HC Deb 11 July 1859 vol 154 cc973-4

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether the Submarine Telegraph Company have been permitted by her Majesty's Government to lay down any additional wires between England and France, and whether the permission had been given to them without requiring a surrender or modification of the monopoly which had recently been granted to that Company by the French Government, and which gave them an exclusive right to lay clown lines of telegraph between the two countries; and whether there would be any objection to lay on the table of the House the correspondence relating to the subject?


said, that the Submarine Telegraph Company had recently obtained from the French Government a concession which gave them for thirty years a preferential right to lay down telegraphic cables between England and France. Her Majesty's late Government, objecting to that monopoly, used all their interference to prevent its concession; but failing in that with the French Government they resolved to exercise their jurisdiction on these shores by preventing the Company from laying down the cable on this side of the water; and orders were issued by the Admiralty that force should be used, if necessary, to carry out the intention of the Government in that respect. That was the state of things when the late Government went out of office. On the present Government coming into power they found a communication from the Company asserting their right to lay down those additional wires under a charter granted to them eight years ago, and which would not expire until 1862. The opinion of the law officers of the Crown had been immediately taken on the matter, which was a very important one, raising as it did the question of the good faith of the Government, who might, if they had not a good case, be involved in heavy damages for preventing the Company from proceeding with the proposed work. The opinion of the law officers of the Crown was in favour of the Company, and the prohibition to lay the wires was accordingly withdrawn; but the Government had intimated to the Company that it was withdrawn not from any change in the opinion of the Executive as to the monopoly, and had further informed them that as soon as the period for which the charter had been granted expired the Government would feel it their duty to exercise the rights of the Crown in such a manner as the public interests might seem to require. There was no objection to produce the correspondence.