As the first Yorkshire Member to be called upon to speak in this Debate, and as a fellow member from the county of the broad acres may I begin by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General upon his appointment to the important office which he now fills. I remember once playing in a cricket match at Castleford, which the right hon. Gentleman knows well. When I went in to bat, some boys standing round the gate said, "Give him a clap while you have the chance, as he will be out in a minute." I am giving the right hon. Gentleman some applause now, because I have to make some observations which are of a less complimentary nature.
I want to begin by reverting to a matter which I raised at Question Time today, about the recruitment of ex-Service men and their quota of employment by the Post Office. A young signalman, who served under my command during the war with great distinction and who was mentioned in dispatches, was very anxious to enter the Post Office on demobilisation. I did what I could to make the necessary arrangements for him. I found out that when recruiting opened a few months ago, a certain form had to be obtained from the Ministry of Labour, and that, after that, consideration was given to ex-Service applicants. I took the further precaution of letting the postmaster at Southend know that the young man was coming along, and was a suitable person for employment. In due course, the lad complied with this procedure and was accepted. Then, on 24th May, I heard from him that he had been dismissed. I will send the right hon. Gentleman full particulars of the case. That inspired my question. I should like to feel that the 50 per cent. quota of ex-Service men has not been altered by the manpower situation with which we are now confronted.
I will now turn to the question of the restored services which have since been removed from us. Long talks on this matter were concluded on 20th October. The new services came into operation on 20th January, only to be taken from us before they had hardly got into their stride. They were taken from us on two counts—firstly, the fuel crisis, and, secondly, the shortage of manpower. I am just as bemused as other people as to why a fuel crisis prevents people collecting and delivering letters, and I think that the manpower shortage is the much more likely reason. I think that the Post Office has been called upon for a run-down of their staff. If I am right, why are the skilled women sorters being dismissed as well? Surely, if there is a manpower shortage, and appeals by the Minister of Labour to women to return to industry, it hardly makes sense to discharge women sorters who have become skilled in their work.
I cannot help feeling that the bottleneck which is causing these late deliveries exists, to a certain extent, in the sorting offices. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever is going to reply, will tell us something about this, because it seems to me to be a mystery why these women should be dismissed. The real reason for the taking off of the services was completely explained to us by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Randall). A little later I am going to be able to agree cordially with something else which the hon. Gentleman said earlier in his speech. He made it quite clear that the chief reason for the union's objection to late deliveries was not the fuel crisis or the manpower shortage, but that the postman did not like working late. He said so in the plainest possible language.