§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a Select Committee of seven Members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, be appointed to inquire into the wages and position of the principal classes of Post Office servants (other than the supervising and clerical force, and those in the engineering, stores, and factories departments), and also of the unestablished sub-postmasters. To examine, so far as may be necessary for the purpose of their Report, the conditions of employment of these classes. To report whether, having regard to the conditions and prospects of their employment, and, as far as may be, to the standard rate of wages and the position of other classes of workers, the remuneration they receive is adequate or otherwise."—(Mr. Sydney Buxton.)
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
said he desired to move the adjournment of the debate for a reason of some importance to minorities, and he would put that reason very briefly before the House. Hon. Members would remember that some few years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire was opposed to the appointment of a similar Select Committee for many reasons. The right hon. Member declared that hon. Members serving on such a Committee being Members of the House would be subjected to a great deal of annoyance and of undue pressure from Post Office officials. Last session, 324 when the Post Office Vote was brought forward, the hon. Member for the Chesterfield Division moved the appointment of a Select Committee and the Government of the day again opposed it on the same grounds. There was a debate and a division, and nearly the whole of the supporters of the then Government voted against the appointment of the Committee. No doubt many of them suffered for it at the general election; they either lost their seats or had their majorities reduced in consequence of the vote. He did not complain on that account, because, after all, if a Member of the House did his duty to the best of his ability he must expect such treatment. But when the Committee was promised by the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General early in the present session, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury came to him and told him that it would be a Committee of five members and asked him to nominate one. He invited some Members of the House to serve on it, but met with the reply that they had voted against the Committee in. the last session and therefore they could not serve upon it during the present session. Under these circumstances he had to look elsewhere, and he examined a division list for the names of Members of his own Party who had voted in favour of the Committee. As a result he nominated the hon. Member for Hoxton, who had been in the House some time arid whose industry, intelligence, and capacity no one could doubt. He was bound to say he was considerably surprised when the Postmaster-General came to him and objected to the hon. Gentleman. These matters had always been dealt with in years past in a most friendly way between the Whips of both sides of the House. Indeed, the only way in which they could carry on this sort of work was through the recognised channels. But he did object to a Cabinet Minister coming to him and saying that the man whom he had nominated was not fit to be put on the Committee. He had occupied the position of Patronage Secretary for three years, and he had had names handed to him by his right hon. friend the present Home Secretary and by hon. Members below the gangway representing other parties, but he had never raised the 325 slightest objection, although he might have been well aware when the names were handed to him that they were not those of Members calculated to accelerate the progress of the particular Bill which the Committee had to consider. He had, however, always recognised the right of minorities to nominate their own men to sit on Select Committees. He wondered what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford would have said if during last session he had refused to accept his nominees on behalf of the Irish Party. He had no doubt he would have been told that he had taken an unwarrantable liberty, and he believed also that the matter would have been brought before the House. Of course it was within the right of the House to reject any Member who might be proposed, and he did not for one moment dispute that right, but he did dispute the right of a Minister with a huge majority behind his back to refuse the demands of recognised Whips. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General why he objected to the hon. Member for Hoxton, and the reply he received was that he wanted a judicial Committee. He himself had always considered that Committees appointed by the House were judicial Committees in the sense that they were impartial, and he did not know what else a judicial Committee was unless it was one which was expected to give judgment in favour of the Department by which it was appointed. He hoped that was not the case in the present instance, but when he saw the right hon. Member, having rejected his nomination, suddenly approach hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House and ask them to serve on the Committee he must say it astonished him. He did not make any charge against the right hon. Gentlemen personally, but he must say it was not according to custom, and was altogether outside the ordinary rules of the House. Indeed, he would ask whether a Committee appointed in such a way, instead of having been appointed through the ordinary channels—whether a Committee appointed by the direct interference of the Minister of a Department—would not rest under some suspicion? The right hon. Gentleman's action really reminded him of Balak. He thought the 326 right hon. Gentleman must have wanted the Committee to prophesy good concerning his Department and not evil. Well, after that they apparently came to a deadlock and no one was nominated. But one day he happened to be in the House and he espied the right hon. Gentleman standing at the table talking to the clerk and immediately afterwards he asked the clerk what the right hon. Gentleman had handed him. He found that he had put down the Motion which now stood upon the Paper. Of course the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly within his right in doing such a thing, but it was not in accordance with custom. He should have informed him of his proposed change of procedure, but he had never said the least word to him on the subject until the previous day, when he asked him what he was going to do in regard to it. He was as anxious as anyone could be to make things work as smoothly as possible, and, so far as his right hon. friend the present Patronage Secretary to the Treasury was concerned, there had been no trouble whatever. But what was the result of all that had occurred? They now had a Motion down to the effect that the Committee of Selection should appoint the Committee. No doubt the Committee of Selection would use their discretion to the best of their ability, but it was quite possible that they might find great difficulty in putting on the Committee Unionist Members who had given no pledge on the subject to be inquired into. He objected to what had taken place on three grounds. He thought, in the first place, that an undeserved slur had been cast upon the right hon. Member for Hoxton; in the second place, there had been an interference with the custom of the House in this matter; and in the third place, he thought it would be found, if the Committee were to be appointed by the Committee of Selection, that Members who would naturally wish not to serve would be induced to do so because they would not like to refuse the request of the Committee of Selection. He felt it his duty to make this protest, not simply on behalf of his own Party, but on behalf of all minorities in the House. He did not believe that minorities should be at the mercy of any such action, on the part of a 327 Government which had an overwhelming majority in the lobbies, and who, consequently, would have a large majority on all Committees. He wished to retain the practice under which minorities in the past had always nominated their own men, freely and independently—and he did not think a Government which had a great numerical majority in the lobbies and great numerical superiority in all Committees should object to their nominating their own Members of a Committee. He was quite prepared to leave himself and his case to the fair judgment of the House and begged to move accordingly.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Alexander Acland-Hood.)
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
said his first words would be those of ample apology to the right hon. Member who had just spoken if in any respect he had seemed to interfere with the functions which he was so admirably performing. He was sure, in regard to the matter, that there had been a great misunderstanding, but he was also prepared to take the whole of the blame for it upon himself. He admitted that in all his dealings with the right hon. Gentleman he had been met with the utmost possible courtesy and everything had been absolutely straightforward. As he had already said, as far as he was concerned, there had been a misunderstanding with regard to the matter, and he would tell the House frankly how the question stood. He had never gathered from his conversation with the right hon. Gentleman that he was opposed to the appointment of the Committee, and he did not think it was necessary for him to go into the history of that question. The Government, having come to the conclusion that it was desirable that such a Committee should be appointed, a statement to that effect was made to the House early in the session, and it then became necessary for him to consider what form such Committee should take. He had felt very strongly indeed that it was essential, in view of the fact that the Committee would have to deal with difficult and delicate questions, thatitshould, as far as possible, be an absolutely impartial, independent, and judicial Committee. 328 Therefore he suggested to the hon. Member the Patronage Secretary, when he was discussing the matter, that the Committee should consist of five members, and he certainly thought that a Committee of that size would commend itself to the House as a Committee likely, under the circumstances, to carry out its work with some rapidity and some satisfaction to the House as a whole. After that he discussed the matter with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and he would not deny the point he was now about to put. He certainly understood in talking the matter over with him, not in any official sense, that he quite agreed with the conclusions at which he had arrived with regard to the character of the Committee. He ventured to ask the right hon. Member if he would consider the matter and nominate someone on his side to act. The promise was given to consider it, and in due time the right hon. Member told him that he was proposing the nomination of the hon. Member for Hoxton as a member of the Committee. He told the right hon. Member that as it was to be a a very small Committee it was essential that it should be an impartial Committee, and he certainly, in the course of conversation, expressed to the right hon. Member his objection to the appointment of the Member for Hoxton—not on any personal grounds, but because he had in the past taken very considerable interest in the question, and had voted against the Unionist Party in the last session of Parliament with regard to it. Therefore the position was this: the Committee being a small one had to be an impartial Committee, and whilst he had no objection to the personal capacity of the hon. Member suggested he did feel to a certain extent that he was a prejudiced party with regard to this particular matter, and he ventured to point that out to the right hon. Member. The right hon. Member told him that he had approached some other hon. Member behind him, but had been unable to find anyone willing to serve on the Committee, and, as he also gathered, if he could induce anyone to serve he would not press the nomination of the hon. Member for Hoxton. He certainly had never looked at the proposal to appoint the hon. Member for Hoxton as being official; had he done so he would have at once accepted the nomination, and not taken any further action. It 329 was clear he could not have understood that from the fact that he had approached one or two Members on the other side of the House to see if they would serve, as he certainly understood from his right hon. friend—and he was prepared to take all the blame of misunderstanding upon himself—that if any other hon. Member expressed willingness to serve he was prepared to consider his appointment. He repeated that if he had done anything to which the right hon. Member took exception he was sorry, for he felt as strongly as any Member of the House the absolute importance of maintaining those friendly relations between the Whips which had always existed, and he would have been the last willingly to have done anything to weaken the friendly action between the two sides. But the proposal that a small Committee should be nominated by the House having broken down—
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman says the proposal that a small Selection Committee should be nominated by the House had broken down. I ask why did it break down, and how?
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said it broke down in the sense that there was no suggestion forthcoming of an alternative nomination to that of the hon. Member for Hoxton. There seemed to be, therefore, two alternatives before the House—either to have the Committee nominated by the House and consequently a partisan Committee, or else to have the question referred to the Committee of Selection. Being anxious that the matter should be treated in no sense as a Party question, he ventured to suggest that the nomination of the Committee should be left to the Selection Committee. He could assure the House that if he had done anything to cause this misunderstanding he very much regretted it. Any action he had taken in regard to the matter had been dictated by his very strong desire as Postmaster-General to have the grievance of the employees of the Department fully inquired into by a strong and impartial Committee.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that he thought he might, on behalf of those associated with him, at once accept the right hon. Member's assurance that 330 there had been no intention on his part to go behind his right hon. friend the Member for the Wellington division in dealing with the Members of the Opposition. As far as any personal question was concerned, the expressions of the right hon. Gentleman were quite sufficient to dispose of it, and he did not think they need say another word on the subject. But there was a much more important matter in regard to which he proposed to make an appeal to the Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had had the advantage of hearing the very moderate statement of his right hon. friend opposite, and was now in possession of the facts. The position was this: the Government had officially declared their intention to appoint a Select Committee, and, having invited the right hon. Member for the Wellington division to name an hon. Member to serve on that Committee, they had, in defiance of what he believed to be the unbroken practice of Parliament, objected to the hon. Member who was chosen by his right hon. friend to represent the Unionist Party. The Prime Minister shook his head at that, but the fact was borne out by the statement of the Postmaster-General, who said that the proposal for a Select Committee of five members had broken down because the Member for Hoxton had been nominated.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Member, but what I meant to convey was that the nomination of the hon. Member for Hoxton altered the conplexion of the Committee I desired to set up.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that of course it was not suggested that the objection arose out of anything personal to the hon. Member for Hoxton, but his point was that it was not within the power of the right hon. Gentleman to object; he should have conformed to the well-considered practice of the House in dealing with the appointment of Committees. It was not to be thought that the majority for the time being with its proportionate majority on Committees should be allowed to dictate to the minority in the House which Member from among its limited numbers should be allowed to serve upon Select Committees. There might have been arguments put forward in favour 331 of having a Committee of that kind appointed by the Committee of Selection rather than by a Committee of the House, and if the Government had in the first place come to the House and suggested that a Committee should be selected by the House to inquire into postal grievances, he did not think there would have been any objection raised to such a course. But he did object to the invidious procedure adopted by the Postmaster-General. He had said that the objection was not a personal one, but that made the matter even graver. He could remember a case where objection had been made to Members serving on Committees on the ground that they had some connection with, or interest in, the matter to be dealt with, but he could never remember any case having occurred in his experience where objection was taken to an hon. Member after he had been invited to serve on a Committee simply because of public action he had taken as a Member of the House. It destroyed the liberty of the minority in this House and it destroyed the whole system on which these Committees had been appointed. He said that on the general principle. When he came to the particular objection urged against his hon. friend he must say that he thought it fell from—he would not say the sublime, but from the serious to the ridiculous. What was the reason alleged by the right hon. Gentleman why his hon. friend the Member for Hoxton was not fit to serve on a Committee of this kind? It was that in the last Parliament, in spite of Lord Stanley and the appeal that was made to him, he, in the discharge of his public duty, voted against the Government and in favour of the Committee. Absolutely! The only objection which the right hon. Gentleman alleged against the appointment of his hon. friend was that he was in favour of the Committee on which they had nominated this gentleman. For himself he did not know exactly what the practice of the Committee of Selection was. Were they to ask him to serve on a Committee of this kind he should beg to be excused, on the ground that, acting with every sense of responsibility, he had repeatedly declared as a Minister in this House that he thought the appointment of such a Committee was inadvisable. But if hon. Members who had voted for the Com- 332 mittee were thereby disqualified, who was going to serve? Were hon. Members who voted against the appointment of the Committee disqualified? If an hon. Member who voted in favour of the appointment of the Committee was disqualified what was to happen to gentlemen who were candidates at the recent election and who declared themselves in favour of or against the Committee? On the principle of the Postmaster-General there was not a single Member of the House elegible to serve on the Committee if it should ever be appointed. He thought the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General would feel that the ground of objection to his hon. friend was untenable. He believed it was the unbroken tradition of this House in the matter of these Committees to invite the Opposition—in this case the Unionist Opposition—to nominate one representative to whom they were entitled according to the ordinary practice of the House. His right hon. friend nominated a gentleman who was unexceptionable, and because the Postmaster-General objected to the nomination he now sought to change the method of procedure. On the ground of adherence to practice, and on the ground of good feeling and smooth running in the discharge of the duties of the House, he asked the Government to withdraw the Motion before the House and revert to their original proposal
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling Burghs
said he entirely agreed with two propositions that had been laid down by the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite who had spoken. The first was that there ought to be no disposition to treat with any harshness or unfairness a minority in this House, and, while they had the highest authority in the House appointed with the special duty of looking after the rights of minorities, he ventured to say that there was another person in the House whose duty it also was to see that minorities were not unfairly dealt with, although they might often think that they were unfairly dealt with even by him, and that was the occupier of the position in which he stood. Therefore, he was most anxious that there should be no ground whatever for thinking 333 that there had been any undue interference with the rights of minorities. Undoubtedly this was a very difficult Committee to form. There was a great deal of force in what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Wellington Division of Somersetshire had said as to the fears that were entertained in many quarters of the effect on the Committee if appointed under pressure and insistence, and the retractive effect of old promises extracted in moments of agony from candidates at the general election. He thought they could understand that the nomination of members to serve on that Committee was a more delicate and more important matter than it would ordinarily be. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends were entitled to one member on the Committee, if it was to be composed of only five members. He understood that the Postmaster-General met the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Wellington Division with the view of discussing, or, at any rate, getting into relationship on the point as to who that one member should be. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had asked several members of the Party, and that they had all declined on the ground that they had committed themselves on the subject last year. The right hon. Gentleman thought he was securing the services of a very competent Member when he suggested the hon. Member for Hoxton who had voted the other way. The very fact that so many members who had voted the other way thought it right in justice to themselves not to take part in the Committee showed how delicate a matter the nomination of the members of the Committee was. The conversation, however, was a private and friendly one. His right hon. friend the Postmaster-General had assured him—he might be mistaken—that he saw in it no signs of a formal nomination, and that it was merely a discussion between them, eliciting the suggestion that the hon. Member for Hoxton should fill this place. If it had been a formal nomination then the Government would have had nothing to do but to accept the nomination of the right hon. Gentleman and the House would have accepted that formal nomination. But the Postmaster-General viewed 334 it in the light of an informal discussion of the matter, and this disclosed to him what he thought was pretty evident from the first that the formation of a Committee to deal with such a subject as this—a Committee of only five members—by the House by the ordinary process was a very difficult matter. If it were a Committee of fifteen or seventeen members they could put on from either side of the House one or two members who took opposite views on the subject, but with the restricted size of the Committee they were to have only one member who had committed himself as strongly as any Member of the House could do by a vote.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said the objection of the Postmaster-General to his hon. friend was that he had voted in favour of the appointment of a Committee; and that he considered him unfit to act.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said the hon. Member for Hoxton had also taken an interest in the question. He did not think the hon. Member would get up and say that he had a perfectly blank mind on the subject and that he had no settled convictions on it. It was then that his right hon. friend fell back upon the course that ought to have been taken at first, namely, that of referring the matter to the Committee of Selection. While he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire as to the necessity of guarding the rights of minorities, he disagreed with him in regard to another matter. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the appointment of these Committees they should follow the old lines and let it be done by friendly communication between the Whips on both sides, and that no other consideration should come into play. He entirely disagreed with that. This difficulty having arisen and presented itself, he thought his right hon. friend was right in shifting his ground and proposing that the matter should be referred to the Committee of Selection. That would be a much better course than appointing a large Committee of the size and quality that was usually dealt with by the two sides of the House. There was no intention on the part of his right hon. friend of interfering with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or of 335 casting any slur on the hon. Member for Hoxton, or of departing in any way from the old practice. That being so, he himself thought the best thing the House could do was to agree that the Committee of Selection should propose seven members to serve on this important Committee. The House of Commons had always had the most perfect confidence in the Committee of Selection.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said he belonged to a party which was in a permanent minority in this House, and, that being so, the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench was one in which they were bound to take a certain amount of interest. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it was for the minority to chose its representative and not the majority. It would be a very dangerous thing indeed if the Government of the day were allowed to pick and choose the representatives of the minority on such Committees; and if the Government had put the action of the Postmaster-General on that ground he would have opposed it. But by the decision which had been arrived at the Postmaster-General had, if he might say so, done the right thing in a somewhat clumsy way. He did not think that anyone? could blame the right hon. Gentleman in being most careful of the manner in which the Members of this Committee, which had such a momentous question to discuss, were selected. He suggested to the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench that he should be satisfied with the statement of the Government, with which he agreed, for there was no doubt that the Committee of Selection would make no choice except on the highest considerations for the public serivce.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
said he would support the Resolution of the right hon. Member for the Wellington Division, not for the reason the right hon. Gentleman had given, but for other reasons. The time had arrived when all these questions of posts, salaries, and retiring allowances should be removed from the purview of the House of Commons, and that a Civil Service Board should be appointed to deal with 336 them, consisting of the highest gentlemen in the land, who would be irremovable and who would be as much above Parliament as the judges of the country, as was the case in Australia.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said he thought that the action of the Postmaster-General in referring this matter to a Select Committee would not settle it and that it would burden the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a debt which he could not properly meet.
§ SIR FRANCIS LOWE (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
said that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had adopted a very unusual course in objecting to the nomination of the hon. Member for Hoxton by the Opposition to serve on this Select Committee, and if persisted in it would create a precedent.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It has already been said by me and by my right hon. friend that if it had been thought that this was a nomination, explicitly and formally made by the right hon. and gallant Member, not a word would have been said. It would have been very improper to do so.
§ SIR FRANCIS LOWE
said he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that it had been already stated by several Gentlemen from the Front Opposition Bench that the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton was put forward as a nomination. That nomination had been objected to by the right hon. the Postmaster-General, and if he persisted in that objection it would constitute a new precedent and the whole procedure of the House as to the constitution of Select Committees would be altered. He had had long experience in the House, and it seemed to him that where an important Committee was to be appointed to inquire into a public question of this importance, they should not refer its composition to the Committee of Selection. He was strongly against that 337 Committee and thought that the House was the proper tribunal to appoint such a Select Committee. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to establish a new precedent, but, having been assured by Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench that they did intend to put forward the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton, to put that hon. Gentleman on the Committee.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (City of London)
said it seemed to be a pity to go to a division on a matter on which both sides of the House were agreed. The Prime Minister had said that this was not to be drawn into a precedent; but if not, why was it to happen at all? So far as he could see, there was no reason why, with the assent of the whole House, the proper course should not be taken. It was admitted that there had been a misunderstanding, a misapprehension. Let that misapprehension pass away and let the true course of the House, sanctioned by all precedents and acknowledged by the Prime Minister to be the true, regular and useful course in the conduct of public business, be taken; and let them appoint a Committee of five, as originally proposed, accepting, as it was now agreed that it ought to have been accepted, the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton as the representative
§ of the Opposition side of the House. If that were done this difficulty would disappear, and there would disappear, and there would be no reason for going to a division on the Motion for adjournment. He believed that the Prime Minister would recognize the strength of the feeling which existed on the Opposition side of the House in regard to this matter. It might be that they were in a small minority and that they were in the power of the majority; but this matter was far too important to be allowed to pass without such a protest as was contained in the Motion for the adjournment and the further protest which the minority would be compelled to make if what they considered to be an arbitrary proceeding on the part of the majority of the House were insisted on in refusing to accept the hon. Member for Hoxton when nominated from the Opposition side of the House. He hoped the Prime Minister would spare the House an unnecessary division and subsequent debate by recurring tot the proposal which the Government originally made, and that that proposal would be carried through with the entire consent of both sides of the House.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 107; Noes, 311. (Division List No. 4.)341
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hill, Sir Clement(Shrewsbury)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Courthope, G. Loyd||Hill, Henry Staveley (Staff'sh.)|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S||Hills, J. W.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Craig, Capt. James (Down, E.)||Jenkins, J.|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt Hon Sir H.||Craik, Sir Henry||Kelly, George D.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dalrymple, Viscount||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon Col W.|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Dixon Hartland Sir Fred Dixon||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Baring, Hon. Guy (Winchester)||Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers-||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants. Fareham.)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Du Cros, Harvey||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Barrie. H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Liddell, Henry|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan||Lock wood Rt. Hn. Lt-Col. A. R.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Fardell, Sir T. George||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Fell, Arthur||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Fletcher, J. S.||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Forster, Henry William||Marks, Harry Hananel (Kent)|
|Campbell, J H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Gill, A. H.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gordon, Sir W. Evans-(T'rHam||O'Grady, J.|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Hamilton, Marquess of||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Grayesend)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hardie, JKeir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cecil Lord JP Joicey-(Stamf rd||Hardie Laurence (KentAshford||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darl'gt'n),|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Harrison-Broadley, Col. H. B.||Percy, Earl|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.A (Worc||Heaton, John Henniker||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Clarke, Sir Edward (City Lond'n||Helmsley, Viscount||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Rawlinson, John Frederick P.|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hervey, FWF (Bury S. Edm'ds||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Richards. T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Starkey, John R.||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Stone, Sir Benjamin||Williamson, G. H. (Worcester)|
|Roberts, S (Sheffield, Ecclesall||Summerbell, T.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Lanark||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Thornton, Percy M.||Wilson, W. T.(Westhoughton|
|Rutherford. W. W. (Liverpool)||Turnour, Viscount||Younger, George|
|Seddon, J.||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Shackleton, David James||Walrond, Hon. Lionel||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.|
|Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)||Walsh, Stephen|
|Stanley, Hon Arthur (Ormskirk||Wardle, George J.|
|Abrabam, William (Cork, N. E.)||Collins, Sir Wm. J (S. Pancras W||Halpin, J.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hammond, John|
|Agnew, George William||Cooper, G. J.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Corbett, C. H (Sussex, E Grinst'd||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)|
|Alden, Percy||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Hart-Davies, T.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Gloucester)||Cox, Harold||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Armitage, R.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth||Harwood, George|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cremer, William Randal||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Asquith, Rt Hon Herbert Henry||Crombie, John William||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Crossley, William J.||Hazel, Dr. A. E.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Cullinan, J.||Healy, Timothy Michael|
|Barlow, John E. (Somerset)||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Delany, William||Henry, Charles S.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway||Herbert. Colonel Ivor (Mon.,S.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Beale, W. P.||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Hobart, Sir Robert|
|Beauchamp E.||Dolan, Charles Joseph||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Beaumqnt, Hubert (Eastbourne||Donelan, Captain A.||Hogan, Michael|
|Beaumont, W. C. B. (Hexham)||Duckworth, James||Hooper, A. G.|
|Bell, Richard||Duffy, William J.||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N|
|Benn, John Williams (Dev'np'rt||Dunne, Major E. M. (Walsall)||Howard, Hon. Geoff'rey|
|Benn. W. (T'w'r Hamlets S. Geo.||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Hutton, Alfred Eddison|
|Bennett, E. N.||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Idris, T. H. W.|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Bethell, J.H. (Essex, Romford)||Elibank, Master of||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Bethell,T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Billson, Alfred||Erskine, David C.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Jones, David Brynmor (Sw'nsea|
|Black, Arthur W. (Bedfordshire||Essex, R. W.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Boland, John||Evans, Samuel T.||Jones, William (Canarvonshire|
|Boulton, A. C. F. (Ramsey)||Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Joyce, Michael|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Farrell, James Patrick||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Brace, William||Fenwick, Charles||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Branch, James||Ferens, T. R.||Kilbride, Denis|
|Brigg, John||Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Kincaid-Smith, Captain|
|Bright, J. A.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Findlay, Alexander||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Brooke, Stop ford||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lamb, Edmund G.(Leominster|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lanes., Leigh)||Flynn, James Christopher||Lambert, George|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Lamont, Norman|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Fuller, J. M. F.||Law, Hugh Alexander|
|Burnyeat, J. D. W.||Fullerton, Hugh||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Furness, Sir Christopher||Lea,Hugh Cecil(St.Pancras,E.|
|Buxton,Rt Hon Sydney Charles||Gardner, Col. A.(Herefordsh. S.||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Gilhooly, James||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich|
|Cairns, Thomas||Ginnell, L.||Lever, W.H. (Cheshire, Wirral)|
|Caldwell, James||Gladstone Rt Hon Herbert John||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Cameron, Robert||Glendinning, R. G.||Lloyd-George, Rt, Hon. David|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Glover, Thomas||Lough, Thomas|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Lundon, W.|
|Causton, Rt Hn Richard Knight||Gooch, George Peabody||Luttrell, Hugh Courtenay|
|Cawley, Frederick||Grant, Corrie||Lynch, H. B.|
|Chance, Frederick William||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Macdonald, J.M. (Falkirk B'ghs|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Greenwood, Hamar (York)||Maclean, Donald|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Grove, Archibald||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Cherry, R. R.||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Mac Neil, John Gordon Swift|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Gulland, John W.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down,S.|
|Clough, W.||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Mac Veigh,Charles (Donegal,E.|
|Coats,Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||M'Callum, John M.|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Hall, Frederick,||M'Crae, George|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|M'Killop, W.||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Sullivan, Donal|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Pollard, Dr.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Price, Robert John (Norfolk, E.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Maddison, Frederick||Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford E.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln||Rainy, A. Rolland||Tennant, E. P. (Salisbury)|
|Marks, G, Croydon (Launceston||Raphael, Herbert H.||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Marnham, F. J.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Redmond, William (Clare)||Tomkinson, James|
|Massie, J,||Rendall, Athelstan||Toulmin, George|
|Masterman C. F. G.||Renton, Major Leslie||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Meehan, Patrick A.||Richardson, A.||Vivian, Henry|
|Menzies, Walter||Ridsdale, E. A.||Wadsworth, J.|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Robartes, Hon. T. C. A. (Bodmin||Waldron, Laurence Ambrose|
|Molteno, Percy Alfred||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Walker, H. De R, (Leicester)|
|Mond, A.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Walters, John Tudor|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza-||Robertson, Rt. Hn. E. (Dundee||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.|
|Montagu, E. S.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Robertson, Sir G Scott (Bradf'rd||Ward, W. Dudley (S'thampton.|
|Morton, Alpheus Clephas||Robinson, S.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Murphy, John||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Myer, Horatio||Roche, John (Galway, East)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Napier, T. B.||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Rose, Charles Day||Weir, James Galloway|
|Nicholls, George||Rowlands, J.||Whitbread, Howard|
|Nolan, Joseph||Runciman, Walter||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Norman, Henry||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Schawnn, Charles D. (Hyde)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Nuttall, Harry||Schawnn, C.E.(Manch'ster, N.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|O'Brien, Kendal (Tipp'rary Mid||Scott, A. H.(Ashton under Lyne||Williamson, A.(Elginand Nairn|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Seaverns, J. H.||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|O'Connor, James, (Wicklow, W.||Seely, Major J. B.||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.|
|O'Connor, John, (Kildare, N.)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel||Wilson, J. W.(Worcestersh. N.|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.|
|O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Silcock, Thomas Ball||Winfrey, R.|
|O'Dowd, John||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersfid|
|O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Young, Samuel|
|O'Kelly, James (Roscommon N.||Smyth, Thomas (Leitrim, S.)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Soares, Ernest J.|
|O'Shee, James John||Spicer, Albert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. George Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.|
|Perks, Robert William||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
Question put and agreed to.
§ SIR FRANCIS LOWE
moved to omit the word "seven" in line 1, in order to insert the word "five." He said he desired to move this Amendment in order to give the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General an opportunity to revert to his original proposition that there should be five Members on this Committee and of reconsidering the decision at which he had arrived not to allow an hon. Gentleman a Member of the Unionist Party to serve on the Committee. No good reason bad been given for the opposition to the appointment of the hon. Member for Hoxton, who was in every way a most suitable Member to serve on the Committee and none the less so because he had voted with bon. Gentlemen opposite in favour of a Committee of inquiry when the appointment of such a Committee was proposed in the late Parliament. He did not see why his hon. friend should 342 be disqualified from sitting on this Committee because he favoured an inquiry into the alleged grievances of the Post Office employes. In his view it was desirable that there should be some one on the Committee who was favourable to the position of the employes concerned. He begged to move.
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
, in seconding the Amendment, said that in the course of the debate which preceded the division the. Prime Minister told the House that had the Postmaster-General realised or known that the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton had been formally handed in to serve on this Committee no objection would have been taken to the name but it would have been at once accepted. The late Patronage Secretary to the Treasury had told the House that a formal nomination had been made and 343 if all the formalities had been gone through he could not understand on what possible ground the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hoxton had been objected to on this occasion. The general feeling on the Unionist side of the House was that the grounds given by the right hon. Gentleman were the thinnest that could possibly be alleged. The hon. Member for Hoxton had voted for this very Committee for years, and if that was a disqualification for serving upon it then all he could say was that that was a disqualification from which he in conjunction with all Members on the Liberal side of the House suffered who were Members of the last Parliament.
To leave out the word 'seven' in line 1 in order to insert the word 'five.'"—(Sir Francis Lowe.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he was Unable to accept the Amendment. After careful consideration he had come to the conclusion that it was better to have a larger Committee than five and to give the Committee of Selection the choice of the Members who were to sit upon it. If the Committee was composed of seven, two Members of the Party opposite would in all probability be appointed, and that ought to be satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. The Committee of Selection was representative of the House, and so far as he was concerned he had never heard of the decisions of that body being objected to in any quarter. He thought it was quite safe to leave the selection of this Committee in their hands. The action he had taken of which complaint had been made was due to a misunderstanding between himself and the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He thought the conversations he had with the right hon. Gentleman were not official, but of a private character in regard to what had best be done. He had never said a word against the hon. Member for Hoxton except on the ground that the hon. Gentleman had taken a very great interest in this question, and that while that 344 Would not disqualify him from serving on a large Committee, or for that matter upon a small one, the size of the Committee did make a considerable difference I in these matters. He hoped the House would agree to a Committee of seven, which upon reconsideration he considered to be a better number than five.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
admitted that the House had no fear that the Committee of Selection would fail to respect the rights of minorities, but that was not the point which they had to consider. What they had to consider was very different. The point had been stated in its most bald terms by the Prime Minister who, speaking for himself and the Government upon the objections to the hon. Member for Hoxton, said the hon. Member was not unbiassed in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman further said they wished to see a Committee which was free from any suspicion of prejudice and partiality, and therefore in his own words accused the hon. Member for Hoxton of being not free from the suspicion of partiality. The gravamen of the charge against the hon. Gentleman was that in this matter he was not impartial. In the past three sessions of the late? Parliament this question of appointing a Select Committee to deal with the grievances of post office employees had been brought before the House. In the present Unionist Party there was only one Member who voted consistently in support of the complete claims of the postmen in that respect, and that was his hon. friend, and the only thing that could be alleged against the hon. Member was that he was too favourable to the claims of the postmen. That was the whole reason why the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General had to exercise his veto in this matter. But if one hon. Member was disqualified on that ground the same objection would apply to all the members, of the Liberal Party who were Members of the last Parliament, because they stood on precisely the same footing as the hon. Member. As regards those hon. Gentlemen who had entered Parliament for the first time, he thought he was fairly accurate when he said that they had given pretty specific pledges upon this matter to those who had sent them to 345 the House. The right hon. Member had said the nomination of the hon. Member for Hoxton was not official, but unfortunately for him the right hon. Gentleman made the suggestion in a way so formal that he ventured to say so formal a nomination had never been made before. It was communicated upon paper, and it had never been withdrawn, and while that official document was in the pocket of the Postmaster-General that right hon. Gentleman was hanging about behind Mr. Speaker's chair asking Unionist Members to sit upon this Committee because he did not take the nomination of the Unionist Party. The position of the Whips, who had been designated as "Channels of communication between the Parties in the House "had not been treated with sufficient courtesy and care by the Postmaster-General. Members of the Unionist Party had complained that a member of the Government had asked them to join Committees which they had constantly opposed during the past five years. He said most distinctly that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have had more regard to the Patronage Secretary and still more to other hon. Gentlemen who, like himself, were the channels of communication between small, it might be almost insignificant, minorities and the very large majority wielded by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. He was not going into the merits of this particular Amendment beyond saying that the Prime Minister had obviously made a grave mistake in tactics in not in the first place accepting the request of the Opposition to postpone the consideration of this subject until they could consider it in all its bearings. The Opposition were now going to be voted down by a gigantic majority, but the findings of the Committee, whatever they were, would be discounted in advance. The postal servants involved would have absolutely no confidence in the findings of a Committee in regard to the nomination of which the Postmaster-General, their official superior, had been criticised in so markedly unfriendly a spirit; and the very fact that he had publicly vetoed the appointment of an hon. Member on the Opposition Benches for the sole reason—the avowed reason— 346 that that hon. Member was too favourable to the postmen's claim, would, in his opinion, make the findings absolutely worthless. Whether they nominated this Committee of five or seven members, whether they put the responsibility upon the Committee of Selection or retained to the House the appointment of the Committee, the findings would be worthless, owing to the unwarrantable action of the Postmaster-General in vetoing the appointment of his hon. friend.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY (Mr. GEORGE WHITELEY,) Yorkshire, W.R., Pudsey
said he merely wanted to say one word with reference to the suggestion of the noble Lord that the Postmaster-General had treated the Whips' office with scant courtesy. He knew throughout the whole of the negotiations that had taken place what was going on, and he could assure the House that the matter had been unduly magnified, and that it was assuming larger proportions than it ever had any right to reach. There seemed to be an idea that the Postmaster-General had acted in a somewhat high handed manner, that he had endeavoured to alter the ordinary procedure with regard to these Committees, and that he had taken advice of the numerical majority of the Government's supporters. He could assure the House that that was not the case. So far as he himself was concerned, and if the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Wellington Division of Somerset were present he would agree, they had endeavoured not only not to insist upon every advantage that they had a right to claim, recognising their large majority in the House, but they had endeavoured not to press that advantage unduly. At the very first opportunity he had of settling the numerical proportions of the Committees he informed the right hon. Baronet that they did not intend to press their advantage unduly, and, as a matter of fact, they agreed to give the Opposition 4 per cent, more representation on Select Committees than they were entitled to. They had a right to 23 per cent, and were getting 27 per cent.
AN HON. MEMBER
asked whether, as the point was one of very great importance, the hon. Gentleman would state what constituted an official nomination.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY
said that an official nomination came from one Whip to another, generally in writing, and was accepted by the Whip receiving that nomination. There was no nomination whatever of that kind with regard to the hon. Member for Hoxton, but only the suggestion that perhaps he was a good Member to be appointed. There was no public veto, or any slur on the capacity of the hon. Member. If there had been a direct representation he should have at once said that the nomination of the Opposition must be immediately accepted, and they had no right to demur to it; but no such representation was made.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
said there was a strong feeling on the Opposition side of the House with regard to this question. All who had listened to the debate must have come to the conclusion that there undoubtedly was a misunderstanding, but it was a matter of such considerable importance that he would make one further appeal to the Leader of the House, who had stated that he did not wish to set up a precedent in regard to this matter. The Postmaster-General had made a remark to the same effect. They fully recognised and wished to adhere to the old established rule of the House, that where a Committee was proposed to be set up there should be negotiations between official sources as to who should be appointed on the Committee. If the present point were not cleared up satisfactorily it might be quoted as a precedent at some future time, and he therefore most earnestly asked the Leader of the House once more to consider this question and to be true to the words he had used in his speech that he did not wish to establish a precedent. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to establish that precedent.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
said he must confess that 348 having listened to the debate from the commencement he was still at a loss to know why the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton was not accepted by the Postmaster-General, and he believed they had not yet got at the real reason. He said nothing whatever as regarded the Patronage Secretary. He was told that the Opposition Whips in every way recognised the chivalry and the manner in which the hon. Gentleman met the minority, but unfortunately he apparently allowed this matter to pass out of his hands, and so they were in the present position. As he understood the Postmaster General the right hon. Gentleman refused to accept the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton—at any rate, he did accept it. If the right hon. Gentleman liked to draw a distinction between accepting and not accepting he was quite welcome to do so. Why was the hon. Member not accepted? Because apparently he had given a vote in this House a particular way, or because he had identified himself with a particular side of the question. Yes, but the day after the Postmaster-General went to another member of the Opposition who had given a vote a particular way—but the other way—and who had identified himself with a particular side of the question—but with the other side of the question. The Postmaster-General must admit one of two things—either that he looked upon the possession of views on a particular side as a disqualification, or he thought that he had a right to form an objection to a particular name which was suggested by the Opposition Whip. Therefore, he repeated that they had not yet got the real reason why the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton was not accepted. He put this question to the Postmaster-General: how did he reconcile his asking a Member upon the Opposition side who was opposed to the Committee, and who had identified himself with the Opposition, to join the Committee, whereas he rejected, or did not accept, the name of one who did not oppose, and who had identified himself with the question? If it were not a question of the particular views or the particular action of the hon. Member, the House had a right to ask what was the reason for the rejection of the hon. Member for Hoxton.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
said that before the question was put he wished to state that the Postmaster-General asked him to nominate a member of the Committee and he gave him the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton. The right hon. Gentleman came to his room twice and asked him to find somebody else and he told him that he could not find anybody else.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said it was quite true that the name suggested was that of the hon. Member for Hoxton. It must be quite clear to the House that under the circumstances he misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, because he took the discussion as being of a private nature and not of an official character as if the right hon. Gentleman had said that the hon. Member for Hoxton was his nomination and he would suggest no other. He again apologised for the misunderstanding.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that they understood how the misunderstanding arose, and his right hon. friend did not wish to charge the Postmaster-General with doing anything unbecoming a Minister in his position. There was one obvious lesson to be drawn from the debate, namely, that the arrangement of these Committees should be left to the Patronage Secretary, and that Cabinet Ministers should not interfere to assist or obstruct the Whips in the very efficient discharge of their duties. He wished to repeat his appeal to the Prime Minister. Surely there never was a more extraordinary position than that in which the House was now placed. He might have occasion later in the debate on another question to say something more about the proposal to appoint this Committee, but he would confine himself for the moment strictly to what had passed in the discussion. The Prime Minister admitted that a misunderstanding had arisen, that the Postmaster-General was not aware that an official nomination had been made, and that if he had been aware that an official nomination had been made it would have been improper for him to have objected to it, and the Committee as orignially proposed would have been appointed with the hon. Member for Hoxton as one 350 of its members. There was no dispute that the misunderstanding was on the part of the Postmaster-General and not on the part of his right hon. friend who represented the Opposition side of the House. Before the Postmaster-General altered the form of his notice his right hon. friend had officially nominated in writing in the most formal way the hon. Member for Hoxton. There was no longer any dispute between the two Front Benches as to the position of the Patronage Secretary in the matter.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY
No communication with regard to the setting up of this Committee was entered into between the right hon. Gentleman and myself, and I received no letter from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said the Post Office seemed to be in default in more ways than one. He was prepared to rest his case on the statement made by the Prime Minister, who said that there had been a misunderstanding and that if he had understood that an official nomination had been made he would not have allowed it to be altered or the form of the Committee to be changed. His hon. and learned friend the Member for the City of London had appealed to the Prime Minister to undo this misunderstanding, and it was quite within his power to do so; by a stroke of the pen he could remove this misunderstanding and restore the Motion to its original form, thus relieving the Opposition and others of the feeling that they were being ill-used in violation of the practice of the House. He appealed to the Prime Minister, as the guardian 351 of the rights of the House, to undo the decision which had given rise to the misunderstanding and to restore them to the position in which they would have been if that misunderstanding had not arisen.
§ MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said that arising out of the debate were one or two important matters which should be nailed down. First of all he referred to the remarkable friendship displayed by the Opposition for the postman this session as compared with last session. As one who had taken some little part in this controversy he knew the postmen would be very grateful for their support and he personally was also grateful for that support. What to his mind was more important than the decision that a Member's personal opinion on any matter should not be a bar to his selection to serve on a Committee was the declaration regarding minorities. He was one of a minority of about thirty in the House and he felt grateful at being told that in future the selection by a minority of any Member to serve on a Committee would be accepted by the Government. That position had been clearly stated this afternoon, for the Prime Minister had said that if he had known the Member for Hoxton was officially nominated there would have been no objection to his nomination. He rather favoured the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for the City of London. Let them consider this matter de novo. If the Government persisted in their present attitude it would be construed outside that a certain hon. Member had been refused nomination on this Committee because of his expressed opinions in past Parliaments. He felt that that was a very serious thing with which to start an important Committee of inquiry, and it would not tend to a satisfactory settlement of this much debated question. If it was intended that this Committee should be appointed by the Selection Committee he held that the Members should be increased to nine so that all Parties in the House could be represented. Under the present arrangement there was only one representative from the Unionist Opposition and the Labour party was entirely ignored.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
said he wished to say a word or two from the point of view of the postmen. The hon. Member for Hoxton and himself were two of those who in the last Parliament took a very active part on behalf of the postmen. His position was that if it went forth to these men for whom they had tried to do something, and whose part they had taken for years, that when this Committee was being appointed an hon. Member was to be disqualified because he had expressed views favourable to the claims of the postmen, it would be a most unfortunate incident. It would discount the advantages of the Committee and practically make it useless for the purpose of settling the discontent. For the last twenty years there had been seething discontent amongst a large body of men and women employed by the Post Office, and the Government had at last conceded the demand for a Committee of the House by this body of citizens. Therefore, if that Committee was to be appointed, it should be one in which the public department concerned and the service would have some reasonable confidence. They could not have confidence in a Committee if prejudice and suspicion were to be introduced, and there should be no interference with the personality of its members. He had not been able to agree with some of his hon. friends upon this point, for he had consistently advocated the claims of the postmen, and had spoken for them. He thought they were entitled to have this Committee appointed in a proper way, and it should be no bar to anyone's being appointed that he had ever declared himself in favour or against the postmen. He suggested to the Prime Minister that whether the Committee was appointed by the House or by the Committee of Selection, or whether it was to consist of five, seven, or nine members, the hon. Member for Hoxton should be one of that Committee, and that was the only condition that would satisfy those who shared his views upon this subject.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that what was wanted was an inquiry by a Committee appointed in the ordinary way, and not in the 353 unprecedented way now being proposed. He appealed to the Prime Minister to reconsider the position. It would be a bad beginning if this Committee was appointed with so much dissension existing in the House. Would it not be better to appoint a Committee unanimously agreed to by both sides? If it went forth that this Committee had not been appointed by the unanimous wish of the House, it would not possess the confidence of the public. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would even at the last moment re-consider his decision in order that they might come to some agreement upon this question.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said he agreed with the hon. Member that it would be most unfortunate if the proceedings of this Committee began with any serious difference of opinion in the House. They had got rid of any slur on the hon. Member for Hoxton; and they had got rid of any quarrel between the two Whips on the two sides of the House. He agreed that the best way of conducting the whole of these proceedings was through the Whips and not through Ministers. What should now be done? He spoke quite frankly when he said that he saw great advantages in a small Committee in a case of this sort, but he thought that if a small Committee were appointed it ought to be appointed by the Committee of Selection. He never heard anything of what had been done in regard to this matter, but if he had heard of it he should have suggested from the very first that the Committee ought not to be large and that it should be left to the Committee of Selection. The duties of the Committee would be almost judicial and almost administrative. Of course, in a preliminary degree they would be duties which were ordinarily undertaken by Members of the Executive, but the final authority must be this House. On that ground they ought to be very careful how they proceeded. He thought the suggestion of his hon friend below the gangway was a good one, namely, that the Committee should be increased to nine. That would give a larger choice and admit of a certain balancing of opinion in this judicial Committee. To let the choice be made by the Committee of 354 Selection would be more in accordance with his individual idea, but on the other hand, if it would satisfy Members of the House who criticised the proposed constitution of the Committee, he would be willing to agree that the Committee should consist of nine Members appointed by the Whips in the ordinary way. There would then be less chance of those little contests of individual Members than there would be in a smaller Committee. He was sure that they all had but one desire in the matter, namely, that, on the one hand, the Committee should be appointed without a prejudice against it, and on the other hand that there should be no prejudice in the minds of the hon. Members themselves. If that would meet the views of the House the Government would be happy to agree to it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
suggested that the discussion should be adjourned in order that the Committee might be proposed in th usual form.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he understood that general assent would be given to the proposal that there should be a Committee of nine, and that he words "to be nominated by the Committee of Selection" should be omitted.
Amendments proposed and agreed to—
In line 1, to leave out the word 'seven' and insert the word 'nine'"; and
"In line 2, to leave out the words 'to be nominated by the Committee of Selection.'"—(Mr. Sydney Buxton.)
§ Original Question, as amended, again proposed.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said he should like to know from the Postmaster-General why the supervising and clerical force, and those in the engineering stores and factories departments and the sub-postmasters, were to be excluded from the scope of the Committee's inquiries There were many thousands of sub postmasters, and the engineering department was a very important one. 355 There had been grievances in these departments, and when the subject was being inquired into, was there any sense in leaving them out? He thought they should all be included. When it was known that they had grievances it was rather invidious to leave them out. He moved the omission of the words in line 4, "other than the supervising of the clerical force, and those in the engineering stores and factories departments."
In line 4, to leave out the words 'other than the supervising and clerical force, and those in the engineering, stores and factories departments.'"—(Mr. William Rutherford.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said the hon. Member would find from the notice that the "unestablished sub-postmasters" were included. As to the engineering department it was quite obvious that the Committee, however constituted, would have a very heavy task before it, and it appeared to him that if every rank were included the Committee would not be able to report in a reasonable limit of time. The classes referred to by the hon. Member were in a different position from that of the ordinary postal servants, and though he did not say that their case did not require consideration, he thought it was not suitable to refer it to this particular Committee. As to the other departments, he had already received information of their case from the men, and he hoped to be able to come to some conclusion which would be satisfactory to them.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
understood that complaints had been made quite as much by those in the departments which the Postmaster-General proposed to omit as by others. The right hon. Gentleman had himself admitted that they had certain grievances that ought to be inquired into. The only reason why he proposed to omit them was that the work of the Committee would be too great if they were included. He was afraid the right hon. Gentleman would find that that was a very unsatisfactory statement for the classes he proposed to omit. Did 356 the right hon. Gentleman propose with regard to the other employees of the Post Office to set up a Committee—either a Departmental Committee or a House of Commons Committee? Of course, if he did, that would meet the matter raised by the Amendment of his hon. friend. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would have very great difficulty with the servants in the Post Office if for no other reason except that there would be too much work thrown on the Committee he refused to allow their grievances to be inquired into by the Committee proposed to be set up. Certain members of the Party to which he belonged had all through opposed the appointment of a Committee, but he thought if a Committee were to inquire into this matter at all they ought to have a complete inquiry into the whole of the grievances. If they inquired into the grievances of some classes of servants and left out others, the last state of the Post Office would be worse than the first. He hoped that some other answer than that already given would be forthcoming before they voted on the Amendment.
§ SIR FRANCIS LOWE
agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman as to the desirability of the inquiry being thorough. He believed that if all the grievances were gone into, the Post Office employees would be willing to accept the verdict of this Committee as a final solution of the difficulty. If certain classes were left out of the inquiry, it would prevent this very desirable result from being arrived at. He joined in the appeal made to the Postmaster-General to reconsider this question.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield Central)
expressed the hope that the Postmaster-General would accept the Amendment. If the inquiry were entered upon and certain classes left out, there would be nothing but dissatisfaction, They would not be able to understand the reason for their exemption. If the right hon. Gentleman was not able to accept the Amendment, would it not be better to withdraw the Motion altogether and put it down another day after the right hon. Gentleman had had a consultation with the permanent heads of 357 the Department? It was quite evident that there was a great deal of dissatisfaction in all parts of the House with this Motion, and it would be well if the Government could come to an arrangement to which the whole House could agree.
§ Question put.
§ A Division was called and when hon. Members had returned to their places to hear the Question again put by Mr. Speaker,
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
, sitting in his place with his hat on, said he would accept the Amendment on condition that the words "other than the supervising and clerical force" were inserted afterwards.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said that he had waited a considerable time before rising to put the Question, and he was afraid that having once put the Question and ordered the House to be cleared, he could not now put a different Question.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Ordered, That a Select Committee of nine Members be appointed to inquire into the wages and position of the principal classes of Post Office servants, and also of the unestablished sub-postmasters.
§ To examine, so far as may be necessary for the purpose of their Report, the conditions of employment of these classes.
§ To report whether, having regard to the conditions and prospects of their employment, and, as far as may be, to the standard rate of wages and the position of other classes of workers, the remuneration they receive is adequate or otherwise.
§ Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.—(Mr. Sydney Buxton.)358
§ Motion made, and Question proposed' "That three be the quorum."—(Mr. Sydney Buxton.)
To leave out the word 'Three,' and insert the word 'Five.'"—(Sir Francis Lowe.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Three' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
thought that in a Committee of this sort, which would have to sit for a considerable number of days, there should be a quorum of four. He moved accordingly.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed, and agreed to—
To leave out the word 'Three' and insert the word 'Four.'"—(Mr Sydney Buxton.)
§ Ordered, That four be the quorum.