§ MR. STEADMAN (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, will he explain why the Controller of the Central Telegraph Office, in making arrangements for a deputation of the staff to wait upon him on 29th June in reference to the discontent expressed at the condition and management of the refreshment branch, stipulated that Mr. C. H. Garland, the local secretary of the Postal Telegraph 931 Clerks' Association, should be excluded from the representation?
§ MR. HANBURY
The Controller of the Central Telegraph Office, understanding that some discontent existed among the staff at the condition and management of the refreshment branch, directed one of the superintendents to select some of the more representative members of the staff to have an interview with him on the subject. The Controller made no stipulation that Mr. Garland should be excluded, but it is the case that the superintendent entrusted with the selection did, in the exercise of his discretion, exclude Mr. Garland from the number chosen to represent the division in which Mr. Garland works.
§ MR. STEADMAN
May I ask, is it not reducing the right of combination among the men to a mere farce to give the superintendent the right to select the deputation?
§ MR. STEADMAN
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether the premises and management of the refreshment branch of the Central Telegraph Office have been adversely reported upon by the president of the branch; whether he is aware that on Wednesday, 29th June, the Controller of the Central Telegraph Office informed a large deputation of telegraph clerks that he was not responsible for the statements made in the House of Commons to the effect that nothing was amiss with the refreshment branch, and that such statements were inaccurate; and whether, in view of the undoubted dissatisfaction, he will conduct a personal inquiry into the whole matter with a view to effect reform?
§ MR. HANBURY
The superintendent, who acts as president of the refreshment branch, has reported that the premises used for the branch are too small, in consequence of the growth of the staff, and also that, in view of that growth, and of the extension of premises, now in prospect, a reorganisation of the manage- 932 ment is desirable. The refreshment rooms are admittedly overcrowded, and steps have been taken to secure additional premises. The arrangements for their compulsory purchase have been sanctioned by Parliament; an adjoining building will be at the disposal of the Post Office next Michaelmas; and to time will be lost in adapting it to its purpose. Till this is done, however, some discomfort must arise, owing to insufficiency of space and the consequent difficulties of management, but new apparatus for cooking and carving is about to be installed, and the serving of meals will thereby be accelerated. If the Controller made the statement alleged in the second paragraph, which I do not believe, he was not speaking accurately. No statement has been made in this House that nothing was amiss with the refreshment branch. On the contrary, I have already stated the defects and the steps taken to remedy them. In reply to a question by the honourable Member on the 23rd May, respecting the quality of the food supplied, I stated that the catering was in the hands of a committee, on which the staff was represented, and that if there was anything amiss in that respect, which there was no reason to think, the remedy was in their own hands.