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Select Committee On Post Office Servants Report

Volume 180: debated on Wednesday 14 August 1907

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I beg to ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Bristol a Question of which I have given him private notice. It is as to a statement by Mr. W. B. Cheesman, of the Fawcett Association, that the Report of the Hob-house Committee was so revised by the Department before its presentation to Parliament as to make it unrecognisable. I wish to know if there is any foundation for that statement.

(Mr. CHARLES HOBHOUSE, ]]]]HS_COL-1310]]]] Bristol, E.)

I have seen the statement referred to. Mr. Cheesman was a witness before the Committee on behalf of the Fawcett Association, which is the organisation of the sorters in London. There is absolutely no truth in the statement attributed to him that the Report was sent to the Department for revision, or that it was revised by them. I, as Chairman of the Committee, prepared the Report in accordance with decisions taken upon each class of evidence, within a few days of hearing the witnesses thereon; though the task of summarising and collating the decisions necessarily occupied a long-period of time subsequently. There is no substantial difference between the decisions thus originally taken and those embodied in the Report, though, as the House will understand, decisions taken on very numerous and complex scales of pay were and could be only provisional, and required in some cases modification, and in others augmentation, when the earlier decisions came to be reviewed in the light of the later ones. Calculations were made for me by the financial experts as to the total cost of each alteration in the conditions of service or scales of pay, though, as I have pointed out, these were not permitted to affect the Draft Report. This was done with the approval of my colleagues, though the results were expressly not communicated to them, lost bias from financial considerations should subsequently be suggested. I would further mention that it is expressly pointed out in paragraph 530 of the Report that the Department were asked to work out the details of a scheme, the principles of which were originated by the Committee. The scheme subsequently presented by the Department was considerably altered in the Draft Report, to the advantage of the staff. A further statement has appeared in the Press that before the Report was submitted to the Committee, copies of it were sent to the Cabinet. This statement is without any foundation or truth. No copies of the Report were given or sent, so far as I know, to anyone save members of the Committee. If copies of the draft or completed Report have reached anyone before the Report was laid on the Table, they were procured by improper and underhand methods, without my knowledge and against my wish, and, as I am assured, contrary to the desire of the other members of the Committee.