§ Mr. BOWERMAN
asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether he is aware that while the 5 p.m. to 1.45 a.m. special staff at the Central Telegraph Office remains on a voluntary basis its numbers are being reduced monthly, and that, as a direct result of the reduction, compulsory midnight duties have been introduced; whether he will state in what year midnight duties previously existed in this office; (2) whether he can give any reasons for the statement that the voluntary system on which the 5 p.m. to 1.45 a.m. staff of the Central Telegraph Office is based is not entirely satisfactory owing to the services of the most efficient telegraphists not always being available for duties on which they were most needed; whether he can state what are the changed conditions of traffic that necessitate the institution of a new duty terminating at midnight; whether the whole reason for the increase of late duties is that a possible saving may be effected by retaining the midnight staff for short periods regardless of the inconvenience this will cause to them and the possibility of being compelled to walk to their homes;
and (3) whether he is aware that the Controller of the Central Telegraph Office has repeatedly declined to give permission for the midnight staff to leave in time to reach home by the ordinary means of conveyance; whether he is aware that the promise 1071W of the Postmaster-General that consideration would be shown to this staff has been nullified by a subsequent order from the Controller that all modifications of duty after 11 p.m. are to cease forthwith; and, having regard to the action of the Controller in this matter, whether he will make personal inquiry into such action and into the reasons for the abnormal increase of late duties?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am aware that the numbers of 5 p.m. to 1.45 a.m. special staff at the Central Telegraph Office are being reduced, and that a duty ending at midnight has been reintroduced. For many years previous to 1898 a duty ending at midnight existed in that office. Experience showed that a change in the former system was necessary owing to the earlier receipt of Parliamentary and other news matter and the earlier going to press of the morning newspapers. The alteration was not made for the reason suggested by the hon. Member. I am not aware that the Controller of the Central Telegraph Office has repeatedly declined to give permission for the midnight staff to leave in time to reach home by the ordinary means of conveyance; on the contrary, I am assured that the Controller has issued instructions that consideration is to be shown in the matter, and that these instructions have been observed in every case.