§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
I beg to ask Her Majesty's Postmaster General if the Order dated 1st November, 1898, with reference to the holidays of certain assistants in the Post Office, will have the effect of reducing such holidays from one month to twenty-one weekdays in the case of those who are in receipt of annual salaries of less than £300; also, if the customary method of determining the length of holidays regulated by grade and duties has been departed from, and one based upon salary alone adopted, with the effect of rendering the holidays for woman less than those for men performing similar work. I am quite aware that in such a vast administration as that of the Post Office there must be many ramifications which 151 make the adjustment of matters of this kind a difficult and often complicated affair. But at the same time it is certain that any steps taken to make the position of Post Office employees favourable and convenient, so far as is consistent with due regularity and the interests of the public service, will be regarded with favour by the people of this country. As to the particular cases referred to in the question, it should be borne in mind that the female officials concerned do not rise to the position of assistant supervisors until they have gone through a vast amount of previous service, extending, I think, usually to about twenty-five years, and one of the chief attractions looked forward to in the higher position has been that of the slight increase of holiday. One can imagine, therefore, the disappointment caused by learning that the desired and reasonable boon of a month's holiday was to be reduced to twenty-one weekdays, which is, in fact, about the same as what is alloted to junior officials of only five or six years service. But the main point which I would Venture to urge is that it should be more and more recognised that the provision of a holiday is a matter of necessity to health and good work, and that therefore a liberal scale might well be adopted in the case of the Post Office, where the work seems to be always increasing, though, strangely enough, the scale in that Department is, if I am rightly informed, as yet less than in some other branches of the public service.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (The Marquess of LONDONDERRY)
My Lords, it must be remembered that the Department over which I preside has the largest number of employees, I suppose, of any department or firm in the world, and consequently it is necessary, however one might desire to meet their comfort and convenience, to adhere to the rules laid down by my predecessor in office. The question of holidays was gone into very closely in June, 1898, and the Order then made was confirmed in November, 1898, which was that certain female supervising officers with salaries below £300 should have after that date twenty-one days holidays. That was only in regard to the new officers. It was decided at the same time that those officers who were in the enjoyment of one month's leave should continue to have 152 that privilege. The annual allowance of leave is fixed with reference to the salaries, which, I think, is a just rule, as the salaries are fixed with reference to the duties of the officers. In connection with this matter, I may add that we cannot relax any of the regulations with respect to London without also, doing it in regard to officers performing similar duties in the provinces, and that would be all the more difficult as this is a very busy season of the year. In one particular the claim of the female officers does not compare with that of the male officers, because the former have no night duty. These are matters which were carefully considered by my predecessor when he made up his mind with regard to the question of leave. I sympathise with the wish of the noble Earl that the assistants in the Post Office should obtain longer holidays, but I do not think that in the interests of the public, after consideration has been given to the question by my predecessor, I should he justified in making any alteration in the decision arrived.