Another Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words—
And we humbly represent to your Majesty that, in view of the great discontent existing among employés of the Postal and Telegraph Services, immediate inquiry should he made into the causes of complaint.
§ MR. STEADMAN (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
My object, Sir, in moving this Amendment, is to draw the attention of the House to the fact that discontent prevails in the Postal Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Petitions regarding their grievances have been sent from all parts of the country; some have been replied to, and some have been ignored, and hence the men have had to resort to the remedy of putting questions in this House. During the Recess many public meetings have been held in the large towns and cities of Great Britain, which have been numerously attended by sorters, postmen, and telegraphists only. On the 28th of last month a mass meeting was held at the Memorial Hall, in which all sections of the men in the service were represented. The speakers were selected from among themselves, and not a single Member of Parliament was present. I think the very fact that a meeting was held under such conditions, and that no Member of Parliament was invited to attend and speak—not even one like myself, who has often been looked upon as an agitator creating dissension in the ranks of labour—must prove conclusively that there do exist grievances which ought to be inquired into by the Government. It is not my intention this evening to go into matters of detail affecting wages and hours of labour, but, in reference to the postmen, I should like briefly to touch upon one section of the wages question. I find that they are divided for the purposes of wages into five classes, and it is in regard to two of these classes that I wish to draw attention, to a very striking anomaly. Strange to say, although Woolwich is included for municipal purposes in the county of London, it is excluded, so far as wages are concerned, by the Postal Department, and instead of Woolwich district men being put upon the same scale of pay as the London men 1524 they are put upon a lower scale agreed upon by the Tweedmouth Committee. I believe that it is the practice to fix the rate of wages, as far as possible, in accordance with the cost of living in the various districts. It is a well-known fact that in Woolwich rents are as high, if not higher than they are in some parts of the south and east of London, and, as a matter of fact, an artisan is unable to procure a six-roomed house fit to live in under 14s., 16s., or 18s. a week; he is also unable to procure two or three rooms under 7s. per week. Even taking London itself, where the maximum rate of wages applies, in the Notting Hill district the result of the Tweedmouth Report has been to reduce the maximum from 32s. to 30s. per week. That, I think, is a grievance which should be inquired into. But the hardest case of all, in my opinion, is that of the rural postman. He gets the lowest pay of all. He has to come down to the office in the morning, he takes his letters for delivery, and has to walk a distance of six, seven, or eight miles, however inclement the weather may be. When he gets to the end of his journey the probability is that the man is wet through, yet he has to wait in the village four or five hours before he can get his letters which he has to take back. I am prepared to admit that the Postmaster-General has granted a sum of 30s. per year as shelter money to the rural postman, and that that is in excess of what the Tweedmouth Committee recommended. But what, after all is 30s.? It works out at something like an average of 1¼d. per day, and where, I should like to know, is a man for that sum likely to get shelter where he can if necessary dry his clothes. I do not think there are many people who would be prepared to put themselves to the inconvenience of having a postman in their kitchen for four or five hours drying his clothes for a sum of l¼d. If the postman goes into a public-house—and I am told that there are some villages in the happy position of not possessing such an institution—he must, of course, spend money which he can ill afford out of his wages, because the publican naturally does not care to have a man loafing about in his bar who does not purchase any drink. The only alternative for the unfortunate postman, then, is that he shall stand about in his wet clothes in the open air until the time 1525 arrives for him to commence his return journey. The only remedy, in my humble opinion, is for the Government itself to find shelters for these men. They could withhold the allowance of 30s. per annum, and in a few years they would recoup themselves the cost of providing the shelters. Undoubtedly the present system of making an allowance does not give satisfaction, and it would be much better if the Government would provide the men with shelters such as are given by the London County Council to the Fire Brigade, and which only cost a few pounds. Then, again, the rural postman has another grievance. It may be that his district is so large that he cannot deliver his letters on foot, and then he has to provide a mail cart at his own expense. It may be, and probably is the case, that he has not the money wherewith to purchase a pony and cart. He has consequently to borrow a sum of £30 for the purpose, and when he has purchased it he has to keep it in repair, and he even has to paint it vermilion red at his own expense. All he gets in return is an allowance of 15s. per week. Now, I do not own horses myself, but I am a member of a local board, and my experience on that body is that it costs something like 5s. per day for every horse we have in our stables. Consequently, I say that 15s. per week is not sufficient to compensate the village postman for the extra expense of providing a horse, cart, and stabling. And remember that where he has to borrow the money with which to purchase the horse and cart, he has to repay capital as well as pay interest. I have known cases in which men have lost their animals through accident or sickness, and have been unable to get a farthing compensation from the Government to enable them to purchase another horse. I now come to a more important body of men in the service of the Department, namely, the telegraphists. A telegraph clerk is usually about 16½ years of age when he enters that branch of the service. He has to pass an examination, and five years elapses before he is put upon the staff, and then he commences with a minimum of £65 per year, or just over 25s. per week. Now, I served an apprenticeship of seven years in order to learn my trade, but when that period expired I started on the full maximum rate 1526 of pay which was recognised in the trade. Of course, if I could have got more I would have taken it, but, at any rate, I would not have accepted a penny less than the maximum of the recognised rate of wages in the trade. I maintain that these young fellows, by the very fact of their having to servo five years before they obtain proficiency in their business, are entitled to a higher rate of pay than that which is allowed to them by the State—£65. What is the maximum wage? They rise by yearly increments of £6 per annum up to £65 per annum. Previously, in Mr. Fawcett's time, when he was Postmaster-General, they rose to £190 per annum. It is quite true that £190 is paid now, but it is only paid to a few overseers. Now, what happens? Why, the moment that these men can enter into the service of any private company, they immediately leave our service, because the wages and the conditions of their work are very much better in the service of private companies. I quite admit that these men do not often leave our service; but that is because there are very few vacancies. But whenever there are vacancies then they do leave. My chief reason, however, for moving this Amendment is that these men should have the full rights of labour combination, as other organised workmen now enjoy in this country. It might be said that they are allowed to combine; well, we shall see what sort of combination is allowed by the Government. Sir William Harcourt, some years ago, stated that combination was the duty of all workmen, andcivil servants will no doubt derive material benefit from combination in the same manner as other workmen.In April, 1895, Mr. Arnold Morley, who was then Postmaster-General, in answer to a question put to him by Mr. MacDonald, one of the controllers, said that the officials of a Parliamentary Department were at liberty to combine in any way they thought proper; all the privileges unions enjoyed, and rightly enjoyed, were rightly accorded to the postal officials. Now, let us see how that is carried out. On July 1st, 1898, the Postal Telegraph 1527 Clerks' Association sent a civil letter to the Controller—We, the undersigned, beg most respectfully to ask you to receive us as a deputation to receive from us a petition, of which we enclose a copy.The petition was signed by a large number of the staff; but what was the reply to that communication?" 23rd of July," the same year—With reference to the enclosed letter, I shall be happy to receive a deputation from members of the staff, but I cannot receive a deputation which comes from the Postal Telegraph Clerks' Association.Sir Spencer Walpole, in the evidence he gave before the Committee which inquired into this question, said that the men had a right of combination, but he would not allow intimidation either by the men themselves or the officials over them. Now, that is a principle with which I entirely concur and agree. I do not believe in the principle of intimidation being shown by either side; but I maintain that, so far as the Postal Service itself is concerned, the intimidation is all on one side; that the men themselves dare not, for the fear of losing their positions, ask their fellow men to join their organisation. Because, if he happens to be a nasty kind of man, he is likely to report them, and then they get instant dismissal. What about the official, last August, Mr. Ash? He complained to the medical officer of being unwell, and when the time was due for his increment to be increased, he was told by Mr. Felix Wright, the Sub-Controller, that it was proposed not to recommend that increase, and he was also subjected to a very severe cross-examination as to his connection with the Association. I want to know why, if intimidation is not to be allowed on the one hand, it should be allowed on the other? Not a word has been said to Mr. Felix Wright, and he still holds the position of Sub-Controller. I may say that Mr. Ash got his increment alter all; but why did he get it? Because the information was supplied to myself, and I immediately wrote to the Postmaster-General, and Mr. Ash immediately got his increment. And knowing him as I do, I believe that the Postmaster-General, the Duke of Norfolk, is at all times a gentleman, 1528 and if these matters came to his knowledge he would not, I believe, tolerate them for a moment. Then, take the case of Mr. Garland, who is the Secretary of the Association. At the time that the agitation was on last year in reference to the refreshments stuff, the Superintendent arrogated to himself the right of selecting from the men the representatives to appear before the Committee. Now, had the men through their organisation had the right, the very man whom the Superintendent left out of his selection, Mr. Garland, would have been the man who would have been selected by them. Now, take the question of Messrs. Cheeseman and Clery. In 1892 they were discharged. The only offence which they had committed was obeying the mandate of their Executive; and only last year Mr. Groves, the sorter, who was the Treasurer of the Fawcett Association, was politely told that ho would either have to give up his connection with that Association, or he would not be permitted to remain in the service. So much for the combination in labour which is allowed the men. Now, Mr. Speaker, I have myself for 25 years been a member of my own trade organisation, and the right of combination is a cardinal faith with me, and I claim in this House, as I claim outside, that the same rights of combination, with all their privileges, should be conceded to the 160,000 workmen of the Post Office that I, and other organised workers, enjoy at the present moment. In 1871 Parliament recognised our right of combination by passing the Trades Union Act. The Government itself has passed the Conciliation Act, which, if it means anything at all, means that there are always two sides to a question, and two parties to a dispute. In 1894 the organised workers of the City of London petitioned Lord Salisbury, who was then, as he is now, the Prime Minister of the country, and asked him to receive a deputation of organised workers to discuss the Eight Hours Question. Lord Salisbury wrote a polite reply, and invited us to meet him; and the right honourable Gentleman who is now the Leader of this House accompanied Lord Salisbury on that occasion. Not a word or condition of any kind was laid down as to who were to be the representatives, and no conditions were stated as 1529 to whom the men were to select, or whom they were not to select. They were left a free hand to select their own representatives, and as I was one of the representatives on that occasion I am able to speak with particular knowledge. I also maintain that any organised system of communication between Departmental chiefs and their servants must be a good thing, and if Unions were officially recognised by the Postmaster-General, I am prepared to say that it would save, not only him, but my honourable Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, and also the Members of this House, a considerable amount of time. Because then, instead of having to put questions down upon the paper, and wearying my honourable Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, the men themselves, through their own organisation, would be able to put their own grievances before the Postmaster-General, and, what is more, I believe the organised workers always select the very best men for the office. It has been stated that discipline must be maintained. Well, the Trades Unions of this country, through their officials, are the first to enforce discipline, whether their men are working for private bodies or for the Government itself. And I take it that, as a Prime Minister in this country, in selecting the Cabinet, selects the very best man he can find for the position, so it is with the body of organised workers, and so it would be consequently that discipline would be perhaps better maintained than it is at the present moment, and a good deal of time would be saved to the Postmaster-General and to the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury. I am quite aware of and I have no doubt that the Secretary to the Treasury will mention, the fact of the Tweedmouth Committee; but I submit that that Committee was a failure, first, because of its composition, because its recommendations were not in accordance with the evidence put before it, because some of the grievances laid before it were not dealt with in the report, and because its findings created a large number of fresh grievances, and fomented the feeling which already existed without remedy being found. Lord Tweedmouth was the only impartial member on that Committee; the 1530 other members were chiefs of departments, skilled in all branches of economy and cutting down of expenses in their establishments. The fact of their being heads of departments, their sympathies, no matter how hardly they endeavoured to be impartial, have been with the chiefs of the Post Office, and not with employés. As a matter of fact, in no Court of Law would persons having a personal interest, such as these gentlemen had in this matter, be allowed to act as Judges. Therefore, on these grounds, the contention of the Committee that it was impartial was a complete farce. Now, the prosperity of the country, in my opinion, depends very largely upon the happiness of its people; and the prosperity and success of a gigantic commercial establishment, such as the Post and Telegraph Department is to-day, must largely depend upon the treatment meted out to the workmen and women employed in the Department. After all, though you may drive a nag, you will get more out of it by kindness than by brute force. My own experience of workmen is that the more kindly an employer treats them the more work the men will try to do for that employer with a good heart and spirit; but if a driver tries to drive them with brute force, the moment his back is turned the workmen will take advantage of that employer. Either these men have grievances, or they have not; but, at any rate, no harm would be done if a Committee were to be appointed to go into the case of discontent which now exists, and, as the Tweedmouth Committee was a failure because it was composed of only one impartial man, namely, Lord Tweedmouth, I am not going to ask this House to appoint a Committee of a similar character. As I say, the Committee which will give satisfaction, and satisfaction only, to the men who have now cause of complaint, is an entirely impartial Committee composed of honourable Members of this House, of which the Secretary to the Treasury should be Chairman. Sir, I believe I was out of order in my original Amendment in introducing the words, "that a Committee should be appointed"; and those words have been deleted; but, after all, that was merely my Amendment. The Postmaster-General is not a Member of this House, and I say of any Department em- 1531 ploying 160,000 hands, that the Chief of that Department should be a Member of this House. I am prepared to give the honourable Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury all the credit which is due to him, for I have never put a question down upon the paper but he has answered it to the best of his ability, and I know he is doing his level best to go into the matter; but he represents an entirely different Department in this House, a Department which tries to raise all the cash it can, no matter, if I may say so, whence it comes; and that being so, he is not able to answer as the Postmaster-General would be able to answer, and, I say, in a Department whose profit is something like three or four millions sterling per annum, there is room for improvement so far as the men who help to raise that profit are concerned, and neither the House of Commons, nor the public outside have a right to expect to make a profit of three or four millions sterling per annum at the expense of the sweating of labour, as it is being sweated in this Department to-day. We talk of freeing slaves in other parts of the world, but we have got to put our own House in order first. God knows that there are white slaves enough in this country, and these are the men that we ought to free first before we talk about freeing slaves in other parts of the world. In conclusion, I appeal to the honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to accept the Amendment in the spirit in which I move it, and to promise the House that he will have an independent and impartial committee appointed to inquire into this matter. I have great pleasure in moving the Amendment which stands in my name upon the paper.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Kilkenny)
Mr. Speaker, I rise with very great pleasure indeed to second the Amendment of the honourable Member for the Stepney Division. Bearing in mind the fact that he has gone so exhaustively into the complaints of the Post Office employés, I do not propose to detain the House by following upon the lines the honourable Member has taken, as I do not hope to make out a better case 1532 than he has already done. Taking a, broad view of the case, Sir—I speak with the full authority, and at the request of the Post Office employés in Ireland—I say that they have an excellent case for the inquiry they ask, and that the Post Office authorities would be very ill-advised indeed in declining it. I can, of course, only speak on behalf of the Irish employés, who make common cause with the other employés of the Post Office in Great Britain, whose grievances are more or less the same. They demand an inquiry into their grievances in the hope that they will be explained before an impartial Committee of this House, as I think they ought to be, in order that Parliament may find a remedy. Sir, I say that the Post Office officials would be very ill-advised in refusing this inquiry. We admit that there has been a Committee for a comparatively small number of years, which sat to investigate former grievances of the Post Office employés, but we deny that its composition was such as to give satisfaction to those whose grievances were inquired into. I am not prepared, Sir, nor have I the desire in the least, to cast any reflection upon any of the officials of the Post Office who sat on that Committee, but the glaring fact is before the House that while it was presided over by Lord Tweedmouth, the other four members of the Commission, or at any rate the greater part of them, were the heads of the very department with reference to which complaint was made. Post Office officials are, taking them at their best, only human, and the employés confidence in a tribunal composed of those who had been over them while those complaints were growing up must have been naturally shaken. Taking the ordinary man of the world, he does not feel comfortable in submitting a grievance for adjustment to persons whom he believes, rightly or wrongly, to be prejudiced against him. Therefore, I say they have an excellent case in throwing themselves, so to speak, upon the mercy of Parliament, and asking that their grievances shall be remedied. Grievances they still have, and from my experience of the Post Office system, I have come to the conclusion that they have been intensified rather than alleviated. The employés ask 1533 that this House of Commons shall now appoint an impartial Committee to inquire into these grievances, and if it is the contention of the Post Office that there are no grievances, I know of no easier way of proving it. Mr. Speaker, as has been pointed out by the honourable Member for the Stepney Division, there are no fewer than 160,000 employés of the State who make these demands. I take leave to say that they are 160,000 employés of the State who are most in touch with the people, who are most popular with the people, and who are in reality most useful to the people. It would be a very serious matter indeed if the Post Office took up the position of denying the existence of the grievances, and of refusing inquiry into them. Sir, briefly put, the officials complain of insufficient pay, and unsatisfactory rules with regard to promotion and pensions. If the Post Office authorities are satisfied that there is no case under any one of these headings, then I repeat, Sir, that they have the remedy in their own hands, and can, within the next week, appoint a Committee of Inquiry into these alleged grievances and report to the House, and they will, at all events, satisfy the employés as to their willingness to hear their case and to allow them, if they have a case, to make it; and then, of course, it will be for Parliament to say what remedy should be applied. Some time back I had the honour of being on the Departmental Committee of Inquiry into some of the grievances that arose, and personally I have to say that no one would think of questioning the spirit of fairness which actuated the Duke of Norfolk, the Postmaster-General. I should perhaps say more if the noble Lord were present; the Secretary to the Treasury only is present; but I certainly say, as far as my knowledge is concerned, that there is no one more willing to hear complaints, and no one more willing to take the trouble to try and meet them. Having said so much, I am sure I shall not be misunderstood when I say that I should have felt in a more independent position as a member of that Committee if I had not had at the same table with me a number of permanent officials. In my opinion those permanent officials should have occupied the position of witnesses and 1534 not of judges. I am quite satisfied that that is the feeling of the Post Office officials. Rightly or wrongly—and again I say I would not think of imputing other than a spirit of fair play to any of the permanent officials I happen to know—the Post Office employés have not that confidence in a tribunal composed of permanent officials that they have in a Committee appointed by this House from among its own Members. They look upon the permanent official as a permanent danger to their peace, well-being and comfort in the service. Sir, I do not think that I need trespass at any greater length upon the time of the House. As I have said, I accept, and I am sure the Post Office officials will accept, the exhaustive statement made by the honourable Member for Stepney. Not only can I speak on behalf of the Irish employés, but I can speak—and I do speak here to-night—with the authority and at the request of my colleagues who compose the Irish Independent Party, with whom I act. I go farther and say that, although I am not directly authorised to say so, there is not one of the 80 Nationalist Members who sit in this House who do not favour this reasonable demand of the Post Office employés. Sir, I conclude by urging upon the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to bring the Debate to a close this evening by announcing on behalf of the Government whom he represents that the demand of these employés shall be conceded, or that, at all events, the Government are not afraid, whether there is a grievance or not, of giving them an opportunity of stating their case fully and fairly before an independent Committee.
§ COLONEL DALBIAC (Camberwell, N.)
I do not propose to take up the time of the House by going into all the arguments and facts brought forward by the honourable Member for Stepney in moving this Amendment, but I would, Sir, appeal to the right honourable Gentleman who represents the Post Office in this House that he should give us his sympathy in this matter, and grant the independent inquiry which is asked for in this Amendment. This is not an ordinary agitation of men asking for larger wages or better conditions of ser- 1535 vice. This is a demand by practically the whole of the employés of the Post Office that the conditions of service should be reasonable, and that they shall be treated with the ordinary justice which all employés have the right to demand. I would like to refer more especially to certain grievances of the postal and telegraph staff. Now, I have no doubt that the right honourable Gentleman will tell us that the main grievance of the postal and telegraph clerk has been already dealt with—I refer to' the maximum having been put down from £190 to £160 in the case of the five years man. Now, Sir, of course we shall be told that the maximum has not been reduced from £190 to £160 at all, but that it is still in the power of everybody to obtain the maximum of £190. Well, Sir, I maintain that practically the reverse is the case. It is still possible, undoubtedly, for every man—I say "possible"—to attain that maximum, but it is only probable that a very small number will ever reach it. Formerly, when these men entered the service, they had a reasonable chance of reaching a class of which that was the maximum, but now a further class has been formed whose maximum goes to £190, and that is a superior class. But only a few men are selected, and, therefore, only a few out of the bulk who join the service have an opportunity now of reaching that maximum. Therefore, I think that these men have a right to demand an inquiry, and that they are in the right when they allege that their maximum has been reduced from £190 to £160. Then again, Sir, in the case of the five years men, we shall be told, I know, that they have got a great boon in the fact that they can now earn no fewer than three increments, increasing their pay to a very large extent. Well, Sir, it is quite possible, I admit, that there are a considerable number to whom the concession was granted with one hand, but with the other hand it was made practically impossible to a very large number of these men. It is quite impossible for any of the female staff to earn increments. It is also perfectly impossible for the men who are the employés, to a very large extent, of the United Kingdom, to obtain any technical knowledge of telegraphy, because there are no technical schools in those places which 1536 they could attend, and now I hear that the Central Technical College in London has been closed, I suppose because the Post Office found that perhaps too large a number of men gained certificates there, and so obtained the extra increments. Therefore I think, Sir, that on these grounds alone this portion of the telegraph staff have at least a right to demand that there should be some independent inquiry into their condition. Their maximum has practically been reduced from £190 to £160 in the case of the five years men in whose behalf the Tweedmouth Committee specially recommended that some increased advantage should be granted, because their condition was inferior to that of any other employés in a private firm; for they had been granted a concession, I say, with one hand, and with the other hand that concession had been taken away, or withheld at least from a very large number of them. Well, Sir, all these men ask is that they should have an independent inquiry, and I think it is perfectly reasonable that an inquiry of this sort should be held entirely by an independent Committee. Only last year, or the year before, the right honourable Gentleman and the Postmaster-General held an inquiry in this House into the matter. But, Sir, I maintain that where you have a tribunal composed of officials on the one hand, or of the men on the other, it is unfair for one to give judgment against the other. All these men ask is that they shall have an absolutely independent body to conduct the inquiry into their case, to examine both sides, and to give an absolutely independent judgment. These men are as loyal to their official duties and as loyal to their department as men to be found anywhere. All they ask for, in my opinion, is simple justice, and I am perfectly prepared to say that, as far as the telegraph clerks are concerned, they will abide most loyally by any decision to which the independent Committee may come. I sincerely hope the right honourable Gentleman will see his way to give at least a sympathetic answer, so that we shall not be compelled to push this Amendment to a Division.
§ * MR. SPICER (Monmouth Boroughs)
I desire to say just a few words in support of the Amendment which has been moved 1537 by my honourable Friend the Member for Stepney. I have no doubt that a great number of Members on this side of the House have, like myself, received the various documents and statements that have been issued by the employés of the Post Office in connection with this dispute. I have also listened from time to time to the speeches of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and I have listened not only to his answers to the different questions, but. I have noticed his actions, and I desire to recognise most fully what I believe is the perfectly fair spirit that has actuated him in this matter. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that in spite of his action and that of the Duke of Norfolk, the Postmaster-General, to try and satisfy the men, this conflic goes on, and it not only goes on, but seems to grow. It is perfectly clear that the Post Office employés did not like the Tweedmouth Commission. I confes I am not altogether surprised at thei not liking it. After all, Lord Tweed mouth was the only independent man o the Committee, in a certain sense. I am not in the least attributing any bad motives or improper action to the other gentlemen who formed that Committee, but after all they were simply in their position because they happened to be connected with departments of the Civil Service. It is perfectly clear there are great complaints, especially amongst the sorters and the telegraphists, a body, I am told, who amount to something like 50,000. Well, Sir, as an employer of labour, I have always held the principle that when there is a dispute between employer and employés, as a final resort, the employés have a right to approach their employer. I cannot help thinking that if that principle were more clearly recognised and acted on, we should be saved many of the great industrial disputes which we have in this country. Of course, I recognise fully, as anyone must who has any connection with a large industry, that, as a rule, the negotiations must take place through the managers and heads of the departments. But maintain that when those managers, when those heads of departments, have failed in coming to a satisfactory conclusion with the employés, then, before the matter comes to an open conflict, those 1538 who are responsible as employers should be willing to come into personal intercourse and negotiation with the employés. Now, it seems to me that this dispute has arrived at that stage. There has been an inquiry which, as I say, apart from Lord Tweedmouth, was conducted mainly by those who are connected with the different departments. There has also been negotiation between those who feel aggrieved and the Secretary to the Treasury and the Duke of Norfolk. But they have not come to a satisfactory conclusion, and, after all, a body of 50,000 men have a right to consideration at our hands. If the heads of the Postal Departments and the Postmaster-General have failed to find a solution of the difficulty with the employés, they should have a right of appeal to this House, because, after all, we are the masters of the situation. That is not an extreme position to take. I cannot help remembering that in the year 1895 the wishes and intentions of the War Department were, set aside in the celebrated division which made so much difference in the aspect of this House—the celebrated cordite division. That was a case in which the House felt justified in over-riding the intentions and the actions of the Head of a Government Department. They did it in that case, and it seems to me this is another case where the House has a right to say that those who have tried to settle this dispute having failed, this House should appoint an independent Committee, composed of Members of this House, to go into this question and try to settle it satisfactorily. I admit that it will be a thankless task for those who undertake it. Those who undertake it may not come to all the conclusions which the employés of the Post Office might desire, but I believe that an independent Committee of this House will come to just conclusions, and I am informed by those who are taking a deep interest in this question, as representing the employés, that they will accept the decision of an independent Committee of this House. It is for these reasons, Mr. Speaker, that I venture to say these few words on behalf of the Amendment, and I trust that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, though he may not be able to accept this Amendment, because it would, of course, take the form of a vote 1539 of want of confidence, will give such a reply as to indicate that he is willing to appoint this Committee, so that this Amendment may not be pressed to a Division.
§ * SIR J. LENG (Dundee)
Mr. Speaker, the honourable Members who have addressed the House on this subject have spoken on behalf of the postal servants and telegraphists in the metropolis. As a Scotch Member, I desire to say that in Scotland also there is among the servants of the Postal and Telegraph departments very considerable dissatisfaction. Only a few months ago the postmen and telegraphists in the city which I represent addressed a very temperate and care fully-prepared memorial to the Postmaster-General, setting forth their grievances with regard especially to classification and increment of wages, and to what appeared to them to be the un reasonable differences between the rate of pay in Dundee as compared with that of larger places. They showed incontestably that the rents and cost of living in Dundee were quite as high as in Edinburgh and Glasgow, while the wages of the Dundee men were apportioned on a lower scale. I do not intend to occupy the time of the House further than to say that, as you have already had representations made on behalf of the telegraphists of England and of Ireland, I desire to call attention to the fact that the same feeling exists in regard to the same grievances in Scotland. I would associate myself with honourable Members who have previously spoken in expressing the hope that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will agree to appoint a Select Committee of this House to go into this question. I am certain that if the right honourable Gentleman were himself in the chair of that Committee, if there was a fair representation of Members from both sides of the House on the Committee, and if the facts that could be brought before the Committee were, as they would be, fairly considered by that Committee, its decision and report would be respected by the servants in the Postal and Telegraph Departments, and would be accepted in quite a different spirit to that in which the report and decision of the Departmental Committee have been received. Departmental Committees represent officialdom. What is wanted in 1540 this case is fairness, independence, and common sense applied to questions of this kind without regard to special departmental views. We have all the greatest confidence in the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and we should be glad to see him apply his thoroughly fair and equitable mind to the consideration of the grievances of the servants of the Post Office.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I so often address this House on questions of this nature in the interests of Government employés that I desire to say but very few words on this Amendment. There cannot be a shadow of doubt that great dissatisfaction exists throughout the entire Postal Service, and more especially in London, and that that dissatisfaction, far from decreasing since the Tweedmouth Committee, has tended to increase. I am quite confident that the only way to put a stop to the growing dissatisfaction in the service is to appoint a Committee of Inquiry. I am positively ashamed of the number of questions which I have put to the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury in connection with this subject, and I am bound to admit that the right honourable Gentleman has done almost everything in his power to meet the demands of the officials, but I venture to assert that if the Archangel Gabriel were in the right honourable Gentleman's place he could not disabuse the minds of the postal employés of the fact that they have not received justice. I gladly admit that the right honourable Gentleman and the Departmental Committee did much for the employés, but what they did seems to have been entirely thrown away, owing to the fact that they have lost confidence. It is the Dreyfus case over again. An honourable Member says, "Not so bad as that." Well, in the minds of the postal employés it is. A certain section of them believe that they have not had a fair trial, just as a certain section of the French people believe that Dreyfus has not had a fair trial. I would be one of the first Members of this House to support the right honourable Gentleman in maintaining the strictest discipline throughout the Postal Service. I have impressed upon the mind of every postal employé who has approached me the fact that discipline is not only 1541 necessary, but more necessary in the Postal Service than it would be in a private concern, and I do not think the right honourable Gentleman will have much difficulty in enforcing whatever discipline is necessary for the welfare of the public service. I should like to say one word in favour of the London men. The telegraph clerks allege a breach of faith in an alteration of the conditions upon which they entered^ the service, and that is peculiarly a question for an independent Committee to determine. The honourable Member for Dundee said that the question of increment of wages was one of great moment in the large towns in Scotland. It is of infinitely greater moment in London. The right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will remember the evidence that was given before us on the Departmental Committee. One young man stated that when he entered the service he had to exist on a certain small sum, and had no relatives with whom he could live. One member of the Committee said, "But you lived on the sum, did you not?" The young man, with tears in his eyes, replied, "Lived on it! No, I starved on it." The question of increment of wages is one of the utmost importance to the poorer classes of employés, who are hard pressed by the cost of living in London and large towns, and I hope the right honourable Gentleman will consent to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry.
§ * MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to occupy the time of the House to any great extent, but I heartily endorse much that has been said by those who have preceded me. Two or three years ago, when Mr. Arnold Morley proposed the appointment of the Departmental Committee, I suggested that one of the rank and file of the Post Office should be added to the Committee. It was felt by the Post Office employés that they would like to feel certain that the case had been looked into fully from their point of view. That suggestion was not adopted. The Tweedmouth Committee sat, and the employés of the Post Office, though they have received some advantages, are not satisfied, and they ask this House and the Postmaster-General to appoint a Select Committee of independent Members, who shall give an impartial opinion 1542 on the subjects laid before them. Well, I heartily support that suggestion, and I hope we shall hear some satisfactory acceptance of that proposal from the right honourable Gentleman who represents the Post Office in this House, and to whose courtesy and admirable business qualities I should like to bear my testimony. The same observations apply to the Postmaster-General. In fact, his manner was so gracious to the men in August, two years ago, that he misled them to think they were going to get many advantages which they did not get. I trust that not only will the right honourable Gentleman accept the suggestion for a Committee, but that he will give the employés explicit information as to how far their right of combination extends. At the present moment this is in a state of the greatest confusion in their minds. Mr. Arnold Morley wrote to them stating that they were to be "allowed to combine in any way they liked," but the present Postmaster-General says, in a letter he addressed to them, that they have a "large measure of combination" allowed to them. There is all the difference in the world between full power to combine and a "fair measure of combination." At present the employés are in a very unsatisfactory position, because everything is referred to the particular local postmaster. If he is an amiable man, he acknowledges the association of the employés, but if he is not he throws discredit upon it, refuses to receive its officials, and sends an answer back through anyone he likes, and not through the association officials. Well, I think it would be desirable, both in the interests of the postmasters and the men themselves, that there should be an exact line drawn as to how far their rights go. The men claim absolute and full civil rights, like any other person not in the service. That seems a pretty large demand, and I think it should be gone into by the Select Committee that has been suggested. They could consider all the other public Services, and see how far civil rights were accorded to employés. I think that would be one special object of the Committee, and I trust that we shall find that the Postmaster-General accepts the suggestion. I have nothing further to say, but I hope we shall hear something satisfactory upon the subject.
THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBUBY,) Preston
The honourable Member who introduced this Amendment in his speech referred to two topics: one was the question of the discontent, and the other was the question of wages. Now, I propose to deal with the question of wages first, because it is principally in connection with that that he asks for this Select Committee. Well, now, I think those Members of the House who have heard the speeches that have been made will notice that the main argument for a fresh inquiry is that there, is discontent. If there is discontent really existing, honourable Members ought to have been able to point out the causes and the particular class of grievances complained of, but I have heard nothing new whatever in this respect during the discussion to-night. These questions which have been brought forward have already been thoroughly threshed out before the Tweedmouth Committee. I have already explained in this House the answer to those grievances, but I am perfectly willing again to go through them. It does seem to me a somewhat remarkable fact that out of an army of 160,000 men it is only possible for honourable Members, who have probably been inundated with pamphlets on this subject, to bring forward the few small, almost local, grievances which have been mentioned in this House to-night. I take the case of the honourable Member for Stepney, that of the Woolwich postmen, who argued that Woolwich was part of London, and that, therefore, those men ought to be paid at the London rate. Well, the honourable Member knows that the further you get from the centre of London the more those wages go down. That is in accordance with the established system. But, after all, the general rule as regards postmen is this—it is the case of postmen that the honourable Member was referring to, and it does not apply to sorters and telegraphists—that their wages vary according to the population of the towns they serve, and that is a rough-and-ready test. At the same time, if there are exceptional circumstances in regard to any town which render the cost of living exceptionally high, the Post 1544 Office is always willing to take that into consideration. I do not know whether that is the case at Woolwich or Dundee, which is another case that has been mentioned. The second grievance of the honourable Member is the case of the rural postmen, who are not a very large class. Their grievance was that the Post Office, in addition to their salaries, which have been fixed as fair by the Tweedmouth Committee, had offered these men the small sum of 10s. a year to enable them to find shelter at the end of their day's walk. We all know that all the rural postmen walk a considerable distance—I think six miles is the maximum—and before they start back with their letters they are a considerable time in the village, and it was suggested that it would be only fair to offer them a small nut, in order that they might find shelter during those two or three hours. The honourable Member also said that in nearly all these cases they could put up a hut for the use of these men at a much better and cheaper rate, and that that should be the general system adopted by the Post Office. Well, now with regard to the rural postmen who have mail carts. In regard to these the honourable Member made two observations which are not quite in accordance with the facts. In the first place, he said that most of these men were allowed 15s. for a horse and cart, whereas it ranges from 15s. to 20s., and the average is nearer 20s.
§ MR. STEADMAN
When I made that statement I was referring to my own practical knowledge of the cost of a horse under one of our local Boards, of which I am a member.
§ MR. HANBURY
Well, I think the honourable Member must know that to keep a horse it ought certainly to be above 15s. a week, and, therefore, I think 20s. a week is a fair allowance.
§ MR. HANBURY
Then there is the question raised by the honourable Member for North Camberwell, and that is the old question of the five years telegraphists. Now, to begin with, a large portion of the Post Office staff has not even been mentioned in this discussion. It has not been alleged that there is a single grievance on the part of the 1545 sorters. Now I come to the telegraphists, which is the only other remaining branch, and their complaints are limited to two classes. With regard to the five years' men, their complaint is that the maximum pay of operating telegraphists ought to be £190, instead of £160. Now what is a five years' man? He is a man who, as a rule, is 21 years of age, who has been apprenticed at the cost of the State; and not only has he been apprenticed at the cost of the State, but he has had money paid to him during his apprenticeship; whereas apprentices generally are under a very different system to that. At 21 he receives 24s. a week, which I believe is what is called the living wage in London. It is said that he ought to have more than that, because by the end of the five years he has been engaged he is a skilled man. Well, I perfectly admit that he is a skilled man, and at the end of that period he probably knows as much of his work as he will know 20 years after, and although 20 years afterwards he practically knows no more of his work, and is no more useful a servant, he has been during all those years receiving an additional increment of £6 a year. I say, therefore, that that man is very fairly well paid, and, in fact, well paid. Telegraphists talk as if this operating work was a superior kind of skilled work, but it is only, after all, a superior kind of type-writing. These telegraphists are rather inclined to look down upon the sorters, but, as far as I have been able to study the question, I really believe that sorting requires more skill than the ordinary telegraphic work. In addition to this, when the conference was held before the Duke of Norfolk and myself, we especially tried to meet the case of these five years men. It was given in evidence before the Tweedmouth Committee that, after five years' service, these men would get less wages than they would have got in the open market, and although it was felt, and they also admitted it, that their pay, spread over the whole of the service was adequate, we waived these difficulties, and we specially dealt with these men. We decided upon two things. We said that instead of waiting till they were 24, as the Tweedmouth Committee said they must do, we would allow men at 21 to qualify for what is known as the double increment, which is an additional in- 1546 crement yearly to their salaries of £6 a year, if they will learn to do sorting. That is on the whole much lighter work than telegraphic work, and, in addition to that, it will be a great advantage to the Post Office service generally, because it will enable the holidays, which are now limited too much to the winter months, to be fairly spread and divided, and will allow a larger number of holidays to be given in the summer time. It will also have the further effect of doing away with split duties. Remember that the telegraphists will come in under that arrangement, and it is eminently to their advantage as regards split duties, and it gives them an additional £6 a year. Of course, there is no extension of their hours, and they are simply asked to do a different kind of work, which is not extra work. In addition to that, we laid it down that anybody who could pass the technical examination in telegraphy would get an additional £6 a year income. Therefore, if these men qualify as sorters, and pass this technical examination, at 21 they not only get 24s. a week, with an annual increment of £6 a year, but by qualifying for these two services they get an additional increment of £12 a year. Therefore, on the whole, I do not think that they have very much to grumble at. And now, with regard to what is alleged to be a breach of faith, namely, that the men who cannot pass to what is called the senior class, and who have to stop at £160 a year, unless they are specially selected for the superior service—which has always been the case. No hope has ever been held out to any of these men that they would pass direct into the senior class and reach £190 a year without showing some special qualification. That is, after all, only reasonable. I perfectly admit, with the Tweedmouth Committee, that this senior class has been doing too much supervising work, but what we—the Duke of Norfolk and myself—did was to arrange that there should be a larger number of supervisors appointed of both classes, and we also did away with the technical examination for this class, and the result is that these men, at their own request, now pass into this superior class by selection instead of by examination, which is now practically limited to men doing superior operating work and to a few men who do supervising duties. We have, therefore, largely increased their 1547 chances of promotion by increasing the number of supervisors. Therefore, again, I confess that I have looked very carefully into the merits of the case of these men, and I cannot see that they have got any case. I should like, if the House will bear with me, to go more closely into this matter, because this alleged discontent has been going on for a long time, and I should like to ask, What are the solid grounds for asking for this inquiry? When a fresh inquiry is asked for, you have a right to ask for some new facts and some reason for it, and also we should have some guarantee that when the verdict is given the men will acquiesce in it. We have had already two inquiries within the last two years, one before the Lord Tweedmouth Committee, and the other between the Duke of Norfolk and myself. As to the facts, I think it is admitted that they have all been brought out. The evidence given before the Tweedmouth Committee consisted of about 1,200 pages of closely-printed matter, and those honourable Members who did us the honour of sitting on that conference with us will admit, I think, that we did our best to go thoroughly into every question which came before us. There are, therefore, really no new facts to be brought out, and all that is asked for now is a new judgment upon those facts by some other body. It has been said that neither of these bodies were competent to deal with the subject, but if this question were raked up again are the men willing to forego those advantages which these two bodies have already given them in case the verdict of the new tribunal is adverse to them? Is there any legitimate ground of complaint against either of these tribunals or could they be objected to because they had not been sufficiently liberal? The Tweedmouth Committee added to the salaries of the Postal Department no less than £300,000 a year, which is now in full operation. That, I think, was a considerable addition to the salaries of that Department. But we have had a further inquiry, and so anxious were we that there should not be a single cause of grievance left anywhere that we again added £80,000 a year to the £300,000, and I think that sum of £380,000 a year is a considerable addition to the salaries of these men. I am, I confess, not quite sure that we did 1548 not go too far, because by increasing these salaries we are bringing into this service an entirely new social class; you are bringing in men who are perhaps socially a little above their work, and those men naturally have a standard of living and requirements which are not essential to men doing work of this kind. If we are going to raise the salaries more and more you will get a higher social class in the service, and there will be no limit to the demands made upon us. There is also this curious point with regard to the Post Office, and that is that the various branches in the Postal Department look upon one another with extreme jealousy. The postman says—"I ought to have the same pay as the sorter"; the telegraphist says—"It is positively cruel to put me on the same footing and pay me the same salary as the sorter," for the telegraphist thinks he is a much more important official than the sorter. Then you get the postmen saying that they ought to be brought up to the level of the sorter, and so on. We have heard again the usual story about the stinginess of the Treasury, but for once in a way the Treasury has been generous in this matter, for we accepted, without reservation, the whole of the proposals both of the Tweedmouth Committee and of the subsequent conference, and every sixpence recommended by those two bodies to be paid to these men the Treasury at once agreed to give. Well, then, the only possible grounds for asking for this new inquiry would be that the two former inquiries were not accepted at the time. I see the honourable Member for Manchester just below the Gangway, and I would remind him that Mr. Arnold Morley, when he granted the Tweedmouth Committee, stated that they were not exactly the class of persons he would put on. He said he would have put on the Secretary for the Post Office, and as for the remaining members, he would have the executive officers. Well, the Committee was nominated in strict accordance with the promise given by Mr. Arnold Morley, and one of the first Members to jump up to congratulate the right honourable Gentleman upon this was the honourable Member for Manchester. He said it would be perfectly absurd to ask for a Royal Commission, and that this Committee was just what they wanted. Well, that was the opinion that came from every section of the 1549 House. Then Ave have the statement that the conference between the Postmaster-General and myself was not one that was acceptable to the House, but that conference was suggested by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. It certainly was accepted by the House, and those Member most interested in it did us the honour of coming to sit with us on that conference. They had also opportunities of examining the witnesses just as we had. Well, now, the Duke of Norfolk came to this decision, and by that conference we added £80,000 a year to the of these men. Then it is said—"But after all you ought to have a Sale Committee of the House of Commons." I say that there is no reason whatever for any further inquiry. We have had two inquiries, and they were no accepted; but what guarantee have we that these men will accept the decision of the House of Commons, because they have already rejected the decision of two Committees. They rejected the decision of the first Committee because it was official. The honourable Member for Stepney has said that Lord Tweedmouth was the only impartial man on it, because he was not a permanent official. Well, the Duke of Norfolk and myself are not permanent officials, and therefore we are just as impartial as Lord Tweedmouth. Now, what are the objections to a House of Commons Committee? One objection, I think, would be raised by the Post Office people themselves, because in a pamphlet issued on the telegraph troubles by Mr. Garland, who has taken a prominent part in the agitation against these grievances, I read that he implies that Members of Parliament could not understand the technicalities of the work. Sir, I doubt really, after all, whether the House of Commons would be regarded by these Post Office people with the supreme satisfaction which has been expressed by some of the honourable Gentlemen opposite. But, after all, is it wise that the House of Commons should in these purely departmental questions of administration undertake this work. I say, as a general principle, it is a mistake. If you cannot trust a Department, or the heads of a Department, to administer the affairs of that Department then they ought not to be there at all, but it is quite impossible for the House of Commons to go into all 1550 these technicalities, and I know no Department where the work is more technical and more complicated than the Post Office. The Treasury work is supposed to be hard to learn, but the technicalities of the Post Office is about the most difficult job I ever had, and I do not think a Select Committee would be really able to get to the bottom of this matter. But, after all, we must recollect another fact, and it is this: that the Civil Service is a great deal too much inclined to attempt to put pressure upon Members of Parliament. That is a very bad system, upon which we ought to put our foot. It is bad enough when it is brought to bear upon the House as a whole, but what would happen with a Select Committee of the House? You would have the resentment of these Civil servants focussed and concentrated upon the unfortunate Members of that Committee, and I do not think it would act more independently or impartially than those two bodies which have sat already.
§ MR. STEADMAN
Surely the Post Office employés have the same right to appeal to this House as any other men?
§ MR. HANBURY
I propose to deal with that matter in a later portion of my speech. I should like the House really to know what has been the increase in the wages of these men during the last few years. I take these figures from a very useful return issued on the motion, I think, of the honourable Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow. Now, I find that in 1872 the average wages of a sorter in London—that is to say the wages of the men half way up the scale, for that is the fairest way of taking the average—was 22s. 10d.; in 1881, it was 28s. 1d.; in 1890, 34s.; and in 1897, 39s. 9d. That shows that you had a rise from 22s. 10d. in 1872 to 39s. 9d. in 1897. That does not include the very large double increments to which I have referred, and it does not, of course, include the enormous number of special advantages which the servants of the State enjoy, and which are not enjoyed by anyone outside. Then, again, I take the wages of the telegraphists. In 1872 the average wage of a telegraphist was 27s. 4d.; in 1881, 32s. 8d.; in 1890, 35s. 5d.; and in 1897, 38s. 9d. Therefore, again you have a very considerable 1551 increase. Well, now, let me take the case of the postmen.
§ MR. HANBURY
I am bound to say that I do not suppose it has in proportion to the increase in the salaries. I do not think that the work of the operating telegraphist is, at any rate, difficult. The work of the sorters may have increased, and it is to be noted that these are the very men who complain the least. Now, take the case of the postmen; again the postmen have had during those years very considerable advantages. They have had, in the first place, their maxima increased by 2s., and classification has been abolished; that is to say a man can rise to the maximum simply by good conduct and length of service, and no special qualification is required. The number of his properties have been increased, and he has had additional allowances for boots and for clothing. His sick pay has been largely increased, his stripes have been raised from three to six during the last two years, and he has had considerable addition to his clothing. Take the postman in Glasgow. What is his position at the present moment? At 19 years of age he gets 18s. a week, and that salary rises by increases of 1s. 6d. a year up to 30s. At 26 years of age that man is getting £78 a year. Most people would say that that is that man's total wage, and, no doubt, if he were working in the outside service in the employ of a private employer that would practically represent the whole of his pay. But that does not represent the whole of the pay in the case of a postman. In the first place, he gets two suits of clothing, and every two years an overcoat and cape; and the yearly value of these was calculated before the Tweedmouth Committee at nearly £4 or £3 18s. 6d. He also gets an allowance for boots valued at £1 1s. a year, and besides this he has 14 days' holiday a year, during which time he is paid his wages, which is not the case with an ordinary workman, and this is worth £3 10s. He may also get six stripes, but if he only gets three they are worth an additional £7 16s.per annum. He gets Christmas boxes, which I am told in Scotland are only worth £5 5s. a year, but which in England amount 1552 to some £13. In addition he gets a pension at the age of 58; supposing he enters the service at 18 years of age and does, therefore, 40 years' service, he gets a pension of 23s. for life, and if he had to purchase that annuity he would have to pay the society from which he purchased it £6 13s. 4d. per annum. Therefore, though the wages of a postman are nominally £78 a, year, they really amount to about £110, and it is not fair to compare the wages of the workmen of the State to those of workmen outside. The workmen outside get their fair wages, whereas the workmen of the State get a percentage more. If I do not detain the House too long I should like to explain this as fully as I can. A good deal is said about the payment the Post Office ought to make. It is said:—You ought to pay these men well, because the Post Office makes a large profit.The Post Office is a monopoly, and it is only natural that it should make a large profit; but with regard to the very men who complain most, "the telegraphistsl," that is the very branch of the Post Office that we work at a loss. Therefore, it is not fair for the telegraphists to say, We ought to be paid large wages because of the large profits. But I am afraid in the future that the large surplus of the Post Office will cease to be a surplus at all. We have already made large concessions, and during the last four years at any rate, while the expenditure of the Post Office has been going up at the rate of about nine per cent., the revenue has been going up only about half that amount. That, of course, on a very large expenditure like that of this Office, goes a long way to reduce the surplus. But we have got this to recollect, that the non-effective vote of the Post Office has by no means reached its maximum, and we are really pensioning a staff of one-third, or a little more than one-third, of the present staff; and when this large staff comes to the pension age the Post Office pension alone will be increased by a million a year. Now I just want to say a few words more upon the question raised by the honourable Member for Stepney. That is a question of combination and trade 1553 unionism. Now I perfectly admit the advantages of trades unionism, I quite believe with the honourable Member that they do a vast amount of useful work. They remove a large amount of individual grumbling by focussing the minds of the workmen on those large grievances which affect the whole. They do good work, they bring those grievances to the light of day, and they also do good by giving them articulate expression between employers and employed. Those are direct advantages, because a grievance clearly explained is at any rate half way gone towards a removal. The Post Office has done nothing to discourage these organisations in its officials at the Post Office. During the last four years these organisations have increased very largely indeed. Let us take the figures. The Postal Telegraph Organisation has increased between the years 1895 and 1897—I am sorry that those are the latest figures which I have—from 6,200 to 7,200; the Postmen's Federation has increased from 15,000 to 22,000 members. Those are the two main organisations, the others are very small and not worth quoting, but they have increased in very much the same proportion. The Post Office has not done anything to discourage it, but it is only right that trades unionists should recognise some special circumstances in the case of the Post Office, the enormous staff at the Post Office of 160,000 hands. Naturally, in a large staff like that, it is necessary that there should be an organisation which should be agreed on between the men and the heads of the Post Office. Long before trades unions came into existence there was an organisation which, by means of memorials and deputations did afford to the employés of the Post Office an opportunity of putting their grievances before the Postmaster-General themselves. But I think that the honourable Gentleman will also admit that in a large staff like this discipline is absolutely necessary, and we cannot allow insubordination to be sheltered under the name of organisation. I do not know that discipline should be more necessary in our Army and Navy than it should be in our Post Office. It is just as necessary that there should be discipline there. Again, it is only right to remember that, unlike outside service 1554 of a private employer, it is a pension service, and these men have got nothing to lose at all by it. Everything to gain and nothing to lose; they know their position is secure. In the employ of a private employer, if a man were constantly grumbling, the employer would say—"Very well, you have your choice; if you are not satisfied with your position here you can go out of my service and go somewhere else." And then, as I have mentioned, they have not only these pensions, but they have a large number of special benefits. There is another distinction. Most private firms either employ union or non-union men; the firms who employ mixed bodies are peculiar; but the Post Office employs both union and non-union men, and the non-union men are practically in the majority, and it would be grossly unfair to them for the Postmaster-General to take the leaders of the union as being the leaders of the men of the Post Office. Again, we have to remember that, unlike most private employers, the Post Office is the sole employer for this kind of work, and there is no standard of wages, and the only standard of wage for this particular kind of work is what you can squeeze out of the exchequer of the Postmaster-General. There is no standard outside by which you can say this is a fair amount of wage to pay these men. What, after all, is the complaint which the trade unionists bring forward in connection with the Post Office? The honourable Member for North Manchester asked me to define what were the privileges of these men, and how far they are allowed to exercise trade union rights. I tell you plainly: first of all I take the men outside the Post Office, and, with regard to them, I say they are at perfect liberty to combine with whom they like, how they like, and when they like; and the only limitation imposed on those men is this, that they should not meet during office hours, and they should not use language calculated to incite to insubordination. They have a perfect right to regulate their grievances, but the Postmaster-General has a perfect right to require that they shall not incite others to insubordination, and I think this House will take that view also. With regard to the men inside the Post Office itself, there are two methods by which the Postmaster-General can be 1555 approached—first, by memorial, through their superior officers; and, second, by deputation. The only difference, the only thing which trade unions can com plain of, is that the Postmaster-General will not allow outside interference, but does insist that these memorials shall be sent in by some one who is an employé, and the deputation shall also consist of employés. Is not that reasonable? Who are the men who are most likely to know where the grievance is? Why, men, of course, who are working in the Department, and the Post Office is so divided and sub-divided in the different departments that it is absolutely impossible for an outsider to know what the grievances of the postmen in the various offices are. The Post master General knows the only way to get at these facts is to have them stated to him by those who know them, and there is no rule more calculated to give effect to that suggestion than the rule which requires that the men who bring the grievances before him shall be the men employed in that particular service. The real grievance is, that we shall not allow outsiders to attend. After all, that is a reasonable thing, at any rate, because I am sure the men who do represent these grievances are men who understand the work. I should just like to mention a curious justification of that view of the Post master-General afforded by the trade unionists themselves. We know that in the past there was an agitation on the part of the Post Office officials to get a Member of Parliament to specially represent them, but the postman said, if we had a labour representative in the House, he will be no use to us; and, in the same way, they were unable to accept a telegraphist, and the telegraphists were unable to accept this postman, as each class said of the other that they would know nothing about their grievances. It is a rule of the trades union itself that nobody shall be allowed to attend the Trades Union Congress who is not a working member of the trade or a permanent paid official. But the man who is really responsible for all this grievance is a Mr. Clery. He is the man who, as I understand, was refused admission to the Congress, and that is the man the Postmaster-General refuses to receive on these questions. I go further. I say—
§ MR. STEADMAN
I am sure the right honourable Gentleman has no desire to misrepresent me in reference to my Amendment, and it would only be fair to me to say that. So far as I am concerned, Mr. Clery, upon the subject of this Amendment, has not said a word to me.
§ MR. HANBURY
Yes, that may be so, but we all know that he is the man who is at the back of this agitation. But I go from that point to the root of the matter. Mr. Clery is a discharged servant of the Post Office, discharged for insubordination. Is that the kind of man to act as conciliator between employer and employed? Is that the sort of man who would simplify such a task? On the contrary, he is the very last man who would do any such thing. I think I have fairly dealt with the two points raised by the honourable Member with regard to the question of wages and with regard to the question of the rights of combination. The right of combination is, I say, absolute. There is just the same right in the Post Office servants as there is in any private firm. With regard to the inquiry into the wages of the men, I say in the first place no fresh grievance is presented here tonight, and I say that those grievances which have been represented are of a very infinitesimal character, and on that ground, but not that ground alone, and there having been two inquiries held already, I do not think we can go to the trouble of appointing a third inquiry.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
I have a very clear recollection of the Committee appointed to examine into this Question, and my recollection does not agree with the statement made by the honourable Member. So far as my recollection goes, the labour Members never acquiesced in the composition of that Committee. We claim that either a Committee of this House exclusively should be appointed, or, at all events, that this House should be represented on it. But it is perfectly true that as no other was offered to us, we were obliged to accept this Committee or have no Committee at all; and we thought that the Committee, constituted as it was, was better than no inquiry at all. Now, I was rather sorry to hear the concluding 1557 observations of the right honourable Gentleman with regard to the two representations made to the Postmaster-General, because he seemed to desire to ride off on a personal issue. I do not think that is quite fair. In an earlier portion of his remarks, he said that the Postmaster-General would not be willing to receive representations from those not in the employ of the Post Office, and he submitted to the House that that contention was very reasonable. I do not think it is; and for this reason, the private employers do—I might almost go so far as to say they are compelled to—meet and receive representations from those not actually in their employ.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
Not necessarily working in the same trade, provided that they are the duly constituted representatives of those employed by the firm. Therefore, I think the two cases are precisely parallel. Then there were two or three observations made by the right honourable Gentleman, which, I think, were not strictly accurate, and which he will see on reconsideration are not true. With regard to the telegraphists, I understood him to say the work performed by them was not now more difficult, and the telegraphists were not now entitled to higher remuneration than in 1872. Might I tell him that in 1882 Mr. Fawcett, in making the additions which he did make to the wages of the telegraphists, made those additions on the express ground that their work was more difficult and complex than it had been hitherto. Then the right honourable Gentleman said that no grievance was alleged on the part of the sorters. I think that is easily explained, because the sorters, as compared with other branches of the service, are very fairly paid. But I would like to quote what Mr. Badcock, the Controller of the London Postal Service, said upon this matter before the Tweedmouth Committee. Asked as to whether he would put the postmen on the same footing as the second-class sorters, he stated as follows—I would put the postmen much on the footing of second-class sorters. I think that 1558 their duties are equal in importance, and, if anything, the postmen's duties are more arduous than those of the second-class sorters, because they have more split attendances.Now how do the wages of these two classes of postal servants compare? I find that the maximum wage of the sorter is £112 per annum, whereas the maximum wage of the postman is 31s. a week. Yet Mr. Badcock said that if there was any difference between the work which the two classes of postal servants performed, the work performed by postmen was the more arduous of the two. In one respect, I think we have a right to complain that the recommendations of the Tweedmouth Committee have not been carried out. The Tweedmouth Committee recommended that the cost of living in a particular district should be an element in fixing the wages of the postman, so far as that particular district was concerned. Now, my honourable Friend behind me has drawn the attention of the House to the case of the postmen of Woolwich. Woolwich is notoriously an expensive place to live in, and if the recommendations laid down by the Committee were carried out the Woolwich men at any rate would have a material increase in their wages. Now, the right honourable Gentleman and the Post Office apparently have a great horror of submitting their case to a Committee of this House. I cannot understand their position. I think the House has noticed that during the last 10 years there has been a great tendency on the part of great companies, when those companies have a difference between themselves and their employés in connection with the wages, to refer the matter in dispute to outside authority. There is a conspicuous illustration for that in 1897. A difference having arisen on the North Eastern Railway with regard to the wages to be paid by that railway, Lord James was called in as arbitrator, and he arrived at a wage satisfactory to both parties concerned. If there is this tendency on the part of outside companies, I do not think it is reasonable on the part of the Post Office to object to submit their case to this House. Now, I understand the right honourable Gentleman to throw a challenge to those who represent the Post Office servants, and that challenge falls under two heads. The 1559 right honourable Gentleman said, in the first place, if the Post Office servants had a Committee, would they, through their representatives, be content to consider it as final? The second challenge was—Would the postal servants, in the event of everything being inquired into, be willing that the decisions of the former Committee, even so far as they were favourable to the servants, should come up for revision? I am in a position to say that those who represent them will be quite willing to accept a Committee composed of Members of this House, subject to the two conditions which the right honourable Gentleman has laid down, and which I have enumerated, and the right honourable Gentleman
§ having now his challenge taken up, if he is willing to appoint a Committee, I have no doubt that my honourable Friend who moved it will be willing to withdraw his Amendment.
Amendment proposed—"To add at the end of the Question these words—
And we humbly represent to your Majesty that, in view of the great discontent, existing among the employés of the Postal and Telegraphic services, immediate inquiry should be made into the causes of complaint.
§ Question put—"That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes 91; Noes 159.—(Division List No. 13.)1561
|Allen, W. (Newc. under Lyme)||Holden, Sir Angus||O'Malley, William|
|Baker, Sir John||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Jacoby, James Alfred||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez E.||Price, Robert John|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Joicey, Sir James||Priestley, Briggs (Yorks)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Jordan, Jeremiah||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Burns, John||Kearley, Hudson E.||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Burt, Thomas||Kilbride, Denis||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Caldwell, James||Kitson, Sir James||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Scott, C. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Colville, John||Leng, Sir John||Souttar, Robinson|
|Cozens-Hardy, Herbert Hardy||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Spicer, Albert|
|Crilly, Daniel||Lewis, John Herbert||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Crombie, John William||Lloyd-George, David||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh||Logan, John William||Strachey, Edward|
|Daly, James||Lough, Thomas||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Davies, M.Vaughan- (Cardigan||MacAleese, Daniel||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Davitt, Michael||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Wallace, Robert (Edinburgh)|
|Dillon, John||M'Cartan, Michael||Walton, John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Ghee, Richard||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Kenna, Reginald||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Duckworth, James||Maddison, Fred.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Maden, John Henry||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Fenwick, Charles||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Williams, John Carvell (Notts|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Gilhooly, James||Monk, Charles James||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Morgan, W. P. (Merthyr)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Murnaghan, George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—.|
|Hazell, Walter||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Mr. Steadman and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
|Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H.||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Hemphill, Rt.Hon. Charles H.||O'Kelly, James|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Beach, Rt.Hn.SirM.H.(Bris.)||Chelsea, Viscount|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Beckett, Ernest William||Clare, Octavius Leigh|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Bemrose, Sir Henry Rowe||Cochrane, Hn. Thos. H. A. E.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis.||Bethell, Commander||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Blakiston-Houston, John||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Compton, Lord Alwyne|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Cornwallis, F. S. W.|
|Balfour, Rt.Hn. A. J. (Mnc'r)||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Cubitt, Hon. Henry|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Curzon, Viscount|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbys.)||Dalrymple, Sir Charles|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Denny, Colonel|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Doughty, George|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r.)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Doxford, William Theodore|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Lafone, Alfred||Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Lawrence, SirE.Durning-(Corn||Round, James|
|Fergusson, RtHn SirJ.(Mnc'r)||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Russell, Gen. F. S.(Ch'lt'nham|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Finch, George H.||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Llewelyn,SirDillwyn-(Swansea||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Shaw-Stewart, M.H. (Renfrew|
|Flower, Ernest||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (L'pool)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Forster, Henry William||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Foster, Harry S.||Lorne, Marquess of||Smith, James Parker(Lanarks.|
|Gedge, Sydney||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Macdona, John Cumming||Spencer, Ernest|
|Gilliat, John Saunders||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Stanley, Hn. Arthur(Ormskirk|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Maclure, Sir John William||Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||M'Calmont,Col. J. (Antrim,E.||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edin., W.)||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Middlemore,JohnThrogmorton||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Goschen, Rt HnG.J.(St.Geo.'s||Monckton, Edward Philip||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||More, Robert Jasper||Strauss, Arthur|
|Gretton, John||Morrell, George Herbert||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Morton, ArthurH.A.(Deptf.)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||Mount, William George||Valentia, Viscount|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Murray,RtHnA.Graham(Bute||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.||Myers, William Henry||Webster, SirR.E (IsleofWight)|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon.Robt.Wm.||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Heath, James||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter||Pease, Herbert P. (Darlingt'n)||Whiteley, H.(Ashton-under-L.|
|Hill, Sir Edw. Stock (Bristol)||Penn, John||Williams, JosephPowell-(Birm|
|Hobhouse, Henry||Pilkington, Richard||Wilson, J.W. (Worcestersh. N.|
|Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh||Plunkett, RtHnHorace Curzon||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H.(Yorks.)|
|Howell, William Tudor||Pollock, Harry Frederick||Wodehouse, Rt Hn.E.R.(Bath|
|Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Wyndham, George|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Priestley,Sir W.Overend(Edin.||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Purvis, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir J. H.||Pym, G. Guy||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Kenyon, James||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Ritchie, Rt.Hn.Chas. Thomson|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Robinson, Brooke|
Bill read a second time, and committed till to-morrow.
§ Main Question again proposed.