HC Deb 10 February 1870 vol 199 cc121-2

said, he would beg to ask the Postmaster-General, If he is aware that the despatch of public intelligence by Telegraph (including the Debates on Her Majesty's Speech in both Houses) failed on Tuesday in every part of the Country; if he can state the cause; and if means will be taken to prevent a recurrence of this serious inconvenience to the public?


Sir, in replying to the Question of my hon. Friend, I regret to have to acknowledge that the despatch of public intelligence was seriously delayed on Tuesday evening. The reason for that delay did not commence on Tuesday, but originated in several causes which came into operation when the telegraphs were first transferred to the Department. In the first place, there was a very large accession of business, in consequence, I suppose, of the reduction in the rates. In the next place, many of the wires were seriously out of order, in consequence of the very unfavourable state of the weather. Hon. Members may also have seen that on Monday night an accident occurred which had the effect of cutting off entirely communication for a time with the whole of the West of England. During one of the busiest portions of the day nearly all the wires were on Tuesday occupied with the transmission of the Queen's Speech. The ordinary commercial telegrams were, consequently, delayed, and they could not be worked off in time to admit of the transmission of the usual intelligence for the Press. These causes, combined with a certain amount of inexperience on the part of many of the officers in the working of a system to which they are as yet somewhat new, have led to the delay. Every exertion has been made yesterday and to-day, and, so far as I am aware, with perfect success, to remedy both defects; and I have no reason to fear, under ordinary circumstances, that any such, breakdown will recur. I am sure that I shall not in vain ask my hon. Friend and the House to make some allowance for the very difficult circumstances in which the Department is now and will for a few days be placed. The officers and operators who have to work this system are mainly the se who were employed under the old companies; but they have to work the now system under circumstances different in many ways from the se under which they previously performed their duties. It is impossible such a transfer could have taken place without causing temporary inconvenience; but I can assure the House that to my own knowledge every one connected with the Department is working with every possible zeal and energy, and I hope that no such complaints will again have to be made.


asked, Whether in the case of a Borough where the Corporation has declined to grant permission to extend the wires of the telegraph to the present Post Office, the Postmaster General is entitled to cut off telegraphic communication with such Borough?


The Telegraph Act of 1868 does not compel the Postmaster General to open telegraph offices at any place; it merely permits him to open telegraph offices at such places as he may think fit. The Act also clearly contemplates that the telegraph office shall be opened at a Post office, and I have an authoritative opinion that it is perfectly within the power of the Department to decline to open telegraph offices anywhere except where they think the circumstances will justify them in so doing.