HC Deb 05 June 1917 vol 94 cc53-126

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £13,480,310, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1918, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Post Office, including Telegraphs and Telephones." [NOTE.— £12,500,000 has been voted on account.]

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Illingworth)

During the past year the Post Office has been faced with difficulties which all large businesses have had to contend with in the country, and those were shortage of suitable labour and materials for carrying on business. It has been the custom in the Post Office to have a large number of young, capable and medically fit men, and, in consequence of the very large number of those men who were being employed there we have lost an enormous number who have gone into the Army. At the end of last month there were no fewer than 75,000 of those men called up for military service, and among those 75,000 men there are 2,000 Irishmen who have enlisted voluntarily in Ireland. Of course, though that is a very large number of men to be lost to the service of one Department, it does not exhaust the list of those who are medically fit. For instance, in the telegraphic department there are 1,600 men medically fit who have been left. These are being reserved for the signal units, and are being released a few at a time as required. Amongst the engineers there are some 5,000 fit men, but only a very few of these can be released because of war work in this country necessary in order to maintain communications for the Army and Navy, and provide for other essential services. Of these engineers 11,000 have already joined the Army. Post Office servants exempted by tribunals on grounds of domestic hardship number 3,000; ex- empted by the Post Office as indispensable—other than engineers and telegraphists—650; practically all thse men are over thirty-one. I am glad to say that amongst the large number of men who have joined the Army many distinctions have been gained. These include three V.C.s, thirteen D.S.O.s, 205 Military Medals; and, with various other decorations, total 755. I regret to say that up to 1st May the deaths had numbered 3,829. The Post Office Rifles is a well-disciplined and smart regiment. It has been out in France since early in 1915. A few weeks ago, when I was over in France, I had the pleasure of inspecting this fine regiment. The men are maintaining their reputation at the seat of war. They are dashing and brave in attack, and stubborn and unyielding in defence. They have shown this by their fine conduct at Festubert, Loos, Vimy, High Wood, Eau-court: l'abbaye, and I am sure that the record, at the end of the War, of the Post Office Rifles will rank as high as the record of any of the traditional best regiments of the Regular Army, and that their achievements will have been inferior to none.

During the year the gross revenue of the Post Office has been £34,100,000, an increase of £440,000 over 1915–16, and 3¼ millions over 1913–14. The expenditure for 1916–17 has been £31,780,000 compared with £30,235,000 for 1915–16, an increase of £1,545,000; with the large increase of 7½ millions over 1913–14. When we come to the excess of revenue over expenditure, at first sight this does not appear to be a very satisfactory figure, and I will explain later how this arises. The excess revenue over expenditure for 1916–17 was £2,320,000, compared with £3,430,000 for 1915–16, and £6,655,000 in 1913–14. The explanation of what does not appear on the face of it to be a very satisfactory figure is partly to be found in the enormous amount of work done for other Departments of the Government for which the Post Office have not been paid. For instance, stores have been sent abroad for war communications to the amount of £1,210,000. There is the installation of telephones in new Departments, etc. Besides there is special war expenditure, such as the Civil pay of men serving in the Army. And the accounts are not quite finished. When the figures have been taken out on a commercial basis, and all is taken into account, I do not think that there will be any material difference compared with the financial results of previous years.

It has been the custom of previous Postmasters-General before the War, in presenting the Estimates, to give figures of what the revenue would probably be for the following year. I have gone carefully into the matter, and there are so many conflicting factors, and so many matters of doubt, that I have come to the conclusion that it will be wisest to follow the precedent set by my immediate predecessor in office, and not to attempt to give any figure at all—it might turn out to be so far from the mark. But it may interest the Committee to give the results of the Budget increases in telephone rates and the abolition of obsolete measured and message rate tariffs. Perhaps I may remind the House of what those increases were 1 In London flat rates were increased from £17 to £20; and in the Provinces from £10 to £12. Trunk call tariffs increased 33⅓ pr cnt. The estimated additional revenue per year from the increased flat rates was £280,000; the actual additional revenue for 1916–7 was £120,000. I think it is very likely that in the course of this year, now that the change is in full working order, the additional revenue from this source will amount to £230,000. The actual additional revenue in 1916–17 from increased trunk fees has reached a much more satisfactory total—£220,000. This would have been still larger had it not been for the great damage done to the trunk lines from storms, which so much interrupted the service. It is estimated that had there been a full service during the War the returns from this source would have reached the large total of £250,000. The result of altering the contracts of the 30,000 subscribers at obsolete measured and message rates has been that 12 per cent. have given up the service. There has been a gain of about £20,000; but at present the principal benefit has been due to the decrease of accounts and the simplification of the work of the accountants' department, which is very welcome. During the year the capital expenditure has been kept down as much as possible. The London capital expenditure in 1915 was £370,000, and in 1916 £93,000, or a decrease of about £276,000. In the provinces the capital expenditure in 1915 was £882,000, and in 1916 £196,000, or a decrease of £686,000, the total decrease for the two years being £962,000. This has been brought about by two or three causes. One, of course, is the smaller staff, and the other is the large amount of urgent work which has had to be done for the Government. For instance, over 25,000 new telephone circuits have been provided in the various Government Departments. Owing to the decreased staff, the demand for economy and the large amount of work done for the Government, it has been almost impossible to provide private installations, and the result is that there are some 12,500 fewer private installations than there were before the War.

In 1913–14 great results were expected to arise from the installation of automatic telephone exchanges, but on account of the War this, like many other things, has had to go by the board, and the installation has been entirely suspended, except in the case of Leeds, where large expenditure had already been incurred, and it has been decided to continue this. Up to the present it is not quite finished, but it is hoped it will be very soon. The automatic exchanges which are now opened are the "Official Switch," G.P.O., Portsmouth, Epsom, Dudley, Hereford, Newport (Mon.), Chepstow, Paisley, Blackburn, Accrington, and Darlington. After the War, it is hoped, many other of the large towns will be fitted up as soon as possible with these automatic exchanges in the hope that they will simplify the working

My predecessor, in presenting the Estimates last year, made a statement as to the position with regard to the Marconi Wireless Company. Both my immediate predecessors and I, in the short time I have been in the office, have made, efforts to arrive at an amicable settlement of the dispute in question, but so far our efforts have been unsuccessful, and, as the question is now sub judice, I regret that that is all I can say about it.

The telegraphs during the year have had rather an extraordinary experience. The number of paid telegrams is still declining. They are 16 per cent, lower in 1916–17 than in 1913–14, and 13 per cent, lower than in 1915–16.


In money or in number?


In number. The falling off is all in traffic which is paid for. The ordinary traffic has fallen from 72,199,000 in 1914–15 to 54,249,000 in 1916–17. The number of Government telegrams which, of course, are dispatched free, in 1913–14 before the War was 617,000, and in 1916–17 the number was 8,012,000. This is a very large increase. The net receipts are only £50,000 less than last year, and are more than £300,000 over the receipts of 1913–14, which, of course, is attributable to the increased rate from 6d. to 9d.

4.0 P.M.

The large increase of the Army abroad has made it necessary to set up a very large establishment for dealing with the postal service in the Army. The staff consists of eighty-five officers and over 4,000 non-commissoned officers and men, distributed in this country and abroad. In London, in addition to the regular Army postal staff, we have about 140 discharged soldiers and over 700 temporary women sorters employed. Of course, those who are abroad are in the Royal Engineer Reserve, and come under the discipline of the Army, but they are all men who have been recruited from the Post Office, and are experienced in the various work which they have to carry out. This, it may be imagined, is a very large undertaking, when you consider that there are some 90,000 bags of parcels and over 40,000 bags of letters sent overseas every week which contain about 900,000 parcels and over 10,000,000 letters. The letters, which come free, of course, from troops home, amount to over 8,000,000 a week. The greater part of this service is for France, where the biggest number of troops are, and for that part over 800,000 parcels go every week, weighing over 1,300 tons, and about 9,000,000 letters, which weigh over 350 tons. These are not put in one or two ships, but are distributed over half a dozen bottoms at least. When the mails get over to France they go to some 500 post offices, and are distributed along our long line of troops by supply trains, motor lorries, and, in cases of short distances, by horse transport. The traffic for the Army abroad was particularly heavy last Christmas. During the Christmas week there were some 30,000,000 letters sent abroad, against 9,000,000 in 1915, and 5,000,000 paresis, against 3,000,000. Those figures show a very large increase. There is a mail to Salonika with three or four dispatches a week. It usually takes about twelve days for letters, and the parcels, which are dispatched once a week, take about three weeks. The Egyptian Army post goes at the same time as the civil mails. The East African post goes once a week, and usually carries some 40,000 letters and 1,000 parcels. The post to Mesopotamia goes once a week, and includes about 200,000 letters and 10,000 parcels. Sometimes there is a certain amount of delay in the post to Mesopotamia, on account for the long route and for other reasons, but the complaints we have received are often due to a failure to realise that which leads to complaints, and it is sometimes three months must be allowed before letters or parcels are acknowledged.

Colonel YATE

Does the post go direct to Bombay or direct to Karachi?


I do not think it is in the interests of the public service that I should answer that question. I do not mind supplying the hon. and gallant Member privately with the information, but not across the floor of the House. One result of all this increased business is that the Army Post Office in Regent's Park had to be very considerably enlarged.

The Postal Union Convention exempts from postage charges international service to prisoners of war, and this has been extended to interned civilians. Letters and parcels for prisoners and interned civilians in Germany, Austria, and Holland, go through the Netherlands Post Office. Money orders for Austria go through the Swiss Post Office, and through the Netherlands Post Office for Germany. Letters, parcels, and money orders for prisoners in Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Turkey go through the Swiss Post Office. At one time I understand the parcels that were sent to prisoners of war from the various associations in this country were very unevenly distributed. A central committee was set up to deal with this question, and I think those prisoners are now more regularly and equitably supplied.

Of course, the Post Office is in no way responsible for the setting up or management of this organisation. These parcels are only accepted by the Post Office for prisoners abroad other than officers, if they are addressed care of the association which is looking after that particular prisoner. These associations open the parcels, take out prohibited articles, repack them, and forward them under the Red Cross label, and 30 lbs. of food can be sent to each prisoner per fortnight. I understand that a committee is being formed composed of members of both Houses to look into the management and organisation of the Central Prisoners of War Committee. The only responsibility of the Post Office is to deliver parcels to the Central Prisoners' Committee, and receive them from them for dispatch abroad, and refuse to accept them from the general public for direct transit abroad. I understand that this service is working fairly satisfactory on the whole except in Turkey. For a while it was so unsatisfactory in Turkey that the Swiss Post Office entirely suspended it for a time, but I am glad to say now that this service has been restored.

It may be of interest to the Committee to have the latest available figures of the parcels sent to British prisoners of war and civilians interned abroad, and those sent from Germany to German prisoners of war and civilians interned in this country. The number of British prisoners of war and civilians interned abroad this year is 42,831, as against 30,710 for the corresponding period last year. The number of parcels sent from the United Kingdom per week to British prisoners and civilians is about 85,000, as against 84,000 a year ago. The number of money orders sent from the United Kingdom per week is 787, as against 979, with a total value of £582, as against £558. The average amount of each money order is 14s. 10d., as against 11s. 5d. The average number of letters sent each week is 89,400, as against 58,350 last year.

The number of enemy prisoners of war and civilians interned in this country this year is 58,138, as against 40,821 last year. The average number of parcels received each week is 9,260, as against 18,500 last year. The total number of money orders this year is 3,815, as against 1,959, and the total value is £2,241 this year, as against £l,568 last year. The average amount of each money order is 11s. 3d., as against 16s., and the number of letters received each week is 187,000 this year, as against 54,950 last year. These figures are very interesting as showing the large decrease in the number, of parcels, presumably on account of the difficulty of getting any goods in Germany to send abroad, and this accounts for the increase in the average value of each money order which enables the prisoners to buy goods in this country.


We feed their prisoners well here, but they do not feed ours well.


Are there any Austrian prisoners interned in this country?


There is only one Austrian prisoner of war.

The Post Office London Railway, a very useful' scheme which was instituted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Herbert Samuel), has been continued slowly during the year. Some people have criticised the continuance of this work, but I think it would have been unwise to have discontinued the work as the contractors were committed to very large expenditure, and the course we have adopted, I think in the long run, will turn out to be the cheaper and better way. Only two small sections remain to be finished, one near Liverpool Street and the other between Mount Pleasant and the West Central Office. The laying of the permanent way and electrical equipment have been entirely suspended until the end of the War.

There are not many innovations this year, but one very important one has been made, and it is the alteration of the London addresses by the addition of a number to the letters. The new system was introduced in March. A leaflet giving the correct address was delivered to every separate householder in the London postal area, and 2,000,000 copies were distributed. A list of over 5,000 London streets was published and distributed free, and over 1,000,000 were distributed. An explanation of the object and justification of this scheme was distributed to about 1,500 newspapers. Nearly all of them published the information, and some of them gave brief and clear descriptions of the change. I am advised that if 50 per cent, of the letters addressed to London adopted this practice, there would be a saving of £5,000 a year. At the present time the latest returns show that some 40 per cent. of the letters are addressed in the new way, and this results in a saving of about £4,000 per annum.

Perhaps it would be as well if I gave a short description of how the scheme works and the necessity for it. Take, for ex- ample, the S.W. district where there are 18 delivery offices. In the whole of London there are 112 separate delivery offices. People used to think that "S.W." was quite a sufficient address, but it should be remembered that in the old days sorters had to know by heart or ascertain by constant reference to printed lists the streets for each delivery office. In the S.W. district each of these 18 delivery offices are now described by a number, and all the sorters have to do is to sort these letters in piles with the same number which indicates the delivery office, and then those letters are sent direct to that delivery office. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, over 75,000 men employed by the Post Office have joined the Army and 14,000 temporary substitutes are employed in London alone. This new method simplifies the sorting and makes it possible for a man or a woman sorter to get very much quicker into the way of the work, which is rendered much more simple if people would put the number as well as the letter. Some people have said that it would have served our purpose if the delivery area only had been put on, but that would not have worked out so well in practice. People who live in Paddington in the W. area, generally have their letters addressed "Hyde Park, W.," but if the letter had been taken away and Paddington put instead, I am sure this would have met with great opposition, because the Paddington area does not seem to occupy such a high social position as other parts that are W. This number being put on the letters conveys nothing to the general public, and so "Hyde Park, W.," may remain the address, and the number conveys the letter to the right delivery office in the Paddington district. I hope that everyone in London and out of it will address their letters in the new way. It will simplify the work of the Post Office and ensure a much better and more rapid delivery of letters, which is to the interest of everybody.

Another slight change which I have made is the abolition of the endorsement of £5 notes. For some reason or other—nobody seems to know why, except that it has always been done—£5 notes presented for payment at the post office have to be endorsed. I do not know that it was very much check, because in the course of my existence I have endorsed very many £5 notes, but never with my own name. Nothing ever happened, and I thought the best thing that I could do was to remove a petty source of public annoyance and to abolish the endorsement altogether. Now one can present £5 notes for payment without writing a name on the back to be handed about all over the country.

Among the large additions that have been made to the work of the Post Office during the War has been the payment of Army and Navy allowances and pensions. It has taken a great deal of trouble to get this organised and in proper working order, as some of the offices have to make several thousand payments every week. All the country over there are at least 4,000,000 of these payments made every week. It has often been asked and pressed for that these payments should be distributed free through the post, but many things make this undesirable, if not impossible. Payments are made to payees' accredited representatives when they cannot attend in person.

The Post Office servants, like everybody else in the country, have experienced the very high increased cost of living, and the Government set up a Committee to settle what bonuses should be given, and also, I think, to see that there was some sort of uniformity between one Government Department and another. This Committee have now given their award, and including existing bonuses, so far as the permanent staff is. concerned, those receiving wages not exceeding 30s. per week get a bonus of 9s. for males and 6s. for females; those receiving between 30s. and 40s. get 8s. for males and 5s. for females; those receiving between 40s. and 60s. get 7s. for males and 4s. 6d. for females; and those receiving more than 60s. per week but not exceeding £250 per annum get 5s. for males and 3s. 6d. for females.


Is that retrospective?


It is from the 1st January.


This will cost £1,172,000 for the permanent staff, and, if you add that which is paid to the temporary staff, etc., it comes to £1,670,000 per annum. I think this award should be considered very satisfactory by those concerned.

We get many requests for the employment of disabled soldiers and sailors, but up to the present there has been no great demand for places. Probably this is attributable to the good treatment which they are receiving from the general public. We employ in round numbers about 2,000 in the Post Office, 1,700 of them being postmen. It will be generally understood by everybody that the Post Office has first to study the claims of returned injured Post Office servants and give them employment wherever possible. We are also making every effort where possible to give preferential employment to the widows and children of Post Office servants who have lost their lives in the War, and we have made arrangements to increase the age limit, so that widows will be able to take positions as telephonists, which under normal ruling they would not have been able to do.

The Post Office has done great service for the nation and for the Exchequer in the management of applications and subscriptions for War Loans. Since the beginning of the War the Post Office has received the large and not unsatisfactory total of £191,000,000 for War Loan, Exchequer Bonds, and War Savings Certificates. It is not known how much has been withdrawn from the Post Office Savings Bank. It is estimated that it may be anywhere from £35,000,000 to £40,000,000, but, even if this is so, it has not affected the deposits in the Savings Bank to any appreciable extent, because whereas at the outbreak of the War they amounted to £188,500,000, they now amount to £185,400,000, which is a decrease in round figures of about £3,000,000. I consider this is a most remarkable tribute to the financial strength of the country and to the saving power of the population as a whole, especially when one takes into consideration the enormously increased cost of living. It seems that the deposits are increasing at a more rapid rate, because during the month of April the net gain was £1,100,000. The conversion operations on account of the last Loan which were carried through at the Post Office Savings Bank covered 1,800,000 holdings. In all these cases the dividends had to be recalculated, and it was a great race to get them all out in time. One million two hundred and fifty thousand dividends were paid by warrant, 1,550,000 were credited to Post Office Savings Bank accounts, and 200,000 were credited to accounts with other banks. The Savings Bank also acts as stockbroker for clients at a nominal commission of 9d. and upwards according to the amount involved, and this is so popular that there are between two and three hundred transactions per day. Information is given to the small investor in War Loans on all sorts of curious and impossible points. These investors, moreover, appear to be rather migratory, as some 200 odd changes of addresses have to be recorded every day. This and other things, of course, have caused a great deal of extra work, which is being cheerfully carried out by the staff in every department concerned. I have placed before the Committee some of the great difficulties with which the Post Office has had to contend in the conduct of its operations during the past year. It has naturally made it difficult to maintain the very high state of efficiency which existed before the War, but though we have had to curtail many facilities enjoyed in the past by the public, who, generally speaking, have accepted this unavoidable curtailment with great forbearance, I think I am justified in saying that the Post Office is still managed in a way which reflects the greatest credit on all concerned.


The right hon. Gentleman, who has just made an able statement, has put before the House a very large number of figures, and, of course, he will understand it is very difficult for anyone following him to attempt to go into them in detail. They give a complete history of the transactions of the Post Office during the past year. I should like to reecho all that he has said as to the gallantry of the Post Office servants who-have fallen in the field in support of a cause to which we are all pledged I am happy to think, from such information as I possess, that few of them have fallen in the actual performance of postal duties, though a great many of them have fallen while serving either in the Royal Army Medical Corps or in the combatant ranks. I should like to say a word—I believe it will be in accordance with the feelings of everybody in the House—as to the extraordinary efficiency of the postal delivery at all the fronts in the campaign which is now being conducted all over the world. During the time that I was Postmaster-General I had something to do with the initiation of that service, and I got a very considerable number of communications from individual officers testifying to the extraordinary punctuality with which they received their letters, and from all that I have heard ever since that efficiency has been continued in spite of transport difficulties in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Eastern fronts. I thought it only fair that I should add such comment as I can to the encomiums that have been passed on that service.

The right hon. Gentleman, dealing with the number of prisoners in Germany and Great Britain, told us that there were 42,000 British prisoners in Germany. That shows that within the last two and a half months the number of British prisoners has gone up by something like 7,000, because in answer to a question on the 26th February the House was informed that there were 36,000 British prisoners in Germany. I understand that the number now has risen to 42,000.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Including civilians!"] Excuse me. We pressed my right hon. Friend, and the answer was that there were 36,000 of both categories, combatant and civilian, on the 26th February, and to-day there are something like 42,000, so that there has been an addition to the number of prisoners in Germany of 7,000 in the course of the last two months.

That is an important piece of information which we sometimes fail to get out of the War Office. I am very glad the Postmaster-General has felt himself able to state the exact figures of the prisoners of war. The unsatisfactory part of it is that, while the number of prisoners has increased, the number of the parcels sent to them has, I understand, remained stationary. I do not know whether that is because the transport of the parcels to the prisoners is no longer as satisfactory in Germany as it was, or whether—this I am quite unable to believe—there is less desire on the part of the relatives in England to take care of their relations who are prisoners in Germany, or whether it is that some unsatisfactory regulations have been made by the authorities in Germany which discourage the sending of parcels from England to Germany. Perhaps when the Assistant Postmaster-General replies, he will give us some information which will be satisfactory on this point.

I should like to ask one question about the tube railway. I understand from what the Postmaster-General said that that remarkable piece of engineering is progressing very satisfactorily, but he did not give us any indication whether the cost of the railway had largely increased. I understand that an increase of wages has been given to those engaged on the excavation of the earthworks generally. I should like to know whether those in creased wages are reflected in any way in the Estimates which the right hon. Gentleman presents to the Committee? I should also like to say how certain I am that when this railway is completed the release of Post Office vehicles in the streets of London will be quite remarkable. There must be, and I am quite certain there will be a great saving of cost and a great saving of convenience to passengers in London, while from the point of view of quickness of transport there will be quite a revolution in the transport of letters throughout the London district to the provinces and vice, versâ. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he had included in this year's Estimates the sum of £l,700,000 for the payment of War bonuses to postal employés of one sort or another. I am very glad to hear that that award has been made. I always thought, if bonuses were being, or had been given to any class of Government servants, that the Post Office servants were as well entitled to such bonus as any other class, and that the withholding of that bonus from them, when once it had been granted to other classes of Government servants, was a proceeding which was not altogether satisfactory to the Government department concerned or to the Treasury which put obstacles in the way of that grant.

The Postmaster-General told us of the action he had taken in regard to the redirection of London letters by means of numbering certain London postal districts. His recommendation in that regard was a very satisfactory one. The explanation of the necessity for it was conveyed to us by the fact that the number of skilled sorters had enormously decreased. I do not think it would have been necessary if the number of sorters had remained as it was ordinarily in peace time. Although the plan has greatly improved the service of the delivery of letters in the course of the last two weeks, there is still some considerable ground of complaint in the delay of letters in the early delivery in London. I live about 100 miles from London. We have an extremely good express service, but it is almost impossible for letters posted at my home in the country before 6 o'clock to be delivered in London by the first post the next morning, even although the Postmaster-General's latest regulation as to putting the number 6, 7 or so forth after the postal district concerned, is observed. I quite appreciate the Postmaster-General's difficulties in the matter. He has to provide for the delivery of an enormous mass of postal correspondence with a staff largely depleted not only in numbers, but also in experience and skill, and, on the whole, I think that the Post Office has come out of its many trials with a degree of efficiency which is a great testimony to the good work that has been done by the department generally.

There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer. I understand that there has been a great decrease in the weight of parcels sent from this country to the Forces in France and to the Forces generally in Mesopotamia and Egypt. I understand that the number of parcels keeps up to what it was before. I do not know whether this is due to some new regulation as to the dispatch of parcels. I think it is much more likely to be due to the fact that the amount of food in this country which is obtainable is now more or less limited, and that the persons who desire to send parcels to relations serving in France are unable to get the quantities they used to send, say, eighteen months ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "And to the price as well!"] The price would also affect the matter. I should like to get some opinion upon that matter, because I understand that the weight of these parcels has decreased so enormously as to necessitate some explanation for the decrease. I am quite sure it is not due to any unwillingness on the part of persons living in this country to give the same assistance to their relations at the front as they once did, but that it is due to some occult cause, such as inability to obtain the supply or inability to pay for the supply that can be obtained. I would congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the statement that he has made. The figures he has given to us will make interesting reading, although they are much too detailed for us to attempt to go into them this afternoon. On the whole, the Post Office has come well out of the pressure put upon it by the War.


I would Join with my right hon. Friend (Sir C Hobhouse) in expressing the satisfaction which I am sure the Committee feel with the first statement of the Postmaster-General. He has given us, as we expected from him, a very clear and businesslike statement of the work of his Department. It is only right to say that the general public view is that the Post Office has risen splendidly to the unexampled call made upon it on account of the War, in spite, not only of its troubles with regard to labour, but also of the vast organisation called into being in order to meet the new demands. I desire to raise one or two matters rather by way of comment than criticism. The right hon. Gentleman told us of the vast increase in the number of telegrams sent in this country, largely due, I presume, to the calls of the War Office and other Departments. I want him to be good enough to look into this matter and to see if there is not a great deal of waste on the part of the War Office in regard to the matters which they circulate by means of the telegraph wire. During the last year I have had at least half a dozen representations from mayors of cities, who are acting as recruiting agents and who were in a position to judge, with regard to the absolute waste that was going on through that use of the telegraph wire. I should like to ask what censorship is there over the military officials making use of telegrams, when letters would satisfy the case in every respect? I am told that telegrams covering five to six pages are frequently received from some official at the War Office, or outside the War Office, or associated with things about the country, which are of no urgency whatever, and which might easily have been sent a week later, or sent by post, even if they arrived a fortnight later. Apparently the whole of the Post Office is blocked for hours by telegrams dealing with matters of no urgency. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend, if he has looked into the matter, has formed that opinion himself, and I am sure that his persuasive eloquence, were it applied, would persuade these Government Departments to write letters rather than to send telegrams on matters not of real urgency.

There is another matter I desire to raise with regard to telephones. I asked my right hon. Friend a question a week or two ago as to the necessity for reprinting twice a year the Telephone Directory at the present time, in view of the price and the shortage of paper. I believe the directory consumes between 200 and 300 tons of paper. There is no need for reprinting that directory twice a year at the present time. There is no demand whatever for it. A supplement giving the changes of numbers and the new subscribers, of which there are very few, as we know, in war time, would completely satisfy the public demand. I would urge upon the Assistant Postmaster-General, who is going to reply, that he should give us an explanation of this matter. I have heard that there is some contract or other which would interfere with it. That explanation will not stand. You are competing in a market with regard to paper and you are paying very high prices. It is really not only a waste of paper, but a waste of money without any necessity at all. I therefore suggest that we should have a promise that in future, until the end of the War, we shall have a supplement, containing the new names, which can be sent to subscribers who want them. In that way there will be a great saving of money. Also in regard to telephones, is it too much to ask that in time of war subscribers should have an account of the number of calls presented to them by the War Office? I know that the Post Office have always objected to that. I know that the Post Office send in an account, but you cannot challenge it in any way whatever. I know people who have gone away for several months, and when they have come back an account has come in, and they have no appeal whatever against it. They are told, "It is the law; take it or leave it." That is confiscation of wealth by means of the Post Office. There is no limit to what they may charge, there is no right of appeal, and no one has any right to make any inquiry. I would ask my right hon. Friend whether, during his period of office, machinery cannot be devised to give subscribers some satisfaction when they are called upon to meet demands without adequate information being given to them. We know that it is in the power of any subscriber for a telephone to give a wrong number. I do not say that is the case with trunk calls, because that could not happen, but charge are made for calls for which the actual subscriber is not responsible, as servants and other people may use his telephone without his knowledge. He, however, has no appeal and there is no revision. I hope that the 'right hon. Gentleman will justify our confidence in him as a business man if he looks into that matter.

With regard to the bonus, we regard the Post Office as having acted very fairly, but I would ask the Assistant Postmaster General whether he is satisfied that it has been distributed fairly. I have had representations made to me by the majority of the Telegraph and Post Office officials in the East of Scotland, complaining very severely indeed that the bonus had not been properly apportioned, and that in a town fifty miles away, in which the cost of living was high, the bonus was more lavish than it would be in another town where the cost of living was the same. It occurs in my own Constituency. I understand that in Edinburgh the bonus is very much higher than it is in my district just over the Forth Bridge, where living is as dear as it is in Edinburgh. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will promise to look into that matter, and that if I can make out a case for revision, he will be good enough to give me the opportunity to do so. I join with the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir C. Hobhouse) in recognising that the Postmaster-General has been more frank to-day in regard to the number of prisoners in this country and Germany than any Minister has been up to the present time.


The figures included interned civilians. I said so.




I said at the time that the figure I gave included prisoners of war and interned civilians.


That is exactly what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, but I thought that in his correction he altered it.


The right hon. Gentleman asked if it included Austrian prisoners of war, and the reply was "Yes, one." There is only one Austrian prisoner of war.


The right hon. Gentleman's memory fails him. I did not use the words "prisoners of war," I asked "does it include any Austrians," and by that I meant does it include civilian Austrians. I have visited every camp in the country on more than one occasion, and I was amazed when the right hon. Gentleman said that there was only one Austrian.


One Austrian prisoner of war. I did not refer to interned Austrian civilians.


The right hon. Gentleman was mistaken. May I take it that the figure he gave us, I think it was 52,000—


In this country.


What I want to get at is this, I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to go further than he intended. He does go much further than any Minister has gone I think, if he is giving the figure of prisoners of war; but if he now includes, as I understand he does, interned civilians, of course there is not much information there which would be of value to the enemy or to anyone else, I understand that the figure, which I think was 42,800, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, included soldiers and civilians.


And sailors.


Soldiers, sailors, and interned civilians. Therefore, it does not apply exclusively to soldiers captured on the field of battle. In any case, it would not be complete, because it is no secret that we have prisoners caught on the field of battle in France and other countries. With regard to the number of parcels received for German prisoners in this country, I do not gather that there is very much significance in the figures which have been given to us. It is really a remarkable factor of the situation that, although Germany is supposed to be starving, the prisoners in many camps continue to have whole rows of German sausages hanging outside the places where they are interned, and therefore things are not quite so bad in Germany as some of our friends would wish us to believe as regards scarcity of food. With regard to parcels sent abroad, I am afraid that a reason for that position may be found perhaps in the belief that some people have that they do not reach their destination. I do not know whether, before the Debate closes, the hon. Gentleman who is going to reply will tell us what he thinks of the prospect of parcels reaching those for whom they are intended so far as foreign countries are concerned.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the enormous increase in the Post Office Savings Bank figures, which I think is a remarkable tribute to the financial position throughout the country. I would suggest that he should consider whether or not the limit with regard to deposits should not be increased. I think it is £200 at the present time, and I venture to say that if that £200 were raised to £500 or to £l,000 the response would be simply marvellous, and that the benefit to the State would be very great indeed. Why should the working man be limited to £200 in the Post Office? We all know that he would rather put it in the Post Office than go into a large branch of a bank in the town in which he is situated. I have never been able to see why he is limited to £200, which probably causes him to hoard up the money and indulge in speculation in which he may lose it. If these facilities were provided the State would gain enormously. The only objection which I have heard is the opposition of the banks. Why should they object to the Post Office increasing the limit? The banks have made plenty of money, over the loans and throughout the War, and they are making it now. Why should they stand in the way of greater encouragement of thrift on the part of the working classes? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to stand up to the banks in this matter, and to see whether he cannot increase the limit placed on deposits at the present time. There is only one other point, and that is the question of the delivery of letters. I quite agree in thinking that the delivery of letters on the whole has been very satisfactory, considering the changes of staff and the time it takes to train both women and men; and, generally speaking, I do not think the public have had cause to complain. I think the change the right hon. Gentleman made was, on the whole, a good one; but it has not been more effective because the public are not properly informed as to the wishes of the Postmaster-General. Let me suggest to him that it should be made known that letters not properly addressed in accordance with his desire will incur a few hours delay in delivery, and probably half a day. Very soon the public will recognise that fact, and will fall in with the suggestion he has put forward. I hope the hon. Gentleman in his reply will give me his views on the points I have raised.


The statement the right hon. Gentleman has made regarding parcels to our prisoners of war is very important. I know, of course, that he is not personally responsible in any way for the contents of the parcels or the numbers handed over to his care, but at the same time the figures he has just given show a very serious state of affairs, and will, I feel certain, be received with amazement and horror throughout the country.

Colonel F. HALL



Because we are sending less food to our people. Although the number of prisoners has increased the parcels have remained stationary, and though we know that in the past large quantities of bread for our prisoners have gone from Switzerland even that does not entirely free this country from its responsibility in this matter. I am not, however going into the question, but it is naturally very interesting to know, and those concerned in seeing that our prisoners in Germany are properly fed are very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the figures he has given us. At the same time he has told us that there are about 6,000 or 7,000 more prisoners and that the pracels have not increased. We have also learned that the Germans in this country are not receiving as many parcels as before, because the Germans are unwilling to send food out of their country. But the right hon. Gentleman has told us, what is very important, that the Germans see that it is much easier to provide their prisoners with food from Great Britain, and that they have sent an increased amount of money to provide food here—that they are making use of the money order for the purpose of taking the food out of this country. I know the whole question does not lie with the Postmaster-General, but the point that he has brought to our notice will make those interested in our prisoners of war in Germany look into the matter in more detail. With regard to the addresses in London, I think it very surprising that this reform was not introduced long ago and that a war should be necessary to drive such a reform into the official mind. Those of us who are anxious to see constant progress and reform in our great public Departments welcome all these improvements, which are improvements, and will be improvements in time of peace, but we regret that it should require a war to bring them into operation. I think that, as the Postmaster-General has shown us what a great saving of money there is in the matter, the Government Departments themselves should set an example in this connection. I thought it was only a question of the delivery of letters, but the right hon. Gentleman said it was actually a saving of money. Yet weeks after the Postmaster-General issued this order to the country Government letters were sent out without the figures against the address, so that the public did not know how to address the reply. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into that and see what money has been wasted.

With regard to the enormous number of telegrams sent by officials, there must be some check. I am certain the right hon. Gentleman could stop it if he liked. Let him put his foot down and say he will not pass to Government any telegram which is flagrantly on the face of it unnecessary. He could stop it in half an hour.


Who could?


Let the Postmaster-General be the judge. He could tell its contents.


He could not do it.


Then let him send to the head of the Department, and ask if the message is absolutely necessary; and if it is not, let the official pay, or let him pay a fine for the misuse of public money—because that is what it is. The right hon. Gentleman has shown that to-day by the number of telegrams sent. He does not admit it, but we all know of cases of unnecessary telegrams. It is a waste of public money. If there is any other case of waste of public money, there is no hesitation in punishing the official. Then why not in the case of the Post Office? Let the right hon. Gentleman come down and say, "This is a waste of public money." Let him report to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee that this particular Department is wasting public money, and I am sure there will be a great reduction in expenditure.

Colonel HALL

I have listened with rapt pleasure to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken, and I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General would be putting his head in a noose if he gave someone else the rope and said, "I am going to stop all these official messages." I perfectly understand—and I think anyone will understand—that there are an enormous number of these messages that even to the Postmaster-General might at the first blush of the thing not seem of importance, and yet, on the other hand, we all know full well how necessary it is that messages that are handed in should be delivered. I am not holding a brief for any Government Department, but I do think that if the Government sanction and frank the message, so far as the Postmaster-General is concerned, it should be sufficient evidence on his part that the message is of importance. I can see all sorts of difficulties cropping up. We on the other side are continually sending messages, and we have the utmost difficulty in getting our messages through. But they are franked, and as soon as they have been franked it is the franking officer with whom the responsibility lies. My hon. and gallant Friend cannot take the Postmaster-General to task and say that in half an hour he could practically stop the whole thing.


I did not suggest for a moment that the telegram should not be sent. Of course it would have to go through, but afterwards it could be checked and the officials come down upon who sent the franked telegram when they should not have done so.

5.0 P.M.

Colonel HALL

It is quite correct that they are come down upon. I say that when once a message has been franked it should be a question of the franking officer. Personally, I hope that, unless it can be pointed out perfectly plainly that there has been an enormous waste of money, the present position will not be interfered with. There is one thing I should like to ask. I listened very intently to the account of the bonuses being paid to those earning from 30s. and upwards. I am not quite sure whether those earning under 30s. are also to have the 9s. increase to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, but what I did notice was that when they came to £250 per annum it automatically stopped. What is £250 per annum? We are living in war-time, and we have an increase in the cost of living the percentage of which I do not know. At all events, we know it is exceptionally heavy. I am one who thinks that these people who have been getting from £250 to £300 a year are feeling the effect quite as much as, if not more than, those who are getting 30s., 35s., or 40s. a week. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot go one step further, and I ask him whether there are such an enormous number of Post Office employés whose salaries stop at £250 that he cannot reconsider it. Cannot he give it his consideration, so as to put these people in a more advantageous position by giving them an increase in consequence of the large extra expense they have to bear? They have to look after their wives, and children in many cases, and to carry themselves in a different sphere in life to the man who is getting a much smaller wage. These people, I think, are feeling the effect very much indeed, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to do something for them. I do not know when the twopenny registration came into vogue, but it must have been many years ago, long before the Post Office system had the admirable organisation it has to-day. I do not know on what basis it was worked out, but it comes to this: 3s. 4d. per cent. for the paper money, and I think I am right in saying the ordinary rate of insurance for letters going through the post, registered or unregistered, containing documents, is about 3d. or 4d. per cent. If the Post Office is charging 3s. 4d. per cent. it is hitting somebody very hard. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman certain classes of people whom it is hitting hard. A soldier saves out of his money, perhaps 2s. 6d. or 3s. extra to the allotment he has made, and he has to pay 2d. on that because he wants to be certain that it will reach home. Perhaps he sends 3 francs, and in another case he receives from people desirous of sending him something, postal-orders for 1s. or 1s. 6d., insured at what? At a cost of 2d. I should like to ask whether the time has not come when that matter might not be reconsidered, because it is a very heavy premium to charge. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will inquire into it, and if he takes the steps to ascertain the facts he will find out that he is charging for his paper insurance ten times the cost that it could be insured for in the ordinary way.

I have heard that the postal service is exceedingly good in all parts, especially in Mesopotamia, Salonika and France, but I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that, though we are very pleased with it in France, we should like him to go a step further if he can. We know the difficulties with which he has to contend, but one thing we look forward to is the mail, and if the mail "goes wrong" we have "gone wrong." We find that very often the mail does somehow go wrong, and instead of letters taking four, five, or even six days, they take eight, ten, or twelve. Of course, we know that if exceptional circumstances have arisen, we have to put up with it, but I cannot help thinking that in many cases the time could be shortened, because we get our newspapers earlier. The Monday newspaper is delivered at the front on the middle of the next day. If that is done, why is it that we have to wait as a rule until the fifth day before we get our letters? That is a long time; it is the earliest possible date at which you can get a letter, and that means a lapse of eight or nine days for a letter and a reply. If the right hon. Gentleman can look into that matter I am sure the soldiers on the other side would consider with pleasure the acquisition of the right hon. Gentleman in taking up the reins of office as Postmaster-General. If he can accelerate this service he would have our continual blessing. We all know the various difficulties in the way of transport, and so on, but the argument is this: If newspapers, which are much more bulky than letters, can be got through much earlier, perhaps with some little alteration letters might also get through without this delay.

Reference has been made particularly to the question of parcels. I agree that on the face of it it is rather extraordinary that, though you have a larger number of prisoners, the parcels have not increased. I think the explanation may be due to this fact, that many people combine in sending parcels. A person may be in. the unfortunate position of having to pay 8d. for postage, and he may say to another, "Can't I put something in your parcel and you can put a bit in my parcel next time." I do not think there has been any large reduction in the percentage of parcels sent out. In many cases in France we see men dividing their parcels in this way, and I should think in all probability the same thing is happening in other theatres of war. The right hon. Gentleman has made a straightforward, honest statement, and I hope it will not be construed as an evidence that out prisoners of war are not receiving the same thought and the same care and attention that they have had hitherto. I feel certain they have the same sympathy extended to them as they had at the commencement of the War. I can say this, that, at all events, the soldier in France is looked after as well as he was at the commencement of hostilities, and the same kindly feeling is extended to him by the people at home. Surely, if our soldiers who are free and fighting for their country for a cause that we are going to win satisfactorily, those who are in the unfortunate position of being in the claws of the Germans are not going to suffer, and I hope that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor those who have addressed the House will feel any unnecessary fear on that score.


I beg to move, "That the Vote be reduced by £100."

The hon. Member who has just addressed the Committee seemed to think that it was a great hardship that those employés in the Post Office whose salaries exceed £250 a year are not going to get any considerable bonus. He had followed the figures given by the Postmaster-General up to that amount, and wanted to know why the bonus stopped at that figure. The Committee know very well that the answer to the hon. Member on that point is simply this, that precious few employés in the Post Office get more than £250 a year. Therefore, the hon. Member's complaint does not amount to much. We have listened to-day to one of the most businesslike statements put in the clearest businesslike language we have ever heard from any Postmaster-General. The figures of the Post Office are so interesting, so entrancing I may say, and they are so wonderful in themselves, that when we come to read the speech of the Postmaster-General and properly realise it—because it is very difficult to realise it in Committee—we ought to be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for stating them in such a clear and businesslike manner. I think it is also the duty of all of us who are dealing with this Vote, if we can conscientiously do so— and I can—to join in the satisfaction and congratulation at the marvellous efficiency with which, under trying circumstances at the present moment, this wonderful service is being carried on. I think that the whole community owes a debt of gratitude to the postal and telegraph services which ought to be acknowledged on such an occasion as this. The community owe that debt of gratitude to every department for the exceptional work that is being done in all directions, especially having regard to the shortage of assistance. All branches have done marvellous work, and particularly, I think, the rank and file. Having said this, I have a grievance against the Postmaster-General which causes me to move a reduction of this Vote. It is in respect of two matters in which I venture to think those who are in charge of the Post Office have committed a serious error of judgment. The fight which the postal and telegraph services put up for over twenty-five years to get their trade organisation acknowledged was a very uphill fight. It was fought out on the floor of this House time after time. It very nearly upset one or two Governments, but eventually we had a Postmaster-General and a Government which freely acknowledged the right of the employés of the postal service to organise themselves, and the Department agreed in future to receive communications on behalf of the organised body. Now the first matter which I desire to bring forward by way of complaint and criticism is this: The Postal Telegraph Workers' Association, which is one of the oldest and strongest of the associations of the employés of this great service, has in its ranks at Liverpool the whole of the typists in the Liverpool district, who are attached to the postal service, and they claim to be represented by that association and to put forward their grievances and complaints through it. Yet the late Postmaster-General on 15th January, 1915, declined to accept any representations from it on behalf of the typists, and that attitude has been persisted in ever since. I am authorised to inform the Committee that those employés who are members of the association, many thousands in number, strongly object to the veto which has been placed upon it. There are one or two different associations in the postal and telegraphic services. If an employê chooses to belong to this particular union or association, what right has anyone to refuse to receive representations and communications from it and to say that they are not properly represented by it? It seems to me that the free choice of Post Office employés to be represented by this association ought to be sufficient, and as the Government and the Postmaster-General have agreed that these associations shall be allowed, as they have availed themselves of their services and they have been most valuable in overcoming friction and in many matters of detail which have come up between the Department and its employés, when a particular case crops up and it pleases the authorities to say, "You shall not be represented by your union in this matter," it is a thing that should be strongly objected to.

The other question I desire to raise is also a trade union matter. It is the case of Councillor F. T. Richardson, of Liverpool. I have really no brief on behalf of this gentleman. He was taking the chair the other night at a meeting in my Constituency to select a candidate to run against me, therefore I have no desire to unduly advance the position of Mr. Richardson, but I agreed to bring this case forward some time ago. Rule 8 of the Staff Rule Book of the Postal and Telegraphic Service is to the effect that permission is to be given to Post Office servants to take office in any municipal or local council. I think that is a very wise rule. This is a very large and important service. Very nearly 100,000 members of it have been fighting our battles, and I was sorry to hear that a large number have been killed. Under these circumstances Councillor Richardson has become a member of the Liverpool City Council. I was a member of that council myself and Lord Mayor of the city. It is an honour for a postal servant, or for any other man in any position, to be upon the city council of that great city. I should have thought that the same intelligent hand that drew up the rule book and put in rule 8 would have taken the same view to-day if he had been at the head of affairs, but I think that has been forgotten now. They have got in the postal service poets of the highest order, painters, and men who are high up in literature. The staff includes men of a great variety of attainments and of the highest position in various directions, and there happened to be one or two whom their fellow citizens want to put into positions of importance in their native city. Councillor Richardson is one of them.

The result of his election as councillor is that, in order of seniority to become an overseer he has now been passed over on eight separate occasions. I wrote to the Postmaster-General on the subject, and he replied to the effect that Councillor Richardson, in the opinion of the Department, has got two important interests outside the business of the Post Office. Of course he has. If you empower a man to go on to the city council he must attend to it, otherwise he is not fit to be elected. The same thing arose in Bristol with regard to a Mr. Burt. He was treated in the same way, and, although he has not resigned from the University of Bristol, which he was practically asked to do, having done great work in connection with the formation and success of that university, it has been made perfectly clear to him, and I understand he promised that he would give it up on getting his promotion. I will not go into the eight cases in which Mr. Richardson has been postponed. I have communications from some of the men who have been promoted over his head, and the whole staff objects to him being treated in this way. If rule 8 is any good, the postal servant ought to be allowed to carry out his duties when he is elected. Being in that position, why should he be deliberately passed over for promotion for the sole reason that he has some interests which are not those of the Post Office? I have no desire, having regard to the marvellous statement that the Postmaster General has made, and to the tremendous work which must have devolved upon him in all kinds of special matters that ho must have had to attend to during the last twelve months, that no other Postmaster-General has had to face, to embarrass the Department, but we ought to have some explanation as to this rule. Is it intended to abrogate it? If not, is the Department prepared to give some reasonable facilities for its being put into practical use in a proper way? If it is not, it ought to leave it out, and with the object of eliciting a straight reply to a straight question, I beg to move to reduce the Vote.


I should like to associate myself with what fell from my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Hob-house) and other Members in the expression of appreciation and sympathy with the large number of postal servants who have distinguished themselves in the War, and those who have unfortunately lost their lives. It has been a most satisfactory episode in the history of the Post Office service, and one which the chiefs of that service will look upon with very great satisfaction. I want to ask a few questions about the financial aspect of these Estimates. I think the net result is to show a diminution of, roughly speaking, £500,000 on the Estimates for last year—that is, on a total of £26,500,000. Of that reduction £118,000 represents the reduced charges for paying debts on Post Office expenditure, and there is a reduction of £205,000 on the cost of engineering material— that is to say, more than half the total reduction in the estimated amount of the Vote is brought about by those two items. The Vote is, in fact, practically stationary, so that the taxpayer is getting no sort of relief in any way commensurate with, the very much less efficient postal service which he is getting. We ought to understand that, and I hope we shall get a little more explanation. I noticed, too, that the estimate for Post Office wages in London is up by £55,000, while that for provincial wages is down by £200,000. It appears to me that, under the bonus system announced by the Postmaster-General, the provincial wages will be proportionately increased more than the London wages. I understood the Post-master-General to say that, roughly speaking—I am referring to the men—the bonus is 9s. for wages under 30s., 8s. for wages between 30s. and 40s., and 7s. for wages between 40s. and 50s. I gather from the Assistant Postmaster-General that that is correct. Clearly, as the wages of the Post Office are arranged upon a scale depending partly upon the cost of living, which is always higher in the large towns than in the country districts, it is obvious that the men in the country districts are going to get mist of the 9s. bonus, while the men in the large towns are going to get the 8s. and the 7s. bonus. The postman of a country district is going to get 9s. bonus, whilst a postman of the same standing in London is going to get 7s. as his war bonus. If that is so, it does not seem to me that that is the precise way in which it ought to work, because the original scale of wages is based upon a principle which is supposed to give the men the same wage whether they live in London or in some remote country district.

This estimate must mean that the diminution in postal work in the provinces is very much greater than the diminution in postal work in London. I suppose this is a result of the large collection of work in London brought about by the Government undertaking to control everything and everybody. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to this point because it illustrates what we may expect to find under a system whereby the Government controls everything—that is, all the provincial tows will gradually be diminished in importance, and the work will be sucked out of them and transferred to London. That, I take it, is the real story which is revealed by the figures in the Post Office Estimates. I would like to know who is- paying for the postal service conducted at the front. Is it being paid for in these Estimates or is it being paid for out of the Vote of Credit for Army Service? I understood the Postmaster-General to say that the men who were conducting Post Office service at the front were in the Army.




What I would like to ask is whether their wages are provided for in this Vote or whether they are provided for under the Vote of Credit as part of the Army?


They are paid by the Army, largely.


These men, at any rate, are being largely paid for by the Army. In that case there ought to have been some alleviation of the Post Office Vote. I understand that there is a very large system of double pay, and that the great bulk of the Post Office men who are in the Army are getting double pay—that is, full Post Office pay and full Army pay. I understand that is under an old arrangement. I think the taxpayers ought to know exactly the position. Are we right in understanding that an ordinary post-man who goes to the Army is getting, I first of all, his full pay as a postman, with a War bonus, and his full pay as a soldier, with a separation allowance for his wife? I would like to have an explanation as to what the men are really getting under this system. Nobody grudges them full and adequate pay, and everyone would like to think they were getting at least the highest of the two rates of pay, if not something more, but I do think that the taxpayer ought to be protected and that a Post Office servant ought not, especially with the very large bonus that has been given, and the very large separation allowance, to be getting full double pay in both categories. I would like to support what has been said by other hon. Members in regard to the postal service. I think under the circumstances we have no right to complain about it, but it would be of great assistance if we could have rather more punctual early deliveries in the morning. I do not complain of the mid-day collections being stopped, because I think it would be very unreasonable to complain of that in war-time, but people have got their work to do, and if we do not get our letters in the morning we cannot get on with our business, and that is a very serious matter. I take it that the large deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank rather destroy the suggestion that on the whole the wage-earning classes are less well-off than they were before the War. If it is possible for the wage-earning classes to make largely increased deposits in the Savings Bank, it would appear that there must be a very large number of them who, to put it mildly, have a greater excess on their war earnings, even with the cost of living as it now is, than was the case before the War. There must be a great many people, and not rich people, who are better off than they were before.

I want to direct the attention of the Committee to a point which has not been raised yet, and that is the treatment of what is known as K Company. I understand that the Post Office have got the matter before them and thoroughly understand it, and therefore I do not want to take up more time than is necessary to let the Committee understand the point. It arises out of the Committee of Inquiry into the Post Office, over which I had the honour to preside two or three years ago. Before this Committee what is known as K Company of the Royal Engineers presented their grievances. To sum it up, briefly, the point is this: This K Company consisted of Post Office servants who were nominally enlisted in the Army, so that the Army could have handy at any time reserves of trained telegraphists under a certain amount of military discipline who could be taken away, if necessary, to serve at the front. These men throughout the whole of their career were, in fact, serving in the Post Office, doing the ordinary work of postal officials. Though nominally soldiers, they were given Post Office pay—that is to say, the Post Office paid them the difference between the Army pay and the full Post Office pay. For all purposes, except that of pension, it is quite plain from the evidence these men have throughout been treated as Post Office servants, but for the purpose of computing pensions the Post Office and the Treasury have refused to allow the years spent in K Company to count. In other words, men are receiving pension at a lower rate because they spent a certain number of years' service in K Company. The circular on which they were invited to join this service intimated that for all purposes they would be treated as persons doing Post Office service while they were in K Company. I think there is no doubt that that is so.

A circular was issued in June, 1890, inviting Post Office officials to join, and nothing whatever was said that they would lose their pension, or that their pension would be reduced by reason of their service in K Company. Then the time for paying pensions came about, and these Post Office servants represented the facts to the Post Office. The Post Office said that they would not give any pensions for that period, and they issued in 1907 an amended circular in which they inserted the words "except for pension purposes." The issue of the amended circular is very strong corroboration of the view of the Post Office servants that the original circular promised them their pensions. Two years later, in 1909, the amended circular was withdrawn, and the original circular was re-issued. The Post Office servants inform me, and I believe rightly, that the re-issue of the original circular was brought about because they could not get any recruits under the circular, which stated that service in K Company would not count for pension purposes. This matter was referred to the committee of which I had the honour to be chairman, and the statement of the men was accepted as correct by the Post Office representatives—at any rate it was not denied. The difficulty in the way of the men getting their pension was a difficulty made by the Treasury, who relied upon some purely technical point, that these men were soldiers. That is a mere technicality. They were for all practical purposes civilians. A committee of nine members of this House reported on the subject, and this is what the committee reported, absolutely unanimously: Your Committee recommend that the whole period of service in K Company, where it is followed by established service in the Post Office, be treated as Post Office service and not military service for the purpose of computing civil pensions, and that the pensions of officers already retired be corrected accordingly, and the arrears made good. That was the unanimous decision of a committee of nine members of this House, drawn from all quarters, and I do think that when a matter of that sort has been submitted to a committee, when the evidence on both sides has been heard, when there is no real dispute between the heads of Government Departments and the Service as to the justice of the men's claim, and when the committee has found unani- mously that the claim of the servants is just, it is unreasonable the decision of the committee should not be accepted. If that is going to be the attitude of the Treasury, and they will not meet this claim for pension which, so far as money is concerned, must be a very small matter, it will leave a sense of injustice rankling in the minds of these public servants. Men will feel that when they have got arbitration in their favour they are refused the execution of the award. That must be very subversive of discipline, and to do beg of the Postmaster-General to put great pressure on the Treasury and insist upon the award of the committee being made good, and that these men should receive the pension which every member of that committee believed they were fairly entitled to receive.


I should like to join in the congratulations that have been tendered to the right hon. Gentleman on the way in which, despite the very large withdrawal of men from the Post Office, the work has been done in the past year. I should also like to say that I am sure the House will have been glad to hear about the committee that was presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby with regard to the wages of postal servants. Whilst the award of that committee may be considered as satisfactory in some respects I doubt very much whether it has entirely met the legitimate demands of the servants at the present time. I had several letters some days ago from some of the postal servants in York in which they complained first of all with regard to the question of wages, and secondly with regard to overtime. The point I want specially to allude to is where they say that if the larger question of joint control of the Post Office, such as they hoped, when the Gibb Committee was set up, was coming within the range of practical politics, these questions would quickly right themselves. One of the letters finishes in this way: We want to give our best service to the community, and we feel sure that our desire to have a fuller directive share in the conditions under which we work will command general sympathy as it will undoubtedly make for greater efficiency. With regard to the question of wages, we have to remember that at the present time a sum of at least 40s. is required to keep a family of five in a state of physical efficiency, and I fancy that if my right hon. Friend would look, for instance, into the wages of postmen, say, in Class 2, he would find that the great majority are receiving less than that figure. I do not want to go further into that point at present, because it is specially with the question of control that I want to deal. I would also like to ask my right hon. Friend to say when replying if he is satisfied that in some places there is not too much overtime being worked. I know the difficulties full well, yet it has been found in other Departments of the Government that the best work has not been done because so much overtime was being worked; and in some Departments it has now been decided that in order to get the work done effectively overtime must be reduced.

It is, however, specially to that last point that I want to refer, because I believe that if the Post Office can meet that point, not only will they confer a great benefit on the whole postal system, but they may do very much more than that— perform a very interesting experiment for the State which may have far-reaching results. There is nobody who in recent days has made any inquiry into industrial conditions and has really tried to get at the root difficulty which presents itself in the industrial world to-day, but must know that the question of industrial workers having some direct share in the management of concerns is the one that is receiving the greatest attention at the present time. The primary demand of labour now is not an economic demand. It is a human demand. If that is so, this request of theirs that they should be allowed to cooperate in the management of industry is not an unreasonable demand, and I am convinced that it is one that must be met not only by the Government, but by private employers as well. If one goes about the country and talks to the working men on this point, one cannot help feeling that there is a growing distrust of Government management and Government control. Yet we know perfectly well that we are at the beginning of an era when there is bound to be far more Government control, and it is essential that steps should be taken to try to remove the suspicions that have grown up in connection with Government control. It is no good the Government appointing reconstruction committees, and it is no good the Government, through their spokesmen, making bold speeches with regard to what is going to happen in reference to labour, unless they themselves are willing to try the experiment and practically to show how it can be done.

The whole tendency of thought at present among employers and employed is that in future you must have a far greater amount of joint control. The tendency of thought at present in private industries is that you should have advisory committees representative of employers and employed, who shall deal with practically the whole problems of the industries, and I want to suggest to my right hon. Friend that the Post Office provides the best Government Department for the trial of this experiment. The difficulty with regard to industries is first of all getting the industries together. There is a very interesting account in one of the papers to-day of an attempt that has been made in the building trade to get the whole industry worked on a national basis. But there are all kinds of difficulties which I will not go into now. In the Post Office you have practically the one Department where it seems that all the conditions are favourable. It is a nationalised industry. It is recognised as a public service and a permanent part of the national life. The labour employed, something over a quarter of a million, is large compared with the fixed capital invested. Therefore the prosperity of the undertaking depends chiefly upon the efficiency of the workers. It is work that demands skill. Most of the employés on entering have to pass an examination. There is a high level of personal character among the men and women who are in the service. The trade unions are well organised, and I fancy that the various trade unions are, on the whole, friendly one with another. It is a prosperous industry. It is making profits. There is one point which I am perfectly sure we have to remember, that when a demand is made that at any rate the men and women shall be paid a living wage, they know perfectly well that the Department as a whole is making a profit, and I am sure that the community does not want to have a large profit made at the expense of the servants of the service. It always has been so, but I am perfectly certain that if you are going to satisfy the legitimate demands of these men and women, it cannot be so in the future.

Another point in which I think the conditions are favourable is that the existinging organisation could be very largely moulded, without any very great changes, into a system under which you could have these representative committees. It is common knowledge that the control of the Post Office is vested in the Postmaster-General and in the Secretary of the Post Office. There are five departments which the Secretary supervises from his office. When you come to local administration, the country is divided into fourteen districts with surveyors; postmasters work under them. I know perfectly well that the trade unions have been recognised by the Post Office, but it seems to me that it has been a grudging recognition. The ablest report that has been made public during the last year with regard to reconstruction is the report on the industrial situation after the War by the Garton Foundaion. It is an extraordinarily interesting and informative report, and there is a very interesting appendix with regard to the Post Office, which shows how the conclusions contained in the report could be carried out by the Post Office. Speaking of this recognition of the trade unions and the way in which it works, they say: The trade unions are put in the position of a sort of official opposition. Their function is not to co-operate with the management, but to criticise; not to prevent complaints, but to endeavour to remedy them, and in certain cases, such as discipline, where feeling is likely to run high, they are precluded from interfering until the matter has already been declared upon by the Secretary and has become the subject of serious and probably bitter controversy. That is not the right position for the unions to be put into. Those unions want to co-operate with the management with regard to the conditions. They do not want to be in a hostile camp. It is just the same way as in private industry, where it has been far too much the thing for employers' associations always to be placed on the defensive against employés' associations, and I think that we are going to make very little progress in industry as long as you have that condition obtaining. You must do something to try to bring the workers into touch with the management, and I believe that it is the experience of all those who have made an effort to bring this about that excellent results are obtained. But you have to be perfectly frank with regard to it.

6.0 P.M.

Would it not be possible in connection with the Post Office to set up representative committees in connection with the five departments in the Secretary's office? Would it not be possible to setup a similar machinery in each of the surveyors' districts—committees which should contain a representative of each grade to co- operate with the management? Would it not be possible as well in the individual offices, which of course correspond with the workshops in other industries, for the Postmaster to consult with representatives of the staff on all questions which affect the welfare of the office? I believe that if those three courses were taken the Post Office would find that not only would they get infinitely better service even than they are getting at the present time, but that they would also get the enthusiastic support of the workers in such an experiment. Of course, we know that if an agreement is arrived at with regard to a decision, control must rest with the supervising authority as at present. I believe it would be found that in the main, where you have got a grievance, you would find that altogether a new spirit would arise amongst the workers, and that they would feel that they had a real share in the management and the control of this very important branch of the Government. I want to appeal to my right hon. Friend to really take this question very seriously, and I want to ask him to take action at once. He may say—and very rightly say—that these suggestions that I have made, and which are the suggestions outlined in this Report to which I have referred, are not the best; and I am not going to commit myself that the actual suggestions I have made are the best that can be made; but in saying that, I want to make this further suggestion to the Postmaster-General—Why not at once appoint a Departmental Committee, the representatives of the workers having half the seats on that committee? Why not ask them to come and discuss this question, and to see whether they cannot put a scheme before the Postmaster-General which could be carried out at once? I do not want to wait until the War ends. I know the difficulties, and I know the enormous pressure that the officers are working under at the present time; but I do not believe that it is wise for us to leave the carrying out of all these experiments until after the War has ended. I think that we have seen, in recent days, with regard to the troubles in the munition works, that rather different treatment, rather more generous co-operation between the employers and the employed, might have staved off those difficulties that we have passed through.

Not only do I think that, but the reason why I am so anxious that my right hon. Friend should be willing to take immediate action is because I believe that what is needed at the present time in England more than anything else in regard to this matter is a successful experiment. I want to see something done to remove this profound mistrust of Government control. I want something done to make people feel that it is not only democracy we want, not only political democracy, but that we want a far greater extension of industrial democracy. We are going to begin to improve the status of the workers, but if we are, in the next ten years, to prevent one of the most serious industrial conflicts that we have ever had in this country, we shall have to go a long way in trying to improve and extend and enlarge the position of the wage earner, and we shall have to make each worker, man or woman, see that we desire them to use their faculties to the full, and see that in the work which they do they are engaged in creative work, and that they have the chance and the opportunity of strengthening the best that is in them. You have to get rid of the idea that they are merely wage slaves. You have to give them the chance of using the best capacities that they have in them, and of seeing that they are really sharing in management and production. I do ask my right hon. Friend to realise that there are large numbers of people outside who have been giving a great amount of attention to this question, and who do really feel that the Post Office is by far the most likely Government Department for this experiment being tried, and I hope that, as one result of this discussion, the right hon. Gentleman will consider the question of appointing a Departmental Committee upon which half the representatives would be representatives of the workers. I trust that he will consider whether it is not possible to formulate some scheme on these lines, which could at once be carried into effect, and so, in that way, the Post Office would add to the many great services which it has rendered to the State, by showing how, under new conditions, this new spirit can be brought into the management of the Post Office, and, in that way, act as a guide to other Departments of the State, and to the industries of the country.


I do not desire to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the many activities of the Post Office, but I fully share in the many compliments paid to him upon his statement to-day. The question which I wish to bring before him is one of purely local interest, and has relation to the case of a postal servant in my Constituency, whose grievance has been brought by me before to the notice of the Postmaster-General, though I have not been able to get any redress. I still feel that the Post Office servant whom I represent has a distinct grievance, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will forgive my bringing it up again. The question is rather a complicated one, but I will endeavour to do my best to explain it as clearly and as quickly as I can. The man's name is Bools. On the 20th February, 1916, he was on duty at Nottingham Post Office. A gentleman came in, wishing to send a cablegram to Montreal, and he asked Mr. Bools' advice as to how it could best be sent at as cheap a rate as possible. Mr. Bools thought the best way was to send a night-service telegram. The gentleman drew up the message in conjunction with Mr. Bools. Here I must explain that as the message was originally drawn there were two surperfluous words in it, the two words being "Nottingham, England." "England" was erased, leaving the one superfluous word still in. I should also explain that in these night-service telegrams an indicator is necessary, the indicator being officially known as T L T. The message had been sent to the instrument room when Mr. Bools remembered that he had forgotten to insert the indicator. He got into communication with the instrument room and asked if he could add the indicator to the message. He was told that the message had already been forwarded to headquarters, and that if he wished to add anything or make any alteration he would have to send a service telegram. Mr. Bools wrote out the service telegram, and here the question arose in his own mind as to what he could do. He knew that the gentleman wished to avoid additional expense as much as possible, and also knowing that "Nottingham" was an unnecessary word, in order not to incur further expense, he erased the word "Nottingham" and the indicator was inserted, T L T. This may have been an error of judgment, but unfortunately the difficulty comes in that Mr. Bools sent this service message, and the man in the instrument room is ready to swear that he received the message, and the telegraphist is also prepared to swear he sent the message; yet the attitude taken up by the Department is that the message was never sent, and the punishment which has been meted out to Mr. Bools is, I think, a very severe one. The Department said: Your action in erasing the word 'Nottingham' from a telegram handed in on the 26th February last, and addressed to. Montreal, has been considered by the Secretary, who directs that for the offence your wages shall be reduced from 58s. to 56s. a week, and that you be emphatically warned that you have narrowly escaped dismissal, and that should you again come under notice for similar or other serious misconduct you must expect no further leniency. The unfortunate part of it is that the Department not only add insult to injury, but they say "that the circumstances raised a grave suspicion that no such telegram was dispatched," and they suggested to the officer that he was endeavouring "to cover your action in connection with the original telegram by untruthfulness." In other words, they accused this well-tried servant of the Post Office, not only of telling an untruth, but also of suborning two other postal servants to back him up in that untruthful-ness by giving a statement on oath. What I want to ask my right hon. Friend is whether it is usual to accuse a well-tried Post Office servant of telling an untruth? Is not the presumption, on the face of the facts, that Bools did send this telegram, because if the message went through without the indicator there would be a double-rate charge, whereas if the message went through with the indicator the message would go through at the half-rate? Is it not reasonable to think that Bools was only too anxious that the message should go through at the half-rate, taking into consideration the fact that if it did not go through in that way possibly he himself might have to pay for the message at the double rate? After all, you have on the one side the evidence of the man himself and two fellow servants, who swear that this message did go, while, on the other hand, you have the negative evidence that the message cannot be found. You condemn this man to a reduction of his wages and to be passed over for promotion. My right hon. Friend knows that service messages do sometimes get lost, and he knows perfectly well that even telegrams themselves get lost. Under the circumstances I would ask the hon. Gentleman to consent to have a further investigation made into this matter and an independent inquiry held. The matter is one which has aroused a great deal of feeling and unrest among the postal servants in my Constituency, and they feel very deeply about it. Seeing that this man has a very good record of over twenty years' service, I really think this is a concession which the Department might make.

I would like to associate myself with the interesting speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Rowntree), in which he put in the claim that the postal servants should be associated with the Department more or less in the control of the running and of the discipline of the Department. This War is supposed to be a war of ideals. It has not had, so far, very decisive military results, but it has had some decisive results in bringing to light new ideas and enabling us to make new discoveries. We have made the discovery that patriotism in itself is not enough and that it is not enough to rely on the cry of our country right or wrong. We have also made the discovery that Socialism is not enough, and that the mere fact that a Government owns a business is not sufficient, and that the fact that employers are Government servants is not enough to create harmony, goodwill, and contentment. The more I think of it the more I am convinced, with the hon. Member for York, who drew attention to the report of the Garton Foundation, that if we are to get harmony and greater production and better feeling, the step we shall have to take is to recognise the humanity of the worker and to associate him in the running of our industries and businesses. This is a step the Post Office might very well take. We have made a certain beginning in this direction in our industries because joint committees of workmen and employers have been set up for the purpose of absorbing all the disabled soldiers, and I believe those committees will also have the task of absorbing returning soldiers into industrial life after the War is over So far I do not think the Post Office have made any move in this matter at all, and I think it is a direction in which they might make a move. If they have made any arrangements for Post Office employés and with regard to disabled soldiers, as far as I know they do not propose to make any arrangement for associating the workers in the work of absorbing returned soldiers after the War is over. I may be misinformed, but that is what I have been told. I hope that the Post-master-General will give the suggestions of the hon. Member for York his earnest consideration because I am perfectly certain that it would add to the dignity and contentment of the service and that he would be justified in his action by the increased contentment and goodwill of the vast army of people over whom he has charge.


I desire to speak on a matter of some importance to persons employed in the Post Office and largely on the lines of the previous speakers. I understand that about 70,000 men from the Post Office employês are now serving with the Colours and 3,000 have been killed, whilst it is obvious that a large number will be wounded. The question arises at once, what is to happen with those men who come back? Some of them may be fully fitted to carry out their previous duties while others may be able to take up some other type of work than that which they performed when they joined the Colours. Besides that there has been brought into the postal service a large number of women workers. The work has been specialised and simplified, and therefore much easier for inexperienced persons to do, so that people of less capacity are necessary than has been the case hitherto when men of the higher skill and experience have been employed in the postal service. So far as I know no method exists whereby any notice is taken of the changes that have been made in the nature of the employment during the course of the War, and no steps have been taken in conjunction with the people immediately concerned, that is to say, the employés of the Post Office, to see that when the War is over the position is to be as it was prior to the outbreak of war. Let me deal with the position amongst the workmen employed in the different munition factories in the country. We know that there has been, and necessarily, I agree, a very large dilution of the skilled labour of this country, and that in the main the skilled workers of the country have acquiesced and agreed with this dilution, despite the fact that all the organisations of the workmen of this country have been busily engaged for over sixty or seventy years in building up and securing the conditions surrounding their trade prior to the War, and that by agreeing to the principle of dilution they admit a very serious menace which may very easily be turned to the absolute downfall and destruction of the particular skill they have hitherto shown in their avocations.

The workers of this country have shown enormous sacrifice in what they have done. The same degree of sacrifice is shown by the men in postal employment. With regard to the workmen in the munition shops, every change in the mode of employment which is made is to be stated very distinctly and agreed to by the employer on the one hand and the workmen on the other and registered with the Munitions Department, so that when the War is over all those things may be gone into so that when the matter is settled eventually after the War the prewar conditions can again be brought into existence. So far as I understand, no effort has been made and no invitation has been given to the people in Post Office employment to do anything of a like kind, and I want to suggest the unfairness of allowing this thing to go by the board. The men who have joined the Colours during this War surely are men who deserve every consideration, and whether their avocation be that of engineer or telegraphist or other postal servants, we must remember they have given up everything that man can hold dear in this life and are prepared to sacrifice everything, even to life itself. When the War is over, and we hope won and carried to a very successful victory for this country, and when we are all shouting hurrah to the men who have fought our battles, and when they come back are they to find that the whole position of their skill and their employment in postal service is to go by the board and that their positions are to be taken by less skilled men and women, and after doing all that is possible for men to perform in the interests and the welfare of the country, are these men to be damnified by the very sacrifices they have made on behalf of the country? In the engineering trade, at any rate, if the arrangements already in existence are carried out, that cannot conceivably happen, while in the postal service there is every conceivable possibility that that will happen unless something is done.


A direct promise has been given by the Postmaster-General before the men went to the War.


That may be to the individual men.


To the associations.


In What way is that to be implemented?


One Postmaster-General gave the promise, and the next Postmaster-General who occupied office until recently and the present Postmaster-General confirmed the promise that when these men come back from the front they will obtain the jobs which they had when they left.


That is all right so far as it goes, but is it not obvious that many of these men will be wounded and may not be able to carry out the duties which they had performed previously? Who is going to decide in such cases? Are the high officials in the postal service to be judge and jury and everything in these cases? Are the men in the postal service not to be consulted at all, while those in engineering and munition shops are to be consulted in every conceivable way? They are to be parties to the sacrifices, and are they not also to be parties to the settlement when the War is over? What I wish to find out is whether the Post Office is prepared to appoint a committee from amongst the men in their employment representing those so employed along with a committee of the staff to take cognisance of all these changes that have been brought into operation during the War, so that when these men return from the Colours the conditions will be brought back to the pre-war standard, and also to consider the position of those men who may have been injured and wounded, so that some consideration can be brought to bear in order that they shall not suffer by their new employment and in order that those who are now in the postal service shall be consulted as to the kind and type of employment to which such men shall be brought after the War is over. If these kind of things are not to be taken into consideration, and if only the officers and the postal service are going to decide them without in any way consulting the staff beneath them, then I say obviously very grave injustices are bound to arise out of such a course.

I do press that, after all, the time has gone by when we can assume that all the brains in the world are on the staff and no brains at all among the employés. Surely the House of Commons has got past that stage. I suggest that we are in duty bound to consider the postal employé and give him every chance to state the case on behalf of any of those men who may be wounded and unable to carry out their former employment. Such a committee as I have suggested should be given the opportunity to see, whatever may be the decision arrived at with regard to the new employment, that such men are not to be in a worse position than the position they would have been in if they had not joined the Colours. The suggestion, therefore, that I make is that a committee should be appointed and that these cases should come before this committee, so that it may act conjointly and in consultation with a like number from the staff to see that no injustice is done to any of these men under any circumstances. I believe that if that were done it would give very great satisfaction to the whole of the persons employed with the postal staff of this country. I say further that no Government Department has the right to allocate to itself the sole decision in regard to the future welfare of men who depend upon the exercise of a certain amount of skill to earn their livelihood. Is there to be no recognition of the sacrifices of these men? When the men whom we are hearing of to-day come back, are they simply to be treated as "hands" and "tools" and not to be considered as human beings endowed with intelligence? Surely now, in 1917, the time has gone past when, so far as the treatment in Government service is concerned such a thing can happen? I do ask the Postmaster-General, who perhaps has not had the same experience as other Postmasters-General, to give this matter real consideration, and do his best to see that justice is done to these men—that no less justice is done to them than if they were mechanics employed in any of the munitions establishments in various parts of the country.

There is another point upon which I should like to say a few words. That is in regard to the bonuses that have been granted. I quite agree that it may seem slightly to be out of order to find fault with the decision of the arbitration in this matter, but the Postmaster-General himself mentioned it; therefore, I take it I shall be in order in dealing with it, and in any case I shall not deal with it at length. In all the questions of bonuses which have been dealt with, covering, I dare say, one million or one and a half millions in the whole of the munitions establishments of the country, one principle has been adopted, and it has been adopted because the cost of living has hit the poor man and the skilled man in exactly the same way and to the same extent. Consequently the same bonus has been granted to the unskilled labourer and to the semi-skilled man as to the highly-skilled mechanic. There has been no difference of opinion at all in the ranks of the workers in this country on that point. The skilled men have agreed—they have never complained—that the less skilled man and the poorly-paid man should have exactly the same war bonus as themselves, because such men have been hit in exactly the same way in the increased cost of living. When, however, we come to the postal service I understand that the new people that have been brought in, temporary employés, have been given less bonus than the others to the extent of 1s. This is the only exception that I know of where in an arbitration award affecting war bonuses the less skilled men or temporary men have received a less bonus than any other section of the workpeople concerned. I hope that some consideration may even now be given to this case, because, after all, none of us can control the increase in the cost of living. Prices are still rising. It is a very difficult matter for these men. Many of them have not been receiving more than 30s. per week. Most of us to-day know roughly just how far 30s. will go with the increased prices of foodstuffs. We are pretty well conversant with the fact that 30s. is roughly only worth about 15s., and for these men to receive 1s. less in war bonus makes them to that extent worse off. I certainly ask the Postmaster-General to be kind enough to give some consideration to this point, which may be a small one, but still is one which affects the poorest men in his service.


I desire to bring forward a grievance from which some of us suffer, and to which I have already called attention on more than one occasion by question across the floor of the House, though I am sorry to say without very much satisfaction from the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Post Office here. I refer to the Sunday morning mail affecting Cork particularly, and also affecting nearly every district in the South of Ireland. For no reason that is at all satisfactory to any of the districts concerned, the Post Office, six months ago, added an hour to the time which the railway company was entitled to take to convey the morning mail to Cork and the South of Ireland. As a Member of this House who has endeavoured, with other Irish Members, to get some improvement in the mail service affecting the districts I have named, I remember very well after entering the House waiting on the then Postmaster-General, Mr. Raikes. We had a very large deputation from the South of Ireland. Our work was renewed with the successor of Mr. Raikes, Mr. Arnold Morley. There was very great pressure and prolonged agitation, and ultimately we succeeded—after considerable time—in obtaining, at any rate, a modicum of what we claimed, and in getting from the Post Office a substantial acceleration of the mails to the South of Ireland. Last winter the result of the exertions of a generation of Irish Members was taken away by the stroke of the pen of the Postmaster-General. This was done without the smallest public announcement, without any consultation with local bodies, without giving the public interested any opportunity of making representations, and without any rhyme or reason visible to any of the southern. Irish public, except that it suited the convenience of the Great Southern and District Railway. What the Post Office did was bad. The manner in which the Post Office did it was worse. The occasion on which the Post Office acted as they did still more aggravated the situation.

The Committee will probably be aware that last winter Irish time was by Statute made the same as English time. Up till then Irish time had been in accordance with the sun, and was twenty-five minutes later than English time. Last winter an Act of Parliament was passed equalising the time. The Irish Members consented to that alteration with some misgiving. One would have supposed that their acquiescence, and the fact that they were subjected to considerable criticism, would, at any rate, have prevented the infliction of further grievances on the country which they represented. The twenty-five minutes in question meant that in the South of Ireland we get our letters twenty-five minutes later We get them nominally at the same time, but business commences twenty-five minutes earlier, with the result that the equalisation of the time of the two countries necessarily put us to a disadvantage to the extent of twenty-five minutes. We were, I say, subjected to considerable criticism, for it was in consequence of the representations of the then Postmaster-General, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Herbert Samuel), and with the consent of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), that the change was made. My hon. and learned Friend afterwards came in for some severe public criticism. One would have thought that the occasion of a concession of that kind on the part of the Irish Members would not have been made a pretext for further dealing with the mails. But the Post Office took the action of which I complain without one word in advance, without any public announcement, so further hampering the southern public by an additional thirty-five minutes. The matter now takes this form: that when the southern mail reaches Kingsbridge station the railway company are entitled to keep it waiting there forty-eight minutes before they proceed to dispatch it South. A more monstrous change I think I never remember in the whole history of Post Office action. We have been accustomed to progress in postal matters, but retrogression without rhyme or reason is what we complain of on the present occasion.

What attempt has been made to defend this action? It is said, forsooth, that because the English mail runs late, or is run late, that the Irish mail is necessarily, on some occasions, late in consequence, and that though the scheduled time of the English mail has never been changed so as to make it fit in with the real time that is run, that the London and North-Western Railway Company have not been permitted to change their scheduled time, the Great Southern and Western Railway have been permitted to change their scheduled time by thirty-five minutes on the pretence that that thirty-five minutes was necessarily lost by the delay on the other side. The defence made has no substance in argument, and is unfounded in fact. I have the statement here made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He said that the change was made with the object of fixing the time of starting, so as not to change according to the arrival from Holy-head, but as nearly as possible to correspond with the average actual time of starting obtainable under conditions produced by the War. That is not a fact. So far from it being average time, it is very much nearer to maximum time. The right hon Gentleman has practically given the Irish railway company, not the average time lost on the English side, but very nearly the maximum time. Furthermore this loss of time is shown by the figures given to me by the right hon. Gentleman to have rapidly increased, and in recent months the time of running the English mail has reached a very much higher average than during the earlier period of the War. What I want to ask is this, if the Irish public are penalised when the London and North-Western Company are running very irregularly, why should not the Irish public at least have the benefit when the company's trains are running a great deal more punctually? Here is a statement by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company: Omitting the 27th ult., when the accident occured at Penmaenbach, and the three occasions when the 7.25 a.m. train to the North was missed at Amiens Street, the passengers were kept last month waiting at this station until the train started, on the average, 43 minutes each day, which demonstrates that the old timing ought to be reverted to. I take it the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to inflict any conscious unfairness upon Ireland, but I put it that if he yielded to the railway company when they made representations that the London and North-Western trains were running so irregularly, now that the London and North-Western Company's running is so much improved, they should revert to the old time, or, at any rate, to a time which is an improvement on the present monstrous state of affairs. The notion that this country ought to spend enormous sums, of money in dispatching mails to Holy-head across to Ireland, and then, when they reach there, the railway company is to have the privilege of waiting for forty-eight minutes for no reason that anyone can see, I do suggest is a state of things to which the right hon. Gentleman should put an end at the earliest possible moment. That is our grievance as regards a change of this kind.

In the questions which I addressed to the right hon. Gentleman I drew his attention to a detail in connection with the running of these trains which would have enabled the Post Office to obtain a great improvement in the system, even making all allowance for irregularities of this kind. I have drawn the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact—I got the figures from himself across the Floor of the House—that this great mail train costs hundreds of thousands of pounds. In order to cross the City of Dublin, it takes thirty-one minutes. That is to say, a. mail train is permitted by the Postmaster-General to run at the rate of five miles an hour every morning. For that there is not the slightest excuse, and that is proved not by anything I have said, not even by the figures I have given, but it is proved by the chairman of the railway company himself. I referred the right hon. Gentleman to addresses delivered on two occasions by the chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company to the shareholders when the Drumcondra Line was being constructed for the sole purpose of facilitating the transmission of mails—a work which cost £400,000 of the shareholders' money. I have referred the right hon. Gentleman to the statement made by the chairman that when that line was constructed it would be possible to accelerate the running of the mails between Kingstown and Kings-bridge by half an hour. On another occasion the chairman of the same company, addressing the same body of shareholders, said that the time taken in the then existing circumstances was quite preposterous. When I drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, who is now in the House of Lords, he promised me that he would open up negotiations with the railway company in order to endeavour to secure some change in this condition of affairs in which a mail train is allowed to run at the rate of five miles an hour. For the purpose of enabling him to negotiate with the railway company, I provided him with these quotations from the speeches of the chairman of the railway company with whom he was negotiating. The right hon. Gentleman later on gave me a second answer, in which he told me that he was still carrying on negotiations, but when two months ago I put the question to the present Postmaster-General as to what the upshott of the negotiations was, I got a very curt and, I think I may say, a very un-courteous reply, because, instead of answering this very specific question which I put because of the promise expressly made on the floor of this House by his predecessor, he rode off on a general issue, and said nothing could be done at present to improve the existing conditions. The right hon. Gentleman the present Postmaster-General knows the conditions; he has himself Irish connections, and has himself frequently travelled on this line. If this were a War saving, made under the stringency of War conditions because labour or money could not be obtained, I would not raise my voice to make a complaint; but this proceeding of the Irish railway company saves no money and saves no labour. It benefits no one but the railway company itself. I do ask the right hon. Gentleman, without going back upon the reasons which induced the Post Office to make this change, and to make it without in any way referring it, to the Irish public or giving them any warning, at any rate, he should take up the matter again, now that the conditions on this side of the water have changed, and say to the railway company that, as the English company has mended its manners, the Irish railway company should do so.


The right hon. Gentleman referred to a subject which I brought to his notice in a question I asked in the House some little time ago. In order to make the matter clear, perhaps I may be allowed to read the question, which was: To ask the Postmaster-General if he will consider the desirability of taking such steps as may be necessary to render compulsory the adoption of numbers for houses, instead of or in conjunction with names, in order to facilitate the delivery of letters and telegrams where it is considered an advantage to make such change; if he will consider the desirability of taking such steps as may be necessary to have the names of streets clearly indicated on lamp-posts; and if he will bear in mind also the convenience which would be prodded were there some carefully considered plan brought into use at an early date by which there should be some uniformity of practice in all districts where such changes would be advantageous to the postal service and to the public? I was led to ask that question after having interviews with the postal officials, and they told me that a very great deal of delay was caused owing to houses in the suburbs being named, and not having numbers. My proposition is, that where they have names they should have numbers as well. It seems to me almost cruel that young people, perhaps novices in postal work, should be expected to go out with telegrams or deliver letters, and that there should be no means of ascertaining easily where those letters or telegrams have to be left. Especially is that the case on dark nights or in wet and cold weather. Every facility ought to be given to postal officials so that the letters and telegrams may be delivered with the least possible delay. To refer to another part of the subject, one realises the difficulties that must be endured by medical men, perhaps hurriedly called to a visit of urgency, in finding out such an address as "'Bal-moral,' Peck-ham," or something of that kind. This reform is a simple one, and I think it might very readily be brought into effect. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to my question, said: I should welcome all these measures as facilitating the handling and delivery of letters, telegrams, and other postal packets. Especially I should welcome the general use of numbers instead of names for designating houses in all districts of an urban character. The Post Office does what it can in this direction by advice and exhortation to the public and by communication with local authorities. It is upon them and upon the Local Government Board, and not upon the Post Office, that any statutory powers on such matters have been conferred."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1917, col. 1267, Vol. XCIII.] The point I wish to raise for the consideration of the Postmaster-General is that these postal arrangements are in his Department and that if he desires—and I know he does desire as a business man—the greatest efficiency, I hope he will take this matter in hand himself and bring such pressure to bear upon the Local Government Board and the other authorities that this change will take place with the least possible delay. It is especially unfair during the War, when there are so many new officials, that they should be worried in this manner. I have some correspondence on the subject which bears out what I say most emphatically. I have in my hand an extract from a correspondent's note in the medical Press. He says, in reference to my question: Another reform that might suitably be introduced at the same time would prohibit anyone from giving an address as in one street of a house which is situate in another. There is a brass plate in Harley Street which always provokes me to mirth whenever I see it. It says, 'This is not 67A Harley Street. That house is in New Cavendish Street. Do not ring here.' The amount of hoarded irritation which that little plate represents lies too deep for words. And the irritation is perfectly legitimate. It ought not to be possible to inflict such an annoyance upon an innocent neighbour. 7.0 P.M.

I had a letter from a gentleman who lives in a part where the houses are built in roads which go in various directions, and all these houses have been named and have no number. This gentleman, at his own expense, made a plan of these houses, and placed it in a convenient place so that the people might be able to find where the various houses are situated. Surely this ought not to be done by a private individual, and it ought to be done by the Post Office. I think hon. Members will agree that there is great difficulty in locating our streets, especially at night time, because you do not know exactly where to look for the name of the street. Why cannot we have on every street, or upon the corner lamp of every street, the name of the street in transparent glass? These small reforms mean a great deal in the aggregate, and I wish to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of paying more attention to this subject, and I hope he will do all he can to bring about the reforms which I have urged.


I wish to support the suggestion which has been made by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rown-tree), and which has been supported by the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), as to the desirability of the Post Office taking this opportunity of facing the problem of reconstruction generally, and giving to labour a fuller part in the management of this great national industry. It has been pointed out already that with regard to the problem of finding work for our disabled and injured soldiers who have done such brave service in the field, that there will be special reason for the Post Office obtaining the advice and getting the sympathy and co-operation of the existing staff through their organisations. I believe there will be great need for this help in regard to the juvenile staff, the interests of which were confided to a special Standing Committee which has now disappeared. The continued education of the boys in the telegraph service and the service of the Stores Department is one in which the staff is interested as well as the higher management, and it would be of the greatest service if there could be cooperation invited in supervising and assisting the good work which has been carried out in this direction by the Postmaster-General in recent years. Most important of all is the opportunity that such a change will give to breathe a new spirit into the whole service. We know that all the best men in the postal service in every rank are proud to serve their country, and already to a certain extent the Post Office authorities have enlisted the help of the trade unions, and the local postmasters have sought the advice and counsel of the junior ranks in the service in matters affecting their interests. It is of supreme importance that this should now be done on a wider scale, and that trade unions should not only come in when a dispute has arisen, and should not merely come in to ask for more wages for all groups or classes or ranks in the service, but also that their thought and interest should be enlisted in promoting the general welfare of the service, in working for greater efficiency and helping to promote the right spirit through every rank by co-operation.

We want to spread the spirit of co-operation through all ranks. The Postmaster-General is a great business man and has a wide view of the problems which are likely to arise after the War, and I am sure he will appreciate how great a service can be done by the Post Office, not only to its own members but to the whole of the industries of the nation if it can set an example by introducing the spirit of co-operation and co-partnership into all branches of the work. More especially I hope that a beginning may be made by the setting up of a departmental committee consisting half of representatives of the various postal unions which may consider this question as a whole and make practical suggestions to the Postmaster-General, and in particular make suggestions in regard to the return after the War is over of ex-soldiers to the ranks of the Post Office service, and consider the various other ways in which Post Office work may be provided for those who have suffered the loss of limbs and health in the service of their country.


I rise to support the request made that the Postmaster-General should reconsider the decision given by his predecessor which prevented the Post Office typists in Liverpool from being represented by the Postal and Telegraph Clerks' Association, to which they belong. I believe that the Post Office has refused to accept or to receive memorials from them, or to listen to the case which this Postal and Telegraph Clerks' Association wish to put forward on behalf of the typists. I believe the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor for taking this course was that, in the opinion of the Post Office, these typists would be more properly affiliated to some other trade union. I submit that really the best judges as to what association should represent the typists should be the typists themselves, and I suggest that it is rather hard and autocratic—not intentional on the part of the Post Office—to lay down that, although these typists have decided and prefer to join this particular association and have their case put forward by them, that you will not listen to their case if it is put forward by that association, and that you will only listen to it if it is put forward by some other association.

I wish to congratulate the Postmaster-General and the Assistant Postmaster-General upon the great efficiency with which they have conducted the work of their great office during the past year, and greater testimony to their service could not be better shown than by the fact that there are so few Members here to ventilate grievances. I submit, however, that the fact that some of us are putting aside other important engagements to remain here to press forward such a grievance as I have mentioned shows that we believe that there is some substance in that grievance, and I trust it will be considered. I was surprised in the course of this Debate when the hon. Member for Hex-ham (Mr. Holt) brought forward a criticism against the Post Office based upon the ground which I never heard of before. He suggested that he was doubtful and almost suspicious as to whether the Post Office was not too liberal with the taxpayers' money, and was paying too much to the Post Office employés in certain cases. That idea has never entered my mind—in fact, my experience has been entirely in the opposite direction. Any complaints which have reached me have not been from taxpayers, but from the Post Office employés and their dependants. Take the case of these typists. I believe their pay is very low, and they have patiently waited for a long time for an increase, and naturally they are getting more and more impatient as time goes on and the cost of living increases.

There is another case to which I drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman two weeks ago, which makes me think that the hon. Member for Hex-ham must be mistaken in the remarks which he made. The case was that of a Post Office employé who enlisted, and his wife and children were made a small allowance of 8s. a week to make up the difference between the separation allowance they received from the Army in respect of the man's Army service and the pre-war salary which had been paid to that Post Office employé. When the statement was made that the separation allowances were going to be increased by a small modicum, one of my constituents, a respectable, poor woman, the wife of one of the more lowly-paid Post Office servants, naturally thought some relief was coming to her, and she thought that she was going to get a little more money in consequence of the increased cost of living, in order to maintain herself and her family. What was her surprise, and I may say indignation, when she found that, although the increased separation allowance meant that she received from the Army authorities an extra 5s. a week, the Post Office deducted 5s. a week from the 8s. which they had been previously allowing her, and they gave her only 3s. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to again consider whether that action does not defeat the intention of the Government in granting the increased separation allowance? The idea of the increased separation allowance was that the previous allowance was insufficient on account of the increased cost of living, and if this woman received an extra payment from the War Office on that account, and the Post Office deducts an equivalent sum, that woman and her dependants are no better off than if the Government had not taken into consideration at all the increased cost of living. There are other minor matters, but I am anxious to avoid anything in the nature of criticism. I fully realise all that has been done by the Postmaster-General and the Assistant Postmaster-General, and I conclude by hoping that they will give reconsideration to the points which I have put forward, I hope, with moderation.

Colonel YATE

I would like to support what has been said as to the necessity for the numbering of houses instead of having names. It is not only a post Office question. We all suffer from the present practice. If we are motoring to see a friend who lives in the country in a house which goes by a name we have to go all over the place to find it, and in fact we cannot find it unless we go to the post office and ascertain where it is. It would be no more difficult to effect this reform than it has been to number the different postal districts in London. The Post Office issued a statement that they desired this to be done, and it was done. The Postmaster-General has told us how much time has been saved in the delivery of telegrams and letters by this numbering of the various delivery offices in London, and I think he would be able to do the same throughout the country if he would only issue a similar order as to the numbering of houses generally. The Postmaster-General referred to the delays in the delivery of mails for Mesopotamia. I apologise to him for having interrupted him. The only point which I wished to ask was whether the delay was not greatly caused by the mails having to go all the way round by Bombay instead of direct to Karachi, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will take the question, which is not a new question, into consideration, and see if he cannot institute a direct mail system to Karachi instead of sending the mails first up to Bombay and then back again to Karachi. I know that it will be difficult owing to the shortage of shipping, but I trust the matter will be taken into consideration, and that he will do what he can the first opportunity.


I rise to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee a grievance which is local to my own Constituency. I refer to a matter in regard to which I have communicated on several occasions with the Postmaster-General. I am glad to say that in regard to every matter in which it has been my duty to enter into communication with him I have found him most courteous and anxious to do everything in his power to satisfy the grievance of Members, and to adjust any local differences. The special matter which I desire to bring to the notice of the Committee is the discontinuance of a mail car service in a part of my Constituency between Drommore, West Sligo, and Ballina, Mayo, a distance of 20 miles, which is not served by any railway. The Post Office authorities decided, I presume as a matter of national economy, to discontinue this service, which in the past has not only served to carry the mails, but has also been a great convenience to the small farming community in this congested area for getting small parcels brought to them from a distance of several miles. It is a district which is under the control largely of the Congested Districts Board, and the holdings or crofts are very small. The shops in this extremely rural district are very few, and the people have to get their supplies of groceries and provisions from distances which are very considerable, whilst there are no railway facilities.

Another reason which prompts me to ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision arises from the petrol restrictions. It is impossible to get a supply of petrol for motor cars which might otherwise be hired for this work. The cost of this service has been very little over £50 per year. The mails have got to be collected and delivered one way or another, and according to the informa- tion which has reached me, the total saving it is possible for the Department to effect by discontinuing the service is something like £15 or £20 per year. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is worth while causing all the inconvenience which must necessarily he caused to people of small means in this district by discontinuing the service in order to effect this economy. Frankly, this appears to me to be, not a piece of national economy which should be encouraged, but merely a very nagging piece of domestic economy which is no good to the nation and which will inflict a great deal of unjustifiable hardship on people to whom the grievance is much greater than can possibly appear from my statement of the facts in the House. I know the right hon. Gentleman is sympathetic to every real grievance, and I ask him earnestly and respectfully to take this matter into his consideration, and I trust sincerely that he will see his way to have this service continued.


We have heard to-day that 2,000 Irish postal employés have joined the Army voluntarily since the outbreak of the War. When they joined, a promise was held out that they would not be in any worse position after joining than if they had remained in their positions in the Post Office. Since that time there has been an increase in the separation allowance granted by the War Office, and there has been an award by an Arbitration Board granting substantial amounts by way of war bonuses to postal employés. These 2,000 postal employés, who joined the Army voluntarily because their positions were to be held for them if they came back safe and sound, have so far received no benefit from the award of the Arbitration Board, besides which the separation allowance granted by the War Office has been deducted by the Post Office from their pay. When the postal authorities almost two years ago stated that a postal employé joining the Army would not suffer anything, I do not think they intended or led the House to believe that they would be so mean as to deduct any increased separation allowance. The Arbitration Board gave something between 5s. and 6s. per week, and I hold that the postal employés who joined the Army voluntarily and who had a guarantee that their jobs would be kept for them are still servants of the Post Office, although at present in France, and as servants of the Post Office they are entitled to any bonus given to postal employés who remain at home. I also think that any separation allowance granted by the War Office to meet the increased cost of living should be given to the wives and children of postal servants now at the front.

I also desire to refer to the question of the rebuilding of the General Post Office in Dublin. It is now over twelve months, since the rebellion in Ireland, and the Post Office, the largest building in the destroyed area, is the only one in regard to which no steps have been taken towards rebuilding. All private owners are making endeavours to rebuild their destroyed property, and I think some decision should be given whether it is intended to rebuild the General Post Office, and, if so, when it is intended to start. There was never such unemployment in Ireland before, and it has been brought about by the restrictions on our industries. Every industry in Ireland has been crippled by the Government authorities, and I do not think it is asking too much that they should join hands with the rest of the owners of destroyed property in Dublin and should make some attempt to find employment by rebuilding the General Post Office. At the present moment in Dublin there are something like 6,000 people registered as unemployed. The Chief Secretary some time ago was asked what steps the Government were taking to cope with unemployment in Dublin, and he stated that rebuilding would be commenced immediately, but here is one of the Departments of the Government which has not yet made any announcement as to their intention with regard to the rebuilding of the General Post Office. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will to-day make some announcement, and also that he will be able to inform us that the question of making the award of the Arbitration Board apply to Post Office employés at the front and the increased separation allowance apply to their wives and children will be at least considered.


I am sure that the Post Office generally will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir C. Hob-house) for his kind praise of the work which has been done by the soldiers from the Post Office in many fields, and especially in the Post Office at the front. All those who have had any association with them and who have followed the work which they have been able to accomplish will agree that the work has been very well done. It would be quite futile for anybody to profess that we can maintain generally the same efficiency in wartime as in peace time, but all those who take a broad view will agree that a great deal has been accomplished, and I believe, when the historian records what has been done by all sections of Post Office employés during the War, that it will be a credit to the Post Office. I am sure that those who are related to the gallant men who have lost their lives will appreciate the sympathy which has been expressed with them this afternoon and with which every Member of this House will agree. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the question mentioned By the Postmaster-General regarding prisoners of war and interned civilians abroad. The numbers were: Officers, 1,898; men, 36,583; civilians, 4,350, making a total of 42,831. I see no reason why there should be any regret in regard to the number of parcels which have been sent. I think under the circumstances the number of parcels sent, being two per head per week, ought on the whole really to be considered satisfactory. My right hon. Friend has dealt very fully with the work which has been accomplished at the front. We all realise that a very great deal has been required. Last Christmas we had a large amount of extra work, because 30,000,000 letters were sent to France and 10,000 tons of parcels.


Do the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave in regard to prisoners represent the prisoners in Germany alone or in all foreign countries?


Those are the prisoners in Germany as well as in other parts of the world.


Can the hon. Gentleman give us the figures for the other countries?


I shall be glad to get them, but I have not got them here.

With regard to the Post Office railway, I should like to give one or two figures. As the right hon. Baronet knows, tenders for the construction of the tunnel were issued when he was Postmaster-General in August, 1915. The lowest was accepted, the figure being £668,421. The question of suspending the construction of the tunnel in order to discontinue capital expenditure under war conditions has been considered on several occasions, and might have been carried out were it not that that suspension would considerably increase the outlay on construction in the long run. In July, 1915, it was ascertained that the contractors were then committed to an expenditure of about £350,000, and that a considerable amount of material had already been delivered or manufactured or was in process of manufacture, for which payment would have had to be made. I have been down the tunnel several times myself, and although I have no particular knowledge in regard to the matter, I am quite sure that when it is finished it is likely to be a great success from every point of view. Construction, though not suspended, has been much slowed down by shortage of labour and materials and the other difficulties arising from the War, but it is now nearing completion. Two comparatively small sections only remain to be finished, one near the London Liverpool Street station and the other between Mount Pleasant and the West Central District Office. The expenditure on tunnelling up to 1st April was £547,454.

With regard to delays in the postal service there are a great many causes for that. My right hon. Friend is as sorry as any member of this Committee that there should be those delays, but the particular delay to which the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Hob-house) alluded, is caused to a largo extent by the lack of train facilities, and also by the difficulty with regard to vans, which has been very great. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) referred to the telegrams sent by various Government authorities. Personally, I have great sympathy with his criticism, believing that it is quite possible that there are a certain number of unnecessary telegrams sent. I only speak from a personal point of view. So far as the question of the Postmaster-General becoming the arbitrator in regard to that matter is concerned, those who have considered it will realise that would be an absolute impossibility.


I did not suggest it.


My hon. and gallant Friend on the Front Opposition Bench (General Sir Ivor Philipps) did suggest that. With regard to the Savings Bank limitation, my right hon. Friend did not realise that the removal of that limitation was a step taken two years ago. There is now no limitation to the amount which can be invested in the Savings Bank.


Not upon ordinary deposit?


No. The question of the bonus has been raised several times in this Debate. Of course, it is not a question which affects the Postmaster-General directly, because the settlement of the matter was handed over to a very able committee, of which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Collins) was the chairman and the other two members were Sir Kaye Butter-worth, the well-known manager of the North-Eastern Railway, and Mr. Harry Gosling, and their award in regard to the matter was entirely independent of the Post Office. Therefore, any criticism in regard to that can hardly be replied to by me. At the same time, it is quite easy for me to say in reference to the contrast drawn between the temporary staff and the permanent staff that the decrease in the value of the sovereign had taken place when the wages of the temporary staff were arranged, and therefore it did affect the question to a considerable extent. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite who spoke in regard to the question of parcels laid special stress on the number of the parcels which had been sent from this country to Germany, and he thought it a very serious matter that the number did not increase. He asked if there was any particular reason why. It is difficult for me without knowledge of all the circumstances to answer this question. Reasons have been suggested in the course of this debate which seem to me fairly I good.

As regards the parcel post to France, I should just like to say that soldiers at the front are being rationed in a most excellent manner and are receiving, in most cases, practically all the food they require; therefore, at the present time, when food is scarce in this country, it has not been necessary to send so many luxuries as have been sent in the past. If numbers are taken into account, we find that two parcels per head per week have been sent and that might be considered very satisfactory.

The three Postmasters-General with whom I have been associated all very much regret that there should have been such comparatively high charges made for the parcels sent to the front, but any hon. Members of the Committee who have had the opportunity of going to the front will realise how very serious is the question of transport. I went into one store in France and I asked the number of articles in that particular store, which was not a particularly large one. I was told that there were 85,000 different articles. In these circumstances, one can realise the difficulties of transport with which the authorities have to contend. It was suggested that the question of telegrams should be submitted to the Public Accounts Committee, but my right hon. Friend can hardly have fully considered the matter when he made that suggestion. It is quite impossible, in any circumstances, that a Minister of the Crown should go down and give evidence before the Public Accounts Committee against another Department with regard to the number of telegrams sent. One hon. Member spoke in reference to insurance and the cost of registration. I am under the impression—I believe correctly—that there is practically no profit to the Post Office at all in regard to registration, but that it just pays its way and that it would not make any difference so far as our accounts are concerned whether letters are registered or not. The reason why letters to the front take sometimes a longer and sometimes a shorter time, and why there is more uniformity in regard to the deliver of newspapers as compared with letters, is capable of a simple explanation. In the case of letters they have to be delivered to individuals, while newspapers are not, as a rule, delivered to individuals. The delay in many cases is caused by the ports being closed, which makes it impossible for the letters to be received with that regularity which every Member of the Committee would desire.

The hon. Member for the Kirk-dale Division of Liverpool (Mr. Penne-father) raised an important point in regard to the question of organisation and recognition. My right hon. Friend is perfectly willing at any time to receive any definitely arranged association. Considering the number of deputations I receive, I am quite sure there is no difficulty in regard to this question, but I will see that the question is considered from the point mentioned by my hon. Friend. With regard to the case of Mr. Richardson, who was elected to a municipal board that is a question of degree. It is perfectly plain that if a man were allowed to attain to a high position of that kind and it was found that his duties made it impossible for him to do his Post Office work, he would not be of very much use to the Post Office. It is always a question of how much time is given to municipal work. The Postmaster-General would be very sorry indeed to have to prevent a man from becoming a member of a municipal board; in fact, he would be proud that he should be elected for any high position. So far as this particular gentleman is concerned, the reason why he has not progressed in the Post Office as far as he would desire is the fact that he has not been able to accomplish all the duties which the Post Office consider they have a right to impose upon him. With regard to the K Company of the Royal Engineers, this, as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Holt) knows, is to a large extent a Treasury question. It would be impossible for me, if I had the opportunity and the desire, to agree to his suggestion with a view of carrying it out. The men, as I understand it, were always told that work in the Post Office while attached to the K Company of the Royal Engineers would not count towards a pension. The question whether they knew this or not has been raised on several occasions. The statement which was made by my hon. Friend is perfectly true in all respects in regard to the Resolution which was passed by the Committee of which he was Chairman. I understand that the Commission recommended that it should count towards pension, but the Treasury up to the present time have refused it on the ground that it is a dangerous principle to count military service towards civil pensions. The question is now again before the Treasury, having been before them on several occasions, and I can only say that my right hon. Friend and the Treasury are conferring again in regard to the matter at the present time.


I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that this service was only military service in a purely technical sense and that it was in all essentials civil service.


It is a very fine point. One could argue in both directions as to whether they were on military service or not. So far as I am concerned, my reply to him is that the question is going to be considered again by the Treasury, and I hope the answer may be satisfactory. With regard to the question of wages in London going up and the wages of the country going down, as my hon. Friend suggested, the only reason I can give for this is that probably a considerable amount of war charges are included in the amount of wages in London at the present time. Anyone who has had an opportunity of visiting the post office which deals with war letters will realise that there is a very large amount of work being done. It is possible that that is to some extent the cause of the extra amount of work. In regard to the question of payment for work which was mentioned by several hon. Members this evening, and specially in regard to the separation allowances, I think my hon. Friend knows the position in which the Post Office was placed by the Government when the War first began. The fact that some of the men in the Post Office received rather more pay than was considered to be justified, by their receiving military and civilian pay, arose out of former conditions—I mean in regard to the South African War—and this question has many times been considered by the Treasury, and it has been decided that there should be no change made in regard to the question at the moment.

Several questions have recently been asked in the House of Commons about the recent increases in the rates of separation allowances granted by the Army and Navy, the suggestion being that the wives of Post Office servants on active service should receive the benefit of the increases referred to. The answers given by the Postmaster-General have been to the effect that under the standing Regulations married Post Office servants, like other Civil servants, are allowed the balance of their civil pay after the reduction of a flat rate of 7s., which is taken to represent Army pay, together with the amount of separation allowance. It follows that when the separation allowance is increased the balance of civilian pay decreases, and it is only in cases where the Army pay, plus separation allowance, was already in excess of the Post Office pay that the wife of the soldier actually derives the benefit of the increased separation allowance. As I have said, the whole matter is governed by Treasury regulations, and it is not possible for the Post Office as a Department to waive the deduction of the increased allowance in cases where such deduction is proper to be made. The essential fact is that the men in question have throughout been in enjoyment of a total income at least equal to their normal civil pay, and have thus been better off than the ordinary soldier. Each increase in separation allowances diminishes the amount of the difference. There is no reason why the State, besides maintaining the husband, should increase the income of the household past what it would be when the husband is at home. There is apparently some dissatisfaction about another decision—that the amount of the recent increase in the separation allowances is to be deducted from the civil pay of those Post Office servants who have hitherto enjoyed the benefit of receiving full civil pay in addition to military pay and separation allowances. It was considered that while, there were insuperable objections to reducing existing emoluments there was no obligation on the Government to increase the emoluments of these men who were already in enjoyment of preferential terms. The saving was estimated to be £90,000 a year. It should be mentioned that married men, other than those in receipt of civil and military pay in full, are allowed the war bonus granted prior to the Collins award. The question of allowing the Collins bonus as well was left by the Arbitration Board to the Treasury, and is now under consideration.

The hon. Member for Dulwich (Colonel F. Hall) mentioned the question of the young men. That question has been dealt with. The Board has since the award made a further award in favour of the employé under eighteen years of age, whether permanently or temporarily employed. Not exceeding 40s., the award by the Conciliation Board was 2s., the previous bonus 2s., making a total of 4s. Exceeding 40s. and not exceeding 60s., the award by the Conciliation Board was 2s., the previous bonus was 1s. 6d., making a total of 3s. 6d. Exceeding 60s., 2s. was awarded by the Conciliation Board; there was no previous bonus, and therefore the total is 2s. In regard to the question which was mentioned by the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. E. Harvey), the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) and the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) as to a committee, of course I am not in a position to say anything in reference to that, but I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will consider what has been said. It must be plain to every Member of this House how desirable it is that no difficulties should arise in the future with regard to the re-employment of post office men or of any of the others who have gone out to serve their country in this hour of crisis. In regard to what the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Duncan) said, there is no doubt that difficulties will arise, but I do not think they are insuperable, and there ought to be no difficulty at all in finding some via media by which we can decide whether a man is fit or not fit to serve in the Post Office. I am quite sure that everyone connected with the Post Office is just as anxious to obtain treatment which will be satisfactory to the man who comes from France as any other man in the country could possibly be, and probably more so. I believe a very large number of these people who have been slightly wounded will be able to return to their employment, but there must, of course, be some cases of dissatisfaction in the country.

There was one phrase mentioned by the hon. Member for York in regard to his point, namely, "wage slaves," which is a term I do not much like. I do not think the term "wage slaves" is a very wise term to adopt in regard to people working in the ordinary way in this country. I have certainly been from his point of view a wage slave myself, and I do not feel to have suffered very much under the treatment. With regard to the suggestion of the control of Government Departments in the future by committees, I am not in the position, even if I wished, to express any opinion. I am sorry to have detained the House so long to-night, but I must deal with the various questions which have been raised. The next is in connection with what the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham said in regard to Mr. A. E. Bools. I am well aware of this question, and I am sure the Noble Lord is certainly a good representative of his constituents in the trouble he takes in any grievance. I have had many communications in regard to this matter myself, and two other Postmasters-General in addition to the present Postmaster-General have decided the question. It came before my right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary (Mr. H. Samuel), before my Friend Mr. Joseph Pease when he was Post-maser-General, and it also came before the present Postmaster-General, and they all decided in the same direction. I do not think, therefore, that it would be advisable on my part to hold out any hope that the question will be considered again. I think the Noble Lord will agree with me, if he thinks over what I have just said. He suggests that there should be an independent arbitrator with regard to this question. That is not a question for me to decide, but no Govern- ment Department would agree to have an arbitrator to decide a question of discipline like this. The decision which it is sought to revise was given as far back as July, 1915. As far as I know, all the relevant facts of the case were considered by the late Home Secretary and Mr. Joseph Pease.

The statement which my Noble Friend has placed before the House to-day is exactly the same as we have at the Post Office, as far as I know, and there do not appear to be any fresh considerations, while I am quite certain I am right in saying it would be impossible for any Postmaster-General to agree to an arbitrator in the matter. The present Postmaster-General sees no reason for departing from the opinion expressed from the facts he had before him, and these are the grounds for the conclusion on which he founded his letter to the Noble Lord. It is impossible really to go into every detail of this question, but answering it in a broad way, these are the reasons. No copy of the message could be found among the forms at Nottingham. It should have been gummed to the message which it was alleged to correct. There was no trace of the receipt of the message at the Central Telegraph Office, and no copy of it could be found among the forms received in the Accountant-General's department from that office. The correction was not signalled from the Central Telegraph Office to the Cable Company. The message was not referred to the assistant superintendent for authorisation, as it should have been, and—and this is a point I should like to put before the Noble Lord—even if one, or even two records might have failed, it is almost incredible that all the various records in the case of one particular message should fail. This question was not raised until a considerable time afterwards. I would not like to say there was any intention to deceive in any way, but it was very difficult to understand how after so long these men should have such a very clear view in regard to this particular case, which happened, I think, three months previously. I should be the last man in this House not to wish to agree to anything which the Noble Lord required, but I am sorry to say that on behalf of the Post Office we do not see our way to open this question again.

8.0 P.M.

I come now to the question of the train service which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. M. Healy), and I may say, in reference to this, that I remember very well his raising questions in regard to this matter when the previous Postmaster-General was in power at the Post Office and I had the opportunity of answering several questions in regard to it. I am very sorry, indeed, that we have not been able to meet the hon. Gentleman, and as he did not give me any notice of raising it to-day, I am quite unprepared to answer all the points which he made. If there is any new point which has not been placed before the Post Office, and I think there have been one or two new points to-day, I shall be glad to see that they are considered. But the general position in regard to the question was this. Before the 1st July, 1916, the mail train for Cork was timed to leave Kings-bridge Station, Dublin, at 6.40 a.m. If the mails were expected to reach Kings-bridge from Kingstown Pier not later than 7.20 a.m., the train could be held back until 7.40 a.m., about twenty minutes being required for loading, etc. Of course, as far as we are concerned, we are not the chief parties in the matter. The railway company really have the power to decide. We have approached the railway company on various occasions and have tried to arrange that the hon. Gentleman and the people of Cork should get the facilities that have been mentioned. I am well aware—for I know the line very well—that the changes must be disadvantageous to the people of Cork through their not having the facilities they have had in the past, but at the same time I can hardly think that the grievance is quite so great as that mentioned by my hon. Friend.


I do not quite understand. Do not the Post Office make a contract with the company, and is it not for them to fix the terms?


That is so, but everyone knows with regard to the facilities of the railway company and the Post Office there is a certain amount of give-and-take.


All take in this case, and no give.


And in many cases reasonable facilities have been considered. If the mails reached Kings-bridge after 7.20 a.m. they were sent on up to about 8.30 a.m. by special train at a cost of something over £40 on each occasion. After 8.30 a.m. the mails went on by the 9.15 a.m. ordinary train. On 1st July, 1916, the use of special trains to Cork was abandoned, and it was provided that if the English mails did not arrive at Kings-bridge Station from Kingstown Pier in time for dispatch at 7.40 a.m. they were to be sent on by the 9.15 a.m. ordinary train. On 1st October, 1916, Greenwich mean time was introduced, and on the railway company's own proposal the Cork mail train was made later, not only by the twenty-five minutes involved in the adoption of Greenwich mean time, but by an additional thirty minutes to bring the starting time into accordance with the actual average time at which a start was possible. The net result is that, whereas before 1st October, 1916, the train could not be detained after 7.40 a.m. (Irish time), it can now be held back until 7.45 a.m. (Greenwich time). If no alteration other than the retiming necessarily following the adoption of Greenwich mean time had taken place one special train would have been run in February at a cost of about £44, including overtime and other expenses. The discontinuance of the system of special trains has been accepted generally without comment. Inquiry has been made, as promised, as to the possibility of shortening the time occupied in the conveyance of the mails across Dublin from Kingstown Pier to Kings-bridge; but it seems impossible to do anything in this direction at present. The details are complicated and questions of railway management by several Irish companies are concerned. I will, however, personally go into the matter again and see if anything can be done to meet the wishes of the hon. Member (Mr. M. Healy), and I will communicate with him. An hon. Member has mentioned the question of numbers of houses, and has suggested that the names of streets should be placed on lamps in various places throughout the country. This has the sympathy of the Postmaster-General and every one who wishes to consult the facilities for Post Office officials to carry on their duties. But it is really a question for the Local Government Board, to a great extent, and for educating opinion in the right direction. I hope that something may be done in regard to it. There are some cases in which the hardship is not so great so far as postmen are concerned, but in many cases, like the one mentioned, where a name is given to a small house instead of a number, the practice is very absurd. I think I have answered most of the questions put before me to-night, but there are just two to which I have not referred. The one is the question mentioned by the hon. Member for North Sligo (Mr. Scanlan) in regard to the railways. I am sorry to say that it would be impossible to secure in Ireland all the facilities which Irish people desire, both in the way of cars and trains carrying letters. This is only part of the general economy which is taking place throughout the country. I think if the whole question of economy, so far as the Post Office in its relation to the War is concerned, is considered, it will be found that we have endeavoured to place the economy as far as we can on the shoulders of those most able to bear it, and although there have been occasions in Ireland, as elsewhere, where there is real cause for annoyance, still, taking the country as a whole, I think a very good feeling has been shown in regard to what is considered the somewhat unnecessary annoyance caused by action taken in the spirit of economy. With regard to other questions which have been raised and to which I have not referred, I would like the opportunity to look into them. The only question I will refer to in conclusion is that mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for the Melton Division (Colonel Yate) in regard to the Mesopotamia post. There is no doubt that the posts for Egypt, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, and Salonika, have not been as satisfactory as that of France, but there have been a great many reasons, and those reasons it would be impossible for me to give to the House. The difficulties with regard to Gallipoli were very great. We had to send our letters first of all to Alexandria, then they were carried back to Mudros, whence they were sent back to Gallipoli, and the post office at times was under shell fire. It would be impossible to mention the difficulties we had to contend with, but my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that we were anxious to provide the soldiers with all facilities and that we endeavoured, wherever possible, to trace any letter which had gone astray. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend (the Postmaster-General) is very anxious in regard to this matter, and if my hon. and gallant Friend likes to bring any particular case to his or my notice in regard to a parcel or a letter we shall only be too glad to investigate the circumstances. I would like to take this oppor- tunity, as one who has been at the Post Office now two years, to express the gratitude which we all feel for the kindly consideration that has been given to the Post Office in regard to many mistakes which have naturally been made in wartime. I am sure that feeling is appreciated by all the officials, who have, as a whole, done excellent work in the postal service, and it is appreciated by the rank and file wherever they may be. I thank the House very much for the kind consideration that they have given to my right hon. Friend and myself.


I wish to take only two or three minutes in view of the fact that the case that I wish to bring before the Postmaster-General has been admirably stated by the hon. Member for the West Derby Division (Mr. Rutherford). It is the question of the typists of Liverpool which has created a great deal of perturbation amongst the officials there. I have received innumerable representations as to the facts. The point I wish to ask the Postmaster-General carefully to go into again is whether the typists should be allowed to belong to the general Union. I understand that up to the present the Postmaster-General has refused to allow them to belong to this union. I put it to the Postmaster-General that a body of public servants employed in the same establishment ought to have the right to choose their own union. Their demands for better pay can be better represented by this union than by a separate union, and I very respectfully ask the Postmaster-General to reconsider this matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original question again proposed.


I should like to ask the Assistant Postmaster-General whether there are some means by which notice could be given to the soldiers in Mesopotamia that although they have not received any letters, yet letters have been written to them. I get piteous letters from my Constituents that their sons and brothers in Mesopotamia write asking, "Why don't you write to me?" These people write every week, but their relatives do not get the letters. I would like to ask whether he can give notice to the soldiers that although the letters do not reach them they have been sent. I hope that he will find a means by which he can let them know.


I will look into the matter.


I have been waiting with considerable interest to hear the right hon. Gentleman make some statement with reference to the success or failure of the method of district signs which has been adopted in London. It has been the cause, to my personal experience, of considerable delay in many instances. It is most difficult for people generally to learn the index addresses of all their friends. While it is quite feasible to remember one's own special number, it is much more difficult to remember those of all one's friends and acquaintances. If it has been a success, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say whether it is proposed to extend it; and if it is not, whether he proposes to withdraw it or to make it more generally known. Most of the important business houses which have the most correspondence are in the telephone directory, and it would be quite a simple matter to look up their index number in the telephone directory, and I would suggest that we might employ that principle. It might possibly improve our telephone system if the clerk in charge at every exchange had a number, so that when you cannot get satisfaction from an exchange, and you ask for the clerk in charge, there is some means of tracing the person who actually replies. We have been told that the ordinary operator changes her tone of voice, or asks a friend to reply that the complaint will receive attention. Possibly the weakest points of the whole of the Post Office arrangements are in the telephone exchanges. I should suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might give his consideration to making it compulsory at all exchanges, when replying as clerk in charge, either to give a name or a number, so that if the complaint is not rectified the person who wishes to find fault can pursue it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.