HC Deb 11 March 1870 vol 199 cc1739-42

Perhaps, Sir, I may be allowed to explain that I have heard complaints have been made on the part of proprietors of country newspapers, some of which are published very early in the morning, that they do not receive the reports of proceedings in this House as early as they used to do; in fact, they do not receive them in time for publication. I have sent privately to the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) one of the communications I have received on the subject, and I have since received another, saying matters are still unsatisfactory, and assigning as one reason for this, an alteration in practice. Parliamentary news was formerly telegraphed direct from the House; but now it is sent from Westminster to the neighbourhood of Moorgate by mounted messengers, and there it is manifolded into fifteen copies on Fridays, and twelve on other days, before delivering it in Telegraph Street. From half an hour to an hour and a quarter is thus lost in the transmission of each despatch. This statement comes from the Manager of the Press Association, and the Question I wish to ask the Postmaster General is, Whether it is true that the system of sending Parliamentary reports by Telegraph direct from the Houses of Parliament to the offices of Country Newspapers has been put an end to since the Telegraphs have been taken into the hands of the Government; and whether any measures can be taken for remedying the inconvenience which has been occasioned by the change?


Sir, as the subject of the right hon. Baronet's Question is one of very considerable importance, not only to provincial newspapers, but to the public generally, perhaps the House will allow me to enter into a little detail. Under the old system the companies, although they competed with one another for the transmission of public messages, combined together for the supply of intelligence. They formed among themselves an intelligence department, and that department collected and transmitted exactly what news it pleased. It is true that under the old system the intelligence department did send Parliamentary reports from this House. They sent on one wire to Birmingham and Liverpool, they sent on another wire to Leeds and Manchester; on another to Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Glasgow. If no more were required than these, we could do the same—nay, we could do more—because it would be in our power to send to the following places:—On one wire to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester; on another wire to Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh, and on another to Glasgow; and, if necessary, we could send on another to Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, and Cardiff. But we are now required to send a great deal more than Parliamentary reports. We are required by the same persons who take Parliamentary reports to send them the following other descriptions of news:—General news, Reuter's news, sporting, shipping, and commercial intelligence; and we have to transmit these different items of intelligence during the period at which Parliamentary news is to be sent—that is to say, from six in the evening until three in the morning. In the case to which I have referred, the intelligence department gave precedence to Parliamentary reports, and very little of other descriptions were sent upon these wires. The associations, however, which now collect news for the Press decline to allow any precedence to be given to Parliamentary news, and they desire that the other news shall be sent at about the same time. Now the fact is the subscribers for the news are as various as the news itself, and what suits one does not suit another. The Department has not the power to give precedence to any particular description of news, and it is quite evident that there is a limit to the capacity of the wires, and it is impossible for us to send all the descriptions which I have mentioned in such a way that they shall reach the subscribers in time. It is a fact, however, that the actual amount of news received and printed by the provincial Press is very much greater now than it was under the old companies' system; but the course pursued by the Press Association is such that it is almost certain that no particular subscriber can be sure of receiving that particular article of news of which he is in want. It follows from this statement that it is not in the power of the Department to ensure, at all events at present, to the provincial papers exactly all the news that they want, and I do not see how that could be done except from the co-operation of the Press Association, and their subscribers reducing their requirements. Until we receive that co-operation, and other wires are put up to meet the increasing work, I think the inconvenience will continue to be felt.