HC Deb 20 February 1908 vol 184 cc1026-8
MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

I beg to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Pioneer Socialist League has for its objects the propagation of the principles of Socialism, its field being primarily the personnel of the various postal services from which its membership is drawn; whether he is aware that the Pioneer Socialist League has received the thanks of certain successful Socialist candidates for Parliament for contributions towards their election expenses, and that it calls upon its members, as their duty, to subscribe to its war chest funds; and whether, in view of these facts, he will consider the advisability of refusing to allow this organisation to continue in the postal service.


The existing regulations governing the action of postal servants as civil servants are shortly as follows. That they are to exercise a certain reserve in political matters; and it is specifically stated that they may not serve on a committee having for its object to promote or prevent the return of a particular candidate to Parliament, nor support or oppose any particular candidate or party either by public speaking or writing. Mr. Gladstone, as First Lord of the Treasury, in 1893 laid it down that "the only restriction by the custom of the public service on persons employed is that persons in the permanent employment of the State shall not take a prominent or active part in political contests, and it is not intended in future that any other restrictive rule should be imposed on the service of the Post Office." No attempt has, as far as I am aware, been made to prohibit civil servants from subscribing individually or collectively to such objects as they think fit. As regards the particular society in question, I understand that last autumn it was decided to incorporate it in the Civil Service Socialist Society and that this was carried out last month under the constitution of the Civil Service Socialist Society. Political action is expressly stated to be outside its province, and the general funds of the Society are not to be used for any other organisation.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the organ of this society statements were made acknowledging contributions towards the election expenses of Socialist candidates seeking to become Members of this House; and, if that is so, is he not of opinion that the objects of this society are strictly Party ones?


I really cannot add anything to the Answer I have given. I read out the actual regulations that exist in the Post Office, and I must ask the hon. Member to draw his own conclusions from them.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are two servants of the Post Office who are members of the Manchester City Council and who are avowed Socialists? Will the right hon. Gentleman further say whether the Post Office Socialist organisation has supported the candidature of those two members?


If the society has supported the candidates for the Manchester City Council it is entirely within its rights, because that is not prohibited in any way.

*MR. R. DUNCAN (Lanarkshire, Govan)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the strong public feeling that is growing that the rules of fair play are being transgressed in the application of the Post Office regulations to these associations? The right hon. Gentleman will find evidence in The Daily Telegraph to-day.


I should be very sorry if it were thought that I had dealt out different measures of justice to any of these societies. My desire is to deal out even-handed justice.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that contributions were made by this society to the election expenses of the hon. Members for Preston and Colne Valley?


I believe in the organ of the society there was acknowledgment of a contribution of 15s. subscribed for the hon. Member for Colne Valley, but such contributions are not forbidden in the Civil Service.

MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)

After the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, will he allow a branch of the Primrose League to be established in the Post Office, seeing that it exactly fulfils the conditions under which he has allowed a branch of the Pioneer Socialist League?


said the answer to that was that, having regard his decision, which was founded on that of his predecessor, those interested in the matter formed another society, with rules which brought them within the regulations of the Post Office.