§ MR. STEADMAN (Finsbury, Central)
To ask the Postmaster-General whether he can state the number of men the Post Office has asked the War Office to supply for use in the Telegraph Department during the forthcoming summer; what number of vacancies on the permanent establishment he has decided to reserve for these men; and whether these preferential appointments will be at the expense of those hitherto reserved for the ex-messengers, or from those recruited from open competition.
(Answered by Mr. Sydney Buxton.) The military telegraphists recently employed in the postal telegraph service consist of a group of twelve ex-soldiers who are at present engaged as probationary telegraphists. These men will, if satisfactory, be appointed to established posts in the Central Telegraph Office under the conditions stated in my Answer to my hon. friend on the 11th instant, i.e., they will be placed on the same scale as that in force for other telegraphists in the same office. As my hon. friend is already aware from previous Answers, the chief object of employing these ex soldiers as telegraphists is to enable a larger number of vacancies to be left for the ex-telegraph messengers. These appointments will therefore be to the benefit of the ex-messengers, and will not result in a larger number of ex-soldiers being employed in the postal service. Besides the above, there are a few soldiers still serving with the colours to whom the acquisition of a knowledge of telegraphy will be an advantage, and who are temporarily engaged with a view to the reduction of excessive overtime in provincial offices during the coming summer. The number will probably not exceed twenty. As regards these, there is no question of appointment on the establishment.
§ MR. STEADMAN
To ask the Postmaster-Genera whether the Estimates for the year ending 31st March, 1907, showed that 1,736 male telegraphists were attached to the Central Telegraph Office, while for the current year the number is 8 stated to be 1,659; whether the Department is employing soldiers on telegraph duties in this office, paying them 6s. 6d. per week for an attendance of forty-eight hours weekly; and whether ho will explain why he has reduced the permanent staff and resorted to the use of military casual labour.
(Answered by Mr. Sydney Buxton.) The reduction in the force of male telegraphists employed in the Central Telegraph Office during the current year is due to diminution of work in that office and has no connection whatever with the recent employment of a small number of ex-soldiers in that office. As I stated in my Answers to my hon. friend on the 21st March and 11th instant, the object with which these men are employed is with a view of leaving a larger number of vacancies for ex-telegraph messengers and not with the view, nor with the result, of employing a large number of ex-soldiers in the postal service. I have already explained that it is not a question of "casual" labour, nor of cheapening labour. If these men, niter their probationary period, are found to give satisfaction, they will be appointed on the establishment on the same scale as that in force for the telegraphists in the same office.