HC Deb 06 August 1860 vol 160 cc695-6

said, he wished to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether, in consequence of the failure of the Atlantic Telegraph Company in their attempt to lay down a submarine line to America, the Agreement entered into between them and Her Majesty's Government has not become void; and whether the Government will be prepared to entertain applications from other parties willing to undertake the same enterprise, subject to the conditions set forth in the Report of the Select Committee on "Packet and Telegraphic Contracts" which have been recently affirmed by the House?


said, with reference to the first part of the Question of his hon. Friend, that he was not aware that the agreement with the Atlantic Telegraph Company had become void in point of law, but it was certainly inoperative, and might perhaps he regarded as void for all practical purposes. With reference to the latter part of his hon. Friend's Question, be wished to state, for fear of being misunderstood, that there was nothing of an exclusive character in the agreement with the Company, and that it would have been competent for the Government to enter into contracts with any other individuals in regard to the same subject-matter, even though the arrangement with the Atlantic Telegraph Company had taken practical effect. As to the willingness of the Government to entertain applications from other parties willing to undertake the same enterprise, he had no reason to suppose from any applications received at the Treasury, that any other parties would be willing to enter into an agreement of a nature similar to that which was made with the Atlantic Telegraph Company—namely, an agreement contingent on the actual success and efficiency of the line. He did not say that the Government were not prepared to entertain such applications, but at the same time what had taken place had its lessons for the Government, and in the present state of enterprises connected with the deep-sea telegraph, and considering the very limited amount of success which had attended them, it would assuredly be the duty of the Government to receive new applications with great caution, and not to accede to them except after mature deliberation.