§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he can say what are the special duties of the Financial Secretary to the Post Office; by what officer of the Treasury or of the Post Office those duties have been carried on for the past five years during the lengthened and frequent absences of the present holder of the office; and whether the Treasury are satisfied as to the manner in which, during the period referred to, the functions pertaining to the office of Financial Secretary have been discharged?
§ *THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N.E.
The hon. Member will allow me to answer his question. The Financial Secretary to the Post Office is, as the title implies, the adviser of the Postmaster General on all financial questions. He is specially charged with the secretarial control of the Receiver and Accountant General's Department, and of the other account branches of the Post Office, including the Savings Bank. He is responsible for the preparation of the Estimates of both Revenue and Expenditure, and, as the "Accounting Officer" of the Department for the "Appropriation Accounts" rendered to the Comptroller and Auditor General. In the absence of the Financial Secretary, these duties were mainly undertaken by the Secretary to the Post Office, who had himself filled the office of Financial Secretary for the six years previous to the appointment of the present occupier of the post. The present Financial Secretary has only been absent from duty, except for his annual leave, for six months in the twelve years during which he has held the appointment—namely, two months in 1888 and four months in 1891–2. The latter period of leave, granted at my discretion, was highly desirable for the recovery of Mr. Turnor's health, and I have reason to believe that it has been effectual for that purpose. It may be added that during those twelve years the Financial Secretary has, generally speaking, undertaken the charge of the Department in the absence of the Secretary, whether on occasions of ordinary leave or of attendance at Postal Congresses abroad, some of the latter occasions being of a prolonged character. Since Mr. Turnor's accession to office the voted expenditure of the Postal and Telegraph Services has increased from £5,388,000 to £9,150,000, and the staff by 18,000. The Financial Secretary is the officer, not of the Treasury, but of the Postmaster General, and is responsible to him only for the proper discharge of his duties. It is believed that every Postmaster General who has preceded me during the period of Mr. Turnor's appointment has entertained a very high sense of the manner in which the important duties entrusted to him have been dis- 949 charged. I must express my regret that the hon. Member has by his question given currency to an imputation against a very useful public servant, for which there is no justification.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
I beg to say that in consequence of this answer I shall feel it my duty to refer to the subject in Committee on the Estimates.