HC Deb 14 July 1913 vol 55 cc877-9
43. Mr. GIBBS

asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been drawn to a ease tried at the Warwick Assizes on 7th July, and to the comments of Mr. Justice Darling on the new practice of the postal authorities of engaging temporary assistance through the Labour Exchanges without first verifying references; and whether he will take steps to terminate this danger to the public who entrust valuables to his Department for transmission?

55. Colonel LOCKWOOD

asked if Mr. Buzzard, K.C., who prosecuted for the Post Office in a recent case at Warwick, stated that, under the recent rules, all temporary postal servants must be engaged through Labour Exchanges, and thus the Government were deprived of the services of many respectable men who would not apply through these Exchanges; that even if the police saw improper characters wearing a postal badge they could not interfere, because they presumed that the Post Office had made the necessary inquiries; have circulars to this effect been issued to postmasters; and will he explain how such instructions will ensure the most reliable men for the Post Office service?


As I stated in reply to the hon. Member for West St. Pancras, on the 10th July, it never has been and it is not the practice for men to be engaged as temporary postal servants without the taking up of references. The rule is that at least two, and generally four, references should be taken up, and should be verified by direct personal inquiry. In former years this was done by officials of the Post Office. Last winter arrangements were made between the Post Office and the Board of Trade by which it should be done by officials of the Labour Exchanges, on exactly the same lines as those previously adopted. The arrangement provided that the results of the inquiries, including the replies of the referees, should be submitted to the local postmasters to guide them in making their final selection among the applicants. During last winter nearly 40,000 men were engaged, under this arrangement, through the Labour Exchanges. In the particular cases referred to, where two temporary postal servants were prosecuted at Warwick, only one of the men, by name Partridge, was in fact engaged through the Labour Exchange. I am informed that in his case the arrangement was not fully carried out, as, in response to an urgent demand for men from the local postmaster, he was sent up from the Exchange before replies had been received from his referees. I am considering, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, what steps are necessary to prevent any local departures from the arrangements in the future. With reference to certain statements which the counsel for the prosecution is reported to have made in the case referred to, there is no truth in the state- ment that the new arrangement between the Board of Trade and the Post Office prevents the police from communicating either to the Post Office or to the Board of Trade any information as to the character of persons whom they see to be acting as temporary postmen. I have no reason to believe there is any foundation for the other statement made by him that, as a result of the arrangement, the Government were deprived of the services of respectable men or that respectable men would not apply through the Exchanges. Counsel appears to have misunderstood the information given by the Post Office representative in the Court. Reports received as to the working of the new system show that, taking the country as a whole, a better class of labour was secured last year than in the previous year.