Deb 14 December 1854 vol 136 cc292-4

rose to call their Lordships' attention to two statements in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Office which was not consistent with the facts. It was stated that the Postmasters General under various Governments had neglected their duty in carrying out the business of their office, and he was anxious to show that the statement was not applicable to him while he was Postmaster General. The sentence to which he wished more particularly to call their Lordships' attention had reference to the question of the double secretaryship. The Commissioners said— The first point which challenged their attention was the existence of a double secretaryship held by two officers of equal rank and independent authority—one secretary to the Post Office, and the other secretary to the Postmaster General. These two secretaries were Colonel Maberly and Mr. Rowland Hill. Mr. Hill had been introduced into the Post Office by the Government of the day for the purpose of carrying out a new system of postage, and he believed that Mr. Hill had been placed there with the view of, some day or other, being appointed chief secretary. With reference to the double secretaryship, the Report stated that these two secretaries were of equal rank and of independent authority. Now, he denied that that was correct. It was impossible Mr. Hill could be considered equal in authority or rank to Colonel Maberly, for his salary was 500l. a year less, and his uniform was what was called a uniform of the third class (Civil Service), while that of Captain Maberly was of the second class. The uniform, he apprehended, was the external indication of the rank to which the wearer belonged; and if so, Mr. Hill had no right to state, if he did really state, that he and Colonel Maberly were of equal rank in the Post Office. He had also to object to another part of the Report, which stated that the well-working of the Post Office depended on the perfection of its machinery and the harmony of all its parts; but that the respective functions of these two secretaries had never been clearly defined, and that all attempts at a satisfactory definition had failed. Now, by the regulations which he had laid down, he had perfectly succeeded in having the business of the office carried on with perfect harmony, and in strictly defining the duties of the two secretaries. When he first entered upon his duties, he did find various difficulties in the way of a proper organisation of the business of the office; but after a short time he was able to bring about a proper regulation of the work. He had styled Colonel Maberly "chief secretary," and Mr. Hill "secretary to the Postmaster General." He had given Mr. Hill the charge of the Money-Order Office of the United Kingdom, which, as now conducted, was one of the largest banking establishments in Europe. That was ample employment; but he also gave him other duties connected with improvements in the Post Office. He had also drawn up a minute, that any reports on different branches of the service might be referred to whichever of the two secretaries he thought fit, and he caused a regular statement to be laid before him every week by each of the secretaries. That system, while under his own control, worked most satisfactorily, and afforded a direct contradiction to the statement of the Commissioners, that the functions of the two officers had never been clearly defined. His object was to put himself right with the public, and to show that, while he was Postmaster General, he carefully investigated the state of the office, and endeavoured to carry out, with strict justice, the duties which belonged to it. The noble Earl concluded by moving that the minute made by himself on the 21st of June, 1852, be laid upon the table.


said, he had no objection to produce the papers moved for by the noble Earl, but he could not altogether concur in the representation which the noble Earl had given of the system which he had introduced. He believed that the statement contained in the paragraph of the Report to which the noble Earl had drawn attention was practically correct, and that whilst there might be some difference of uniform and official position, the Commissioners were perfectly correct in stating that there were two officers of equal rank and authority. The fact was, that when Mr. Rowland Hill was appointed to his place, there was no indication of his being placed under and made in any degree subordinate to the gentleman who at the time held the office of secretary to the Post Office. Mr. Rowland Hill's functions were entirely apart from those of Colonel Maberly, and it was not therefore a misrepresentation to say that the two secretaries were independent of each other, each being dependent, of course, on the Postmaster General. The noble Earl further said, the Commissioners were incorrect in stating that no definition hall been made of these functions, because he had made the attempt, and succeeded in defining them. He could only reply that every attempt of his to improve his noble Friend's definition had signally failed, and that the words of the minute showed that the noble Earl's success had not been very great. It would be apparent from the minute itself that it defined nothing, because it left the Postmaster General to do what he thought fit under the exigency of the moment. No doubt, the noble Earl could describe what he would have the secretaries do, and what abstain from doing, but as to a permanent definition of their functions it was a complete failure. He thought that no reproach to the noble Earl, or to himself, or to any predecessor in the office of Postmaster General, as he believed it was quite impossible with two officers, if not exactly equal, of co-ordinate position and authority, so to separate the business of the department that the functions of the one should not interfere with those of the other. That difficulty became apparent to the Commissioners appointed by the Government, at the close of last year to investigate the affairs of the Post Office, and they recommended the abolition of the separate offices, with which recommendation the Government had no hesitation in complying. He could only say, from the short experience they had had of the change, it was most satisfactory, the business being now done with greater rapidity and less incumbrance to all concerned. There could be no objection to lay the paper on the table, but it was not in his power to admit that the working under the noble Earl's minute had been so satisfactory as he had represented.

Motion agreed to.

Return of minute made by the Earl of Hardwicke, when Postmaster General for the regulation of the Post Office, on the 21st June, 1852, ordered to be laid before the House.

House adjourned till To-morrow.