§ 70 Mr. C. EDWARDS
asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether he is aware that in 1914 and 1915, owing to the need of men in the Army who possessed the ability to administer large telegraph and telephone offices, his Department was asked by the War Office to select suitable men for such work; that they were for the most part of the minor establishment of the Post Office and normally their salaries were totally inadequate to maintain their families and also the ranks of commissioned officers, and that they were promised full civil pay as well as the emoluments of officers of the Royal Engineers; under what authority it has been advised that these men are not to receive the gratuities granted to their comrades in the British Army, and whether the postal authorities are about to represent to the War Office the need for the immediate withdrawal of the Army Council instruction withholding this right;
(2) Whether, seeing that, in response to the questions raised by Members in the House in 1918, he promised to consult the Law Officers of the Crown regarding the legality of the action of his Department in withholding allowances and gratuities from Post Office servants who accepted military service in response to a promise admittedly made, he will say whether the Law Officers have decided such stoppages were illegal, and refundments in certain cases have been made; whether he can state why separation allowances granted in 1917 onward have been paid, as a result of this decision, while the gratuities, an essential part of military pay, promised in 1914–15–16 have not been paid;
(3) Whether, in 1914, the Post Office authorities promised full civil pay in addition to military pay to expert telegraphists who volunteered for the Royal Engineers (Signal Service);whether the Departmental authorities agreed with the officials of the postal telegraph trades unions that the application of these terms were to be identical with those enjoyed by the Army Post Office in South Africa;
1723 and whether, in view of the pledges given to men who enlisted knowing these conditions in 1914 to 1917, he will state why the gratuity given to soldiers and officers is being withheld?
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Illingworth)
I beg to refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Dartford on the 12th instant.