§ MR. MACDONALD
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, in accordance with the promise contained in the letter of 10th September, 1892, written by his direction, he has consulted his Colleagues with reference to the claim of the Postmaster General to reserve to himself the right to consider on its merits the question of the position of the servants of the Post Office in respect to the Parliamentary franchise; and, if so, with what result?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It is eminently desirable that there should be uniformity throughout the Civil Service, and that the servants of the Post Office should he upon the same footing as those of the other Departments in respect to the franchise. As regards the Parliamentary franchise, there can be no question that its exercise is absolutely free from external interference, although, of course, it is subject to the general obligation which affects the public servants, in common with all other voters, to use the franchise for the public good. Questions may be raised, on which I have no judgment to give on the part of the Government, as to how far, for example, it is desirable for public functionaries to make use of their position as voters for the purpose of obtaining from candidates promises or engagements tending directly to the advantage of public servants in respect of pay and promotion. These are matters which we deem not undeserving of consideration; but still they do not form the subject of any decision on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the nature of a restraint. The only restriction by the custom of the Public Service on persons employed is that persons in the permanent employment of the State shall not take a prominent or active part in political contests, and it is not intended in future that any other restrictive rule should be imposed on the service of the Post Office. As regards public meetings not of a political character, but relating to official questions, the Postmaster General has decided to withdraw the restrictions at present in force. But in the Post Office, as in other Departments, it must be clearly understood that the right must be exercised subject to a due regard for the discipline of the Public Service.