HC Deb 20 August 1894 vol 29 cc116-21

49. £651,915, to complete the sum for Customs.

50. £1,345,539, to complete the sum for Inland Revenue.


called attention to what he described as a case of hardship, where a crofter's dog had been made subject to the Dog Tax, although the animal was kept for the purpose of protecting the man's cattle and land. The man had been summoned, and although he was not fined, yet he was compelled to travel 140 miles in order to attend the Court. This was a serious matter for one in his position. A demand had been made upon crofters for a tax in respect of the dogs which they kept for protecting cattle. He would remind the Committee that in the case of these men the imposition of 7s. 6d. a year was no light thing, and in some instances might be said to represent half a year's rent.


did not think the case of which the hon. Gentleman complained was a strong one. It was true the man was a crofter; but crofters were not farmers with sheep and cattle, and the dog was not a sheep dog, but a Skye terrier. He was quite sure that the Inland Revenue Authorities would be disposed to allow persons following the occupation of farmers to keep dogs unlicensed.


said, it was in consequence of the very great consideration he had for the time of the House that he had not furnished himself with the particulars of a number of other cases. He would only say that if a Skye terrier did the work required by a crofter, who is a small farmer, the Skye terrier should not be taxed.

Vote agreed to.

51. £5,287,785, to complete the sum for Post Office.


It would be impossible at this late hour (quarter-past 1 o'clock) to do justice to this Vote. As the Government have promised to bring on the Report at an early hour to-morrow, I will not offer any opposition to the Vote now.

MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)

said, he would like to learn from the Postmaster General whether he was prepared to receive a deputation from the Postmen's Federation with regard to grievances which they desired to lay before him on behalf of postal workers? The right hon. Gentleman had refused to receive a certain deputation; and it would be well to have an expression of opinion from the right hon. Gentleman on the subject.


I am ready to receive a deputation from any particular branch of the Post Office Service, but the conditions under which the different classes of postmen work make it impossible for me to receive a deputation purporting to represent several sections of the Service. The rural postmen differ from the urban postmen, and they, again, differ from the London postmen; and it would be inconvenient to receive a deputation representing various classes, when the wages and the conditions of employment are so different. I am ready to receive, and have received, deputations from the sorters, telegraphists, and other classes; and I will receive any deputation, provided there is reasonable ground for it, and provided they come with regard to some particular matter, so that the conversation may be confined to that particular matter.

MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)

said, he would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there were in the country concerns in which there were various occupations differing as much in character as the different classes of work in the Post Office Service—the railways, for instance, and the employers of the agents of those concerns always consented to receive a deputation as representing all classes in their service. If the right hon. Gentleman would receive a deputation representing all classes of workers in the Post Office Service, it would obviate the inconvenience of postmen coming from all parts of the country, when they could have their views just as well expressed by men on the spot in London.


said, he desired to take that opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General for attending to matters which he had brought under his notice during the past few months. But he wished the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to send mail steamers more frequently to the Ullapool district, and also to fix up letter-boxes at convenient points in districts where there were no Post Offices.

MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

desired to support the application which his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Durham had made to the Postmaster General. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that there was a Trades Union—whether he recognised it or not—existing amongst the postmen and telegraphists; and the question was whether the right hon. Gentleman was willing to receive the officers of that Trades Union, and discuss matters with them as the representatives of the postal servants?


As I said, I am willing to receive deputations of Post Office servants, so long as they represent distinct classes of the Service. I make no distinction at all as to the men they should select; they may select any men provided they are members of the Service. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Durham instanced the case of a large concern, such as a railway. But in such a case would the engine drivers and the porters unite and go in one deputation when the grievances they may suffer from are wholly and totally different? I should say the engine drivers would form one deputation, and the porters another. I say, therefore, that the various classes of the Postal Service should not be mixed up one with another. With regard to the improved mail service which my hon. Friend the Member for Ross desires, I wish he would communicate with me by letter on the subject; but I do not think it would be possible to supply letter-boxes in the sparsely-populated districts to which he referred.

MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)

said, the Postmaster General did not understand his point. What he meant was that as the Trades Union of railway servants included the different employments on the railway system, the Postmen's Federation included the various sections of the Postal Service; and if that Federation chose any number of officers—whether they belonged to the various sections or not—as a deputation, would the right hon. Gentleman receive them and discuss their grievances with them?


I do not quite understand the question of my hon. Friend. I say that the men belonging to any class of postal servants have the right to send a deputation to me, with regard to the grievances of that class. The members of that deputation may be members and officers of the Trades Union or Federation; I make no restriction of that kind at all—but they must belong to one particular class of servants. I could not allow persons outside the Service to join such a deputation because they are nominated as the officials of a general Trades Union.


said, the right hon. Gentleman should understand that the Secretaries of Trades Unions were not workmen in the strict sense of the term. Many of them were paid officials who did not work in the Service; and in 99 cases out of 100 those men were selected by the Union to appear as their representatives before their employers. Would the right hon. Gentleman receive as the representatives of the men the officers, such as the Secretary and the President of the Postmen's Federation? Though those men might not be in the Service at the present moment they had been in the Service, and the question was whether the right hon. Gentleman would receive them with regard to the grievances of which the men complained?


I have said already that the deputation must consist of men in the Service.


urged the right hon. Gentleman to consider his decision with regard to supplying letter-boxes in Ross and Cromarty. What he wanted was that the letter-boxes should be put up at convenient cross-roads, for at present the people had to place their letters on cairns to be picked up by the passing mail cars.


If the hon. Gentleman will place any scheme before me, I will consider it.

MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

said, he desired to join his two hon. Friends in making an appeal to the Postmaster General on behalf of the postal employés. Those men, if their statements were to be credited—and, so far as he was aware, they were perfectly honourable men—had, as they asserted, many causes of complaint, not, so far as he could learn, against the right hon. Gentleman, but against the permanent officials who were his advisers. What he would respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman was that he should appoint a Committee to inquire into the statements of the men, and if the men proved their grievances, have those grievances removed. There was nothing unreasonable in that request.


I do not admit that there are serious grievances. I think I am correct in saying that the demands of the men mainly relate to increased pay and more rapid promotion. I cannot at this time of the night go into the question; but I do not think that those demands can be justified. During the last 10 years there has been a 50 per cent. increase in the staff; and during the same time salaries have increased 75 per cent.—50 per cent. on account of the increase of staff, and 25 per cent. as the result of the concessions made in 1890 and 1891, the full effects of which have not yet been felt. I think, therefore, those demands for increased wages are not well-founded. I have promised, and I have already acted on that promise, to look carefully into the grievances of the various classes. I have removed some of them, and as time goes on I hope to be able to remove some more.


said, he heard the reply of the right hon. Gentleman with regret. Even if the statements of the right hon. Gentleman were absolutely true—even if he were not misled by the permanent officials—no harm, but a great deal of good, might be done by an inquiry into the statements of the men. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the position he had taken up towards those men. So far as he was able to judge—and he tried to judge fairly between officials and men—those complaints did not come from a small number or section of the men. But postmen in all parts of the country laboured under the belief, which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to consider was a delusion, that they suffered under grievances; and supposing the men were wrong there would be no harm in allowing them to ventilate their grievances before a Committee of the House.

MR. M. AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)

asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could give him any information as to the result of the inquiries he had promised to institute with regard to rural postmen in Ireland?


My hon. Friend kept me waiting for some time for the information I asked him for. I have sent his statements to Ireland for careful inquiry; and as soon as I have got the reply I will inform my hon. Friend. I may say that if his figures as to the remuneration of some of those men are correct, I will take care that they are improved.

Vote agreed to.

The following Votes were agreed to:—

52. £558,624, to complete the sum for Post Office Packet Service.

53. £1,676,930, to complete the sum for Post Office Telegraphs.