HC Deb 01 April 1914 vol 60 cc1313-6

I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."

11.0 P.m.


I wish to raise a question of extreme importance to a very large number of persons in this country, and that is the working of the recommendations of the Holt Committee. There were five questions dealt with, but I only wish to deal with two of them this evening—(1) that of the increasing demand made on the abilities of Post Office servants, and (2) the question of the cost of living. The Prime Minister answered a question in this House on the 7th of December, 1911. It was a question as to whether the Committee could be appointed early, and asked to sit as soon as possible, as the question was becoming one which needed carefully looking into, and the Prime Minister said:— It is only the recent increase in the cost of living which could justify further inquiry being held. I submit that that shows that the Prime Minister himself saw the necessity and the reason for the granting of a Committee of Inquiry into the matter, because he realised that the cost of living had gone up very greatly in this country. Later, when the Prime Minister postponed a deputation which was coming to hint on the subject, he did so for the reason that he wished to know what the Board of Trade Returns were on the question of the cost of living. Those Returns showed between 1907 and 1913 that the cost of living had gone up 11.3 per cent. I submit that the recommendations of the Holt Committee have not shown any benefit granted to the servants of the Post Office in any way commensurate with 11.3 per cent. increase in the cost of living in the country. The Postmaster-General answered a question of mine to-day in which I asked hint whether it was proposed to issue the Report as it stood on this question of the rise in the cost of living, and he answered by quoting the Report itself, in which four lines are given, on page 3, paragraph 16, on the question. I submit that in practically the whole of the rest of the Report it would be very difficult to find any place in which any further consideration is given to the rise in the cost of living in the country. In order to illustrate that point, perhaps I may quote from a letter which I have been sent from one of the indoor postmen in my Constituency, and in which he says their case for higher wages is based upon the increase in the cost of living which has been found to have been 11.3 per cent. during the previous five years. The Committee met this by granting an increase of Is., but only on the maximum weekly pay. This meant that only those men who had been at the maximum for three years would receive this increase. In other words, a man to receive this Is. immediately must have had twenty-nine years' service. What this meant to the general body of postmen might be readily understood when it was pointed out that out of 309 postmen at Cardiff only nine had the maximum pay, and of these only six had been on this pay for three years, and were therefore qualified to receive the increase. I venture to submit that the Holt Committee does not carry out certainly in that case—and I am only quoting one of many—the purpose for which the inquiry into the matter was granted. When the late Postmaster-General met the deputation on the question of the new recommendations of the Committee, he pointed out that you had to take in place of the recommendations which it had been hoped the Report would make, the conditions of the service, medical attendance, pensions, and permanency of employment. He also pointed out that a million or so had been granted as extra remuneration. I submit that the extract I have just read shows that there are very few, if any, certainly in the lower ranks of the Post Office, who are going to benefit in any way from this increase of money which has been given. It. is stated, and has been stated in several deputations which I myself have received, that the officials in the higher positions in the Post Office do receive a certain amount of increase in their salaries, but that the rank and file in the Post Office receive practically nothing. I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question on the 25th of last month as to how the sum of £85,120, the estimated cost of the immediate changes in the pay of sorting clerks and telegraphists, was arrived at, having regard to the fact that the principal recommendations only affected the male sorting clerks and telegraphists, of whom not more than 30 per cent. are in receipt of the maximum pay. The right hon. Gentleman answered that the proposals were still under the consideration of the Treasury. I submit, I hope as politely as possible, that was not an answer to my question. The object of my question was really to find out how this £85,000 odd was to be divided among the sorting clerks and telegraphists, and how many of them, or if all of them were to benefit. It may also be pointed out that the answer rather shows that the Post Office had no scheme whereby these sorting clerks and telegraphists were to be helped, and it rather showed, too, that the whole of the question was under the thumb of the Treasury. It further goes to show that the Holt Committee's Report did not give that full consideration to the question of the cost of living which the servants of the Post Office had a right to expect.

I wish to make a point, if possible, on the subject of the increased amount of work which is being given for practically no remuneration. The sub-postmasters suffer most greatly of all servants of the Post Office in this matter. I think I am right in. saying that sixteen new items of work have been added without any increase of pay, or with a very small increase during the past few years. There is the question of the issue of insurance stamps. Some sub-postmasters have received a small extra rate of remuneration, but whereas eight units are allowed for the sale of ordinary postage stamps only two units are given for selling insurance stamps. Further, it should be remembered that there is an enormous amount of work entailed beyond the mere selling of the stamps over the counter, therefore more remuneration ought to be granted for it. This, however, is but one illustration of many cases that might be cited.

Notice taken that forty Members were not present, House counted, and forty Members not being present,

The House was adjourned at Fifteen minutes, after Eleven of the clock till to-morrow, (Thursday).