§ Motion made, and Question proposed—"That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Agreement of the 2nd day of February. 1905,between the Postmaster-General and the National Telephone Company, and to report whether it is desirable in the public interest that the Agreement should become binding."—(Lord Stanley.)
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said that he understood an arrangement had been come to that anything outside the Orders of the Day was not to be taken at the present time. There were objections to the constitution of the Committee. There was no immediate hurry for the appointment of the Committee.
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoughton
said he had not the slightest intention of breaking any bargain, and if it was considered that the appointment of this Committee did break an arrangement he should not proceed with it. But, he could not help hoping that the House might consider that this was not a contentious matter and would allow the Committee to be set up.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said he was glad to see that an agreement had been come to with the National Telephone Company. The constitution of this Committee had been opposed by some hon. Members for a particular and special reason. It had been pointed out that there were 13,000 employees of the Telephone Company whose interests would be affected by the transfer of the business to the Post Office, and that, in common fairness, there should be one Labour Member on the Committee, who should be specially charged to attend to-those interests. The ordinary channels of communication had been used to make this fact known. The position was that the noble Lord himself had no objection to two new Members being added to the Committee, one of whom should be a Labour Member; and the Whips on both sides had no objection to. that. But, for some reason or another, this addition had not met with favour in some quarter. Could the noble Lord 861 explain to the House why, on a matter on which there was a general agreement, the understanding come to both by the noble Lord and the Whips had not been given effect to? What was the explanation? If the noble Lord could agree to the addition to the Committee of the names suggested all opposition to the appointment of the Committee would be at an end. If his information was correct, the agreement with the National Telephone Company would come into operation automatically early in August whether this Committee was appointed or not; and he thought that, therefore, the Committee should be appointed as early as possible. At the same time, he would rather that no Committee should be appointed unless there was a Labour Member on it. He and his friends felt that in the interests of the employees there should be a Labour Member on the Committee. The Labour Party was fully organised, with Whips of their own, just like the Irish Party, and they should have a representative on every Committee appointed by the House. On those two grounds he hoped the noble Lord would concede the point, and so do away with any feeling on those benches.
§ LORD STANLEY
said there was one thing he could not accept from the hon. Member, and that was that this Committee, as constituted, was not perfectly willing and able to look after the interests of the employees. He thought, also, that the hon. Member was under a misunderstanding in saying that there was an agreement as to the inclusion of a Labour Member. The hon. Member came to him on the day the House rose for the Easter recess, and told him that the Whips had agreed together that there should be such a representative.
§ LORD STANLEY
said he was afraid the hon. Member was rather under a misapprehension. The Committee was formed in the usual way. Those on his side of the House were put on by the Chief Whip, and those on the other side of the House were put on by the hon. Member for West Leeds. He could not possibly 862 alter any of those put on without first consulting with the hon. Member for West Leeds; and therefore he could not agree to the hon. Member's proposal. But at the same time, if the House would allow the reference to go, he would not press the names until he had had an opportunity of consulting the hon. Member for West Leeds.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
pointed out that many Members interested in that question were not in the-House at that moment, and in view of the fact that there was an arrangement that no contentious business would be taken after the Orders had been gone through he wished to be assured that there was a thorough agreement on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said there was a special reason why there should be representatives of the Labour Party on this particular Committee. On behalf of the Irish Party he strongly supported the claim that fair play should be given to the men.
§ Debate to be resumed To.-morrow.
§ And, there being no further Business set down for the Afternoon Sitting, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER left the Chair until the Evening Sitting.