HC Deb 25 March 1908 vol 186 cc1482-9


Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time."

MR. GRETTON (Rutland)

said he wished to call attention to the question of the two-Power standard.


That question cannot be raised on the Third Reading of this Bill. It should be raised on the Shipbuilding Vote, and the Navy Votes are not included in this Bill.


said he rose to draw attention to a matter connected with the administration of the Post Office, of which he had given the Postmaster - General private notice. On various occasions during this session attention had been called to the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had permitted political and other associations to have being amongst the postal servants, A great deal of feeling had existed on the subject, because there could be no question that the right hon. Gentleman had shown favour to certain of these associations and marked disfavour to others. It was a most extraordinary thing that while a Free Trade Union should be allowed to exist among the postal servants and be affiliated to Free Trade Unions outside, a branch of the Tariff Reform League was not. The existence of its organisation had been called into question because it was formally affiliated to a central body. That central body had no real connection with it nor had it any subscriptions from it, or any compacts with it. When the question of the propriety of a number of postal servants associating themselves for the purpose of propaganda, for the purpose of promoting tariff reform, was called into question by the right hon. Gentleman, his case was all the more feeble when they remembered that he tolerated the Fawcett Association whose published accounts showed subscriptions of £60 or £70 to the support of the Labour Party in that House. The Fawcett Association was also affiliated openly with that Party, the Trade Union Congress, the London Trades Council, and other associations which actively supported candidates for Parliament. The Socialist Association of the Post Office officials was also tolerated. He was the last to object to a Socialist Association in the Post Office, because he believed that the more men associated themselves in this way for propaganda, the happier would be the conditions of public service, because they would be fighting among themselves instead of organising for the purpose of making demands which the public; felt were not yet due, or which they considered were detrimental to public interest. It was very doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman had any power under the law to allow any associations of the kind. He had not the Act by him at the moment, but he believed every person on the established staff of the Civil Service was prohibited by an Act of Parliament from taking any public part in any controversy of a political character. Personally he would hail with delight the day when that Act was repealed but while the law was such as it was, he had grave doubts as to whether the right hon. Gentleman or any other Minister had power to permit such associations. But he claimed that if he did permit Radical or Socialist organisations to exist in the Post Office, he must not try to prevent the existence of bodies which differed from his views. He denied that the Primrose League was a Party organisation. The matter would be brought before the House again and again, when opportunity offered, until the Postmaster-General permitted Post Office servants without discrimination to combine for political propaganda or social effort.


said he had already fully explained his position in regard to associations within the Post Office. He had no objection to the formation of associations among the Post Office servants, for, of course, they did not carry on their operations within office hours, and had an educative effect, besides having the additional advantage of distracting the attention of the servants from matters internal to the Post Office. But the question was entirely governed by Treasury regulations; and all he had to do was to see that those regulations were carried out. He denied that he had applied the regulations partially as between different associations. There was no objection to an association being formed within the Post Office so long as it was not a branch of a parent association outside, for, as such, it would come into conflict with other outside associations. The tariff reform and free trade associations within the Post Office had brought themselves into line by severing their connection with the parent association outside. It was immaterial from his point of view whether or not the Primrose League was a party organisation. It could not be denied that it took a part in Parliamentary elections, and therefore members of it came under the Treasury regulation against Civil servants actively engaging in party politics. The Fawcett Association had been in existence for many years, and was recognised by successive Postmasters-General during that period as non-political.


said the right hon. Gentleman was under a misapprehension if he supposed that hon. Members were satisfied with his explanation on a previous occasion. Hon. Members did not leave the House on that occasion with the impression that the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in exorcising even-handed justice. The reason the matter was raised was that it was believed that one organisation formed on what they believed to be constitutional principles was not receiving from the right hon. Gentleman the same treatment as other associations. He did not think that the fact of the Fawcett Association having been in existence for twenty years justified its receiving preferential treatment. He thought the description given by the right hon. Gentleman to these other associations applied with equal force to the Fawcett Association, and that the description applied to the Fawcett Association would apply equally to such associations as the Primrose League and the Tariff Reform League. The Primrose League had always been held to be a non-party organisation. It was true that at the present time it happened that the policy of one of the great parties in the House coincided more with the ideals and objects of the Primrose League in its three main principles, but it was quite conceivable that a time might come when hon. Gentlemen opposite would receive the support of the Primrose League, because it was not bound to any party, and stood entirely alone. No one had stated that the right hon. Gentleman had given preferential treatment to the Socialists in his office, because of any great interest in Socialism there might be in Poplar or elsewhere. He would be the last to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman had spread his ægis over this organisation of Socialists in the Post Office for any such reason, but it was certainly a pity that any action of the right hon. Gentleman should create such an impression. He therefore hoped that the Postmaster-General would see the advisability in this case and others of making his position perfectly clear by either refusing to allow any organisations in his Department, or including all, and not excluding cither the Primrose or the Tariff Reform League. He was aware that the right hon. Gentleman had stated that he was bound more or less by certain Treasury Minutes which laid down that the Postal officials should not take a prominent part in political organisations outside. If that was applied all round, no complaint could be made, but there was a widespread feeling that while the right hon. Gentleman allowed special preferential treatment to the Socialists, he did not extend the same treatment to other organisations.


said he rose to make an appeal to the Secretary of State for War in regard to what appeared to be an injustice to the secretaries of the County Associations under the Territorial Force scheme. He thought it would be within the recollection of the House that when the Territorial Bill was introduced it was provided that officers should be employed as secretaries of the County Associations, and that they would not be penalised in any way if they passed from the Regular Forces to the Territorial It had been a matter of considerable difficulty to the County Associations to find suitable men to fill these offices. It was quite true that a long list had been forwarded by the Army Council of general officers, colonels, and other retired officers of the Army who were willing to serve for the ridiculously small sum which the County Associations were able to give for their services, but it was believed that it would be far better, and would secure more efficient services, if those Associations were served by local men. By Paragraph 510 of the Army Warrant, certain officers had been allowed on condition of their attending the training of the Militia, the magnificent allowance of £100 a year after so many years' service. He believed that these officers had never been asked to do anything except what was connected with the training of the Militia, so that they could not be looked upon merely as Militia officers, in the general acceptance of the term. These gentlemen had been selected by the Associations for the secretary ships of those bodies, but the Secretary for War had told him a few days ago, in answer to a question, that by the acceptance of such a position an officer would sacrifice his retired pay; so that the effect would be that in small counties where they were unable to pay a salary of more than £50 a year such an officer who accepted the position would really be losing £100 a year to enjoy the magnificent salary of £50 a year. He would have to give up the reward for his past services, and practically to pay out of his own pocket £50 a year in order to enjoy the privilege of serving the Association. He was not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman had contemplated, when he introduced his Bill last year, that the officer who accepted the position of secretary to a County Association would have to give up his £100 a year retired pay, granted him for services already given, and, therefore, it was to be supposed services which were approved of. But the treatment was not the same all round with regard to the Territorial Army. There were brigadiers appointed to the Territorial Army—time-expired officers some of them, and some of them on half-pay. They drew their salary of £150 a year, and they were not asked to relinquish any part of their half-pay. They were allowed to add that to the salary given to them under a separate grant of the council. They still enjoyed their half-pay.


said this subject did not arise under any of the Votes contained in the Consolidated Fund Bill.


pointed out that these particular officers were losing money in order to qualify for a salary of £50 a year under the Territorial Army.


That question arises under the Vote for the Territorial Army, which is not included in the Bill.


said he had raised the question of the two different rates of pay—one under the Territorial Army, and the other the half-pay of officers of the Regular Army. He took it that the pay of the officers of the Regular Army would come under this Vote.


said that was so, but the pay of officers of the Regular Army did not raise the question of the pay of the officers of the Territorial Army, and the discussion must be confined to the pay of the officers of the Regular Army.


said he was referring to officers of the Regular Army, and surely that would come under this Vote.


said the discussion must be confined to the pay of the officers of the Regular Army.


said in both cases they were officers of the Regular Army.


said the noble Lord was referring to officers of the Regular Army who took office under the Territorial Army; therefore he was out of order.


Yes; but they are losing Regular Army pay.


Only as a consequence of accepting office in the Territorial Army.


said he wished to find very great fault with the inadequacy of the pay provided for officers under Vote A. under conditions which had been recently explained. Under this Vote there was a certain class of officers who drew a very humble sum per annum, partly for services already rendered, and partly because of the expectation on the part of the War Office that the men might be of further service in the future. He wished to point out that the pay which was afforded to these men was wholly inadequate. This particular grade of men got £100 a year. When they undertook fresh responsibilities at the direct invitation of the War Office, the pay which they had to receive was wholly inadequate.


Slid the noble Lord was really raising what he had just ruled out of order.


said he was pointing out what he respectfully ventured to submit he was entitled to refer to, namely, that these particular men were receiving a salary which under the new conditions was inadequate.


said the salaries under Vote I had nothing to do with the conditions under which officers served in the Territorial Army. That was a point which he had just ruled out of order.


said he had intended to raise the question on the Colonial Vote of the very serious reduction of the grant to the West Indian Agricultural Department by no less than £3,500, but owing to the right hon. Gentleman's mastery of Parliament procedure he had managed to get through the business of the Army Annual Bill that afternoon, with the result that he had not had an adequate opportunity of bringing this subject to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman who represented the Colonial Office in that House. He felt that it would not be fair to press the point at that moment, and he only rose to give the Patronage Secretary notice that at the earliest possible opportunity he proposed to call attention to this question of the grant to the West Indian Department of Agriculture and ask for some explanation of the reduction.

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