubordination is not to be punished when it is perpetrated by representative men. The cases quoted there are direct cases of insubordination; and they go further than that, they try to show that in this respect there is a divergence of policy between the policy of the present Postmaster General and that of his predecessor. The late Postmaster General in 1893 laid down a most salutary rule that Post Office servants are free to take part in any political meeting, so long as they abstain from false statements and from scurrilous or insubordinate language, or incitement to insubordination. Mr. Morley afterwards wrote a letter in 1895 declaring that these public servants had all the privileges which trades unions enjoyed, but because Mr. Morley wrote that letter and used that phrase these men seemed to have jumped to the conclusion that that prohibition had been withdrawn, and that if it was proved that these men were representative, they could indulge in any kind of language they liked; and that claim was made in the name of the rights of combination. What are the rights of combination? The rights of combination afforded to trades unions are these: that it shall be perfectly right and legal for 30 men to do what it would have been right and legal for one man to do. All through this remarkable circular there is a very strange confusion of thought. They actually claim what the employees of no private firm would ever claim—namely, that an action which would be insubordinate or illegal, if perpetrated by one man, is not illegal or insubordinate if perpetrated by 30 men. The contention is perfectly absurd. There are three great things which distinguish our permanent public service. There is, in the first place, the remarkable loyalty with which they serve both Parties in the State. Then there is the permanency of their employment. Again, a great feature of that service is that no longer is it a question of favouritism, but promotion by merit is the rule. Those three great features have been slowly built upon this foundation—the elimination altogether of the element of political partisanship from the service. I hope nothing will be done to break down those foundations, on which alone the public service can rest—a service which, for its efficiency, its loyalty, and its high sense of public duty, I do not think surpassed—I doubt whether it is equalled or even approached by the public service of any other country in the world.

*MR. R. ASCROFT (Oldham)

I think it will be admitted by everyone that the Debate has been conducted with great temper and moderation, and I think that some of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman cannot possibly carry very great weight—in fact, I hardly think they were intended to do, as we need not fear that the postmen will become active partisans for one Party or the other. I differ also from the right hon. Gentleman, when he objects to the representatives of this union as outsiders. How can you expect them to be anything else? An official in the Post Office would not take that position, and, as indicated by the right hon. Gentleman, they are discharged servants, dismissed for an offence which possibly from the Post Office point of view is serious, though it is not a felony; it is simply a breach of duty, and they are not disqualified from holding such responsible positions, if they have full knowledge. I do not think they ought to be prevented from taking up the post of secretary to the union. They are valuable men, who have served an apprenticeship through a long course of time in that business, and are picked out by their fellow-men as qualified. I would ask the House to allow me—and I do not think the House would refuse—to go into past history for a few moments, though what we have to decide is what is to be the policy in the future. I wish to speak with great moderation. I wish to call the attention of the House to what was done during the last Session but one. We then passed a Bill for the conciliation and prevention of trade disputes. It is admitted that there are grievances and disputes in the Post Office. That cannot be denied, because the result of the recent inquiry, was, I believe, that over £100,000 a year has been paid in remuneration to Post Office servants. These differences will from time to time go on in the future. We passed that Bill, and the object of that Bill was to prevent disputes. Who had to prevent them? Who had to try to prevent them? Whom does he appeal to when disputes arise owing to the leaders of the Unions? It was only last September, when the lamentable dispute arose in the engineering trade, and trade was leaving the country, that I had an opportunity of seeing the leader of the employers' combination and the leader of the trade union walk into the room of the President of the Board of Trade for the purpose of having a talk with him. In other disputes the leader of the Union is called in to assist as the man most eminently qualified to deal with the question. There is nothing about this trade union of the Post Office to be afraid of. In regard to factory legislation, the Home Secretary eventually received deputations representing the workpeople and the employers. The Secretary for the Colonies received a deputation from the miners and factory operatives, and from the colliery proprietors during the discussion last Session on the Compensation for Injuries' Bill. Wherever you have capital and labour engaged, you have on each side representatives of the union, who are qualified to deal with the question. What is it you have to fear? The leaders of the trade union do not approach the employer for the purpose of carrying on or making disputes; they approach the employer for the purpose of conciliation in the first instance. Wherever you have had moderate leaders to approach the masters, the results, as have been proved in scores of cases, have proved most satisfactory. Of course there may be cases where a bad employer takes an unfair advantage of his workmen, and in that case it is not unreasonable that, during the time those men are out of work in consequence, they should be compensated by the trades' union. The leaders of the unions want to find out if the statement is true, and can only do so by going to headquarters. We want to encourage the employees in the Post Office to do everything openly. It would be better for the Government, for the Department, and for the men themselves. When disputes arise, it is above all things necessary to ascertain the true facts. How can that be done, except by means of an interview between the principal parties concerned? What difference is there between the head officials of the Post Office and the heads of a private firm? In Lancashire we settle our disputes by means of meetings between the workpeople and their employers, and the practice has proved so successful that it has been adopted by the iron-workers and other trades. One of the most important clauses in the late agreement between the engineers and their employers was that which provided that the leaders of the Union and the representatives of the employers should, at the commencement of any dispute, meet together for the purpose of settling the issues, and thus avoiding any loss of capital. In the interests of the Post Office and of the trades' unions, which are of great value, and will continue to be so if properly managed, I support the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite. I think we cannot do any possible harm by making the change, and giving this question a fair trial.


I do not propose to detain the House at any length. I may remind it there is a strong feeling that the recommendations of Lord Tweedmouth's Committee have not been thoroughly and fairly carried out. I am not altogether in sympathy with the Amendment before the House, for I think there is a very great deal of difficulty in the way of postmen taking part in electoral contests. I gather from the Secretary to the Treasury that these trades unions are not prohibited among Post Office officials, but I do not understand whether they are, in the full sense of the word, recognised. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Department objects to outside interference. I imagine, in that, he refers to certain officials who are outside the Service. I quite see his difficulty in the matter. I am not prepared to go so far as some hon. Members in reference to that, but I think it would be satisfactory to know whether the Post Office will acknowledge these officials if they are in the employ of the Post Office. I think myself it would be far better for the officials of the Postmen's Federation to be in Post Office employment rather than that they should be outsiders. If the Post Office will recognise the Postmen's Federation it is well that the fact should be known to the country at large, because there certainly is an impression in the Post Office service that the Government will not recognise their Union officials. A good deal has been said with reference to circularising Members of Parliament. I think that has been too much dealt with as a grievance. I certainly did not feel any grievance as regards these circulars, and I would far rather receive a circular from a body like that than the letters we often receive from private individuals in their private capacity.

Question put, "that those words be there added."

The House divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 163.

Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.) Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.) Hammond, John (Carlow)
Allan, William (Gateshead) Daly, James Hayden, John Patrick
Allen, W. (Newc.-under-Lyme) Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardgn.) Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-
Asher, Alexander Davitt, Michael Healy, Maurice (Cork)
Atherley-Jones, L. Dilke, Right Hon. Sir Charles Healy, T. M. (N. Louth)
Austin, Sir John (Yorks.) Donelan, Captain A. Hedderwick, Thos. Chas. H.
Bainbridge, Emerson Doogan, P. C. Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Doughty, George Hogan, James Francis
Brigg, John Evans, S. T. (Glamorgan) Holburn, J. G.
Brunner, Sir J. Tomlinson Farrell, J. P. (Cavan, W.) Jacoby, James Alfred
Burt, Thomas Fenwick, Charles Joicey, Sir James
Caldwell, James Finucane, John Jones, David Brynmor (S'sea)
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Flavin, Michael Joseph Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)
Clancy, John Joseph Flynn, James Christopher Jordan, Jeremiah
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.) Foster, Sir W. (Derby Co.) Kearley, Hudson E.
Clough, Walter Owen Gibney, James Kilbride, Denis
Condon, Thomas Joseph Gilhooly, James Kinloch, Sir Jno. Geo. Smyth
Crean, Eugene Gourley, Sir E. Temperley Lambert, George
Crombie, John William Griffith, Ellis J. Leng, Sir John
Lewis, John Herbert O'Brien, Jas. F. X. (Cork) Stevenson, Francis S.
Lough, Thomas O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Stuart, Jas. (Shoreditch)
Luttrell, Hugh Fownes O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary) Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
MacAleese, Daniel O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal) Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)
MacNeill, Jno. Gordon Swift O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Tanner, Charles Kearns
M'Cartan, Michael O'Kelly, James Tully, Jasper
M'Dermott, Patrick Pickersgill, Edward Hare Wallace, Robert (Edinburgh)
M'Donnell, Dr. M. A. (Qu'n's C.) Power, Patrick Joseph Wallace, Robert (Perth)
M'Ewan, William Price, Robert John Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)
M'Ghee, Richard Randell, David Weir, James Galloway
M'Kenna, Reginald Redmond, William (Clare) Williams, J. Carvell (Notts.)
Maden, John Henry Rickett, J. Compton Wills, Sir William Herny
Mandeville, J. Francis Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Wilson, John (Govan)
Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand Roche, Hon. Jas. (E. Kerry) Woods, Samuel
Molloy, Bernard Charles Schwann, Charles E.
Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carm'th'n) Sinclair, Capt. Jno. (Forfars.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Moss, Samuel Smith, Samuel (Flint) Mr. Herbert Roberts and
Murnaghan, George Souttar, Robinson Sir William Wedderburn.
Nussey, Thomas Willans Spicer, Albert
Allhusen, Augustus Hy. Eden Dane, Richard M. Johnston, William (Belfast)
Ascroft, Robert Davenport, W. Bromley- Kemp, George
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Denny, Colonel Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.
Bagot, Capt. J. Fitzroy Dickson-Poynder, Sir J. P. Kimber, Henry
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r) Digby, Jno. K. D. Wingfield- King, Sir H. Seymour
Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald (Leeds) Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers- Laurie, Lieut.-General
Banbury, Fredk. George Drage, Geoffrey Lawrence, Sir Edw. (Cornwall)
Barry, Francis T. (Windsor) Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)
Bartley, George C. T. Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E. Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man.) Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bris.) Finch, George H. Leighton, Stanley
Beach, W. W. B. (Hants) Finlay, Sir R. Bannatyne Llewelyn, Sir D. (Swansea)
Beckett, Ernest William Fisher, William Hayes Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.
Begg, Ferdinand Faithful Fison, Frederick William Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe FitzGerald Sir R. U. Penrose Long, Rt. Hon. W. (L'pool)
Beresford, Lord Charles Flannery, Fortescue Lopes, Hy. Yarde Buller
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Fletcher, Sir Henry Lucas-Shadwell, William
Bigwood, James Forster, Henry William Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred
Bill, Charles Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Macartney, W. G. Ellison
Blundell, Colonel Henry Garfit, William Macdona, John Cumming
Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn) Gedge, Sydney Maclean, James Mackenzie
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. J. Gibbs, Hon. V. (St. Albans) M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool)
Brookfield, A. Montagu Giles, Charles Tyrrell M'Calmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.)
Butcher, John George Goldsworthy, Major-General M'Iver, Sir Lewis
Carlile, William Walter Gordon, Hon. John Edward M'Killop, James
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E. Malcolm, Ian
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Martin, Richard Biddulph
Cecil, Lord Hugh Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)
Chaloner, Captain R. G. W. Green, Walford D. (W'dn'sb'y) Milbank, Powlett Chas. John
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Bir.) Greville, Captain Milner, Sir Frederick George
Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r) Gull, Sir Cameron Milton, Viscount
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Gunter, Colonel Monckton, Edward Philip
Charrington, Spencer Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G. Monk, Charles James
Clare, Octavius Leigh Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. W. Moon, Edward Robert Pacy
Clarke, Sir Edw. (Plymouth) Hanson, Sir Reginald More, Robert Jasper
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Hardy, Laurence Morrell, George Herbert
Coghill, Douglas Harry Hare, Thomas Leigh Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Haslett, Sir James Horner Murray, Col Wyndh'm (Bath)
Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd) Heath, James Newdigate, Francis Alex.
Courtney, Rt. Hn. Leonard H. Helder, Augustus Nicholson, William Graham
Cox, Robert Hermon-Hodge, Robert T. Nicol, Donald Ninian
Cranborne, Viscount Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down) Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay
Cripps, Charles Alfred Hill, Sir Edward S. (Bristol) Pollock, Harry Frederick
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Hoare, Samuel (Norwich) Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Currie, Sir Donald Howard, Joseph Pryce-Jones, Edward
Curzon, Rt Hn. G. N. (Lanc. SW) Howell, William Tudor Purvis, Robert
Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.) Hutton, J. (Yorks, N. R.) Quilter, Sir Cuthbert
Renshaw, Charles Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch) Warr, Augustus Frederick
Richardson, Sir T. (H'rtlep'l) Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.) Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)
Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W. Stanley, Lord (Lancashire) Webster, Sir R. E. (I. Wight)
Ritchie, Rt. Hn. G. Thomson Stanley, E. J. (Somerset) Wentworth, B. C. Vernon-
Robertson, Herbert (Hackney) Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)
Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M. Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)
Round, James Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester) Willox, Sir John Archibald
Russell, T. W. (Tyrone) Taylor, Francis Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse) Thorburn, Walter Wilson, J. W. (Worc'sh N.)
Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles Thornton, Percy M. Wodehouse, E. R. (Bath)
Seton-Karr, Henry Tomlinson, Wm. E. Murray Wyndham-Quin, Maj. W. H.
Sharpe, William Edward T. Tritton, Charles Ernest
Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renf.) Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.) Wanklyn, James Leslie Sir William Walrond and
Simeon, Sir Barrington Warkworth, Lord Mr. Anstruther.
Allan, William (Gateshead) Foster, Sir W. (Derby Co.) Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carm'th'n)
Allen, W. (Newc.-under-Lyme) Gibney, James Morton, Edw. J. C. (D'nprt.)
Allison, Robert Andrew Gilhooly, James Moss, Samuel
Ascroft, Robert Gourley, Sir E. Temperley Murnaghan, George
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Griffith, Ellis J. Nussey, Thomas Willans
Bainbridge, Emerson Hammond, John (Carlow) O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Hayden, John Patrick Paulton, James Mellor
Brigg, John Hayne, Rt. Hn. C. Seale- Philipps, John Wynford
Brunner, Sir J. Tomlinson Healy, Maurice (Cork) Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Burt, Thomas Healy, T. M. (N. Louth) Power, Patrick Joseph
Caldwell, James Hedderwick, Thos. Chas. H. Price, Robert John
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H. Randell, David
Caryill, Patrick Geo. H. Hogan, Jas. Francis Rickett, J. Compton
Cawley, Frederick Holburn, J. G. Roche, Hon. Jas. (E. Kerry)
Clancy, John Joseph Joicey, Sir James Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithn's-sh.) Jordan, Jeremiah Souttar, Robinson
Clough, Walter Owen Kearley, Hudson E. Strachey, Edward
Condon, Thomas Joseph Kilbride, Denis Stuart, Jas. (Shoreditch)
Crean Eugene Knox, Edmund Francis Vesey Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Crilly, Daniel Lambert, George Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)
Curran, Thos. (Sligo, S.) Lewis, John Herbert Tanner, Charles Kearns
Daly, James Luttrell, Hugh Fownes Tully, Jasper
Davies, M. Vaughan (Card'n.) MacAleese, Daniel Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.
Davitt, Michael MacNeill, Jno. Gordon Swift Wedderburn, Sir William
Doogan, P. C. M'Cartan, Michael Weir, James Galloway
Doughty, George M'Donnell, Dr. M. A. (Qu'n's C.) Williams, J. Carvell (Notts.)
Evans, S. T. (Glamorgan) M'Ghee, Richard
Fenwick, Charles Mandeville, J. Francis TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Finucane, John Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand Mr. Woods and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.
Flavin, Michael Joseph Molloy, Bernard Charles
Allhusen, Augustus Hy. Eden Cranborne, Viscount Green, Walford D. (W'dn'sb'y)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Crombie, John William Greene, Hny. D. (Shrewsbury)
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzR'y Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Greville, Captain
Bailey, James (Walworth) Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) Gull, Sir Cameron
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r) Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lanc. S. W.) Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G.
Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald (Leeds) Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.) Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. W.
Banbury, Fredk. George Dane, Richard M. Hanson, Sir Reginald
Bartley, George C. T. Dickson-Poynder, Sir J. P. Hardy, Laurence
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Digby, John K. D. Wingfield- Hare, Thomas Leigh
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bris.) Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon Haslett, Sir James Horner
Begg, Ferdinand Faithful Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers- Heath, James
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Helder, Augustus
Beresford, Lord Charles Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E. Hermon-Hodge, Robert T.
Bigwood, James Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)
Blundell, Colonel Henry Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man.) Hill, Sir Edward S. (Bristol)
Bowles, T. G. (Lynn Regis) Finch, George H. Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. J. Finlay, Sir R. Bannatyne Howell, William Tudor
Brookfield, A. Montagu Fisher, William Hayes Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick
Burdett-Coutts, W. Fison Frederick William Johnston, William (Belfast)
Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward FitzGerald, Sir R. U. Penrose Kemp, George
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Flannery, Fortescue Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.
Cecil, Lord Hugh Fletcher, Sir Henry Kimber, Henry
Chaloner, Captain R. G. W. Flower, Ernest King, Sir H. Seymour
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Bir.) Forster, Henry William Laurie, Lieut.-General
Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r) Foster, Colonel (Lancashire) Lawrence, Sir Edw. (Cornwall)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Garfit, William Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)
Charrington, Spencer Gedge, Sydney Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)
Clare, Octavius Leigh Gibbs, Hon. V. (St. Albans) Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Giles, Charles Tyrrell Llewelyn, Sir D-. (Swansea)
Coghill, Douglas Harry Goldsworthy, Major-General Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Gordon, Hon. John Edward Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Compton, Lord Alwyne Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E. Long, Rt. Hn. W. (L'pool)
Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth) Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Lopes, Hy. Yarde Buller
Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd) Graham, Henry Robert Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg'w) Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Macartney, W. G. Ellison
Macdona, John Cumming Rentoul, James Alexander Tomlinson, Wm. E. Murray
Maclean, James Mackenzie Richardson, Sir T. (H'rtlep'l) Tritton, Charles Ernest
M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool) Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W. Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard
McCalmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.) Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson Wanklyn, James Leslie
Milbank, Powlett Chas. John Russell, T. W. (Tyrone) Warkworth, Lord
Milner, Sir Frederick George Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles Warr, Augustus Frederick
Milton, Viscount Sharpe, William Edward T. Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)
Monckton, Edward Philip Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.) Webster, Sir R. E. (I. Wight)
Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Simeon, Sir Barrington Wentworth, B. C. Vernon-
More, Robert Jasper Sinclair, Louis (Romford) Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)
Morrell, George Herbert Skewes-Cox, Thomas Willox, Sir John Archibald
Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Grhm. (Bute) Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry) Stanley, Lord (Lancashire) Wilson, J. W. (Worc'sh N.)
Murray, Col. Wyndh'm (Bath) Stanley, E. J. (Somerset) Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks)
Nicol, Donald Niman Stephens, Henry Charles Wodehouse, E. R. (Bath)
Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart Wyndham-Quin, Maj. W. H.
Pollock, Harry Frederick Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.
Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Strauss, Arthur
Pryce-Jones, Edward Sutherland, Sir Thomas TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Purvis, Robert Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester) Sir William Walrond and
Pym, C. Guy Thornton, Percy M. Mr. Anstruther.

Main Question again proposed.